Autumn Intermission | October 2022 Sky Happenings

October 4, 2022
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Editor’s Note: Look to the skies as HMNS Astronomer James Wooten explains the autumn sky happenings for the month of October.

Jupiter was up literally all night long last month. It is still up most of the night; look for it in the east southeast at nightfall. Unless the Moon is up, Jupiter is the brightest thing in the sky this month.

Saturn remains well placed for observing in the south at nightfall.

Mars is high in the west in the morning sky this month. It also brightens even more; by Halloween only Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, outshines it. You can also start looking for it in the east in late evening. It rises by 11:00 pm now and before 9:30 on Halloween night.

Venus remains lost in the Sun’s glare this month. It is directly on the far side of the Sun (an alignment called superior conjunction) on October 22.

The George Observatory by HMNS Photographer Mike Rathke

Autumn represents sort of an ‘intermission’ in the sky, with bright summer stars setting at dusk, while bright winter patterns such as Orion have not yet risen. The ‘teapot’ of Sagittarius sets in the southwest early in the evening. The Summer Triangle is high in the west. Meanwhile, the Great Square of Pegasus is in the east, indicating that autumn has begun. The stars rising in the east are much dimmer than those overhead and in the southwest because when you face east at dusk in October, you face out of the Milky Way plane. The center of our Galaxy lies between Scorpius and Sagittarius, while the Summer Triangle is also in the galactic plane. When we face Pegasus, on the other hand, we face out of the plane of our galaxy. Pegasus, then, is a good place to look for other galaxies. Nearby constellations Andromeda and Triangulum (a small triangle) contain the spiral galaxies nearest to our own.

Sky map of constellations seen in October autumn skies
This star map shows the Houston sky at 10 pm CDT on October 1, 9 pm CDT on October 15, and 8 pm CDT on October 31. To use the map, put the direction you are facing at the bottom.

The Summer Triangle is high in the west. The ‘teapot’ of Sagittarius sets in the southwest. Saturn is in the south at dusk, with the brighter Jupiter higher in the southeast. The Great Square of Pegasus is high in the east at dusk. To the south and east, we see a vast dim area of sky known as the ‘Celestial Sea’, where only Fomalhaut stands out.

Moon Phases in October 2022:

1st Quarter Oct. 2, 7:14 p.m.

Full Oct. 9, 3:55 p.m.

Last Quarter Oct. 17, 12:15 p.m.

New Oct. 25, 5:49 a.m.

Our George Observatory is now open every Saturday night for observing! Purchase tickets in advance on our website.

Clear Skies!

Wondering what the stars showed us last month? Check out the September 2022 Sky Happenings here.

Authored By James Wooten

James is the Planetarium Astronomer at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. He teaches students every school morning in the planetarium, and also answers astronomy questions from the public.

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