What's up in the Sky October 18-24

Meteor showers, a triangle in the sky, and NASA lands on an asteroid

Posted Updated
Moon on the teapot then in a right triangle
Tony Rice
, NASA Ambassador

Mars remains brilliant in the east after sunset while Saturn and Jupiter are easy to spot in the southwest. Later in the week, watch the Moon cozy up to the "teapot" the Sagittarius constellation before forming a right triangle with Saturn and Jupiter the following evening. The Orionid meteor shower peaks overnight Tuesday into Wednesday morning.

Sunday October 18

  • On this day in 1963, the first feline "Catstronaut" was launched on a mission to study the physiological effects of spaceflight. Félicette, a stray tuxedo cat from the streets of Paris, survived the flight and recovered 13 minutes later. She was commemorated in on postage stamps and in 2019, a bronze statue of Félicette perched atop a globe was unveiled in France's International Space University's Pioneer Hall.

Monday October 19

  • 10 a.m. - 11 a.m.: NASA photographer Chris Gunn shares how he he has documented the construction of the James Webb Space Telescope since 2009. watch online here.
  • Look for the bright star Antares low in the SE about 5 degrees below the waxing crescent Moon. It is the brightest star in the constellation Scorpius and the 15th brightest in the sky. Its reddish color makes it known as the "heart of the scorpion" and it is sometimes confused for Mars (its name means rival of Mars), but not this time of year. Mars is much higher in the ESE and much brighter.

Tuesday October 20

  • The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft launched on Sep. 8, 2016, is scheduled to make its first sample collection attempt. Coverage is scheduled on NASA TV beginning at 5pm.
  • The Orionid Meteor Shower peaks overnight among a 23% Moon. About 10 meteors per hours are expected from dark locations. To see the most meteors, wait until the radiant point to the upper left of the constellation Orion has risen above the horizon after midnight, Wednesday October 21.
  • The International Space Station (ISS) will rise above the southwestern horizon at 7 a.m. for one of the brightest predawn passes in a long time. It will pass directly over central North Carolina setting in the northeast 9 minutes later.

Thursday October 22

  • The ISS will emerge from Earth's shadow just above the treeline in the south-southwest at 6:15 a.m. reaching about halfway up the sky before setting on the northeastern horizon about 4 minutes later.
  • Saturn, Jupiter and the (nearly) first quarter Moon form a right triangle in the southwestern sky after sunset.

Friday October 23

  • The Moon reaches first quarter at 9:23 a.m. EDT. Before sunrise, look along the terminator, the line separating the lit and unlit portions of the Moon. Look for a V just above mid point of the terminator and a X just below. These are formed as sunlight hits the top edge of adjacent craters but not into the craters.


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