WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

What's up in the sky October 4-10

Posted October 4, 2020 3:38 p.m. EDT
Updated October 6, 2020 10:27 a.m. EDT

Every 26 months Mars is opposite the Sun in our nighttime sky. Since 1995, Mars has been at such an "opposition" with the Sun seven times. A color composite from each of the seven Hubble opposition observations has been assembled in this mosaic to showcase the beauty and splendor that is The Red Planet. This mosaic of all seven globes of Mars shows relative variations in the apparent angular size of Mars over the years. Mars was the closest in 2003 when it came within 56 million kilometres of Earth. The part of Mars that is tilted towards the Earth also shifts over time, resulting in the changing visibility of the polar caps. Clouds and dust storms, as well as the size of the ice caps, can change the appearance of Mars on time scales of days, weeks, and months. Other features of Mars, such as some of the large dark markings, have remained unchanged for centuries. (images: NASA/Space Science Institute)

Sunday October 4

Look for the International Space Station to rise in the northwest at 8:35 p.m. setting two minutes later in the north-northwest.

Monday October 5

SpaceX plans the launch of its thirteenth batch of Starlink satellites at 7:51 am from Cape Canaveral. Launches are streamed live on the SpaceX YouTube channel.

Look for the International Space Station to rise in the north-northwest at 7:38 p.m. setting two minutes later in the east-northeast.

Tuesday October 6

Mars is easy to spot in the evening sky throughout October. Look to the east after sunset for the bright, noticeably orange colored point of light. Mars makes its closest approach to Earth on Tuesday, the closest its been since 2018.  Mars and Earth wont be closer until 2035.

While this happens about every 26 months, because Mars and Earth's orbits aren't perfect circles

Mars will continue to be easy to spot throughout October and will brighten slightly through the middle of the month when it will be exactly opposite the Sun in our sky.

Wednesday October 7

The Museum of Life and Science in Durham offers a program on the relationship between insects and flowers for pre-school scientists at 10 a.m.. Register online for this interactive program and check out the materials list.

The brightest pass of the week for the International Space Station begins at 7:50 p.m. on the west-northwest horizon. It will pass overhead disappearing from view in the southeast as it passes into Earth's shadow.

Thursday October 8

Keep an eye out for meteors from the Draconid meteor shower. The waning gibbous moon will make seeing them a little easier. Unlike more reliable shows like Orionids which peak later this month, the Draconids are a variable shower. While one is not expected this year, there have been outburst such as the one in 2018 where European observers saw several hundred meteors per hour.

Thursday October 9

Tammy Barron of Disney's Animal Kingdom will share her experiences in conservation education at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center's (Virtual) Teen Science Cafe at 4:45 p.m.

The moon will reach last quarter phase at 8:39 pm.

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