tent under night sky by lake

Eyes on the skies — October

Welcome to the Ontario Parks “Eyes on the skies” series. This will cover a wide range of astronomy topics with a focus on what can be seen from the pristine skies found in our provincial parks.

October is a month of transition as the last few warm days depart and we prepare ourselves for winter.

But cold weather does not mean we should abandon the great outdoors. On the contrary, the peace and serenity found at this time of the year make a trip to any park all the more enjoyable.

Here are our astronomical highlights for October 2018:

The sun

The sun

With the sun having passed the fall equinox, we now experience more hours of darkness than light.

Additionally, because we are still using daylight savings time, our sunrise, midday, and sunset times are all one hour forward.

Here are the sunrise and sunset times for October:

October 1 October 15 October 31
Sunrise 7:24 am 7:49 am 8:04 am
Midday 1:15 pm 1:11 pm 1:09 pm
Sunset 7:06 am 6:39 pm 6:13 pm

The moon

October’s lunar phases of the moon occur as follows:

  • last quarter on October 2
  • waning cresent on October 5
  • new moon on October 9
  • waxing cresent on October 13
  • first quarter on October 16
  • waxing gibbous on October 21
  • full moon on October 24
  • waning gibbous on October 28

Moon phases

The planets

At long last, the spectacular planet showing that we enjoyed throughout the summer is coming to a close.

Venus, Mercury and Jupiter are all too close to the sun to see. Saturn is visible at sunset only for those who have a good southwest horizon and even then, just for about an hour or so.

The moon

Mars is still visible as the bright red object in the southern skies, although it has dimmed considerably from its peak in July as it moves further away from us.

October meteor showers

Two meteor showers peak in October. The Draconids (which originate from the constellation of Draco the Dragon) peak on the night of October 8 this year. They usually display less than ten meteors per hour in dark skies.

Night sky with illuminated milky way

The Orionid meteor shower, with dust originating from comet Halley, is set to peak on the night of October 21. While this shower is known for consistent displays of around 25 meteors per hour (in dark skies), a nearly full moon will light up the sky this year, making it difficult to see any of the meteors.

For a detailed explanation of meteor showers, check out this link.

Featured constellations

In last month’s edition we discussed Pegasus, Aquarius and the southern fish – Piscis Austrinus.

In October’s featured constellations, we discuss the more popular northern fish (Pisces), Aries the Ram, and Triangulum the Triangle.

Map showing all of the month's constellations.

This completes our review of the October skies…

Come back next month to learn about the greatest epic of constellations in the sky — the story of Perseus and Andromeda.

Want to learn more about the celestial history of Halloween? Click here.