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, 2021:

The sun

The sun

The sun continue to appear lower and lower in the sky as it drives to its lowest point at the time of December’s winter solstice.

We now experience longer nights than days. While decreasing the amount of time for daylight activities, we can look forward to more time to appreciate the night sky’s splendours.

Here are the sunrise and sunset times for October:

October 1 October 15 October 31
Sunrise 7:24 am 7:43 am 8:05 am
Midday 1:15 pm 1:11 pm 1:09 pm
Sunset 7:04 pm 6:39 pm 6:13 pm

The moon

The moon has long captivated observers of all ages.

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

lunar phases

The planets — Mercury and Venus

The planets Saturn and Jupiter continue to put on an impressive show. By mid-month, Saturn, Jupiter and the moon will put on a lovely display around 9:00 pm.

To learn more about these two amazing planets, click here

The two most inner planets, Mercury and Venus, can be difficult at times to see because they spend a good portion of their time in the direction of the Sun.

This month, however, these two planets actually stand out against bright light of the Sun.

On October 25, Mercury will be well placed after sunset in the evening twilight! Just four days later on October 29, Venus will be well placed before sunrise in the morning twilight!

Binoculars are especially helpful but having a good clear horizon is a must.

Comets and meteor showers

comet in sky

Almost as if to make up for the lack of good meteors in September, October presents us with two good meteor showers and a few weaker “drizzles.”

The best shower in October (this year) is the Draconids as they occur shortly after new moon and, thus, within a dark sky.

The Orionids are normally one of the better showers of the year but because they occur at full moon, they are mostly washed out this year (see our blog on meteor showers for more information).

Major showers:

Date Meteor shower Maximum rate (if directly under)
Oct. 8 Draconids 20 meteors / hour
Oct. 20 Orionids 25 meteors / hour

Minor showers:

Date Meteor shower Maximum rate (if directly under)
 Oct. 5 Camelopardalids 5 meteors / hour
Oct. 9 Southern Taurids 5 meteors / hour
Oct. 10 Delta Aurigids 2 meteors / hour
Oct. 18 Epsilon Geminid 3 meteors / hour
Oct. 24 Leo Minorid 2 meteors / hour

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.