With the Sun setting a little earlier every evening, there’s more time to relax under the night sky. You should wait at least 45 minutes after sunset for the sky to get dark enough and provide the best viewing. This also gives you time to do the dishes or finish homework before stepping outside.
Low in the west-southwest, the red star called Antares marks the heart of Scorpius the scorpion. Antares is all you can see of the scorpion at this time. The rest of its stars are washed out by the glow of twilight.
The planet Mars looks a lot like Antares. At the start of the month, the red planet will appear slightly higher and to the left of the red star. As the days pass, Mars races eastward toward the constellation of Sagittarius the archer. On the evenings of October 27 and 28, the pretty crescent Moon will appear next to Mars.
Even though temperatures are cooling, the stars of the Summer Triangle sit high overhead after sunset. The triangle, in turn, draws attention to three separate constellations: Cygnus the swan, Aquila the eagle, and Lyra the harp.
Pegasus the winged horse has entered the scene heralding the arrival of autumn with Andromeda the princess and Cassiopeia the queen. The winter classic called the Pleiades star cluster (also known as the Seven Sisters) rises above the eastern horizon before 10 pm. Before midnight, the brilliant stars of Orion the hunter will appear in the east as the Summer Triangle sets in the west.
Mighty Jupiter doesn’t rise until 3 am, but will be shining high in the east as dawn breaks. Look for the thin crescent Moon next to Jupiter on the mornings of October 17 and 18.
October Lunar Eclipse
Only early risers with clear skies will get to enjoy a total lunar eclipse on October 8.
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
- Partial eclipse begins: 4:15 am CDT
- Total eclipse begins: 5:25 am
- Total eclipse ends: 6:24 am
- Partial eclipse ends: 7:34 am
When the visible partial phase of the eclipse begins at 4:15 am, the Moon will be 30 degrees above the western horizon. That’s one-third the distance from the horizon to the zenith, the point in the sky directly above your head.
At 5:25 am, the full Moon will have moved completely into Earth’s dark shadow at which time the lunar disk should take on a color ranging from pale orange to dark brown, almost black. You’ll need a clear view with nothing in the way because the Moon will have dropped to just 16 degrees above the western horizon, and will continue to set.
As the Moon begins to exit totality at 6:24 am, it will be only 5 degrees above the horizon and very difficult to see at all.
On the evening of September 27, 2015, we’ll get a total lunar eclipse at a convenient time, starting just after 8 pm and reaching totality shortly before 10 pm. Mark your calendar, and hope for clear skies.
Plenty of Star Parties
The next free public star party is Saturday, October 4, from 7:30 to 9:30 pm outside Adventure Science Center. There are three star parties in November, all from 7:00 to 9:00 pm.
Members of the Barnard-Seyfert Astronomical Society set up their telescopes at these family-friendly events so everyone can observe the Moon, star clusters, galaxies, and more.
Star parties are weather dependent and may be cancelled. Visit our star party web page for updates before making the trip, especially if the weather is iffy. You'll also find star party tips, driving directions, and a calendar of future events.
Get In The Halloween “Spirit”
Fun and a little bit scary, Fright Light is a family-friendly cosmic concert that features lasers, stars, pumpkins, skeletons, spiders, and hamsters performing to the music of Michael Jackson, Boris Pickett, Metallica, Weird Al Yankovic, Blue Oyster Cult, and Edgar Winters Group. Costumes are encouraged!
Fright Light will be presented at 8:30 and 9:30 pm on Second Saturday, October 11 and on October 25 at 3:30 pm. Arrive at ASC after 3:00 pm to purchase 3:30 pm planetarium tickets without paying general admission.
What happens when you turn art and music loose… in a planetarium?
To find out, the Sudekum Planetarium is opening Dome Club Nashville. This monthly series will showcase immersive programs and artistic experiences designed to envelop visitors within the unique fulldome planetarium environment.
But wait, what’s “fulldome”?
"Fulldome" technologies cover the entire surface of a planetarium dome with graphics. Seated within our 63-foot diameter dome, you'll be surrounded by visuals in front of, above, and even behind you. Without the rectangular frame of a TV or movie screen, you'll feel a part of the scene. Powerful surround sound adds to the effect.
The Sudekum Planetarium presents fulldome science experiences every day. Dome Club provides a venue for alternative programs. These may include immersive cinema or visualization projects, dance, games, or concerts… anything that takes advantage of the fulldome environment.
The grand opening of Dome Club Nashville is on Thursday, October 16, 2014, at 7:30 pm. This first night will feature Home Grown Dome, a 45 minute compilation of fourteen short works created by students, artists, and animators from around the world. These pieces were finalists in the annual DomeFest fulldome film festivals between 2004-2009. Get more details and check out the trailer here!