Babe Among the Stars: October Eclipses

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Galaxy Babe's column banner, showing a full moon and some little folk looking up at the sky

Mortal as I am, I know that I am born for a day. But when I follow at my pleasure the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the earth - Ptolemy

Eclipses at the Double!

Sometimes the bodies of the Solar System line up to provide denizens on Earth with a spectacular show. The lucky inhabitants having a grandstand view of the total lunar eclipse due on 8 October will watch our Moon turn spectacular autumnal shades of golden coppery-reddish-brown. Just a couple of weeks later, a partial solar eclipse will occur but this will only be visible from eastern Siberia, Alaska, Canada, most of North America and all of Mexico except for the Yucatán Peninsula. If you're in these areas and want to witness either of these syzygy1 events, consultation of local times is advised.

A Martian Close Shave

On 19 October, Comet Siding Spring (C/2013 A1) will scoot past Mars. Up till 2013 scientists thought the comet was going to impact Mars' surface, but now it is projected to miss the planet by 132,000km. This is approximately a third of the distance from the Earth to the Moon, and what astronomers deem a close shave, or near miss. NASA have published an artistic image of what a tall Martian would see.

Halley's Celestial Fireworks

The Earth will pass through remnants of Halley's Comet's many visits to the inner Solar System between 2 October and 7 November. Any cosmic dust which hits Earth's atmosphere will cause the particles to glow. People lucky enough to witness this spectacle will no doubt be wishing upon the 'shooting stars'. Appearing to emanate from the constellation Orion 'the Hunter', this meteor shower is known as 'the Orionids'.

October 2014 Diary Dates

October 4-10 is World Space Week. This was decreed in 1999 by the UN General Assembly. There is a different theme each year, last year's was 'Exploring Mars, Discovering Earth'. This year's theme is 'Space: Guiding Your Way'.

  • 01: Mars and Antares (alpha Scorpii) align
  • 04: Anniversary of the dawn of the Space Age (it began with the launch of Sputnik 1 on 4 October, 1957)
  • 05: The Moon passes 5° north of Neptune
  • 06: The Moon is at perigee (closest to Earth)
  • 07: The 1.9km-wide asteroid 2001 EA16 will pass Earth beyond the orbit of the Moon
  • 08: Full Moon - the Hunter's Moon or Blood Moon
  • 08: Total lunar eclipse (Americas, Asia, Australia, Pacific regions)
  • 08: The Moon passes 1.2° north of Uranus
  • 09: The 34m-wide asteroid 2011 TB4 will pass Earth beyond the orbit of the Moon
  • 11: The 36m-wide asteroid 2010 FV9 will pass Earth beyond the orbit of the Moon
  • 17: The Moon passes 5° south of Jupiter
  • 18: The Moon is at apogee (furthest from Earth)
  • 19: Comet Siding Spring zooms past Mars
  • 21: Orionids meteor shower peak
  • 23: New Moon
  • 23: Partial solar eclipse
  • 25: The Moon passes 1° north of Saturn
  • 26: British Summer Time ends at 2am (clocks go back an hour)
  • 28: The Moon passes 7° north of Mars
  • 31: The 1km-wide asteroid 2003 UC20 will pass Earth beyond the orbit of the Moon
  • 31: Happy Hallowe'en!

Name That Planet

The IAU (International Astronomical Union) are now accepting nominations to name extrasolar planets. If you wish to call one 'Bob' after your uncle, then you'll need to read these instructions carefully. Please let me know if you apply, and what the result was!

  • Chat about your celestial observances at the H2G2 Astronomy Society. Comment on anything in this edition of Babe Among the Stars by starting a new conversation below.

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1Syzygy (pronounced siz-ej-ee) means a line-up of three gravity-bound celestial objects, in these cases the Moon, the Earth and the Sun.

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