Skynotes October 2016


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Month Highlights

Venus and Saturn pair up in the west, with Mars looking on from above. The three planets can be seen after sunset, along with the magnificent constellation of Scorpius which stretches across the western sky.

Planetarium Events

Spontaneous Fantasia - October 8

In Australia, for the first time, multimedia artist J-Walt will perform his extraordinary work - creating entire worlds that unfold before the audience in this immersive spectacle unique to planetariums. For event details see the What's On.

A Night of Awe and Wonder - November 12

As part of the Think West Festival, the Planetarium partners with The School of Life to explore our place in the Universe. Join the Planetarium’s astronomer Dr Tanya Hill and philosopher Dr Patrick Stokes as they lead an engaging and expansive conversation around awe, wonder, humility and perspective.

Expect a perspective-shifting planetarium experience with a thought-provoking meeting of philosophy and astronomy, some hands-on telescope action and a chance to mingle with other curious people over a glass of wine. For event details see the What's On.

Sunrise and Sunset Times

Date Rise Set
Saturday 1st 5:56* 6:24*
Tuesday 11th 6:41 7:34
Friday 21st 6:27 7:43
Monday 31st 6:15 7:54

* AEST - Daylight Savings begins at 2am on Sunday 2nd.

Moon Phases

Phase Date
New Moon Saturday 1st
First Quarter Sunday 9th
Full Moon Sunday 16th
Last Quarter Sunday 23rd
New Moon Monday 31st

The Moon will be at perigee (closest to Earth) on Monday 17th at a distance of 357,859km.

The Moon will be at apogee (furthest from Earth) on Tuesday 4th at a distance of 406,099km.

Let The Moon Be Your Guide

The Moon can be used as a pointer to find other objects in the sky.

  • After sunset on the 4th, the waxing crescent Moon sits just to the right of bright Venus.
  • The crescent Moon sits below Saturn on the evening of the 6th.
  • On the 9th, the First Quarter Moon is near bright red Mars.
  • During the early hours of the 19th, the waning gibbous Moon sits at the head of Taurus, the bull marked by a bright triangle of stars which includes the orange giant star Aldebaran.
  • The Last Quarter Moon is above the twin stars of Gemini, Castor and Pollux on the morning of the 23rd.
  • Before sunrise on the 25th, the waning crescent Moon is near the bright star Regulus (Leo, the lion).


Mercury is too close to the Sun to be seen this month.

Venus is striking as the brilliant ‘evening star’ in the west after sunset. On the 4th, the thin crescent Moon will sit just to the right of Venus. As the month goes on, Venus meets up with the constellation of Scorpius which stretches high above the western horizon. From the 22nd, Venus forms a triangle with Saturn and the red supergiant star Antares, and then on the 28th, Venus sits right between the two.

Mars can be found high in the north-west at sunset, shining with a bright red hue. On the 9th, the First Quarter Moon sits to the right of Mars.

Jupiter is too close to the Sun to be seen this month. It will reappear in the morning sky next month.

Saturn can be seen drifting towards the western horizon at sunset, alongside the magnificent constellation of Scorpius. Saturn sits to the right of the red supergiant star Antares, known as the beating heart of the scorpion. By the end of the month, Saturn and Antares meet up with Venus, and on the 28th, Venus passes directly between Antares (on the left) and Saturn (on the right). The Moon sits below Saturn on the evening of the 6th.


The Orionids are visible from the 15th to 29th, with the peak of the shower occurring on the 21st. Generally, this is a good shower for beginners with estimates of around 30 meteors per hour. However, this year the shower coincides with the Full Moon so we won't see it at its best. The best time for viewing will be from around midnight until early dawn. The shower is centred on Orion’s club near the red supergiant star Betelgeuse and the meteors are typically fast, sometimes bright and generally more than half leave persistent trains. This shower was first recorded by the Chinese in 288 AD and is associated with Comet Halley.

The Taurids are a long-duration shower visible throughout spring and peaking during the first week of November. There are two branches to the shower: one appearing near the star cluster Pleiades and the other near the red star Aldebaran. Each branch has a maximum rate of roughly ten meteors per hour. They have been described as being bright, slow-moving and with the occasional colourful fireball.

Stars & Constellations

Scorpius is prominent in the western sky at sunset. Its claws are heading towards the western horizon, while the curved shape of its tail stretches high above.

Around to the north-west there are three bright stars - Vega (Lyra) and Deneb (Cygnus) are low to the horizon, while Altair (Aquila) sits up above. They make a lovely triangle, which in the northern hemisphere is known as the ‘summer triangle’, as these stars are high overhead during their summer.

Heading across to the north-east horizon is another famous northern asterism. Four stars stand out as the ‘Great Square of Pegasus’, including Alpheratz which is actually part of Andromeda.

Looking towards the south-east the star Achernar shines brightly at the head of the river Eridanus. A little further south but much lower in the sky shines Canopus , the second brightest star in the night sky. The Southern Cross is now seen in the south-west with the Two Pointers almost vertical above it.

International Space Station

The ISS orbits the Earth every 90 minutes at an average distance of 400 km. From Earth, it appears as a bright star that steadily moves across the sky. It can often be seen from Melbourne, for example at:

6:40am - 6:47am, Friday 7 October.

The Station will appear above the north-west horizon and travel past the bright star Canopus before disappearing in the south-east near the Southern Cross.

Predictions of when to see the ISS can be obtained from the Heaven's Above website.

On This Day

1st 1958, NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) was inaugurated.

3rd 1815, the first meteorite identified as coming from Mars fell in Chassigny, France.

3rd 1942, German A-4 (V-2) rocket became the first rocket in outer space.

4th 1957, Sputnik (USSR) was launched to become the first artificial satellite.

5th 1923, Edwin Hubble (USA) established that M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, is separate to and distant from our own Milky Way Galaxy.

6th 1990, Ulysses (Europe) was launched to the poles of the Sun from the space shuttle Discovery.

7th 1959, Luna (USSR) took the first images of the far side of the Moon.

10th 1846, William Lassell (UK) discovered the first moon of Neptune, Triton.

10th 1980, the Very Large Array (VLA) telescope network is commissioned.

10th 1986, Cruithne, the satellite of the Earth with a horseshoe orbit, was discovered.

11th 1968, Apollo 7 (USA), the first manned Apollo mission was launched.

14th 1947, Charles E. ‘Chuck’ Yeager made the first supersonic flight (Bell X-1).

15th 1582, the Gregorian Calendar was established.

15th 1997, the spacecraft Cassini was launched.

18th 1989, the spacecraft Galileo was launched to Jupiter from the space shuttle Discovery.

21st 1923, the world's first projection planetarium, the Deutchse Museum, Munich, was officially opened.

22nd 2136BC, the first recorded solar eclipse was observed in China.

23rd 1975, Venera 9 (USSR) returned the first images of the surface of Venus.

31st 1992, the Catholic Church admitted it erred in condemning Galileo's beliefs.