Jupiter and Saturn will be visible in the night sky throughout October

NASA is urging astronomers to enjoy “evenings with giants” this month as the massive planets Jupiter and Saturn will be visible in the night sky for the next few weeks.

Early in the evening you will find them to the southeast, moving slowly west with the stars as the night progresses.

“They form a triangle with the bright star Fomalhaut,” the US space agency explained on its website.

“As you observe this trio, notice how the planets shine with a constant light, while the star twinkles. This can be an easy way to tell if what you’re looking at is a planet or a star.

Late last month, astronomers revealed that Jupiter would appear at its biggest and brightest in decades as it came closest to Earth in 59 years.

It’s still some 367 million miles away from us, but since October 1963 astronomers haven’t had such a great opportunity to spot it in the night sky.

Look for! NASA is urging astronomers to enjoy “evenings with giants” this month as the massive planets Jupiter and Saturn will be visible in the night sky for the next few weeks. “They form a triangle with the bright star Fomalhaut,” the US space agency explained on its website.

Astronomers may also be able to spot the retrograde motion of Mars this month.  The sky map above shows the path of the Red Planet over several months in 2022 and 2023 as it enters, then exits, in retrograde motion

Astronomers may also be able to spot the retrograde motion of Mars this month.  The sky map above shows the path of the Red Planet over several months in 2022 and 2023 as it enters, then exits, in retrograde motion

Astronomers may also be able to spot the retrograde motion of Mars this month. The sky map above shows the path of the Red Planet over several months in 2022 and 2023 as it enters, then exits, in retrograde motion

JUPITER: THE BASICS

Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and the largest in our solar system.

It is a huge ball of gas composed mainly of hydrogen and helium, with some heavy elements.

“Jupiter’s familiar stripes and swirls are actually cold, windy clouds of ammonia and water, floating in an atmosphere of hydrogen and helium,” NASA said.

“Jupiter’s iconic Great Red Spot is a giant storm larger than Earth that has been raging for hundreds of years.”

The planet is twice the size of all the other planets combined, and the Great Red Spot alone is big enough to hold all of Earth inside.

A spacecraft – NASA’s Juno orbiter – is currently exploring this giant world.

Facts and figures

distance from the sun: 750 million km

Orbital period: 12 years

Area: 61.42 billion km²

Ray: 69,911 km

Mass: 1.898 × ​​10^27 kg (317.8 M⊕)

Length of day: 0d 9h 56m

Moons: 53 with formal designations; countless additional moonlets

The gas giant came closest to Earth in nearly 60 years on September 25, and 24 hours later reached opposition, meaning the planet appeared opposite the sun relative to those of the Earth.

The planet’s closest approach to Earth almost never coincides with opposition, which NASA said meant the views this year would be “amazing”.

The overlap of the two events, which won’t happen again until 2139, means that Jupiter will appear brighter and larger in the sky over the next few weeks.

As for other celestial views this month, Mars has been steadily heading east all year, as it usually does, relative to background stars.

But at the end of October, the red planet stops this apparent movement, then seems to reverse its trajectory.

For the next three months, from November to the end of January, the planet moves west each night, then towards the end of January it reverses direction again and continues its eastward journey.

This is called the retrograde motion of Mars, NASA said.

“It happens about every two years, and it really upset early observers,” the US space agency wrote.

“That Mars appears to be changing direction is an illusion caused by the motions of our planet in its orbit passing through the Red Planet in its orbit.”

Earth and Mars are on roughly circular paths around the sun, like cars on a race track, but our planet Earth is on the faster, inner path.

Every 26 months or so we catch up with Mars, which is moving more slowly in its orbit. During this period when we pass in front of Mars, and before we round the bend in our orbit away from it, we see Mars retrograde, appearing to change direction, even though it is still advancing in its orbit.

Amateur astronomers have been urged to take note of how Mars’ position changes relative to Betelgeuse, Aldebaran and the Pleiades over the weeks.

NASA added: “You will witness what was once a source of intense curiosity for astronomers, but which we now know is just a sign of two planets passing through the night.”

Late last month, astronomers revealed that Jupiter would appear at its biggest and brightest in decades as it came closest to Earth in 59 years.

Late last month, astronomers revealed that Jupiter would appear at its biggest and brightest in decades as it came closest to Earth in 59 years.

Late last month, astronomers revealed that Jupiter would appear at its biggest and brightest in decades as it came closest to Earth in 59 years.

Stargazing: Early in the evening, you'll find Jupiter and Saturn (shown) in the southeast sky, moving slowly west with the stars overnight

Stargazing: Early in the evening, you'll find Jupiter and Saturn (shown) in the southeast sky, moving slowly west with the stars overnight

Stargazing: Early in the evening, you’ll find Jupiter and Saturn (shown) in the southeast sky, moving slowly west with the stars overnight

The Orionid meteor shower is also active in October and November and peaks on the night of October 20.

This is a moderate shower, typically producing 10-20 meteors per hour at its peak, under clear, dark skies.

The bad news is that this year the moon will be around 20% full on peak nights, so it will interfere a bit when it rises a few hours before dawn.

However, this shouldn’t completely spoil the view.

The name of the shower comes from the fact that you can trace the trajectories of its meteors to an area of ​​the sky near Orion.

These meteors are fragments of dust left by Comet Halley in a trail that stretches along its orbit. They tend to be bright and fast-moving, and they often leave lingering trails that can glow in the sky for a few seconds after passing.

No special equipment is needed to observe meteor showers.

“Just make sure you’re warm enough and watching from a dark, safe place away from bright lights. Then all you have to do is look up and enjoy the show,” the US space agency said.

SATURN: THE BASICS

Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and the second largest planet in our solar system after Jupiter.

It is considered the “jewel of the solar system” with its solar rings.

It’s not the only planet to have rings, but none are as spectacular or as complicated as Saturn’s.

Like Jupiter, Saturn is a massive ball composed mostly of hydrogen and helium, with some heavy elements.

Its core extends to cover 60% of the radius of the world.

It is similar to the rest of the planet, but made of a “mush” like material of gas, metallic fluids, rock, and ice.

The furthest planet from Earth discovered with the naked eye, Saturn has been known since ancient times.

The planet is named after the Roman god of agriculture and wealth, who was also the father of Jupiter.

While the planet Saturn is an unlikely place for living things, the same is not true for some of its many moons.

Satellites like Enceladus and Titan, which harbor internal oceans, could possibly harbor life.

Facts and figures

Distance from the Sun: 1.434 billion km

Orbital period: 29 years

Area: 42.7 billion km²

Ray: 58,232 km

Mass: 5.683 × 10^26 kg (95.16 M⊕)

Length of day: 0d 10h 42m

Moons: 82 with formal designations; countless additional moonlets

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