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October is a good time for observers located in equatorial and southern latitudes wanting to view Mercury, as it will be visible throughout the month. During this time the planet can be spotted just south of due west. When viewed half an hour after sunset from latitude of 35S (e.g. Sydney, Australia), Mercury is about 9 degrees above the horizon on October 1st. It then climbs gradually higher as the month progresses until it reaches a peak altitude of nearly 18 degrees on October 26th. On this date, Mercury also reaches greatest eastern elongation (24 degrees).

Mercury brightness changes little during October. The planet starts the month at magnitude –0.4 before fading to magnitude -0.1 at months end. Unfortunately, the planet is not suitably placed for observers from northern temperate latitudes.

Mercury evening star October 2012

Mercury evening star October 2012 - pdf format


Venus remains a superb morning object this month, although the magnitude of the planet fades slightly from –4.1 to –4.0. During this time, the phase of Venus increases from 71 to 81 percent. The planet starts the month in Leo before crossing into Virgo on October 23rd, remaining there for the rest of the month. During October from northern latitudes Venus rises almost 3.5 hours before the Sun. It is currently better placed for northern hemisphere observers, hence the period of visibility during October for equatorial and southern hemisphere latitudes is up to an hour or two less.

The waning crescent Moon will pass 6 degrees south of Venus on the morning of October 12.


Mars almost keeps its distance from the Sun this month as they move on their eastward journey against the fixed stars. The "Red planet" starts the month in Libra, races through Scorpius before ending the month in Ophiuchus. Now shining at magnitude 1.2, the planet is visible low down to the southwest at dusk and sets just under 2 hours after the Sun from northern temperate latitudes. The period visibility is considerable better for southern hemisphere observers.

Incidentally, Mars is now 2 AU distant from the Earth and the apparent size of the planet has now shrunk to less than 5 arc seconds; which is not much greater than that of Uranus. There are a couple of interesting phenomena during October. On October 18, a waxing crescent Moon will pass 2 degrees north of Mars and on October 20, Mars will pass less than 4 degrees north of Antares (mag. 1.0), the red supergiant star. Antares has often been called the "Rival of Mars" due to its striking deep red colour. This conjunction presents an interesting opportunity for observers to compare the colour and brightness of the two objects.


Jupiter is a brilliant object that now rises in the early evening for northern hemisphere observers and a little later for those located further south. It remains visible for the remainder of the night. The giant planet is located in Taurus, a few degrees to the northeast of orange/red star Aldebaran (mag. 0.9) and the large sprawling Hyades open cluster. The most famous open cluster in the sky, the Pleiades (M45), is positioned about 20 degrees to the west of Jupiter. On October 4, Jupiter reaches its stationary point and then afterwards its motion is retrograde.

As Jupiter is currently heading towards opposition in December, both the apparent magnitude and size of the planet are currently increasing. During October, Jupiter's brightness increases from magnitude –2.5 to –2.7 and the apparent size from 43 to 47 arc seconds.

Jupiter in Taurus during October 2012

Jupiter in Taurus during October 2012 - pdf format

Over the next few months Jupiter will dominate the evening sky. This is especially true for northern hemisphere observers; the planet appears high and bright, a sparkling jewel in the dark autumn and winter skies. It's not as good from southern latitudes as Jupiter is low down, but still unmistakable due to its brightness.

On October 5, the Moon will pass 0.9 degrees south of Jupiter. An occultation is visible from the Southern Australia and the Southern Ocean.


Saturn passes through superior conjunction on the far side of the Sun on October 25th. The planet is located in Virgo but for northern hemisphere observers is unobservable during October. From southern and tropical latitudes, Saturn may be glimpsed low down in the dusk sky during the first part of the month before the planet is quickly lost to the Suns glare.


Uranus (mag. 5.7) is located in Pisces just south of the "Great Square of Pegasus". The seventh planet from the Sun reached opposition at the tail end of last month and remains visible for most of the night. Uranus is located very close to star 44 Piscium, which at mag. 5.8 is almost equal in brightness. The planet for most of last month was positioned to the east of 44 Piscium before passing the star and now residing on the western side.

This is a good time to try and test how dark your skies are by attempting to spot Uranus with the naked eye. At magnitude 5.7, the planet is faintly visible to the naked eye but dark skies and good conditions are required. If your observing site is up to scratch, you should also be able to spot 44 Piscium.


Neptune (mag. 7.8) is located in the constellation of Aquarius and visible as soon as it gets dark. To be seen, the minimum requirements for this planet are a pair of binoculars or a small telescope. The most distant planet is located four degrees south of mag. 4.2 star Ancha (theta Aquarii) and remains observable until the early hours of the morning.

Solar System Data Table October 2012

 DateRight AscensionDeclinationMag.SizeIllum. (%)Distance (AU)Constellation
Sun5th Oct 201212h 44m 43.2s-04d 48m 22.8s-26.732.0'1001.000Virgo
Sun15th Oct 201213h 21m 30.8s-08d 35m 08.5s-26.832.1'1000.997Virgo
Sun25th Oct 201213h 59m 14.4s-12d 09m 45.4s-26.832.2'1000.994Virgo
Mercury5th Oct 201213h 47m 52.9s-12d 02m 56.1s-0.305.1"891.314Virgo
Mercury15th Oct 201214h 41m 53.0s-17d 48m 16.8s-0.205.6"801.205Libra
Mercury25th Oct 201215h 31m 08.4s-21d 55m 32.7s-0.206.4"661.050Libra
Venus5th Oct 201210h 16m 36.2s11d 11m 04.5s-4.115.4"721.083Leo
Venus15th Oct 201211h 01m 41.8s07d 17m 39.2s-4.014.5"761.150Leo
Venus25th Oct 201211h 46m 31.2s02d 58m 40.8s-4.013.7"791.214Virgo
Mars5th Oct 201215h 44m 11.5s-20d 39m 36.6s1.204.8"931.958Libra
Mars15th Oct 201216h 14m 02.6s-22d 09m 28.5s1.204.7"941.997Scorpius
Mars25th Oct 201216h 45m 01.4s-23d 19m 48.5s1.204.6"952.033Ophiuchus
Jupiter5th Oct 201205h 01m 11.7s21d 55m 13.0s-2.643.6"994.521Taurus
Jupiter15th Oct 201205h 00m 24.6s21d 53m 45.0s-2.644.9"994.390Taurus
Jupiter25th Oct 201204h 58m 12.2s21d 50m 22.2s-2.746.1"1004.277Taurus
Saturn5th Oct 201213h 54m 27.6s-09d 19m 57.4s0.815.5"10010.716Virgo
Saturn15th Oct 201213h 58m 57.7s-09d 45m 13.2s0.815.5"10010.754Virgo
Saturn25th Oct 201214h 03m 33.4s-10d 10m 18.5s0.715.4"10010.768Virgo
Uranus5th Oct 201200h 24m 24.6s01d 49m 16.5s5.703.7"10019.068Pisces
Uranus15th Oct 201200h 22m 57.8s01d 40m 03.7s5.703.7"10019.102Pisces
Uranus25th Oct 201200h 21m 36.8s01d 31m 32.4s5.703.7"10019.166Pisces
Neptune5th Oct 201222h 12m 02.3s-11d 47m 45.3s7.802.3"10029.237Aquarius
Neptune15th Oct 201222h 11m 23.9s-11d 51m 15.0s7.902.3"10029.362Aquarius
Neptune25th Oct 201222h 10m 56.3s-11d 53m 43.4s7.902.3"10029.506Aquarius

Solar System Data Table November 2012

 DateRight AscensionDeclinationMag.SizeIllum. (%)Distance (AU)Constellation
Sun5th Nov 201214h 41m 24.1s-15d 40m 40.6s-26.832.3'1000.992Libra
Sun15th Nov 201215h 21m 48.1s-18d 28m 57.1s-26.832.3'1000.989Libra
Sun25th Nov 201216h 03m 35.3s-20d 44m 41.6s-26.832.4'1000.987Scorpius
Mercury5th Nov 201216h 05m 13.3s-23d 33m 34.3s0.208.1"380.835Scorpius
Mercury15th Nov 201215h 46m 43.2s-20d 25m 27.4s4.009.9"030.683Libra
Mercury25th Nov 201215h 06m 09.9s-15d 05m 54.2s0.908.7"200.770Libra
Venus5th Nov 201212h 35m 15.8s-01d 58m 27.3s-4.013.0"821.280Virgo
Venus15th Nov 201213h 20m 46.2s-06d 35m 05.1s-3.912.5"841.336Virgo
Venus25th Nov 201214h 07m 21.9s-11d 01m 08.7s-3.912.0"871.389Virgo
Mars5th Nov 201217h 19m 25.8s-24d 10m 33.4s1.204.5"952.069Ophiuchus
Mars15th Nov 201217h 52m 13.3s-24d 31m 55.4s1.204.5"962.100Sagittarius
Mars25th Nov 201218h 25m 31.4s-24d 26m 49.4s1.204.4"962.130Sagittarius
Jupiter5th Nov 201204h 53m 28.3s21d 43m 17.8s-2.847.2"1004.176Taurus
Jupiter15th Nov 201204h 48m 45.9s21d 35m 58.1s-2.848.0"1004.111Taurus
Jupiter25th Nov 201204h 43m 18.8s21d 27m 07.5s-2.848.4"1004.075Taurus
Saturn5th Nov 201214h 07m 57.2s-10d 33m 39.7s0.815.5"10010.753Virgo
Saturn15th Nov 201214h 12m 30.6s-10d 57m 08.2s0.815.5"10010.714Virgo
Saturn25th Nov 201214h 16m 56.1s-11d 19m 14.0s0.815.6"10010.650Virgo
Uranus5th Nov 201200h 19m 37.2s01d 18m 57.0s5.803.7"10019.268Pisces
Uranus15th Nov 201200h 18m 39.3s01d 13m 01.9s5.803.6"10019.386Pisces
Uranus25th Nov 201200h 17m 56.6s01d 08m 48.3s5.803.6"10019.525Pisces
Neptune5th Nov 201222h 09m 57.3s-11d 59m 06.2s7.902.3"10028.990Aquarius
Neptune15th Nov 201222h 09m 55.6s-11d 59m 08.7s7.902.3"10030.139Aquarius
Neptune25th Nov 201222h 10m 07.1s-11d 57m 58.2s7.902.3"10030.332Aquarius