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Mercury

At the beginning of October observers at southern latitudes should be able to catch Mercury low down towards the western horizon just after sunset. However, it won't be long before the planet is lost to the bright twilight glare as it draws in towards the Sun. Mercury then passes through inferior conjunction on October 16th. The planet is such a fast mover that observers at equatorial and northern temperate latitudes will be able to spot this elusive world low down towards the east just before sunrise during the last week of October. From southern temperate latitudes, Mercury is unsuitably placed for observation during this time.

The planet increases in brightness from mag. +0.8 on October 25th to -0.5 at the end of the month.

Venus

Venus is currently located on the opposite side of the Sun and passes through superior conjunction on October 25th. As a result the planet is not suitably placed for observation during October.

Mars

Mars remains an evening object during October but the "Red planet" has now faded to mag. +0.9, down from a peak of -1.5 during opposition last April. On September 27th, the planet passed 3 degrees north of its "rival", red supergiant Antares (α Sco - mag. +1.0) the brightest star in Scorpius. At magnitude +0.8, Mars was fractionally the brighter but otherwise to the naked eye they appeared similar. The planet is now "speeding" away from Antares as it continues its direct motion through Ophiuchus before moving into Sagittarius on October 21st.

From northern temperate latitudes Mars sets about 2.5 hours after the Sun. From locations further south, planet watchers can follow the planet for about 4 hours before it disappears.

On October 26th, Mars reaches its most southerly point at approx. 25 degrees south. A few days later the waxing crescent Moon passes 7 degrees north of Mars (Oct 28th).

Mars during October 2014

Mars during October 2014 - pdf format

Jupiter

Jupiter is a now brilliant object that dominates the morning sky. From northern temperate latitudes the planet rises 4 hours before the Sun at the start of October improving to around midnight by months end. For those located further south the period of visibility is not quite as good, but only about a couple of hours less.

The great planet starts October in Cancer at magnitude -1.9 with an apparent size of 34 arc seconds. Moving direct it then crosses the constellation boundary into Leo on October 14th where it remains for the remainder of the month. At months end, Jupiter shines at magnitude -2.1 with an apparent size of 36 arc seconds.

Jupiter as seen by Hubble Space Telescope (NASA/ESA)

Even when viewed through a small telescope a wealth of surface details are visible on Jupiter. These include cloud bands, twists, knots and storms; the most famous of all being "The Great Red Spot". Also easily visible, but not always at the same time are the four bright Galilean moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

On October 18th, the waning crescent Moon passes 5 degrees south of Jupiter.

Jupiter during October 2014

Jupiter during October 2014 - pdf format

Saturn

Saturn, mag. +0.6, is visible towards the southwest sky as soon as it's dark enough. The planet is currently moving direct in Libra. It's better seen from southern latitudes where it sets some 3 hours after the Sun at the start of the month, decreasing to an hour by the end of October. From northern locations the visibility period is shorter and by months end Saturn will be lost to the Sun's glare.

On October 4th, dwarf planet Ceres (mag. +9.0) passes 0.4 degrees north of Saturn. The thin waxing crescent Moon passes a degree north of the planet with an occultation visible from the northern Atlantic on October 25th.

Saturn during October 2014

Saturn during October 2014 - pdf format

Uranus

Uranus shines at its best this month; it reaches opposition in Pisces on October 7th. The seventh planet from the Sun has a magnitude of +5.7 and therefore is just about visible to the naked eye. However, dark moonless skies are required along with good seeing conditions in order to spot the distant ice giant. For those without such fortunate seeing conditions, the planet is an easy binocular catch.

Uranus was discovered by Sir William Herschel on March 13, 1781 from the garden of his house at 19 New King Street, Bath, England. At opposition this year, the planet will be located approx. 19.041 AU or 2844.5 million km (1767.5 million miles) from the Earth, which results in an apparent diameter of 3.7 arc seconds. A small telescope at high magnification will show the planet as an obviously non-stellar small green disk. However, even when viewed through the largest amateur telescopes it's difficult to make out any details on the surface of Uranus.

An extremely rare event occurs on October 8th when the full Moon in total eclipse occults Uranus. Unfortunately, its unlikely many people will be able to observe this conjunction as it occurs during daytime and is only visible from remote Greenland.

Uranus during October 2014

Uranus during October 2014 - pdf format

Neptune

Neptune, mag. +7.8, continues to move very slowly retrograde in Aquarius during October. Although now passed opposition the planet remains well placed for observation this month, visible as soon as it's dark enough until after midnight.

Neptune is far too faint to be seen with the naked eye but it's relatively easy to spot with binoculars once the correct region of sky has been identified. On October 5th, the waxing gibbous Moon passes 5 degrees north of Neptune.

Neptune during October 2014

Neptune during October 2014 - pdf format

Solar System Data Table October 2014

 DateRight AscensionDeclinationApparent MagnitudeApparent SizeIllum. (%)Distance from Earth (AU)Constellation
Sun5th Oct 201412h 42m 13.2s-04d 32m 24.2s-26.732.0'1001.000Virgo
Sun15th Oct 201413h 18m 56.6s-08d 19m 42.1s-26.832.1'1000.997Virgo
Sun25th Oct 201413h 56m 35.8s--11d 55m 23.4s-26.832.2'1000.995Virgo
Mercury5th Oct 201413h 54m 34.5s-15d 34m 12.8s0.708.8"280.761Virgo
Mercury15th Oct 201413h 31m 18.9s-11d 46m 09.4s4.910.1"010.663Virgo
Mercury25th Oct 201413h 02m 56.4s-05d 31m 21.6s0.808.6"210.786Virgo
Venus5th Oct 201412h 24m 58.4s-01d 10m 41.3s-3.909.8"1001.709Virgo
Venus15th Oct 201413h 10m 54.3s-06d 09m 45.2s-4.009.7"1001.715Virgo
Venus25th Oct 201413h 57m 44.0s-10d 56m 21.2s-4.009.7"1001.717Virgo
Mars5th Oct 201416h 51m 03.5s-24d 00m 41.3s0.806.0"891.555Ophiuchus
Mars15th Oct 201417h 22m 16.9s-24d 40m 43.5s0.905.8"891.605Ophiuchus
Mars25th Oct 201417h 54m 23.6s-24d 56m 56.0s0.905.7"901.654Sagittarius
Jupiter5th Oct 201409h 16m 06.3s16d 26m 07.8s-1.934.0"995.800Cancer
Jupiter15th Oct 201409h 22m 24.6s15d 58m 56.4s-2.034.8"995.666Leo
Jupiter25th Oct 201409h 27m 55.7s15d 34m 52.0s-2.035.7"995.522Leo
Saturn5th Oct 201415h 15m 16.4s-16d 00m 46.4s0.615.5"10010.692Libra
Saturn15th Oct 201415h 19m 27.5s-16d 18m 24.9s0.615.4"10010.787Libra
Saturn25th Oct 201415h 23m 55.0s-16d 36m 24.7s0.615.3"10010.859Libra
Uranus5th Oct 201400h 54m 10.4s05d 02m 11.8s5.703.7"10019.015Pisces
Uranus15th Oct 201400h 52m 40.6s04d 52m 52.6s5.703.7"10019.023Pisces
Uranus25th Oct 201400h 51m 13.4s04d 43m 53.1s5.703.7"10019.062Pisces
Neptune5th Oct 201422h 28m 40.8s-10d 21m 24.9s7.802.3"10029.161Aquarius
Neptune15th Oct 201422h 27m 58.1s-10d 25m 28.0s7.902.3"10029.276Aquarius
Neptune25th Oct 201422h 27m 25.3s-10d 28m 31.9s7.902.3"10029.411Aquarius