October is shaping up to be a great month for sky watching. With an upcoming meteor shower — the second one to light up the sky this month — and the “Hunter’s Moon” just around the corner, October promises to offer plenty of dazzling displays for star gazers and space enthusiasts.
Ahead of the 2018 Orionid meteor shower — which peaks later this week, as reported by the Inquisitr — sky watchers will be treated to a special celestial event tomorrow night: the rare alignment of five planets.
Here’s why you won’t want to miss it.
The five brightest planets in our solar system — Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars — are putting on a fantastic display by coming together in the night sky on October 18, notes Discover Magazine.
This rare astronomical event will allow you to see all the five planets in the sky at the same time — a stunning sight that won’t be visible again until July of 2020. To catch the spectacular planetary line-up, look to the horizon after sunset. You should be able to spot their glowing orbs align in the western sky.
According to The Conversation, this is the second time this year that the five planets are aligning in the sky. The previous occurrence of this beautiful phenomenon was recorded in 2016, when the five-planet line-up was also visible on two separate occasions throughout the year.
Before that, star gazers had to go a full decade without seeing the five brightest planets come together in the sky — because Jupiter and Saturn were too far apart to make it into the picture.
TONIGHT! And later this week — 5 planets will align in the night sky! Check out the instructions on viewing them in the link ????????????✨ https://t.co/ntYKdzyTOg— David Johnson (@DavidRises) October 16, 2018
Mercury and Venus are the first ones that you’ll spot close to the horizon. Although Mercury is the smallest and the faintest of the five, its proximity to Venus — our solar system’s brightest planet — affords more light to the closest planet to the sun, making it easier to see.
Up next in line are Jupiter and Saturn — each visible a little higher in the sky than the others. Mars completes the planetary alignment and will be shining overhead at a higher point than its four companions.
The last time that the five planets aligned in the sky was this July — as shown in the video below, which depicts the orbits of Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars from January 2016 until March 2022.
“Back in July, they also came together in the evening sky, but on that occasion, they were stretched right across the sky. Mercury and Venus could be found in the west, while Jupiter, Saturn and Mars were rising in the east,” Melbourne Planetarium curator Tanya Hill writes in The Conversation.
Uranus And Neptune Also Join The Party
Later this month, two more planets will be visible in the night sky, completing the planetary set. Uranus and Neptune join the party in the last week of October — just in time for the full moon.
As Uranus approaches opposition on October 24 — coming in perfect alignment with Earth and the sun — the planet will shine brighter than it has all year.
“Through binoculars, Uranus appears like a faint star but a good telescope will show its slightly bluish disk,” notes Hill.
The full moon of October — also known as the “Hunter’s Moon” — will brighten the sky on the same night, rising on October 24.
Skywatch:— farmersmarkets (@farmersmarkets) August 22, 2018
The Hunter's Moon, the full moon in October, occurs Wednesday, October 24 this year. The Harvest Moon will rise a month earlier, shortly after the autumnal equinox. The Hunter’s Moon is the full moon after the Harvest Moon.https://t.co/ch6e0KpERk pic.twitter.com/Uv3uj9nJ15
Neptune will be a little more difficult to spot, despite being roughly the same size as Saturn. This is because the planet is the farthest from the sun, which makes it harder to see.
Nevertheless, under the right observing conditions and with the help of a high-quality telescope, Neptune is bound to reveal its bluish orb on the star-studded canvas of the sky.