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Post Info TOPIC: October 2008


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If there ever was a planet that has gotten a bad rap for its inability to be readily observed, it would have to be Mercury. Nonetheless, during these next three weeks we will be presented with an excellent opportunity to view Mercury in the early morning dawn sky.

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The Orionid meteor shower that heavenly annual light display that returns to the sky each October will peak in the pre-dawn hours of Oct. 21, according to the Griffith Observatory. The showers can be seen now through Nov. 7, but tonight (Oct. 15) through Oct. 22 is predicted to be the best time to watch meteors flame across the sky at a speed of 35 miles per second.

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Last night was nice in clear in Tucson. Even with the almost Full Moon, 21 meteors were picked up including a nice bright Tau Ursa Majorid. Though only one object was recognized as a TAU, there were 3-5 meteors that appeared to originate near the TAU radiant.
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This month we have a trick and a treat: one is in the morning sky and one is in the evening sky.
Early risers will be able to see a tricky target this month. Its Mercury! Mercury is just one-and-a-half times the size of our own moon, and it orbits the sun in 3 months.
With the unaided eye, Mercury looks like a star, and through a telescope it will look like a tiny version of the first quarter moon on the 16th and like a tiny waxing gibbous moon on the 22nd.

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The two brightest planets are on show in our evening sky, though we need to be quick to spy Venus before it drops below the west-south-west horizon one hour after sunset. Jupiter, obvious low in the south at nightfall, sets in the south-west by 22:30.
Much higher in the sky, the Summer Triangle tumbles westwards from high in the south at nightfall and Pegasus, autumn's centrepiece constellation, climbs to replace it. By 23:00 tonight, the area on our chart stands high on the meridian and the Hunter's Moon lies just outside the lower left-hand edge of the chart.

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Oct. 13, 1884: Greenwich Resolves Subprime Longitude Crisis
Geographers and astronomers adopt Greenwich as the Prime Meridian, the international standard for zero degrees longitude.
The late 19th century was an era of standardisation. With the Second Industrial Revolution stimulating world trade, the Treaty of the Meter established the International System of weights and measures in 1875. With railroads linking together entire continents, nations were replacing hundreds (or even thousands) of diverging local times with a system of hour-wide time zones. (The United States adopted its zones in 1883.)

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Jupiter is still visible throughout October, setting by 10pm local time. Look low towards the south-west and it is the brightest object in the sky. Take a look through binoculars, and see if you can spot the four bright Galilean moons that orbit around Jupiter. Our Moon is conveniently close to Jupiter in the night sky on the 6th & 7th of October, acting as a useful guide.

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The night sky for October
Our picture is of the remains of an explosion that lit up the sky 10,000 years ago, just before the dawn of human recorded history towards the end of the last Ice Age.

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Great Square made up of diverse stellar types
In the vast expanse of autumn sky between the Summer Triangle stars of Vega, Deneb and Altair and the bright stars and constellation of the winter sky one can only find a few stellar landmarks of any prominence.

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