October is always a great month to go stargazing, and in 2020 it’s got some truly unmissable sights.
In the northern hemisphere October means longer nights, and when the clocks change it makes stargazing a possible in the early evening.
It’s also the month that the jewels of the winter night sky begin to return; the unmissable Andromeda Galaxy—the closest giant galaxy to our Milky Way—is becoming visible right after dark while towards the end of the month the sparkling Pleiades star cluster will rise in the east before midnight.
The planets are lingering. Jupiter and its four Galilean moons shine brightly in the southwest after dark with dimmer Saturn in tow, but this month it’s the turn of Mars to dominate post-sunset skies as it comes to opposition. Meanwhile, Venus sparkles in the pre-dawn skies.
Insert a couple of meteor showers—one that’s visible right after sunset and another caused by none other than Halley’s Comet—and you’ve got a busy celestial month that deserves an intriguing finale.
Cue a rare “Halloween Hunter’s Blue Moon” on October 31, 2020, which will be best caught at Moonrise.
Here’s exactly what you need to know about when, where and how to catch October 2020’s stargazing highlights:
1. Draconids meteor shower
When: Anytime after dark on Wednesday, October 7, 2020
Where to look: all-sky
Most meteor showers are at their best around midnight when the viewer is firmly on the night-side of the planet. Not so the Draconids meteor shower, which peaks tonight and is best seen right after dark.
The calling card of a short-period comet called 21P/Giacobini-Zinner, which was last in the Solar System