October: Full of Astronomical Wonders
Total lunar eclipse in the very early morning. 
October 2014 promises to be a very rich month for stargazers. The most exciting events may be the two eclipses: a  full lunar eclipse and partial solar eclipse visible over most of North America. There will also be two meteor showers, as well as blue-green Uranus in opposition and well-poised for observation with a telescope during the eclipse as well as the rest of this month.

The lunar eclipse on the morning of Wednesday October 8th will prove lovely to those who want to stay up late (or get up very early, depending on your location) ! The eclipse will be visible as the Moon sets on the east coast of North America; viewers in the west will be treated to the entire eclipse, ending near sunup. Click here for more details
Lunar Eclipse map
lunar eclipse visibility map for October 8 2014

IMage f Uranus next to the Moon during totality.
While waiting for the eclipse you could treat yourself to a view of the ice giant Uranus, glowing with a blue-green disc visible in a modest telescope. The disc itself will not be very large-about 3.7 arc-seconds. However, it will appear larger than usual: about as large in a telescopic view as Mars is at its furthest point from Earth. Uranus  will be brighter than usual as well: about magnitude 5.7, visible to the naked eye for those observers graced with both very keen eyesight and a very dark sky. You may not be able to spot the distant world next to the glare of the full Moon, but once the Moon has entered into its eclipse you may be able to spot it very close by. Even after the eclipse Uranus will remain in its prime for the next few weeks. Click here for more details

The Draconid meteor shower on the evening of October 7-October 8 will be mostly drowned out by the full Moon. However, you wil have a window of darkness during the totality of the lunar eclipse at that same time: you may be able to see a few bright meteors at the same time as you see the blood moon! 

However, the Orionid meteor shower will occur between October 20-22, peaking before dawn on the 21st.  The moon will be a thin crescent  that only appears near the sun at  dawn (and looking quite striking, by the way!) and so the sky will remain dark for the show. You may see up to 20 meteors an hour, so get warm and find a nice spot to check them out!

Image of a solar eclipse, courtesy Giul MaioliniFinally, on October 23, a partial solar eclipse will dim the Sun and make for a remarkable, if brief, event in our daytime sky. Viewed safely through eclipse glasses or a telescope with a proper glass filter, the eclipse will appear striking. Make sure you wear proper eyewear for this event, or are projecting the image safely: you can blind yourself otherwise!

Professor Andrew Fraknoi has made an eclipse guide available here, and further details on the solar eclipse, including the times for your local area, can be found on further links here. You may also wish to see a demonstration about why eclipses happen, and why they don't hapen every month

May you all have clear skies for this month of wonders!


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