The Sky Above You – October 2017


By Duncan Lunan



The Moon will be Full on October 5th, New on October 19th.


The planet Mercury is not visible in October.


Venus is still brilliant in the morning sky during October, rising two hours before the Sun. The slender waning Moon appears near Venus on 17th and 18th October.


Mars moves from Leo into Virgo in October, still faint, rising about 5 a.m., one-third of a Moon diameter from Venus on 5th and 6th October. On October 17th Mars is between Venus and the waning crescent Moon.


Jupiter in Virgo doesn’t become visible again till November.


Saturn is in Ophiucus, setting at 9 p.m. in October, with the rings at widest aperture on the 16th, the widest they have been for 14 years. The Moon appears near Saturn on 24th October.


Uranus in Pisces is at opposition on October 19th, due south at midnight and at its closest to us for the year, but only visible in binoculars and more powerful instruments.


Neptune in Aquarius sets at 3.30 a.m. in October.


Through most of October and early November it’s worth watching for meteors in the widely spread Taurid shower from Encke’s Comet, and this year there’s a chance to see the Orionid meteors from Halley’s Comet, on the night of 20th/21st October, because there will be no Moon to spoil them that night.


Duncan Lunan’s collection of time-travel stories, “The Elements of Time”, illustrated by Sydney Jordan, is available from the publishers at www.shorelineofinfinity.com. Duncan’s recent books “Children from the Sky”, “The Stones and the Stars” and “Incoming Asteroid! What Could We Do About It?” are available on Amazon or through booksellers; more details are on Duncan’s website, www.duncanlunan.com.





The Night Sky about 9pm (GMT/UT) planets not shown - Drawing by Jim Barker









The Sky Above You


By Duncan Lunan


I began writing this column in early 1983 at the suggestion of the late Chris Boyce.   At that time the Post Office would allow 1000 free mailings to start a new business, just under the number of small press newspapers in the UK at the time.   I printed a flier with the help of John Braithwaite  (of Braithwaite Telescopes)  offering a three-part column for £5, with the sky this month, a series of articles for beginners, and a monthly news feature.   The column ran from May 1983 to May 1993 in various newspapers and magazines, but never in more than five outlets at a time, although every one of those 1000-plus papers would have included an astrology column.   Since then it’s appeared sporadically in a range of publications including The Southsider in Glasgow and the Dalyan Courier in Turkey, but most often, normally three times per year, in Jeff Hawke’s Cosmos since the first issue in March 2003.   It appeared monthly online in Cosmic Aspects and continues to appear monthly in the Ayrshire Post.


The monthly maps for the column were drawn for me by Jim Barker, based on similar, uncredited ones in Dr. Leon Hausman’s “Astronomy Handbook”  (Fawcett Publications, 1956).   Jim had to redraw or elongate several of them because they were drawn for mid-US latitudes, about 40o North.   The biggest change needed was in November when only Dubhe, Merak and Megrez of the Big Dipper, as the US version called it, were visible at that latitude.   In the UK, all the stars of the Plough are circumpolar, always above the horizon.   We decided to keep an insert in the January map showing the position of M42, the Great Nebula in the Sword of Orion, and for that reason, to stick with the set time of 9 p.m., (10 p.m. BST in summer), although in Scotland the sky isn’t dark then during June and July. 


To use the maps in theory you should hold them overhead, aligning the North edge to true north, marked by Polaris and indicated by Dubhe and Merak, the Pointers.   It’s more practical to hold the map in front of you when looking south and then rotate it as you face east, south and west.   Some readers are confused because east is on the left, opposite to terrestrial maps, but that’s because they’re the other way up.   When you’re facing south and looking at the sky, east is on your left.  


The star patterns are the same for each month of each year, and only the positions of the planets change.   (“Astronomy Handbook” accidentally shows Saturn in Virgo during May, showing that the maps weren’t originally drawn for the Hausman book.)   Consequently regular readers of JHC have by now built up a complete set of twelve.



Duncan recording  The Sky Above You programs for the Falkland Island’s TV

Part 1


Part 2