Night sky guide for October 2013

Night sky guide for October 2013

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  • On October 1, Comet ISON is making closest approach to Mars. Mars missions will have a close up look at the comet.
  • On October 3 - Uranus is at opposition. The blue-green planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view Uranus. Due to its distance, it will only appear as a tiny blue-green dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.
  • Nights of October 7 and 8 are reserved for Draconids meteor shower - The Draconids is a minor meteor shower producing only about 10 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet 21P Giacobini-Zinner, which was first discovered in 1900. The shower runs annually from October 6-10 and peaks this year on the the night of the 7th and morning of the 8th. The thin crescent moon will set early in the evening leaving dark skies for optimal observing. Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Draco, but can appear anywhere in the sky.​
  • Southern Taurids meteor shower peaks on October 8 - 9The Southern Taurids are a long-lasting shower that reaches a barely noticeable maximum on October 9 or 10. The shower is active for more than two months but rarely produces more than five shower members per hour, even at maximum activity. The Taurids (both branches) are rich in fireballs and are often responsible for increased number of fireball reports from September through November. Active from September 7th to November 19th 2013
  • On October 9 at 19:21 UTC, NASA's Juno spacecraft performs a close flyby of Earth. At closest approach, Juno will come to within 559 kilometer (347 miles) of our planet's surface. This flyby will provide a gravity assist to the spacecraft, allowing it to pick up the extra speed it needs in order to get to its destination: the giant planet Jupiter.
  • October 12 is International Observe the Moon Night, and the moon will be visible before sunset. It's a night dedicated to encouraging people to look up and take notice of our nearest neighbor. As the moon sets in the west at midnight, Jupiter is just rising in the East. On the 25th you'll find Jupiter above the moon. Most people think we see the same 50 per cent of the lunar surface every month. But a gentle wobble of the moon in the Earth's sky lets us peek at an additional 9 per cent of the moon's surface. This wobble, or libration, lets us occasionally see a bit around the east and west limb of the moon and over the north and south poles. This phenomenon becomes apparent when viewing Mare Frigoris in the north and Mare Crisium on the moon's east limb over time. Catch a glimpse of the far side's Mare Orientale on the western limb near the first of the month. It's the youngest impact crater on the moon. Mare Marginis, Smithii and Australe are all visible after dark on the 11th through the 13th. Try spotting them through any size telescope during International Observe the Moon Night.

  • October 18 - Full Moon and penumbral lunar eclipse. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 23:38 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Hunters Moon because at this time of year the leaves are falling and the game is fat and ready to hunt. This moon has also been known as the Travel Moon and the Blood Moon. This will also be the smallest full moon of the year because it will be near apogee, its farthest point from the Earth. A penumbral lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes through the Earth's partial shadow, or penumbra. During this type of eclipse the Moon will darken slightly but not completely. The eclipse will be visible throughout most of the world except for Australia and extreme eastern Siberia.
  • October 21, 22 - Orionids meteor shower. The Orionids is an average shower producing up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Halley, which has been known and observed since ancient times. The shower runs annually from October 2 to November 7. It peaks this year on the night of October 21 and the morning of October 22. The waning gibbous moon will block some of the meteors this year, but the Orionids tend to be fairly bright so it could still be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Orion, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

Featured image: NASA/JPL

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