Star Trak: October 2018

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Mars will be brighter than any visible star after darkness falls on October evenings, blazing red-orange in the southern sky. The Red Planet will be highest around 9 p.m. local daylight time early in the month and an hour earlier by month's end, the best time for viewing it with a telescope.

Saturn will be about 25 degrees high in the south-southwest as darkness falls in early October, and it won't set until 11 p.m. Even the smallest telescope will show the golden yellow planet's system of rings tipped 27 degrees to our line of sight. Saturn's largest moon, Titan, will be south of the planet Oct. 7 and 23 and north of it Oct. 15 and 31.

Jupiter will be 10 degrees high in the southwest an hour after sunset. It will lose about 3 degrees of altitude each week as the month passes.

Mercury will be visible just above the southwestern horizon after sunset during the final week of October. The best chance to see it with binoculars may be on Oct. 27 when it will be directly below brilliant Jupiter.

Venus will disappear into the glare of sunset during the first week of October. It will pass between Earth and the sun on Oct. 26, reappearing in the morning sky early in November.

Meteor shower

The Orionid meteor shower will peak before the first light of dawn on Oct. 21. After the moon sets around 4 a.m. local time, viewers can expect to see about 20 meteors per hour in a clear sky.

The Orionids appear to originate from the constellation Orion the Hunter. Orion will rise before midnight in the east-southeast, and the number of meteors will increase as it gets higher above the horizon. The shower will be active for most of October, with the number of meteors gradually increasing from the start and declining after the peak. The Orionid meteors are dust particles from Halley's Comet, left behind in the comet's orbit.

Moon phases

The moon will be at third quarter on Oct. 2, new on Oct. 9, at first quarter on Oct. 16, full on Oct. 24 and at third quarter again on Oct. 31.