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What's Up in October 2016

A Faint Constellation and Other Visual Challenges


Image cropped: Sidney Hall [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

October Trivia:

  • 4th 1957 USSR launches Sputnik1
  • 11th 1968 First manned Apollo launched
  • 21st Orionids Meteor Shower peak

October Highlights:

  • Venus bright in early evening sky
  • Mars near lid of 'Teapot' early in month
  • 6th - Antares, Saturn and The moon line up
  • 28th - Antares, Venus and Saturn make a nice line up approx 3deg separation





Constellation of the month: Capricornius SEA GOAT


To find the arrowhead-shaped Capricornus in the sky, look for the Summer Triangle and make a line from Vega through Altair to the lower southern sky.

Capricornus is a faint constellation, with only one star above magnitude 3. Despite its faintness, Capricornus has one of the oldest mythological associations, having been consistently represented as a hybrid of a goat and a fish since the Middle Bronze Age. The constellation was a symbol of the god Ea and in the Early Bronze Age marked the winter solstice. The constellation is located in an area of sky called the Sea or the Water, consisting of many water-related constellations such as Aquarius, Pisces and Eridanus. It is the smallest constellation in the zodiac.

Several galaxies and star clusters are contained within Capricornus. Messier 30 is a globular cluster located 1 degree south of the galaxy group NGC 7103. The constellation also harbors the wide spiral galaxy NGC 6907. One galaxy group located in Capricornus is HCG 87, a group of at least three galaxies located 400 million light-years from Earth. It contains a large elliptical galaxy, a face-on spiral galaxy, and an edge-on spiral galaxy. The face-on spiral galaxy is experiencing abnormally high rates of star formation, indicating that it is interacting with one or both members of the group. Furthermore, the large elliptical galaxy and the edge-on spiral galaxy, both of which have active nuclei, are connected by a stream of stars and dust, indicating that they too are interacting. Astronomers predict that the three galaxies may merge millions of years in the future to form a giant elliptical galaxy.


Other info from various sources

  • Capricornus measures 414 square degrees and contains two stars with known planets
  • In Chinese astronomy, constellation Capricornus lies in The Black Tortoise of the North
  • The Nakh peoples called this constellation Roofing Towers
  • In the Society Islands, the figure of Capricornus was called Rua-o-Mere, "Cavern of parental yearnings"

Member Challenges

Messier objects for members to find and photograph are:
M30, and M72, M73 and M75 just outside the boundaries

References: Astronomy 2016 by Quasar Publishing. ABC Science By Dr Ian Musgrave. Star Chart App for ipad

Note: The information on this page is for viewers in Brisbane Australia. There are other significant astronomical events during 2016, such as a Solar Eclipse and a Transit of Mercury, but these cannot be seen from Brisbane so are not included.

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