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Brian Carter's The Night Sky

The Night Sky

Brian Carter - Brian Carter is the Senior Astronomer at Carter Observatory (The National Observatory of New Zealand), PO Box 2909, Wellington. (Email: , Observatory Web Site: )


With the days getting longer, Summer should be on its way, but as usual we expect relapses.


October is a fairly good month for viewing the planets. Venus, Mars and Saturn will be visible for the whole of the month. Jupiter will only be visible at the start of the month and Mercury for all but the start of the month.

Jupiter will be visible for the first few days of October. At the start of the month it sets at 19:47, by October 6 at 20:32* (an hour after Sunset) and by October 21 it sets at the same time as the Sun. Jupiter is in the constellation of Virgo, in which it remains until the end of November 2005. Its magnitude is a constant –1.7 during the month. Jupiter will reappear in our morning sky by the middle of November.

Venus can be seen in the evening sky. At the start of the month it sets at 22:18 and by the end of the month at 00:08*. Its magnitude slightly brightens from –4.2 to –4.4, making it easier to see in the evening twilight as the “Evening Star”.

Mars will be visible for all but the start of the night. It rises at 22:03 at the start of the month and by month’s end at 20:39*, which is only 39 minutes after Sunset. Mars starts the month in the constellation of Taurus, moving into Aries from October 10. During October its magnitude brightens from –1.7 to –2.3, which is its brightest for the year.

Saturn will be visible for the last quarter of the night. At the start of October it rises at 03:33 and at 02:42* by month’s end. Saturn is in the constellation of Cancer, in which it remains until September 2006. Its magnitude slightly brightens from 0.4 to 0.3 during the month.

Mercury will be visible for all but the first day or so of October. At the start of the month it sets at 19:16 (50 minutes after Sunset) and at 22:07* by month’s end. Its magnitude fades from –0.7 to –0.2 during the month.

All times are for Wellington unless otherwise stated; other centres may vary by a few minutes.

*The times are either in New Zealand Standard Time (NZST) or New Zealand Daylight Time (NZDT) depending whether the date is before or after October 2; the date for changing between NZST and NZDT.

Phases of the Moon

New Moon
First Quarter
Full Moon
Last Quarter

Mth D H M Mth D H M Mth D H M Mth D H M
Sep 4 06 45 Sep 11 23 37 Sep 18 14 01 Sep 25 18 41
Oct 3 23 28 Oct 11 08 01 Oct 18 01 14 Oct 25 14 17
Nov 2 14 25 Nov 9 14 57 Nov 16 13 57 Nov 24 11 11

Change to New Zealand Daylight Time

In the early hours of Sunday, October 2, the time changes from New Zealand Standard Time (NZST) to New Zealand Daylight Time (NZDT). Technically 2:00am becomes 3:00am, which requires clocks and watches to be advanced by an hour. This means we loose an hour of sleep! New Zealand will then be 13 hours in front of UT (GMT).

Diary of Astronomical Phenomena

Oct 1 Mars stationary against the background stars at 22:00, as its motion changes from an Easterly to a Westerly direction.
3 New Moon at 23:28.
4 Mercury 2º N of Spica in the evening twilight. Spica ( Virginis) is at distance of ~260 light years.
6 Mercury 1.5ºS of Jupiter at 20:00.
7 Venus close to the Moon in the evening twilight.
15 Moon at perigee (closest to the Earth) at 03:00. (Distance = 0.0024429 AU = 365,450 km).
16 & 17 Venus close to Antares in the evening. Antares ( Scorpii) is a red supergiant at a distance of ~400 light years.
18 Full Moon at 01:14.
20 Mars 5ºS of the Moon at 02:00.
23 Jupiter in conjunction with the Sun at 02:00. (On the far side of the Sun)
26 Saturn close to the Moon just before dawn.
26 Moon at apogee (furthest from the Earth) at 23:00 (Distance = 0.0027039 AU = 404,500 km).
30 Mars at closest approach at 16:00. (Distance = 0.4640629 AU = 69,422,800 km).


This chart shows the sky as it appears at about 21:00 (22:00 for NZDT) for October.

How To Use the Sky Charts

To use the sky chart hold it up to the sky so that the direction in which you are looking is at the lower edge of the map. For example, if you are looking at the western horizon then the map should be held so that the “WEST” label is at the lower edge. The altitude and direction of the stars and planets will then be correctly shown. The centre of the chart will be directly overhead.

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