Venus began this month very low on the western horizon just after sunset. By the 7th it was lost to our view as it heads towards inferior conjunction with the Sun on the 26th, emerging not long after that just above the eastern horizon. On the 31st it can be seen about 4 degrees above and to the right of the sun about 40 minutes before sunrise.
Jupiter is also steadily progressing towards the western horizon setting barely an hour after sunset by the end of the month. Shining at magnitude -1.7, the best views of the giant planet will be during the first half of the month. After that clear viewing becomes problematic as it sinks closer to the horizon.
Saturn continues its trek through the western skies setting about 11 p.m. at the beginning of the month and by 9 p.m. at month’s end. While its magnitude dims slightly from +0.5 to +0.6 its serenely beautiful rings are still wide open and present a great viewing target for small to medium sized telescopes. Saturn continues to hang out just above the “teapot” star formation in the constellation Sagittarius.
Mars spends this month appearing high and almost due south at sunset. Even though its magnitude will dim from -1.3 to -0.6 this month it is still very well placed for early evening viewing based on its position, through a minimal amount of our atmosphere. Those with small to medium telescopes may want to concentrate on Mars’ North Polar Region as it reaches its winter solstice on October 16th. This should provide some great viewing of the north polar ice cap and perhaps the north polar hood clouds.
The Moon was at last quarter on the 2nd, new on the 9th, and will be first quarter on the 16th, full on the 24th and last quarter on the 31st.
Looking to the southwest, about 30 minutes after sunset on the 11th, a thin sliver of a crescent moon will be just above and to the right of giant Jupiter. Looking south-southwest on the 17th and 18th, about an hour after sunset, watch as the first quarter Moon leapfrogs the red planet Mars. Clear Skies!