October 2014 — Sky Watching



Solar Eclipse

The afternoon of October 23rd brings a partial solar eclipse to the Chicago area.  The eclipse occurs during the late afternoon and is in progress as the sun sets at 5:59 p.m.  A solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves in front of the sun and obscures the sun’s light.  The eclipse begins at 4:36 p.m. when the moon begins to cross in front of the sun.  The moon continues to move in front of the sun as the sun descends toward the western horizon.  The chart above shows the eclipse at 5:15 p.m. when the sun and moon pair is about 7 degrees above the western horizon. The eclipse continues through sunset when over 50% of the sun is covered.


Should the sky be clear to the horizon, seeing a setting solar eclipse is a dramatic event.  The image above shows a sunset solar eclipse in May 2012 as seen from Page, Arizona.

It is important to note to not view the solar eclipse directly without a high quality optical astronomical filter that eliminates the sunlight that can permanently damage eyesight.

Sun During October

During the month, the Chicago area loses another hour of daylight as displayed in the chart above.  By month’s end the sun is in the sky for only 9 hours, 23 minutes.  The sun now  rises south of east and sets south of east.  It is less than halfway up in the southern sky at noon.




NASA Photo




Phase Date/Time Moonrise Moonset
First Quarter 10/01/14 (2:33 p.m.) 1:52 p.m. 11:59 p.m.
Full Moon 10/08/14 (5:51 a.m.) 5:58 p.m. (10/07) 6:03 a.m.
Last Quarter 10/15/14 (2:12 p.m.) 11:13 p.m. (10/14) 1:47 p.m.
New Moon 10/23/14 (4:57 p.m.) 6:51 a.m. 5:58 p.m.
First Quarter 10/30/14 (9:48 p.m.) 1:24 p.m. 12:04 a.m. (10/31)
Times are Central Daylight Time for Chicago, Illinois, from US Naval Observatory calculations. (For mjb)


The moon and Mars were near each other during the lunar eclipse on April 15, 2014. Click the image to see  the eclipsed moon, Spica, and Mars.

Lunar Eclipse (October 8, 2014)

On the morning of October 8, the full moon moves into our planet’s shadow for a dramatic (and easily seen) lunar eclipse, replicating the lunar eclipse that was visible across North America in April.  (See the image above for the view of that eclipse.)  The total portion of the eclipse is visible across all of North America.  The eclipse is fully observed from the Pacific Ocean and regions nearby, including the Pacific Time Zone.  The total portion of the eclipse lasts 59 minutes, between 5:25 a.m. and 6:24 a.m. CDT.

Here are the events of the night of October 7/8, 2014, as seen from the Chicago area in the Central Time Zone:

  • October 7: Moonrise, 5:58 p.m.
  • Sunset, 6:24 p.m.
  • October 8: Moon begins to enter dimmer penumbra shadow, 3:15 a.m.  This part of the eclipse is not visible for most observers.
  • Partial eclipse begins, 4:14 a.m.  The moon begins moving into the darker core of Earth’s shadow.  Part of the moon is brightly illuminated and the remainder is in brighter sunlight.
  • Total Lunar Eclipse, 5:25 – 6:24 a.m.  The moon is less than 15 degrees above the western horizon and descending as it moon is immersed in the shadow for 59 minutes.
  • Partial eclipse begins, 6:25 a.m.  The moon slowly moves from the darker shadow.  The moon is now less than 7 degrees from the western horizon.
  • Sunrise, 6:57 a.m.
  • Moonset, 7:03 a.m.  The moon sets with the sky brightly illuminated and in partial eclipse.

Evening Sky

Mars and Saturn are low in the southwestern sky as October opens.  Mars is about 4 degrees to the upper left of the star Antares.  Do not confuse the the planet and the star.  Both are about the same brightness and nearly the same color.  Mars’ color is reflected sunlight, Antares from its temperature.  Saturn is about 20 degrees to the right of Antares.  Saturn sets around 8:30 p.m. and Mars around 9:30 p.m.  During the month the sky slowly shifts westward at the same time.


By month’s end the waxing crescent moon appears near Mars on October 27 and 28.

Morning Sky


Jupiter is the bright Morning Star in the eastern predawn sky.  It is about 14 degrees to the upper right of the star Regulus.

At mid-month the moon passes through the morning sky with the moon near Jupiter on the mornings of October 17 and 18.

Mercury appears low in the eastern sky late in the month.  Find a clear horizon to see the planet low in the sky.  Binoculars may be helpful to see the planet.

Venus is rapidly leaving the morning sky.  On October 25, Venus passes superior conjunction and moves into the evening sky.  See this article for Venus’ appearance in the evening sky.

October 2014 provides several interesting sky events and transitions.  Look for the morning lunar eclipse and use high quality astronomical filters to view the solar eclipse.

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