Think you can’t find planets, identify bright stars, or find constellations you may want to give this a try. No star maps, you just need to find the Moon. The best times to look are 30 minutes after sunset or when the Moon in is the morning sky about an hour before sunrise.
This month (2012) the Moon will pass by the planets Mars, Venus and Jupiter. The bright stars to see are Aldebaran, Arcturus, Antares, Betelgeuse, Rigel, Procyon, Regulus, Formalhaut, and Sirius. This month we say good by to constellation Libra in the evening sky and welcome Virgo in the morning sky.
This is set up for Aurora, Colorado. Things will be slightly different depending on your location, but will still work for finding the planets and bright stars.
Start observing 60 minutes before sunrise
On October 1 the Moon is two days passed full and can be seen rising in the East about a forty minutes after sunset. When the Moon is past full it’s on the morning side of the Sun. We now are required to observe the Moon in the morning. The Moon can be seen setting in the west at 8:28am MDT more than an hour after sunrise (7:20am MDT). The Moon is in the constellation Pisces the fishes. There are no noticeably bright stars are in Pisces.
On October 2-3 a waning gibbous Moon moves to the constellation Aries, the ram. There are no noticeably bright stars are in Aries. The Moon is moving toward the left to the bright star Aldebaran (lower) and Jupiter to the (upper left).
On October 4-6 the Moon is in the constellation Taurus the bull. On October 5 the Moon will be next to Jupiter (upper left) and Aldebaran (lower left) forming a nice group. On October 6 the Moon will have passed by Jupiter. Below the Moon is the bright star Betelgeuse a red giant in the constellation of Orion. Below and a little right of Betelgeuse through the “three belt stars” is Rigel a blue giant. Going back to Betelgeuse, below and slightly left of Betelgeuse is Sirius, the Dog Star, in Canis Major the large dog. The bright star Procyon in Canis Minor is to the left of Betelgeuse.
On October 7-8 the Moon is nearly overhead in the constellation Gemini the twins. The two somewhat bright stars to the upper left of the Moon are Pollux (lower) and Castor (upper) the Gemini twins. The Moon also sits between Jupiter (upper right) and Venus (lower right). Below and to the left the Moon is Procyon. On October 8 the Moon is at third (or last) quarter. At this phase the Moon is approximately in the same place in space the Earth and you will be in 3.5 hours. Note how the Moon will thin and plunge toward the rising Sun in the next six days.
On October 9-10 the Moon is in the Cancer, the crab. There are no noticeably bright stars in Cancer.
On October 11-13 the Moon is a thin waning crescent advancing on Regulus and Venus in the constellation of Leo. On October 11 the Moon is near Regulus. On October 12 Moon is near Venus. On October 13 a very thin crescent has passed Venus. This will be the last morning to see the Moon.
On October 14-16 the Moon will be lost the glare of the rising and setting Sun. The Moon will be new on October 15 rising and setting with the Sun. On October 16 the Moon has moved the evening side of the Sun and will be difficult to see in the glare of the setting Sun.
Observe 30 to 60 minutes after sunset
On October 17 The Moon will reappear on as a thin waxing crescent in the west. It is best to start viewing the thin crescent ten minutes after sunset (6:17pm MDT). At 7:00pm MDT the thin crescent moon will be very low on the western Horizon. To the left of the Moon is Mars (upper) and Antares (lower). This could be a bit of a challenge to see being so close to the setting Sun.
On October 18 the Moon moves into the constellation Scorpius the scorpion. The Moon passed Mars (lower right) and sits above the bright star Antares a red super giant and rival of Mars (compare it to Mars). See if you can detect the red hue. If Antares were the Sun the Earth and Mars would be orbiting inside of it. The bright star Arcturus in the constellation of Bootes can be seen on the right of the Moon.
On October 19-21 the Moon is in the constellation Sagittarius the archer. Sagittarius points the way to the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way. Most amateur astronomers call Sagittarius the teapot. The pattern of stars, albeit somewhat faint, looks more like a teapot than an archer. On October 21 the Moon is at first quarter or a half moon. When the Moon is at first quarter it is approximately in same place in space as the Earth and you were 3.5 hours ago.
On October 22-23 the Moon is in Capricornus, the goat. There are no noticeably bright stars in Capricornus. Above the Moon overhead there are three bright stars that form a large triangle called the Summer Triangle. The three stars are Altair (lowest) in the constellation Aqulia the eagle and Vega (high and right) in Lyra the harp and Deneb (below and to the left of Vega) in Cygnus the swan. Deneb is the dimmest of the three, but the farthest away at 1700 light years. It burns 60,000 times brighter than the sun.
On October 24 the Moon is in the constellation Aquarius the water bearer. There are no noticeably bright stars are in Aquarius. The star below the Moon is Formalhaut in the constellation Piscis Austrinus, the southern fish.
On October 25-28 the Moon is in the constellation Pisces the fishes where we started at the beginning of the month. There are no noticeably bright stars are in Pisces.
On October 29-30 the Moon is in the constellation Aries the ram. The Moon is full on October 29 and moves to the morning side of the Sun. There are no bright stars in Aries. For more detailed information about this month’s full moon including names go here.
On October 31 the Moon is in the constellation Taurus the bull approaching Jupiter (upper left) and Aldebaran (lower left) forming a nice group.
Wishing you clear skies