What’s Up for October 2016?

What’s Up for October? Moon phases, Astronomy Day, meteors and Saturn!

The new moon phase starts the month on October 1. Of course, the new moon isn’t visible, because it’s between Earth and the sun, and the unlit side is facing Earth. 

Night by night the slender crescent gets bigger and higher in the sky and easier to see just after sunset. On the 3rd and 4th, the moon will pass just above Venus!

A week later on the 9th the moon has traveled through one quarter of its 29-day orbit around Earth, and we see the first quarter phase. Also look for Mars just below the moon.

Join us in celebrating International Observe the Moon Night Saturday, October 8th, with your local astronomy club or science center. Conveniently, the 8th is also Fall Astronomy Day, celebrated internationally by astronomy clubs since 1973.

One week later on the 16th the moon reaches opposition, or the full moon phase, when the moon and the sun are on opposite sides of Earth. And the sun completely illuminates the moon as seen from Earth. 

During this phase, the moon rises in the east just as the sun is setting in the west. Overnight, the moon crosses the sky and sets at dawn.

A week later, on the 22nd of October, the last quarter moon rises at midnight. Later, the pretty and bright Beehive Cluster will be visible near the moon until dawn.

To wrap up the month, 29 days after the last new moon we start the lunar cycle all over again with another new moon phase on October 30th. Will you be able to spot the one-day old moon on Halloween? It will be a challenge!

There are three meteor showers in October–the Draconids, the Taurids and the Orionids. Try for the Draconids on October 8th.  

See the Taurids on October 10th. 

The Orionids will be marred by the full moon on the 21st, but all three meteor showers will offer some possible bright meteors.

Finally, you’ll have an especially pretty view of Saturn, when it forms a straight line with Venus and the red star Antares on the 27th.

You can catch up on NASA’s lunar mission, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Cassini Mission to Saturn and all of our missions at

Watch the full October “What’s Up" video for more:

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How Space Travel Works, According to the Scooby-Doo Animators

We start out decently enough – ok, sure, the moon is actually, on average, 238,855 miles away from the earth, but rounding up a bit is understandable. No big deal.

However, shortly after, they claim to have reached a “top speed of 50,000 MPH.” 

Now, the fastest speed a manned ship has ever traveled was 24,791 MPH (for a brief time), according to basic researching… but hey, these are cartoon ships! Whatever, we’ll give ‘em a pass here as well.

At this point, however, things start to get tricky. Less than a minute later (while huddling around a TARDIS control module) the show claims they’re “halfway to the moon.”

Let’s do some reeeaaaally basic math, shall we? According to the show, these ships are moving at 50K MPH, and have 250K miles to go. This would mean the trip would take 5 hours – which is definitely not 2 minutes.

Even if we ignore the fact that the actual moon mission took around 3 days, and say that these magical cartoon ships travel at their top speed endlessly, their own numbers don’t add up. 

In order to travel that distance in the span of two minutes, they wouldn’t have to be going at 50,000 MPH… they’d have to travel at 7,500,000 MPH. 150x faster.

It only gets worse from here. Before landing, they slow down using drag chutes… which don’t do anything in space because there’s no air resistance in a vacuum. Those silly newtonian mechanics are always getting in the way.

And then, to top it all off,

Snagglepuss interviews a giant banana.

And I start to question whether it’s worth analyzing the scientific content of this show.

A rare “black moon” will rise over North America tonight, but unfortunately you won’t be able to see it. Sad! That’s because a black moon is just a fancy term for when the new moon phase happens twice within a one-month period. (📷 : @nasa)