In the northern hemisphere, October evokes thoughts of crunchy leaves, jack-o-lanterns, and yes, even those pumpkin flavored drinks and treats. It also signals a full turning of the seasons; after the equinox in September, we’re into aurora season – and it turns out to be meteor season too! This year, the October night sky is going to be a great one.
As in years past, October is meteor season – there are seven meteor showers that reach peak activity during the month! There are also chances to see asteroids, dwarf planets, and other planets in our solar system too. Be sure to mark your calendar for October 21st, the peak of the Orionids meteor shower and highlight of the month.
Before jumping into the list, I want to provide some recommendations for telescopes and binoculars; some of the events this month will require having one if you want to see them. From $50 to $1000+, I’ve scoured and tested to find the best options at every price point to help unlock the wonders of the night sky for you.
Ready to learn more about what you can see in the October night sky this year? Read on for 11 of the most interesting astronomical events and viewing opportunities in the October night sky this year.
This post was originally published in September 2018, and is updated annually – most recently in September 2022.
October 5 – Peak of the Camelopardalid Meteor Shower
I said the October night sky would be full of meteors – and the first astronomical event of the month underscores my point. As constellations go, Camelopardalis is one of the more overlooked ones in the sky. Camelopardalis is a large constellation that represents a giraffe and sits between Ursa Major and Cassiopeia.
It’s also home to a meteor shower, the Camelopardalids, which will peak this year on the night of October 5th. (These ones are officially the “October Camelopardalids;” there’s a new meteor shower called the “May Camelopardalids” that astronomers have recently discovered too.)
Unfortunately, the October Camelopardalids aren’t the most active and only peak at a maximum Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) of 5 meteors per hour.
October 9 – Peak of the Draconid Meteor Shower
Radiating from the constellation Draco, the dragon, this northern hemisphere constellation will be spotted near the bright star of Vega. In 2022, the meteor shower is expected to peak around midnight on October 9th (so overnight from the 8th to 9th); this is prime stargazing time, despite the Full Moon that night.
The Draconids meteor shower isn’t as active as other meteor showers, with a variable ZHR each year* – especially compared with the Orionids later in the month.
*The Draconids are exceptionally unreliable when it comes to predicting meteor activity. Most years it is a minor shower; in some years it exceeds the super-active Perseids and Geminids – and in 2011, astronomers reported over 600 meteors per hour during the peak!
October 9 – Mercury Reaches its Morning Peak
I love mentioning each ideal opportunity to see tiny Mercury, as I think it’s one of the most overlooked planets in the solar system, and it does have a lovely regular viewing cadence (every 3–4 months).
On the morning of October October 9th, you’ll have another chance to spot Mercury as it reaches its highest point in the sky before the rising sun. Mercury will reach a peak of 17° above the eastern horizon before the sun rises that morning, and is visible to the naked eye if you want to go spot this tiny member of our celestial family.
October 10 – Peak of the Southern Taurid Meteor Shower
Despite their name, the Southern Taurid meteor shower is actually visible in the northern hemisphere. Instead, the Southern Taurids are so named due to a split in the Taurids meteor shower caused by gravitational perturbations – especially from Jupiter – that have resulted in two different branches of the meteor shower.
All that said, the best night to see the Southern Taurids will be on October 10th this year (the Northern Taurids will peak on November 11th). On this night you can expect to see a maximum of 5 meteors per hour.
There’s been some debate over when the Southern Taurids will peak this year – some sources say either October 10th, November 2nd/3rd, or November 5th. Astronomers aren’t quite sure about when this long, relatively wide band of debris really “peaks” which is what fuels the debate, but all of those dates sound like great nights to get out and go stargazing!
October 11 – Peak of the δ-Aurigid Meteor Shower
Going for BINGO on the meteor showers this month? Here’s another chance to see more: the δ-Aurigid meteor shower will peak on the night of October 11th. We’ll be honest though: Delta Aurigids aren’t the most stimulating, with a maximum ZHR of 2 per hour. Just keep an eye out for them if you happen to be out stargazing this night anyway.
October 11/12 – Lunar Occultation of Uranus
I know, I know, I’ve been hyping up these lunar occultations of Uranus all year long – but we’re finally coming into the time of year when it’s actually exciting for those willing to do the work to try and spot distant Uranus as it slides behind the Moon.
To clear up instant confusion, the “official” date of this Lunar Occultation is October 12th, using UTC – but literally everyone who can actually see the occultation will experience it starting on the 11th (most will end on the 12th, but some will also end on the 12th).
The occultation begins at 8:51pm PDT (04:51 UTC on the 12th) and ends at 11:51pm PDT (07:51 UTC on the 12th).
No matter which date you’re viewing it on, this 8th lunar occultation of the year is one of the best opportunities for stargazers and planet-watchers in North America to spot the event. All of western North America will be within the viewing zone, as well as parts of Greenland.
October 18 – Eris at Opposition
Love dwarf planets? Here’s a chance to spot one this month: massive, distant Eris will reach opposition on the night of October 18th. This night, it will appear bright in the night sky, but you’ll need a telescope to spot it. Use a night sky app and look in the constellation Cetus to find Eris with your stargazing equipment of choice.
October 18 – Peak of the ε-Geminid Meteor Shower
Another night, another chance to see meteors! On the night of October 18th, the ε-Geminid meteor shower will peak at a maximum ZHR of 3 per hour. This year, the ε-Geminids are going to be high in the northern sky and only visible to those above 60°N on the globe.
October 21 – Peak of the Orionid Meteor Shower
The greatest night sky event in October is undoubtedly the Orionids meteor shower, which is expected to peak on October 21st this year. While the meteor shower occurs from October 16th to 30th, there may be up to 21 meteors per hour during the shower’s peak (likely in the early morning hours of the 21st).
The Orionids are easy to spot since they originate from a point in the night sky near the highly-recognizable constellation Orion. Look for Orion in the eastern sky if you’re trying to see this meteor shower.
In 2022, the constellation Orion should be visible throughout the night from about 10:45pm (EDT) onward until sunrise; anytime in that window will be good for trying to spot Orionid meteors.
October 24 – Peak of the Leonis Minorid Meteor Shower
Not over trying to spot meteors yet? Here’s your last chance in October! If you’re already awake trying to spot Mercury on the morning of October 24th, keep your eyes peeled for shooting stars too. During the pre-dawn hours, the Leonis Minorid meteor shower will peak.
The Leonis Minorids aren’t particularly active, and the maximum ZHR is roughly 2 per hour. This lesser meteor shower appears to radiate from the constellation Leo with bright Regulus to help you find the area of the sky.
October 25 – Partial Solar Eclipse
October ends as we move into another phase of eclipses; in this case, it begins with a solar eclipse (and no preceding lunar eclipse) on October 25th. The partial eclipse will be visible to viewers in eastern Greenland, Iceland, northern and eastern Africa, the whole of the Middle East, almost all of Europe (sorry, Portugal!), Central Asia, eastern Russia, and India.
It’s a hugely populated area of the planet within the path of this eclipse, though the greatest percentage of coverage anyone will see is about 40%. If you live in this region, be sure to use your eclipse-viewing glasses to protect your eyes.
Have questions about any of these October night sky astronomical events? Let us know in the comments.