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 2023.
October 2 – Andromeda Galaxy is Well Placed
Have you always wanted to spot distant galaxies? October is your best chance! Starting off on the night of October 2nd, there’s a series of galactic viewing opportunities.
On the night of the 2nd, the Andromeda Galaxy will reach its highest point in the sky around midnight local time (anywhere its visible). Unfortunately, a bright waning gibbous moon will interfere some, but if you’re willing to stay up and use the right equipment, you can get a look at our neighboring spiral galaxy.
October 5 – The SMC is Well Placed
If you happen to live at a latitude of the globe where you can see the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), there’s also an opportunity to view this dwarf galaxy that sits close to our own Milky Way. Overnight on October 5th, the SMC will reach its highest point in the sky – it will certainly be easy to spot, along with its sibling, the Large Magellanic Cloud.
October 5 – Peak of the Camelopardalid Meteor Shower
I said the October night sky would be full of meteors – and the first week 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 2023, 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 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 or November 6th. 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 14 – Annular Solar Eclipse
Have you made your plans for the annular solar eclipse that’s happening on the morning of October 14th? I’ll be at Crater Lake in Oregon, weather permitting!
In any case, you should definitely check out my guide to seeing this iconic “ring of fire” eclipse this autumn; it will pass across several states and large cities in the United States and promises a great view from a number of national parks and other wild places in the American West. If you live further south, areas of Mexico, Central America, and South America will also see the spectacle.
Seriously though, my guide will help you plan your trip to see this solar eclipse, even if you’re a bit late to join the fun!
October 15 – Triangulum Galaxy is Well Placed
Here’s one more galaxy-spotting opportunity for you: on October 15th, the spiral Triangulum Galaxy will reach its highest point in the night sky too. This galaxy looks quite different from even the similarly shaped (spiral) Andromeda Galaxy – it’s well worth trying to see both if you’ve never seen these neighboring galaxies. You will need a telescope or binoculars to spot it, but the new moon phase on this night makes it a great night for stargazing even if you don’t have equipment.
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 2023, the constellation Orion should be visible throughout the night from about 10:42pm (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 28 – Partial Lunar Eclipse
After the annular solar eclipse on October 14th, one would naturally expect a lunar eclipse to follow – and one would be right! On the night of October 28th, there will be a partial lunar eclipse visible from Europe, Africa, and Asia, as well as part of Australia.
Admittedly, partial lunar eclipses aren’t as thrilling as their “blood moon” counterparts (total lunar eclipses); only part of the Moon will be obscured by the Earth’s umbra, so only part will turn red. Nevertheless, if you live in the region where this lunar eclipse will be visible and the skies are clear, head out in the evening, night, or early morning hours to spot the Moon in an unusual hue.
Other Events in the October Night Sky
As October is a very busy month – astronomically speaking – I selected some of the night sky events I include every month (and which are less stimulating), and decided to just mention them briefly here. As you can see, almost every night in October is a great night for stargazing!
- October 1 – Close Approach of the Moon & Jupiter – The two will appear 3°08′ apart on this night.
- October 10 – Close Approach of the Moon & Venus – The two will appear 5°54′ apart at their closest (during daylight hours), so look at the pre-dawn sky to see them.
- October 20 – Venus at its Morning Peak – Bright Venus will reach 42° above the eastern horizon on this morning.
- October 24 – Close Approach of the Moon & Saturn – The two will appear 2°32′ apart in the pre-dawn hours of this day.
- October 29 – Close Approach of the Moon & Jupiter – These two appear close together again, just 2°53′ apart in the early morning hours.
Have questions about any of these October night sky astronomical events? Let us know in the comments.