Scruton Sky at Night – October 2021

by Peter Williams

A New Moon on 6 Oct. means a dark, clear sky compared with the Full Moon on 20 Oct. which will impede viewing, due to its brightness. The 2/3 moon on 14 Oct. will have a bright Jupiter and Saturn just above it in the SSE. Venus will also be bright, low in the SW sky.

October sees the launch of two important spacecraft. NASA’s Lucy Mission is expected to launch on 16 Oct. for a 12 year journey. It will include flybys of seven ‘Trojan’ asteroids, which may hold vital clues to the history of the solar system and perhaps even the origins of organic material on Earth. The mission is named after Lucy (Australopithecus), a 3.2 million year old female skeleton discovered in Africa in 1974, which provided a unique insight into human evolution. ‘Lucy’ was named after the Beatles hit ‘Lucy in the sky with Diamonds’ which was played in the expedition camp on the evening of her discovery.

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) should launch on 31 Oct. NASA describes it as the successor to the Hubble Telescope. However, it will operate at longer wavelengths and with improved sensitivity, enabling it to look much closer towards the beginning of time and the evolution of early galaxies.