Mercury springs into action in the last two weeks of October, offering its best morning appearance for 2021.
Venus, by contrast, hangs low in the southwestern sky all month. Jupiter and Saturn dominate the evening sky, visible through midnight. And late-evening binocular views of Uranus and Neptune beckon more adventurous observers.
Let’s begin in the evening sky. Venus is visible soon after sunset, low in the southwest. It begins the month at magnitude –4.2 and brightens to –4.5 by Oct. 25.
The planet lies in Libra for the first week of October and crosses into Scorpius Oct. 7. Venus spends part of Oct. 15 crossing a small corner of Ophiuchus, before returning to Scorpius and passing 1.5° north of Antares on the 16th. It returns to Ophiuchus Oct. 21 and stays there through the end of the month.
Americans are increasingly taking road trips that are about the skies as much as the land
The forecast was not promising. The sweeping New Mexican skies appeared clear, and ribbons of cerulean, violet, and indigo created an ombré horizon as the sun receded behind the West Mesa and the Rio Grande.
But the clouds would soon roll in. Outside the main house at Los Poblanos, a historic farm and inn on the edge of Albuquerque, an orange tabby curled up on a bench, an outdoor firepit was lit, a bottle of wine opened. There would be no stargazing this evening.
It hadn’t occurred to me that my entire quest—to trek across the high desert of the Southwest and into the mountains of Utah—could be thwarted by something as evanescent as the clouds. I flicked around an atmosphere-predicting app on my phone to see what the following evening might bring. Again, it augured obscurity.