OF the five naked eye planets Mercury, due to its closeness to the Sun, is the most elusive.

Each year there are usually two chances to see Mercury. In May it can be seen before sunset, whilst in October the planet can be seen in the morning sky before sunrise.

If you look to the south east about an hour before sunrise from the 20th until the end of the month you will see a bright pinkish coloured dot in the sky: Mercury, the smallest planet in the solar system.

During October evenings the autumn constellations are at their best. The Plough is to all intents and purposes at its lowest in the north, although it is still reasonably high in the sky.

Cassiopeia is of course now very high and not far from the overhead point.

The two bright stars; Vega, which was overhead in summer and is part of the summer triangle, and Capella, which will be overhead in winter, are roughly the same height in the sky.

Vega is in the north west whilst Capella is in the north east.

Ophiuchus is now becoming low in the west and is replaced by another faint group, Cetus (the Whale or Sea Monster).

Perseus and Taurus, two splendid looking winter groups, are becoming far more conspicuous.

The summer triangle of Altair, Deneb and Vega is still easy to see, as is the Milky Way which is directly overhead.

The southern skies are now dominated by Pegasus.

On maps the square of Pegasus looks easy to find, but because the four stars are not the brightest in the sky they don’t stand out. However, once recognised it will be easy to find again.

One way of finding Pegasus is to look below the ‘W’ of Cassiopeia.

The brightest star in the square is Alpheratz in the top left position. For some unknown reason this star was transferred to the neighbouring constellation of Andromeda.

Alpheratz is nearly the same brightness as the North Star, while the other three stars of the square are a little bit fainter.

In mythology, Pegasus was the flying horse ridden by the hero Perseus who, after killing the Medusa, returned to rescue the princess Andromeda who was chained to a rock waiting to be eaten by the Kraken or sea monster.

Perseus still had the head of the Medusa which he pointed at the monster, turning it to stone. All these characters can be found in the sky, including the sea monster.

Andromeda’s main stars are arranged in a somewhat irregular line, running from the Square of Pegasus towards Perseus.

However, the main interest in Andromeda is the Andromeda Galaxy, which is visible to the naked eye if you are away from city or town lights.

To find the galaxy, locate the star Beta Andromeda and follow the line of stars; Alpha (or Alpheratz) is the top left hand star in the square of Pegasus; next comes Delta, then Beta Andromeda.

Looking upwards you will see two fainter stars Mu and Nu, and the Andromeda Galaxy is just to the right hand side of Nu.

The Andromeda Galaxy is the most distant you can see with the naked eye. It is about 2.5 million light years away.

Below the line of stars that forms Andromeda is a fairly bright star called Hamal, which is the brightest star in the constellation of Aries (the Ram).

There should be no problem finding Hamal as it is quite isolated. In mythology, Aries represents the ram whose golden fleece was sought by Jason and the Argonauts.

The main claim to fame for Aries is that it used to be the first sign of the Zodiac.

Around 2,000 years ago the point where the Sun passes the celestial equator from south to north in the sky was in Aries.

This point is called the Vernal equinox. However, because the Earth wobbles very slightly over a very long period of time, this point in space has moved into the neighbouring constellation of Pisces (the Fishes).

Astronomers still call this place in Pisces ‘The First Point of Aries’.

Between Aries and Andromeda is a small but quite noticeable group of three stars.

This is Triangulum (the Triangle), and it is one of the few constellations whose name describes what it actually looks like.

The area below the square of Pegasus is rather barren, with faint constellations such as Aquarius, Capricornus and Pisces, but there is one bright star, Fomalhaut in the constellation of Piscis Austrinus (the Southern Fish).

Use the two right hand stars of the square and draw a line down towards the horizon and the brightest star you will see is Fomalhaut. Otherwise the group is unremarkable.

Another of the large but faint groups in the autumn is Cetus the Whale.

In mythology, Cetus was identified with the Kraken but more recently it has become a harmless whale.

It is a difficult area to identify but there is one star in Cetus that is worth looking out for.

It is the normally faint star omicron Cetus. The star is better known by its proper name of ‘Mira the Wonderful Star’.

The star varies in brightness every 331 days; sometimes it becomes so bright that it totally transforms the area.

Mira is a red giant star and when it does become bright it is very noticeably red in colour.

It will remain at its brightest for many weeks. Sometimes when at its faintest it is hard to see, and a telescope will be needed to find it.

The Planets in October: Autumn continues to be a good time to look at the naked eye planets.

Jupiter and Saturn can be seen in the evening sky in the south east. Jupiter is the bright white dot and if you look down and to the left you will see the less bright although still very obvious yellowish coloured dot, which is Saturn.

As there are no bright stars near either planet they can easily be seen.

On the other side of the sky in the south west about an hour after sunset can be seen the very bright white dot which is the planet Venus.

The only other naked eye planet Mars is still too close to the Sun in the sky to be seen.

Meteor Showers:There are two meteor showers this month. The Draconids, which radiate from the constellation of Draco the Dragon, peak on the night of the 8th / 9th and are associated with comet Giacobini-Zinner. The Draconids normally produce about 15 meteors per hour but some years they have significant outbursts so they are always worth watching. Harry Potter fans might recognise the name ‘Draco’ as one of the villains in the books.

The other meteor shower this month is the Orionids, which radiate from Orion and are associated with the famous comet Halley. Sadly the display will be affected by the nearly full moon which will brighten the sky, making it difficult to see the fainter meteors. The peak will be on the night of October 20th / 21st when around 20 meteors per hour might be seen.

Phases of the Moon for October: New Moon 6; First Quarter 13; Full Moon 20; Last Quarter 28.

The full moon in October is known as the Hunter’s Moon. Following on from the Harvest Moon, this was the month when people would stock their larders with meat for the coming winter. The extra light from the moon this month helped them locate their prey.

On October 31 British Summer Time Ends, meaning there is an extra hour of night time to observe the stars. Due to the current coronavirus there will be no meetings of the Earby Astronomical Society until further notice.