Mercury is behind the sun in relation to Earth and cannot be seen this month.
If you have an unobstructed western horizon, you may be able to spot Venus shortly after sunset. It will be just above the western horizon, in evening twilight.
Mars rises in the east about 2 a.m. early in October but just after midnight at the end of the month. The blue-white star Regulus and the Red Planet appear closer and closer as the month progresses.
Jupiter rises in the east during evening twilight. Wait several hours until it climbs higher in the sky, for the best telescopic views of this enormous planet. On Oct. 12 and 13, the nearly full moon will appear in the Jovian neighborhood. Jupiter reaches opposition on Oct. 28. On that date, it is directly opposite the sun in our sky.
Saturn is behind the sun and cannot be viewed during October.
The Orionid Meteor Shower peaks on the night of Oct. 21-22. This shower normally produces about 20 meteors per hour, many of which are a yellow or greenish color. The last quarter moon will not present much of a problem this year. At over 40 miles per second, these are fast meteors that at times produce fireballs.
Editor's note: This monthly guide to the stars is from the Marshall Martz Memorial Astronomical Association, the Southern Tier Astronomy Recreation Society and The Post-Journal. For further information, contact the M.M.M.A.A. at http://www.martzobservatory.org or S.T.A.R.S. at http://www.UpStateAstro.org/stars/stars.html.
SCIENCE AND THE SEARCH FOR TRUTH
''Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself.'' - Richard Feynman
Today, more than ever before, people the world over are confronted with matters involving science in their everyday lives. They are faced with public policy debates concerning the connections between obesity and diabetes, brain damage in children because of alcohol or drug use during pregnancy, lead poisoning resulting in mental retardation in children, humans and our changing climate, smoking and tobacco chewing as causes of cancer, and many other topics. If citizens know little or nothing about science, how can they intelligently form opinions on topics such as healthy nutrition for families, embryonic stem cell research, the pros and cons of hydrofracking for natural gas, our national energy policy and how it relates to the problems in burning coal, and the importance and funding requirements of space exploration. All of these things, and many, many more, require voters to have at least a basic knowledge of science in order to make intelligent decisions when they elect their leaders.
We live in the greatest country the world has ever seen, yet nearly half the citizens of the USA believe our Earth is less than 10,000 years old. That group is made up mainly of religious fundamentalists and evangelicals who believe that everything in the Bible represents literal truth. The Bible is a collection of stories containing considerable information about how to live productive lives and how to get along with each other but it also contains several very disturbing passages regarding mass murders, infanticides and genocides. It was written by various people way back in the Bronze Age, when people believed things that we now consider superstitious. Since these stories were written by different people at different times and in different places, the collection ended up brimming with errors, contradictions and inconsistencies.
Thankfully, science has gradually disproved many of the myths connecting natural occurrences to the wrath of one god or another. Earthquakes, volcanoes, lightning strikes, comets, eclipses, all sorts of diseases and mental illnesses, genetic defects, plagues, etc., were all attributed to the supernatural because science had yet to discover the natural causes of these phenomena. Gradually, humans are discovering that the universe neither loves nor hates us; it is merely indifferent.
It's incredibly hard to believe that in 2011, there are still quite a few people who want to teach their children about creationism and ''intelligent'' design instead of teaching them about evolution. These children will have to make their way in the modern world even though they are equipped with only a regressive, inferior and totally inadequate education. No wonder American students are slipping further and further behind students from other countries, where scientific truths are taught.
In public schools all across this country, school board members, district administrators, and teachers must realize that science and not religious ideas should be taught in the science classrooms of each and every public school. Otherwise, the students will not achieve the level of scientific literacy needed in our increasingly technological and scientific society. In recent years, the creationist group in Seattle, called the Discovery Institute, radical religious right groups, and even government officials such as Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, have fought for passage of antievolution legislation that could hold back an entire generation of doctors and scientists.
Today, an educated person capable of critical thinking, who possesses a basic evidence-based understanding of the natural world, realizes that evolution is now an accepted fact, just as we know that the Earth is round, rotates on its axis and revolves around the sun.
Even though progress is slow, there are some small glimmers of hope for the future of science and truth in our great country. The Catholic University of Notre Dame recently completed an $80 million science building on its campus in South Bend, Ind. Inserted in the marble floor of this beautiful new building is a biology medallion encircling the quote ''Nothing in Biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.'' This quote is from one of the most respected biologists of the 20th century, Theodosius Dobzhansky, known as the greatest evolutionary geneticist of our time.
Hopefully, as humans continue to advance scientifically, we'll be able to throw open the doors of knowledge and truth, and promote the free discourse of science - for our benefit and that of our children.