Thursday, November 11, 2010

November Skies: Meteor Shower

By Jon Spargo
New Mexico Tech Astronomy Club

The famous Leonid meteor shower will peak on the nights of the 17th and 18th of this month. Because of a bright waxing Moon the best viewing of the Leonids will be from about 3 a.m. (after the moon sets) until the first light of dawn. Expect rates of approximately 20 Leonids per hour with perhaps a few Taurids thrown in for good measure.
Jupiter will continue to dominate the early evening sky and at magnitude -2.7 will be visible as soon as the sun sets. High in the sky, it is well placed for binocular and small telescope viewing.
Uranus continues to hang out near Jupiter and is 3.5 degrees east of Jupiter at the beginning of the month. Due to Jupiter’s slight retrograde motion, the distance between Jupiter and Uranus will shrink to 3 degrees by the end of the month.
Mars is sinking ever closer to the western horizon but can be seen with binoculars about a half hour after sunset. Mercury makes an early evening appearance in the southwest early in the month. However, for us in North America, the viewing angle is quite shallow and as a result Mercury will never get more than 6 degrees above the horizon during this appearance.
Saturn rises a bit before sunrise on the 1st but will rise as early as two or three a.m. by the end of the month. Saturn’s magnificent rings have now opened to 9 degrees. At magnitude +0.9 it should be a great telescopic subject in the early morning hours.
Venus will begin a quick ascent into the early morning skies starting on the second of the month. It will appear as a brilliant thin crescent which will get steadily thicker as it rises into the early morning sky. By the end of the month Venus will rise about 3 hours before the Sun and will reach 15 degrees above the horizon by dawn.
The Moon will be new on the 6th, 1st quarter on the 13th, full on the 21st and last quarter on the 28th. On the 3rd, about a half hour before sunrise, the waning crescent Moon will be just above and to the left of Saturn. Below and just above the east-southeast horizon, brilliant Venus makes a morning appearance.
On the 7th and 8th a new crescent Moon can be found in the southwest just above and to the right of Mars and Mercury. For a bit of a challenge, the full Moon on the 21st will be found between the Pleiades and Hyades (Taurus) clusters.
On the 7th daylight savings time ends for most of us in North America at 2 a.m. Do not forget to “fall back” by setting your clocks and watches back one hour.
Clear Skies!

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