Thursday, November 5, 2009

November Skies

by Jon Spargo
New Mexico Tech Astronomy Club

Jon Spargo, New Mexico Tech Astronomy ClubJupiter will still dominate the early evening sky shining high in the southwest. The best observing will be in the early evening before it gets close to the western horizon. If you have a moderate sized telescope you might hunt for the dark scar low in the southern hemisphere that appeared last July when a comet or asteroid struck the giant planet.
Saturn rises in the early morning hours and is best viewed when it is the highest about 45 minutes before sunrise. Saturn’s rings are beginning to open rapidly and will reach 4 degrees from being edge on by the end of the month.
Mercury reaches superior conjunction with the Sun on the 5th as it passes directly behind the Sun’s disk.
Venus begins to slowly sink in the eastern sky. Early this month it rises about an hour and a half before the Sun. By the end of the month it will rise less than an hour before the Sun and will be difficult to find in the bright glow of dawn.
November also brings the Leonid meteor shower. Last year the experts were fooled as the shower was more productive than expected. This year there are many predictions. Some confusion arises because the Earth will pass through two of Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle’s debris trails, one on the 17th and another on the 18th. The best viewing will be in the early morning hours and will be aided by the lack of a bright Moon. If the most optimistic predictions come true we might be in for a spectacular show. However, the event on the 18th favors folks living in Asia and Eastern Europe.
The Moon will be full on the 2nd, last quarter on the 9th, new on the 16th and 1st quarter on the 24th. On the 3rd, around 8 pm, a nearly full Moon will cross the southeastern part of the famous Pleiades star cluster. At 11 pm on the 8th a waning gibbous Moon will be just below the planet Mars as it peaks above the east-northeastern horizon. On the 12th about 30 minutes before sunrise, the Moon will be found keeping company with Saturn and finally on the 23rd an almost first quarter Moon will be about 3 degrees above the planet Jupiter.
Jon Spargo, New Mexico Tech Astronomy Club

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