Heads UP! for November 2015

We still get to watch the dance of the planets in the morning sky. Jupiter and Venus slowly parting ways. We knew it wouldn’t last.  She’s just too hot and he’s, well, gassy.  But they make a wonderful sight anytime before sunrise. This month, you have to look an hour earlier, since Daylight Time ended on the 1st. Venus passed much fainter Mars on the 3rd, so by mid-month, Mars is in the middle, between Venus and Jupiter, looking indecisive. The Moon joins the dance on the 6th and the 7th, making another great photo op for cameras of any kind (see previous entries for examples of photos taken with a Canon XS and those taken with a Samsung Galaxy S3!).  Just above them, the constellation Leo, led by first magnitude star Regulus, leaps into the morning sky, leaving our planets behind.

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Jupiter, Mars and Venus at mid-month, with Leo leaping above them in the dawn sky.

The ISS joins the planets, passing nearby on the 6th about 5:36am and on the 7th about 4:45am. Compare how bright they are!

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Morning sky on Nov. 6th

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Morning sky on Nov. 7th.

From heavens-above.com – click to make them full size, click on ‘back’ to return to this page.

Mercury drops out of the dawn sky to hang out with the Sun, gliding into the view of SOHO’s LASCO C3 camera by mid-month.  Watch for it at http://sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov/data/realtime-images.html. Saturn joins Mercury in the C3 scene on the 21st. Look there to watch Mercury’s superior conjunction on the 17th and Saturn’s conjunction with the Sun on the 30th.

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What the SOHO C3 scene might look like with Saturn, Mercury and the Sun Nov. 24th

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Moon just about to cover Aldebaran 545am Nov 26.  Plots from Cartes du Ciel software.
The Moon makes another nice play Thanksgiving morning; a full Moon running in front of first magnitude Aldebaran in twilight just after 5:45am, popping out from behind the Moon just after 6:30. Aldebaran will be hard to find in the glare of the full Moon.  A telescope is needed to show the tiny red spark against the edge of the blazingly bright lunar limb.

In the evening sky, we’ll get to see how long and how low we can still see Saturn and its rings in our telescopes.  On the 12th Saturn is very low in the twilight, next to the very thin Moon, setting only an hour after the Sun sets.

It’s another good month for finding Uranus and Neptune with your telescope and good finder charts. Get your planisphere* out and track the Summer Triangle is sailing off into the west, while the Andromeda Galaxy soars to the zenith. Orion throws his legs sideways up over the eastern horizon later in the evening, dragging the winter constellations along with him.

*Don’t have a planisphere?  Get one! It’s a chart with a dial to set the date and time and it shows you what stars are up at that time.  No batteries needed!  Try your local book store or your favorite on-line seller of everything.

On the 15th, Comet C/2013 US10 (Catalina) reaches 82 million miles from the Sun – the closest it will get to the Sun. Normally we would little note nor care much about this, but this is US10’s first trip into the inner solar system. ‘New’ comets are often more active as sunlight warms the long-frozen ices. It might be visible in binoculars in December, arcing north toward Arcturus in the morning sky.

Leonid meteors slam into the Earth’s atmosphere at 44 miles per second. The shower peaks on the 18th, at a rate of a few per quarter hour. The morning sky is dark with the nearly first quarter Moon setting in the middle of the night.

Satellites: The International Space Station overflights happen in the pre-dawn sky for most of November. Compare the brightness of the sunlight reflecting off the Station with our morning planets. Will be X-37B reenter this month? If this OTV-4, aka, USA-261, stays in orbit, overflights are likely to be in the evening. We’ll see what the Air Force decides.

There have been some lovely aurora lately – sometimes in the fall and spring, solar magnetic effects slip through the Earth’s protective magnetic field, even if the solar event is not very strong. Check spaceweather.com or astrobob.areavoices.com for last-minute updates.

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