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Heads UP! for November 2017

Early Mornings Become Brighter

On Sunday, November 5th, clocks go back on hour as we return to standard time.  This will mean sunrise will move from 7:28am now to 6:31am on the 5th.  Sunrise will continue to move later each day by about a minute, but, in the meantime, it will be harder to get up for pre-dawn sky sights.

In the dawn sky, Venus is very bright but dropping further down toward the horizon each morning.  Get a clear horizon where the sun rises, between east and southeast to see the very bright inner planet less than a fist-width (10 degrees) above the horizon.

If you can follow sinking Venus, Jupiter will pass by it on the 13th; a wonderful sight – try binoculars to pick Jupiter out of the twilight.MobileObsScreenshot_171102_103721

Saturn and Mercury Low in the Evening Sky

Saturn holds out for a couple of hours low in the southwest after sunset at magnitude +0.6 and 15 arc seconds wide.  Check with your telescope to find out how long you can still sight Titan, its largest moon.  Mercury comes to the evening sky in late November and throws Saturn a lifeline. [Of course, if one takes this metaphor to its illogical extreme, Saturn can’t sink since the planet is less dense than water; and, of course, it has its own life ring.]

Nevertheless, as Saturn approaches Mercury on the 28th, Mercury seems to drag Saturn into the solar glare. Use the thin moon to find magnitude -0.4 Mercury on the 19th and 20th.


SW sky after sunset Nov. 21. The horizontal lines are tens of degrees of altitude, where the horizon is 0 degrees and overhead is 90 degrees. Your fist at arm’s length is about 10 degrees wide.

Back in the morning sky, Mars is an unexciting umber ember at magnitude +1.8 on its climb out from the solar glare.  At 4 arc seconds wide, it appears not much larger than Uranus. The red planet will make a grand show in Summer 2018.  Uranus continues its nice show, well placed, as is Neptune, in the evening sky.


Much fuss is already being made over a ‘supermoon’ of December 3rd, the closest full moon of 2017.  However, the nearest full moon in the upcoming months will be on January 1, 2018, when the full moon will occur about 5 hours from lunar perigee.  In fact, the January lunar perigee is the closest since November 2016. Typically, the closest full moon to Earth occurs every 14th full moon, a period of a little more than a year. So, the previous closest full moon was in November 2016.  For November, the full moon on November 4th is 43 hours from perigee, the 2nd closest full moon in 2017; first is December’s. The Observer’s Handbook 2017 notes higher than normal tides are likely for high tides just after the full moon, due to the increased ‘pull’ of the Sun and Moon combined, and the nearness to lunar perigee. The web page has a great diagram marking the time of new and full moons on a graph of Earth-Moon distance.

November Meteors

The Taurid and Leonid meteor showers add a dozen or so meteors per hour above the typical background numbers. Tauirds have a higher proportion of fireballs than most meteors showers. Both showers are better in the morning, but evening observers may see a few any night this month.

Comet for Long Exposures on Cameras

Comet C/2017 O1 is arcing toward our north pole star’s neighborhood at magnitude plus 8 or 9. This is an opportunity for longer camera exposures if you don’t have tracking.  Stars near Polaris appear to move more slowly than those near the celestial equator.  Even point-and-shoot cameras on a tripod may be able to catch this scene.  the darker your sky, the longer the exposure before sky brightness washes out the stars.  Use the next-to-highest ISO setting, the shortest focal length you can set it for, with exposures of 15 seconds or more and let us know what you get.

Moon Blocks Out Stars

The Moon occults Aldebaran in a dark sky on the evening of the 5th. Use a telescope to find the orange spark near the almost-full moon. Disappearance at White Plains is at 7:01:51pm and reappearance is at 8:57:14. Times where you are will be different by about a minute per degree of latitude or longitude.  Get out well before the event to find Aldebaran in the glare of the moon.

What Else Do We Have?

M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, is almost overhead by 10pm EST.  Optical instruments of all kinds and sizes will show a fuzzy patch of light.  Cygnus, the Swan is headed toward the horizon and the Winter constellations march up over the eastern horizon.

The International Space Station is a morning object through the 19th and an evening sight after Thanksgiving. See for local times and where to look.


Cassiopeia in the morning

After I caught the Big Dipper out the front door, I moved to the back yard to block out the streetlights.

Here’s Cassiopeia, with Perseus’ double cluster to the upper left. It’s not quite perfectly focused.  The only processing is Photoshop Elements 15’s Auto Haze Removal, which reduced the white ‘background’ from light pollution and early morning twilight.

Canon XS 50mm lens, 15 second exposure at ISO 1600 (max ISO for my camera) at f/2.  In this long exposure, I find it’s hard to pick out the five main stars of Cassiopeia’s ‘W’, so on the right is a chart for the area from my Mobile Observatory app.


Doo doo doo lookin’ out my (front) door

Six of the seven brightest members of the Big Dipper framed by our front door this morning. With some background stars and streaked with high clouds.


Canon XS on tripod 50mm lens at f/2, 15 seconds exposure (not quite focused). 

Never Look into the Eyes of the Sun. . .

. . . but Momma, that’s where the fun is. . . (with proper eye protection, of course, or use the SOHO spacecraft photos, like we do here)!

Lots going on in the LASCO C3 frame. Note Comet Machholtz, passing along the right-hand side as it makes its pass through the inner solar system. Jupiter is just coming out from behind the Sun (Actually, Earth is moving out from behind the Sun, as seen from Jupiter, since we are moving faster in our orbit closer to the Sun.)


Tropical-fed storm bombing over NJ.

The storm that has brought soaking rains has a second act – powerful winds, developing now.  Check your local forecast for updates and warnings.  See NYC’s power point briefing.



Stormy Above and Stormy Below

Winds are rushing through our trees here in uptown (in elevation) Ardsley; not as strong at the ground.  But that’s not all that’s happening aloft.  Thanks to the National Weather Service Spokane Washington for pointing out the experimental Ovation aurora forecast.  Aurora are forecast to be visible (very low in the northern sky) as far south as New Jersey tonight and early Wednesday night.

In the meantime, we look like we’ll have too many clouds to see the aurora (and leftover Orionid meteors!).  The National Weather Service has posted a wind advisory for winds of 20 to 30 mph gusting to over 40 for the daytime hours today.

The high resolution forecast model has a blob of heavy rain moving through the NYC metro area around 4 to 6pm today.   This model is run every hour, with updated data.  The latest (11am EDT) run of the HRRR has a line of intense storms breaking out ahead of the main area about 1pm EDT. So be ready for some wild weather this afternoon.


Sorry the gif runs so fast. In any case, this model ‘knows’ we should have a line of heavy showers and possibly a thunderstorm later today, but the exact timing of the worst of these storms and the locations of the heaviest rain is not as certain.

Rain for Tuesday into Wednesday morning

This week, rain will return to our area after a long absence.

The bulk of the rain will come Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday daybreak.  Scattered showers may show up Monday afternoon. The weather should be nice again from Thursday night through next weekend.

See chart from the National Weather Service (sample below):