Highlights for the November Night Sky
Brought to you by: Bob Haskins @ Waterville Estates
Do your part and help preserve the dark skies that we are fortunate to have
in Waterville Estates. Turn off all unnecessary outdoor lighting
Go outside tonight and discover the night sky
The Planets: “Evenings on the Ecliptic” The planets follow an imaginary path in the sky called the ecliptic.
The glorious parade of the bright planets, that we all enjoyed over the summer and early fall, has ended. Venus has left the evening sky and Jupiter is visible very low in the west for just the first few nights of November.
Saturn – Visible low in the SW at dusk, setting 3 hours after the sun. Look for the teapot just to Saturn’s left.
Mars – Look directly south halfway up in the sky one hour after the Sun sets and you will see the “Red planet”.
Stars and Constellations:
The Fall evening sky is practical empty of bright stars this month; only one of the 25 brightest stars is visible and that is Fomalhaut; it is located low in the south just after dark (refer to Diagram #1). Once you find Fomalhaut project an imaginary line straight up and high in the south you will spot the “Great Square of Pegasus”. Hanging off the NE corner of the square is the dim constellation Andromeda. Look for a long lazy “vee” of stars, which represents her dress. On a clear moonless night you might be lucky enough to spot a small fuzzy spot nearby, this is the Andromeda Galaxy. This is our closest galactic neighbor and one day it will collide with our own Milky Way.
The “Summer Triangle” is still with us and is visible just after sunset; but disappears earlier every evening as winter approaches. Remember, the “Summer Triangle” consists of the first three stars you will see after the sun sets and is almost directly overhead.
Now look north (refer to Diagram #2) and lean your head way back and just above the North Star “Polaris” you will spot the constellation Cassiopeia, the mystical Queen of Ethiopia. Cassiopeia is always located on the opposite side of the North Star as the Big Dipper and this month it will look like the letter “M”. The Dipper is hugging the northern horizon this time of year and because it is so low in the night sky you might even miss it.
More than 18,000 near-Earth asteroids have been identified and all of them are thought to be remnants of our solar system’s formation. They each have their own unique structure and properties. However, astronomers still come across an oddball every once in awhile. This past June, two separate teams of scientists confirmed an unusual “equal mass” binary asteroid cruising past Earth – one of only four ever discovered. The two equal-size objects, each stretching roughly 3,000 feet in diameter obit each other every 20-24 hours.
Comment / Factoid of the Month:
It wasn’t until the 20th century that scientists realized that there were other galaxies besides our own. In 1923 Edwin Hubble proved that the fuzzy cluster of stars in the Andromeda Constellation was actually another galaxy. In about 4 billion years our galaxy will merge with the Andromeda galaxy. Astronomers now estimate that there are 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe. Most galaxies have a black hole at its center; if you look south this month at the “Teapot”, that is where our black hole is located. Our Milky Way rotates at 250 km/sec and completes a full rotation once every 200 million years. One galactic revolution ago, the dinosaurs ruled the Earth.
Astronomy Websites to explore:
- heavens-above.com (satellites that are passing overhead)
- nasa.gov (sign up for alerts for the International Space Station)
- com (The evening sky map for the month)