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.
Dusk and into the night:
Venus and Jupiter are with us all month long, look for both fairly low in the SW. The two planets will be very close together throughout the month. Towards the end of the month the two will be separated by only a few degrees or two finger lengths at arms length. Venus will be slightly below Jupiter and will be the brighter of the two.
Saturn can be located higher and to the left of Jupiter and Venus also in the SW.
Mercury – A Big Deal: On November 11 the tiny form of Mercury will cross the disk of the Sun – a rare transit that happens only 13 times each century. Grab your sun save viewers and hope for a clear day. The transit will last from 8am till 1pm.
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. Six months from now Cassiopeia will be hugging the horizon and the Dipper will be above the North Star.
To understand galaxies throughout the universe, astronomers start by studying our home galaxy, the Milky Way. Observing the Milky Way is harder than it sounds because vast clouds of dust block light in all directions, particularly toward our galactic center. NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope will gather infrared light from the center of our galaxy that has passed through the dusty veil. It will examine the stellar populations to learn how stars can survive that tumultuous region. If scientists are lucky, they will spot the faint, steady glow from matter spiraling around a super-massive black hole that is at the center of our galaxy.
Comment of the month:
Seeing the Aurora Borealis has always been on my bucket list. A week before we left Waterville Estates to return to Florida, Arlene and I visited Iceland, the land of “Fire and Ice”. Now Iceland is not the Caribbean, it can be cold, cloudy with rain and snow – but beautiful. However, the weather can change on a dime. On our second day we took a boat ride into the Bay at Reykjavik after dark and the sky suddenly cleared, after being cloudy all day. The Northern Lights came out and did not disappoint us they are truly one of natures natural wonders.
Astronomy Websites to explore:
- heavens-above.com (satellites that are passing overhead)
- nasa.gov (sign up for alerts for the International Space Station)
skymaps.com (The evening sky map for the month