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:
Mars: The “Red” planet still takes center stage this month even though the Earth is leaving Mars behind as the two worlds orbit the Sun. Mars fades a full magnitude from -2.1 to -1.2 as the month progresses – look to the east as darkness falls. Don’t miss this opportunity; Mars is only this bright a few times a decade.
Jupiter & Saturn: Both planets can be seen shinning brightly in the south and they will be close to one another at the end of twilight. Jupiter will be brighter than Saturn at -2.2 compared to Saturn at +.5. If you look just below the two planets you might spot the “Teapot” asterism if your view is not blocked.
Venus: Our sister planet is visible in the ESE just before dawn shining at -3.9.
Full on the 30th
New on the 15th
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.
During the last week of October, a robotic spacecraft bearing the unwieldy name OSIRIS-REX silently sidled up to a small asteroid, one of millions that ply the dark spaces of the solar system. The spacecraft was there to collect a small sample of material – dusty rock that could shed light on two of science’s most intriguing puzzles: how was the solar system formed, and did that process bequeath its planets any of the necessary molecules for life?
The OSIRIS-REX mission is searching for geologic remnants; material that was present during the birth of our solar system – 50 times older than dinosaur bones; it is doing so in a first-rate fossil field: an asteroid named Bennu.
Comment of the month:
How great is the threat that a giant asteroid will strike the Earth and do us serious harm? I remember when Arlene and I, in 1994, went to Brown University to witness the impact of comet Shoemaker when it struck Jupiter. It was an amazing sight. At the time congress mandated that NASA assess the threat of an asteroid that could cause a global catastrophe here on Earth. As of to-date the risk of our civilization ending in a disaster has been largely put to bed. However there are still an estimated 50 objects lurking in the shadows that are potential threats which NASA is searching for. NASA is also in the process of searching for the smaller ones also.
Astronomy Websites to explore:
- heavens-above.com (satellites that are passing overhead)
- spotthestation.nasa.gov (sign up for alerts for the International Space Station)
- skymaps.com (The evening sky map for the month)