October 27, 2013

What’s up in November

From comets to an eclipse, there’s so much to see.

By Bernie Reim

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

SKY GUIDE: This chart represents the sky as it appears over Maine during November. The stars are shown as they appear at 10:30 p.m. early in the month, at 8:30 p.m. at midmonth and at 7:30 p.m. at month’s end. No planets are visible at chart times. To use the map, hold it vertically and turn it so that the direction you are facing is at the bottom.

Chart prepared by George Ayers

There will also be a meteor shower this month, the Leonids on the morning of the 17th. Unfortunately the moon will be full and wash out most of the 20 or so meteors per hour that you could see. The great Leonid shower in 2001 was one of the best astronomical events I have seen in my 30 years of observing. We had just built our Starfield Observatory in Kennebunk, so we had a good, open sky site. We saw nearly 3,000 meteors in three hours, about one every four seconds. I also saw about 10 bolides that lit up the whole sky and left long, twisting, dusty trails. There was not a single lull over 10 seconds long, just a constant rain of meteors. I even saw seven of them in one or two seconds, emanating from their radiant in Leo. That was the first and only time I had a true sense of Earth’s constant motion at 67,000 mph around the sun as we encountered all this comet dust.

Jupiter starts the month rising by 10 p.m. and it will rise by 7 p.m. in Gemini by the end of the month. The king of the planets will begin its retrograde motion on Nov. 7.

Venus is still an evening planet and it will get brighter and brighter even as it is getting thinner and less illuminated by the sun. It will be a 31-percent illuminated crescent by the end of November.

Most of the action takes place in the morning sky this month. Mercury, Spica and the comet will form a nice conjunction one hour before sunrise in the east-southeastern sky starting by the middle of the month. Then keep watching as Saturn joins the trio by the 22nd and gets closer to Mercury even as the comet sinks lower into the morning sky.

NOVEMBER HIGHLIGHTS

Nov. 1-15. The zodiacal light will be visible in the east about 90 minutes to two hours before sunrise. Look for a tall, broad pyramid of light with Mars near its apex.

Nov. 3. A partial solar eclipse will be visible for us this morning at sunrise. New moon is at 7:50 a.m.

Nov. 5. The Taurid Meteor shower peaks this morning.

Nov. 6. Venus will be near the waxing crescent moon this evening.

Nov. 8. Edmund Halley was born on this day in 1656.

Nov. 9. Carl Sagan was born on this day in 1934.

Nov. 10. First-quarter moon is at 12:57 a.m.

Nov. 14. Apollo 12 was launched on this day in 1969. It was the second successful mission to land on the moon.

Nov. 17. Full moon is at 10:16 a.m. This is also called the Frosty or Beaver Moon. The Leonid meteor shower peaks this morning. The moon will be near the Pleiades this evening.

Nov. 20. Edwin Hubble was born on this day in 1889. He figured out that the Andromeda Galaxy is a completely separate galaxy and not just a nebula within our own galaxy or island universe.

Nov. 25. Last-quarter moon is at 2:28 p.m. Saturn is less than 1 degree below Mercury, which is about three times brighter than the ringed planet. Comet ISON should be visible without binoculars 5degrees below the pair of planets.

Nov. 27. On this day in 1971, the Mars 2 probe became the first artificial object to hit Mars.

Nov. 28. Comet ISON reaches perihelion with the sun, less than one solar diameter away. 

Bernie Reim of Wells is co-director of the Astronimical Society of Northern New England.

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