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Sunday, November 1, 2015

Look At The Sky: November




The Solar System in NOVEMBER 2015

Telescopically, a rather poor month for planetary viewing, with the exception of perhaps the morning views of JUPITER, MARS and VENUS as they tightly group in pre-dawn skies
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Mercury - Not a good month for tiny Mercury, but it will rise ahead of the sun in eastern skies in early November, not visible because of the glare of the sun. - In VIRGO
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Venus -  A spectacular grouping in the morning sky of MARS, VENUS and Jupiter - as well as a waning crescent moon - on November 3, with Mars and Venus very, very close to one-another and mighty yellow Jupiter slightly to the west of that pair.  In reality, try to visualize that VENUS is the closest of the three, with Mars not even halfway to distant Jupiter.  Watch throughout the following mornings as Mars moves westward, rising higher in the sky each morning at the same time, while Venus slowly sinks closer to the western horizon.  The grouping can be seen nearly all month in dark skies, about 4:30 a.m. local time.  - In VIRGO
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Mars - The red planet is now a tiny dot telescopically (4 arc seconds diameter) and slowly approaching for a favorable apparition in 2016.  NOTE the grouping this month with VENUS and JUPITER (above) - In VIRGO
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Jupiter - Still small by comparison to it opposition in late 2016, the brilliant yellow planet rises in dark pre-dawn skies nearly due east; note the spectacular grouping of this planet with VENUS and MARS on November 3 and throughout the month- in LEO
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Saturn - The ringed planet is now in conjunction with the sun and cannot be viewed through November.  - in SCORPIUS


METEOR SHOWERS FOR NOVEMBER
The crisp and cool (sometimes COLD!) night skies of November give way to some of the deepest penetration of earth-based eyes into space, affording thousands of normally not seen stars to glimmer into view; along with this comes a dramatic increase in the visibility of swift and faint meteors that will grace deep Autumn skies; the nights can cool remarkably clear, resulting in some long glances and time spent among the cosmos.  Most of the meteor showers for November are modest, minor streams with few meteors but there are a few great showers each year that peak in November, among them the famous LEONID meteors which may put on a moderately good show on the evening of November 18 and into the morning hours of Nov. 19.
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In addition,  there are MANY other meteor showers which grace our crisp fall nights, some of which are mysterious, some which seem to be vanished from space and others that need observations at every opportunity!
November 5  - TAURID meteors - A fair year for this normally exciting meteor shower, since the nearly quarter moon will not set until about 2 a.m. local time.   A very long duration (November 5 -12) meteor shower, that now is defined as having TWO peaks, both seemingly coming from the same radiant at about RA 03h 32m / DEC +22 degrees very close to the Pleiades star cluster; this double clumping is perhaps due to two distinct breakups of the famous Comet Encke at two different times and thus one cloud of debris trails the other by a week.  Look for the "southern Taurid" meteors to be coming from a point somewhat south and earlier (Nov. 5) than the "northern" Taurids which will peak about one week later, at about Nov. 12.  For the peak on Nov. 5, the nearly new moon will not interfere with sighting of  the faintest of these meteors until setting very late in the evening (about 10 per hour and increasingly slightly after midnight); however, the later dates for this meteor shower will see slightly more moonlight and thus fewer fainter meteors during its Nov. 5-12th span.  Note that this shower is well known for producing spectacular fireballs throughout the night and the display can last for many weeks on either side of Nov. 5.
November 9  - CEPHEID meteors - Coming from the constellation of Cepheus, high in northern skies and nearly circumpolar (neither rising nor setting but describing a tight circle around the north celestial pole throughout the night), the Cepheids will peak at a favorable time this year, with the nearly new moon will be absent from the sky all night when the radiant of the Cepheids will be northwest of overhead.  This is a new meteor shower, discovered only in 1969 and needing observations badly.  The year of its discovery over 50 meteors in a 15-minute period were recorded!  So expect to see at least 18 per hour, but only under darkest sky conditions.
November 12 - PEGASID meteors - Like the Cepheids, this radiant is nearly overhead in very early evening for Northern observers in the Americas.  A remnant of an otherwise nearly-forgotten Comet Banplain of 1819, this shower still produces perhaps a dozen or so meteors on a good year....the meteors can be seen as early as late October and continuing until early December.  Look for the radiant at about RA 22h 54m / DEC +10 in the winged horse Pegasus.  This year the moon is almost new and thus not interfere with sightings of most meteors; normally it is best to observe this meteor shower after about 10 p.m. when the radiant will have moved into western skies.
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November 14 - ANDROMEDID meteors - Like the Pegasid meteors, the light from a very thin waxing crescent moon will NOT hamper observations of this shower this year;  these meteors can be spectacular fireball meteors, leaving very glowing and distinctly reddish trains in their wakes.  They are debris left from another famous comet, Comet Biela which split into two separate objects in 1845; shortly later, in 1885 the Andromedids put on a fireworks show with over 13,000 per hour seen, most spectacular fireballs.  However shortly after the cloud passed uncomfortably close to mighty Jupiter and since only a very sparse number per hour have been seen.  Nonetheless, like most meteor showers, any year can bring a totally different view of the remnant cloud.  Many of these meteor are so large that they have reached the ground as meteorites.  Shower begins as early as August 31 and lasts until December.  Radiant center is at RA 01h 40m / DEC +44 degrees, not too far from the famous Andromeda galaxy.  Try to observe this shower throughout the evening from perhaps 10 p.m. until about 1-2 a.m. local time and concentrate on the very beautiful fireballs that this shower is famous for.
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November 17-18 - LEONID meteors -  An excellent year for the normally dependable Leonids:  the moon will be a western sky crescent, setting a few hours after sunset and out of the sky pretty much all night long, and for days before and after the peak of this year's Leonid shower.  Although the Earth is somewhat posed out of the main clumps of cometary material from Comet 55P/Tuttle, the parent object of this debris, there is always a chance of an encounter with a secondary pocket of debris during any year.  Most meteor scientists are expecting the peak for this year to be slightly before MIDNIGHT on November 17 and perhaps extending into the early morning hours when the radiant will be high in the eastern sky.    In many years hundreds or even thousands of meteors might be seen. This year is predicted to be perhaps an excellent showing in terms of recent years as the Earth passes near the thick debris cloud that produced the famous 1466 meteor "rainstorm" that was recorded over all of Europe.  Meteor forecasters are calling for somewhat of a "strong year" in 2015 with many of the brighter members being seen as well as the many faint meteors on a clear, dark autumn night.  Be sure to let us know what YOU observe on this famous meteor shower during 2015...  DO NOT MISS this year's Leonid Meteors!!

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