Sky at a Glance | November 6th, 2009

Some daily events in the changing sky for November 6 – 14.

As the Moon wanes, it rises later. By Saturday the 8th it's down next to Mars.

Friday, November 6

  • Orion preview. Look low in the east around 9 or 10 p.m., and you'll see the bright winter constellation Orion already on the rise. Above Orion is orange Aldebaran. Above Aldebaran is the fingertip-size Pleiades star cluster.

    Saturday, November 7

  • Jupiter's moon Europa reappears from eclipse out of Jupiter's shadow around 9:17 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. A small telescope will show it swelling into view just a little east of the planet. Then a few hours later, Io occults Europa partially, from 12:57 to 1:02 a.m. Sunday morning EST.

    Sunday, November 8

  • Once the waning Moon rises in the east around 11 or midnight tonight, look for Mars shining fire-like at its upper left. Although they look close together, Mars is 450 times farther away — and about twice as large in diameter.

    Monday, November 9

  • Last-quarter Moon (exact at 10:56 a.m. today EST). Before dawn Tuesday morning, look for Regulus about 4° to the Moon's upper left (as seen from North America).

  • Taurid fireballs The long-lasting Taurid meteor shower is like no other. Its numbers of meteors are low, but many of them are bright, slow-moving fireballs. The Taurids are fragments of Periodic Comet Encke, and Earth plows through them every early-to-mid November. They should continue through at least Thursday, and (unlike most meteors) are as likely to be seen in the evening as the morning. If you see a fireball, trace its direction of flight backward across the sky and see if this line intersects the constellation Taurus. (See movie of a brilliant Taurid by Brian Emfinger of Ozark, Arkansas; courtesy Spaceweather.com).

    Tuesday, November 10

  • The bright eclipsing variable star Algol should be in one of its periodic dimmings, magnitude 3.4 instead of its usual 2.1, for a couple hours tonight centered on 12:20 a.m. Wednesday morning EST (9:20 p.m. PST Tuesday evening). Algol takes several additional hours to fade and to rebrighten. Use our comparison-star chart. (For all times of Algol's minima this month, good worldwide, see the November Sky & Telescope, page 58.)

  • Jupiter is at quadrature, 90° east of the Sun in the evening sky.

    Wednesday, November 11

  • Jupiter's moon Io casts its tiny shadow onto the planet's face from 9:15 to 11:32 p.m. EST (6:15 to 8:32 p.m. PDT).

    Dawn view
    Venus is getting lower and Saturn higher in the dawn every morning. (These scenes are drawn for the middle of North America. European observers: move each Moon symbol a quarter of the way toward the one for the previous date. For clarity, the Moon is shown three times actual size.)
  • Before and during dawn Thursday morning, Saturn is about 8° left of the Moon (for North America), as shown at right.

    Thursday, November 12

  • Jupiter's moon Io reappears from eclipse out of Jupiter's shadow around 8:41 p.m. EST. Watch for it swelling into view just east of the planet. Europa, by coincidence, is practically at the same spot. In fact, keep watching! Europa closes in and occults Io from 9:04 to 9:08 p.m. EST.

    Friday, November 13

  • Jupiter's largest moon, Ganymede, casts its shadow onto Jupiter's face from 6:01 to 9:35 p.m. EST.

  • Algol should at be minimum for a couple hours centered on 9:09 p.m. EST.

  • Low in Saturday's eastern dawn, look for Spica glimmering about 4° upper left of the thin crescent Moon (for North America), as shown above here.

    Saturday, November 14

  • Jupiter's moon Europa reappears from eclipse out of Jupiter's shadow around 8:55 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. Watch for it a little east of the planet, about halfway in from Io.

  • Low in Sunday's eastern dawn, look for the hairline crescent Moon about 6° right or lower right of Venus (for North America), as shown above.


    Want to become a better amateur astronomer? Learn your way around the constellations. They're the key to locating everything fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope. For an easy-to-use constellation guide covering the whole evening sky, use the big monthly map in the center of each issue of Sky & Telescope, the essential magazine of astronomy. Or download our free Getting Started in Astronomy booklet (which only has bimonthly maps).

    Sky Atlas 2000.0 (the color Deluxe Edition is shown here) plots 81,312 stars to magnitude 8.5. That includes most of the stars that you can see in a good finderscope, and typically one or two stars that will fall within a 50× telescope's field of view wherever you point. About 2,700 deep-sky objects to hunt are plotted among the stars.
    Alan MacRobert
    Once you get a telescope, to put it to good use you'll need a detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of charts; the standards are
    Sky Atlas 2000.0 or the smaller Pocket Sky Atlas) and good deep-sky guidebooks (such as Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion by Strong and Sinnott, the more detailed and descriptive Night Sky Observer's Guide by Kepple and Sanner, or the classic Burnham's Celestial Handbook). Read how to use them effectively.

    Can a computerized telescope take their place? I don't think so — not for beginners, anyway (and especially not on mounts that are less than top-quality mechanically). As Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer say in their Backyard Astronomer's Guide, "A full appreciation of the universe cannot come without developing the skills to find things in the sky and understanding how the sky works. This knowledge comes only by spending time under the stars with star maps in hand and a curious mind." Without these, "the sky never becomes a friendly place."

    More beginners' tips: "How to Start Right in Astronomy".


    This Week's Planet Roundup

    Jupiter's Great Red Spot remains clearly separated from the South Equatorial Belt (SEB) by a wide, white Red Spot Hollow. Note the very dark red barge still following right behind. (Three smaller ones are spaced out much farther behind — around the right-hand limb here — at the same latitude.) The SEB seems to be calming and fading. The NEB is darker and much busier. South is up, and celestial east is to the right.

    Christopher Go took these images 46 minutes apart on November 2nd, when the central meridian longitudes (System II) were 117° and 145°, respectively. Stacked-video images like these show much more clarity of detail than a planet will display to the human eye through the same telescope.

    Mercury is "combust": hidden in the glare of the Sun.

    Venus (magnitude –3.9) is sinking lower in the dawn. Look for it low in the east about 45 to 30 minutes before your local sunrise time.

    Use binoculars to look for twinkly little Spica to Venus's upper right. Also, look for Saturn much higher to their upper right.

    Mars (magnitude +0.4, in Cancer) rises around 10 or 11 p.m. standard time, below Castor and Pollux in the east. It's very high in the southeast before dawn. In a telescope Mars is only 8 arcseconds wide: a tiny, fuzzy gibbous blob. Mars is on its way to an unremarkable opposition late next January, when it will be 14.1 arcseconds wide.

    Jupiter (magnitude –2.4, in Capricornus) shines brightly in the south at dusk and lower in the southwest later in the evening. It sets around 11 or midnight. Jupiter is at eastern quadrature this week, 90° east of the Sun. So its celestial eastern side is as shaded compared to the western side as it ever gets — as seen in the images here.

    Saturn (magnitude +1.1, in the head of Virgo) is getting higher the east-southeast before and during dawn.

    Uranus (magnitude 5.8, below the Circlet of Pisces) is well up in the south during evening.

    Neptune (magnitude 7.9, in Capricornus) lurks 5° or 6° east of Jupiter.

    See our finder charts for Uranus and Neptune. For a guide to spotting the challenging satellites of Uranus and Neptune at any date and time (you'll need a big scope), see the October Sky & Telescope, page 59.

    Pluto is disappearing into the sunset.

    All descriptions that relate to your horizon or zenith — including the words up, down, right, and left — are written for the world's mid-northern latitudes. Descriptions that also depend on longitude (mainly Moon positions) are for North America. Eastern Standard Time (EST) equals Universal Time (also known as UT, UTC, or GMT) minus 5 hours.

    To be sure to get the current Sky at a Glance, bookmark this URL:
    http://SkyandTelescope.com/observing/ataglance?1=1

    If pictures fail to load, refresh the page. If they still fail to load, change the 1 at the end of the URL to any other character and try again.

  • All comments must follow the Sky & Telescope Terms of Use and will be moderated prior to posting. Please be civil in your comments. Sky & Telescope reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter’s username, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

    COMMENT