Sky at a Glance | November 12th, 2010

Venus, Spica, Saturn, and fainter Gamma Virginis are up in early dawn.
Friday, November 12

  • Algol, the brightest eclipsing variable star, is at its minimum light (magnitude 3.4 instead of its usual 2.1) for a couple hours centered on 9:52 p.m. PST (12:52 a.m. on the morning of the 13th EST).
  • Jupiter's new South Equatorial Belt Outbreak crosses the planet's central meridian around 2:05 a.m. Saturday morning EST, or 11:05 p.m. Friday evening PST. It transits 3 hours 40 minutes after the Great Red Spot.

    Saturday, November 13

  • First-quarter Moon (exact at 11:39 a.m. EST). This evening the Moon forms a nearly equilateral triangle with Jupiter to its left and fainter Fomalhaut below them both.

    Sunday, November 14

  • Mira, the brightest long-period red variable star, is beginning to fade a bit from its unusually bright maximum. As of November 10th observers were reporting it at about magnitude 3.4, still obvious to the unaided eye. Mira is up in good view in the east-southeast after about 7 p.m. Use the comparison-star chart in the September Sky & Telescope, page 58.

  • Jupiter's Great Red Spot crosses the planet's central meridian around 12:03 a.m. Monday morning EST; 9:03 p.m. Sunday evening PST.

    Monday, November 15

  • The waxing gibbous Moon poses to the upper right of Jupiter this evening. Although they look close together, Jupiter is 1,630 times farther away — and 40 times larger in diameter.
  • Algol is at minimum brightness for a couple hours centered on 9:41 p.m. EST.
    Jupiter on Nov. 10, 2010
    A new bright white spot (indicated) in the latitude of Jupiter 's South Equatorial Belt was the first sign of events that will probably lead to the whole belt's return. Discoverer Christopher Go took this image at 10:24 UT November 10th. Compare with the images below taken two, six, and seven days later. South is up.
  • Jupiter's Great Red Spot crosses the planet's central meridian around 7:55 p.m. EST. Jupiter's new South Equatorial Belt Outbreak spot crosses the central meridian 3 hours 40 minutes later, around 11:35 p.m. EST.

    Tuesday, November 16

  • This evening the Moon is to Jupiter's upper left.
  • The Leonid meteor shower should be at its best in the early hours of Wednesday and/or Thursday — after the Moon sets around 3 a.m. Wednesday morning, and 4 a.m. Thursday morning. But the Leonids have been far from spectacular in these off-years. You might see 20 Leonids per hour, and 4 Taurids, from a dark, rural site.
  • In the Wednesday dawn, Venus is the closest it will get to fainter Spica: 3 3/4° below it.
    Just above center, the tiny new bright white spot in the latitude of Jupiter 's South Equatorial Belt had already grown a striking border of dark material by November 12th. These events almost certainly mark the start of the South Equatorial Belt's return. If history is a guide, dark material will spread sideways from this boiling eruption, and similar outbreaks will occur elsewhere at this latitude — as was predicted in the September Sky & Telescope, page 50. Read our new article Jupiter's Lost Belt Reviving?, and keep watch for yourself!

    Christopher Go took this image at 11:17 UT November 12th, when the System II longitude on Jupiter's central meridian was 292°. South is up.

  • Wednesday, November 17

  • It's a busy evening at Jupiter for telescope users! Io reappears from eclipse out of Jupiter's shadow, just off the planet's eastern limb, around 6:33 p.m. EST. A small telescope will show it gradually swelling back into view. Ganymede reappears from behind Jupiter's eastern limb itself around 7:15 p.m. EST. The tiny black shadow of Europa is on Jupiter's disk until 8:28 p.m. EST. Then, out in the clear, Ganymede goes into eclipse in Jupiter's shadow at 9:04 p.m. EST and re-emerges at 12:00 midnight EST.

    (For a complete listing of all such Jupiter satellite events in November, good worldwide, see the November Sky & Telescope, page 58.)

    Oh, that's not all. Jupiter's Great Red Spot crosses the planet's central meridian around 9:33 p.m. EST. And Jupiter's new South Equatorial Belt Outbreak spot crosses the central meridian 3 hours 40 minutes after that, around 1:13 a.m. Thursday morning EST.

    Thursday, November 18

  • Vega in Lyra remains the brightest star in the west-northwest these evenings. The brightest star higher above it is Deneb in Cygnus.
  • Algol is at its minimum brightness for a couple hours centered on 6:30 p.m. EST.

    Friday, November 19

  • A twilight challenge: use binoculars to scan for Mercury very low in the southwest no more than a half hour after your local sunset time. Now, can you detect fainter Mars less than 2° to Mercury's upper right? That's about a third the width of a typical binocular's field of view.
  • Jupiter's Great Red Spot crosses the planet's central meridian around 11:12 p.m. EST. Jupiter's new South Equatorial Belt Outbreak spot crosses the central meridian 3 hours 40 minutes later.

    Saturday, November 20

  • By 9 p.m. sparkly Orion has risen in the east-southeast. Look for it far below this evening's high, bright Moon.
  • Jupiter's Great Red Spot crosses the planet's central meridian around 7:03 p.m. EST. And Jupiter's new South Equatorial Belt Outbreak spot crosses the central meridian 3 hours 40 minutes after that, 10:43 p.m. EST.

    Sky at a Glance is now an iPhone app! Put S&T SkyWeek on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch and get the above listings anytime, anywhere — with interactive sky maps! Tap a button to see the scene described, customized for your location worldwide. From there you can scroll the view all around the sky, zoom in or out, change to any time or date, and turn on animation. Go to Apple's iTunes store from your device and buy S&T SkyWeek — just 99 cents!

    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).

    Pocket Sky Atlas
    The Pocket Sky Atlas plots 30,796 stars to magnitude 7.6 — which may sound like a lot, but that's less than one star in an entire telescopic field of view, on average. By comparison, Sky Atlas 2000.0 plots 81,312 stars to magnitude 8.5, typically one or two stars per telescopic field. Both atlases include many hundreds of deep-sky targets — galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae — to hunt among the stars.
    Sky & Telescope
    Once you get a telescope, to put it to good use you must have a detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of charts). The standards are the
    Pocket Sky Atlas, which shows stars to magnitude 7.6; the larger Sky Atlas 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 8.5); and the even larger and deeper Uranometria 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 9.75). And read how to use your charts effectively.

    You'll also want a good deep-sky guidebook, such as Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion by Strong and Sinnott, or the more detailed and descriptive Night Sky Observer's Guide by Kepple and Sanner, or the classic if dated Burnham's Celestial Handbook.

    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."

    This Week's Planet Roundup

    Jupiter on Nov. 16, 2010
    Sure enough, after four more days there were two white spots at the outbreak location (upper right of center), each bordered by dark material spreading out. Methane-band imaging confirmed that both white spots are exceptionally high-altitude outbreak cloudtops. Image by Christopher Go at 13:35 UT November 16th. South is up.
    Mercury, magnitude –0.4, is very deep in the glow of sunset.

    Venus, magnitude –4.6, is rapidly gaining altitude at dawn in the east-southeast. Look a little above it or to its upper right for much-fainter Spica. Look higher above it for Saturn.

    Mars, magnitude +1.4, is lost in the sunset.

    Jupiter (magnitude –2.7, at the Pisces-Aquarius border) shines high in the south during evening, the brightest starlike point in the sky. In a telescope it's still 45 arcseconds wide. Jupiter's missing South Equatorial Belt may finally be about to re-form, heralded by a telltale bright spot that appeared a few days ago. See our article Jupiter's Lost Belt Reviving?.

    The new spot is about at System II longitude 290°. That means it transits the planet's central meridian 3 hours and 40 minutes after the Great Red Spot (which is near System II longitude 157°). Work from our list of all the Great Red Spot's predicted transit times for the rest of this observing season.

    Jupiter on Nov. 17, 2010
    November 17th: Three outbreaks now, all in a row! Again, methane-band imagery confirms that the newest, smallest white spot is boiling up to a very high altitude in Jupiter's atmosphere, while the older two outbreak spots seem to be sinking back down as time goes on. Image taken at 10:26 UT. South is up.
    Saturn (magnitude +0.9, in Virgo) glows in the east-southeast before and during dawn, about 16° above bright Venus. The fainter star above Saturn is Gamma Virginis, or Porrima, as shown at the top of this page. The best time to try observing Saturn with a telescope is perhaps an hour before your local sunrise time, when the planet will be less blurred by the low-altitude atmospheric mess. Saturn's rings have widened to 9° from edge-on.

    Uranus (magnitude 5.8) is 3° east of Jupiter.

    Neptune (magnitude 7.9, in Capricornus) is highest in the south right after dark. See our finder charts for Uranus and Neptune online or, with article, in the September Sky & Telescope, page 56. Can you see any color in Uranus and/or Neptune?

    Pluto (magnitude 14.0, in Sagittarius) is lost in the sunset.

    All descriptions that relate to your horizon — 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 Daylight Time (EDT) equals Universal Time (also known as UT, UTC, or GMT) minus 4 hours.

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