Skywatch Line for Wednesday, November 25th and Thursday, November 26th

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, November 25th and Thursday, November 26th written by Louis Suarato

The Full Beaver Moon rises in the constellation Taurus at 4:24 p.m. Wednesday, and will reach 100% illumination at 5:45 p.m..  The bright star to the upper right of the Moon is Aldebaran, Taurus’ brightest. Aldebaran, or Alpha Tauri, is an orange giant star with a diameter 44.2 times that of our Sun. Aldebaran is 65 light-years from Earth and is occasionally occulted by the Moon. Thursday morning, Aldebaran will be less than a degree from the Moon as seen from our region in the pre-dawn sky, and will be occulted by the Moon around 5:38 a.m. EST, and should reappear about an hour later. Use binoculars or a small telescope to see this occultation. Aldebaran, Spica and Regulus are the three first magnitude stars that are occulted by the Moon, since they reside within 5 1/2 degrees of the ecliptic, the plane of the Earth’s orbit.

The pre-dawn sky is till filled with planets as Jupiter, Mars and Venus form a line of about 40 degrees. The star 2 degrees to the left of Mars, is Porrima, a double star in the constellation Virgo. Virgo’s brightest star, Spica, can be seen 5 degrees to the lower right of Venus. A Thanksgiving Day challenge will be to see Comet C/2013 US10 (Catalina) approximately 15 degrees to the lower left of Venus. Comet Catalina, now shining at magnitude 4.7, will be easier to see in the coming weeks as it climbs higher on the horizon. Put a reminder on your calendar for the morning of December 7th, as Comet Catalina will be 5 degrees to the left of Venus, and both will be below the 14% illuminated, waning crescent Moon.

C/2013 US10 Catalina is an Oort cloud comet discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey on October 31, 2013. The trajectory for this comet indicates that it will be ejected from our solar system and will not return. Traveling at a speed of 103,000 miles per hour, Comet Catalina reached perihelion on November 15, 2015. Comet C/2013 US10 Catalina will be closest to the Earth on January 12th, when it can be seen near the star Mizar in the Big Dipper’s handle.

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