This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, November 1, through Sunday, November 3, written by Sam Salem.
On Friday, Sun rises at 7:30am and sets at 5:48pm; the waxing crescent Moon rises at 12:19pm and sets at 9:32pm. Standard time resumes at 2am Sunday morning. Clocks fall back an hour.
At nightfall and early evening on Friday and Saturday, the waxing crescent Moon shines in the vicinity of Saturn. Jupiter sits below the Moon and Saturn, fairly close to the horizon. On Saturday, Saturn shines to the right of the Moon in early evening. Much higher above them is Altair, in constellation Aquila the eagle, a little brighter than Saturn.
Saturn resides among the background stars of Sagittarius the Archer, in the southwest as twilight fades to darkness. It doesn’t set until around 10pm (9pm on Sunday). Saturn shines at magnitude 0.6 and appears significantly brighter than any of its host constellation’s stars. Even a small instrument shows Saturn’s disk and spectacular ring system, which tilts 25 degrees to our line of sight.
Mars returns to view before dawn this week. Mars, at magnitude 1.8, sits in constellation Virgo. You can find it 8 degrees above the eastern horizon in the early dawn, an hour before the Sun rises. Mars should be obvious through binoculars. Don’t confuse it with much brighter Arcturus, also orange color, which is 31 degrees to Mars’s left.
Mercury and Venus are very low in bright twilight after sunset. Venus, at magnitude –3.9, sits just above the southwest horizon a mere 20 minutes after sunset. Mercury is much dimmer at about magnitude 0.0. It sits about 3 degrees below Venus on Friday night. Use binoculars to help you spot Mercury and Venus.
Capella sparkles low in the northeast these evenings. Look for the Pleiades cluster, about three fists at arm’s length to Capella’s right. Upper right of Capella, and upper left of the Pleiades, the stars of Perseus. The W shape of constellation Cassiopeia now stands vertically on end in the evening, high in the northeast. To its right, high in the east, are Andromeda and the corner-balanced Great Square of Pegasus.
Sunday marks the 62nd. anniversary of Sputnik 2 launch with the first live animal sent to space. On November 3 1957, Sputnik 2 was launched, with the Siberian husky dog, Laika. The spacecraft was not planned for recovery, and Laika died in orbit. For the first time, biological data was transmitted back to Earth while Laika lived. The data showed scientists how Laika was adapting to space. This information was important to the imminent planned manned missions. Laika was considered a hero in the Soviet Union. The first human to pilot a spacecraft, Yuri Gagarin, followed on April 1961, aboard Vostok 1.