This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, November 6, through Sunday, November 8, written by Sam Salem.
On Friday, Sun rises at 6:36am and sets at 4:41pm; Moon sets at 12:07pm and rises at 9:13pm. Moon reaches its last quarter phase at 6:46 pm on Sunday. That day, the Moon will rise at around midnight, and remains visible in the southern sky all morning. At last quarter, the Moon is illuminated on its western side, towards the pre-dawn Sun.
Jupiter and Saturn tilt down in the west-southwest during and after twilight. They tilt more steeply and sink lower as they creep closer together week by week. Observe them with a telescope early before the end of twilight, before they sink lower toward the southwest later in the evening. Both planets are somewhat farther and smaller than they were during summer. Saturn is now only 5 degrees to Jupiter’s upper left. Watch them creep toward each other for the rest of the fall. They’ll pass just 0.1 degrees apart at conjunction on December 21st, low in twilight as fall turns to winter.
Venus, at magnitude –4.0 in constellation Virgo, shines brightly, but not very high, in the east before and during dawn. Venus rises in darkness about an hour before dawn’s first light. Mercury rapidly emerges into dawn view this weekend. By the morning, look for Mercury low in the east-southeast well below Venus, about 45 minutes before sunrise.
Mars, at magnitude –2.0 in constellation Pisces, is three weeks past opposition and noticeably less bright. Mars climbs into high view earlier every night. At dusk, Mars glares fiery orange in the east-southeast. It’s at its highest and best in the south by 10pm.
Use the Big Dipper’s bowl stars to find the bright golden star Capella, in constellation Auriga the Charioteer. The top two bowl stars of the Big Dipper guide you to Capella. Capella is sometimes called the Goat Star. The star name, Capella, is the Latin word for nanny goat. Near Capella, you’ll find a tiny asterism, a noticeable pattern on the sky’s dome, consisting of three fainter stars. This little triangle of stars is called the Kids, or baby goats. This weekend, Capella shines well up in the northeast after dark. Look for the Pleiades, three fists to Capella’s right. As evening grows later, try to find orange Aldebaran, in constellation Taurus, climbing up below the Pleiades. Then by about 10pm, Orion clears the eastern horizon below Aldebaran.
Vega is the brightest star in the west in early evening. Its little constellation Lyra extends to its left. Farther left, about a fist and a half at arm’s length from Vega, is 3rd-magnitude Albireo, the beak of Cygnus. This is one of the finest and most colorful double stars for small telescopes. Farther on, in the same direction, find the 3rd-magnitude Tarazed, in constellation Aquilla the Eagle. Just past Tarazed, look at the 1st-magnitude Altair, in Aquilla.