This is the Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, November 18th and 19th, written by Joe Slomka.
The Sun sets at 4:30 PM; night falls at 6:09. Dawn begins at 5:13 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 6:52.
The waning Monday’s Moon rises in Taurus at 10:12 PM, is highest at 10:45 PM and sets at 1 PM Tuesday. Tuesday’s Last Quarter Moon rises in Leo at 11:24 PM and sets at 1:35 PM, Wednesday.
Civil Twilight finds Jupiter and Venus still visible about 40 minutes after Sunset. Venus, in Ophiuchus, is lower on the southwest horizon and about 11 arc-seconds in size, but a brilliant minus 4th magnitude; Jupiter, in Sagittarius, lies to Venus’ upper left, is less bright but almost 3 times Venus’ size. Venus sets at 5:47 PM, Jupiter at 6:17.
By 9 PM, Neptune, in Aquarius, glows with 8th magnitude and appears about 2 arc-seconds in size and is highest at 7:13 PM. Uranus, in Aries, is brighter with 5th magnitude, appearing a bit larger than Neptune and is highest at 10:10 PM. Neptune sets at 12:52 AM, Uranus at 4:59 AM.
Binoculars or telescopes are recommended for all four planets, as well as finder charts for Uranus and Neptune.
Mars rises in Virgo at 4:36 AM and shines with first magnitude and almost 4 arc-seconds in size. Mercury, fresh from its spectacular transit across the Sun, and beginning a Dawn visit, now rises in Libra at 5:38 AM, shines with first magnitude, but appears larger than Mars. Wednesday’s pre-dawn has a dramatic alignment of Mercury, Mars and Virgo’s brightest star, Spica. Early observers are advised to be out about 1 hour before Sunrise.
The Leonid meteor shower peaked early Monday morning; however, sky watchers may see stragglers during Tuesday’s night and dawn.
Even though the New Horizons space probe is racing through the Kuiper Belt, its discoveries still become news. Last week, the final object that New Horizons studied, asteroid 2014 MU69, was officially renamed. The New Horizons staff, with the permission of the Powhatan/Algonquian tribe, submitted to the International Astronomical Union a petition to rename MU69. Its new official name is Arrokoth, which translates “Sky.” The New Horizons staff are located in Maryland, which was Powhatan native land, so it was felt that their sky lore should be recognized.
Followers of the Skywatch Line know that the Milky Way, which tonight stretches from horizon to horizon, represents the rim of our galaxy. They also know that the faint glow in Andromeda is that of a giant galaxy, similar to ours. However, these “island universes” are not isolated from each other. Their gravitational fields clump galaxies into groups. The Local Group is made of our Milky Way, Andromeda, M 33 in Triangulum, and about a dozen other galaxies. This group is traveling together through space. Some galaxies also interact with each other. A prime example is M 51, off the Big Dipper’s Handle. A telescope shows one galaxy stealing material from another. Some astronomers think that giant galaxies like our own grow by absorbing smaller ones. Colliding galaxies are common telescopic sights. It is thought that two spiral galaxies will merge to form an elliptical galaxy. In fact, in about three billion years, Andromeda and the Milky Way will probably collide and merge. The result will be a giant galaxy marked by very active star formation.