This is the Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, November 26th and 27th.
The Sun sets at 4:34 PM; night falls at 6:04. Dawn begins at 5:21 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 7:01.
While four planets grace the evening sky, only two are easily spotted. Saturn, still in Sagittarius, hovers about 13º above the southwestern horizon, shines with zero magnitude and appears a moderate 15 arc-seconds in size. The observer should aim at Saturn before it gets too low and sets at 6:36 PM.
The dim constellation Aquarius contains two planets. Mars shines with zero magnitude, appears about 9 arc-seconds in size and appears about 86% lit. The Red Planet is best observed at 6:08 PM and sets at 11:33 PM. Mars lies about 6º beneath dimmer Neptune. Blue-green Neptune glows with 7th magnitude and appears a tiny 2.3 arc-seconds in size. It is best observed at 6:33 PM and sets at 12:08 AM.
Nightfall reveals Uranus, in Aries, as brighter than Neptune at 5th magnitude, one arc-second larger, and 24º high. It is best acquired at 9:21 PM and sets at 4:03 AM.
Minor Planet 3Juno, in Eridanus, shines with 7th magnitude, is smaller than 1 arc-second and 7º above the eastern horizon. It is best seen at 11:09 PM and sets at 4:55 AM.
Comet 46/P Wirtanen lies in the constellation Fornax, not too far from Juno. In fact, it will move into Eridanus next week. Recent observations reveal it to be about 6th magnitude, visible in binoculars. Neptune, Uranus, 3Juno and Wirtanen all require finder charts, available from astronomical media.
Monday’s Moon rises in Gemini at 8 PM, blazes with minus 11th magnitude and appears about 81% illuminated. Tuesday’s Moon rises 9:08 PM in Cancer, appears a bit smaller and dimmer. The Moon is up for the rest of the night for both days. The Moon’s brilliance may hinder searches for dim deep sky objects, like the nearby Beehive star cluster.
Venus rises at 3:47 AM in Virgo, beams with minus 4th magnitude and appears about 22% lit. It is found near Virgo’s brightest star, Sirius, which shines with only 1st magnitude. Virgo also harbors another comet – 2018V1. It is found near the star Zeta Virginis (Heze) and was observed at 9th magnitude, making it a pre-Dawn reward. Again, finder charts are available from various sources.
The constellation Canis Major rises at about 7:00 PM tonight to Orion’s lower left. The constellation houses the brightest star visible to our skies, Sirius, the “Dog Star”. Although the word “sirius” means, “scorching,” ancients connected the constellation and star with a dog. Sirius is a blue-white double star, larger and hotter than our Sun. It is the closest star visible to northern latitudes, and the fifth closest star to Earth. Since the star is visible in summer, the term “Dog Days” is associated with hot weather. Egyptians worshiped Sirius because its rising meant the Nile’s life-giving waters would soon surge to irrigate the land.