This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday November 16th, and 17th, written by Joe Slomka.
The Sun sets at 4:31 PM; night falls at 6:09. Dawn breaks at 5:12 AM and ends with sunrise at 6:50.
Monday’s Moon sets at 5:49 PM. Tuesday’s 3-day-old Moon rises in Sagittarius at 9:41 AM, appears 11% illuminated, 32 arc-seconds in size and sets at 6:42 PM.
Sagittarius still has Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto as residents. Jupiter is still the first to rise at 11:18 AM, glows with minus 2nd magnitude, appears 35 arc-seconds wide and sets at 8:23 PM. Dwarf Planet Pluto rises next at 11:20 AM, glimmers with 14th magnitude, appears as a tiny dot and sets before Jupiter at 8:17 PM. Pluto lies about 1° below Jupiter. Saturn rises next at 11:30 AM, shines with zero magnitude and appears about 16 arc-seconds in extent and sets at 8:42 PM. All three are quite low on the southwestern horizon by 7 PM, about 12° high. Now is the time for sky watchers to catch last looks before they become too low.
Mars rises in Pisces at 2:47 PM, flashes with minus 1st magnitude, sized 17 arc-seconds, highest at 9:05 PM and sets at 3:28 PM. Mars is 43° high at 7 PM. It, too, slightly dims and shrinks daily as Earth pulls away from it. Again, observers should catch it while it is still easily examined.
Aquarius houses Neptune and Dwarf Planet 1Ceres. Neptune rises at 1:49 PM, shining with 7th magnitude, appears 2 arc-seconds in size, 41° high, best observed at 7:27 PM and sets at 1:08 AM. 1Ceres rises at 2:03 PM, glows with 9th magnitude, best observed at 6:40 PM and sets at 11:16 PM. It can be found in Aquarius’ knee above the bright star Formalhaut and also 20° away from Neptune. Both objects require detailed sky charts and telescopes.
Uranus, in Aries, rises at 3:40 PM, shines with 5th magnitude, 3 arc-seconds wide, best seen at 10:31 PM and sets at 5:26 AM.
Venus, in Virgo, blazes with minus 4th magnitude, appears 12 arc seconds, 85% lit and rises at 4:08 AM. Mercury rises last in Libra, glows with minus zero magnitude, 5 arc-seconds big and rises at 5:15 AM. Venus appears next to Virgo’s brightest star, Spica, about 4° away. Mercury rises during Civil Dawn to the lower left of
Venus and Spica. Binoculars will help in locating both.
November has two meteor showers. The Taurids appear most of the month. They seem to originate near the Pleiades star cluster. The equally sparse, but more famous, Leonid meteor shower also happens this month. This year, the Leonids peak at 11 PM Tuesday evening. Some meteors will be visible after nightfall, but most are better observed after Midnight; its highest between 3 and 5 AM in the southeast. The Leonids are famous because they are the debris of Comet Temple-Tuttle, which orbits the Sun about every 33 years; the meteor shower also follows this cycle. Occasionally, the Leonids have generated a meteor storm, producing hundreds or thousands of meteors per hour. The storms of 1833 and 1966 are legendary. This year, the Moon provides no interference – ideal conditions. This is an average year for Leonids, with a maximum of 20 per hour under ideal conditions. Bright meteors will be seen streaking from Leo’s mane, identifying them as a Leonid. The Leonids are also famed for their “trains.” As the meteor streaks toward Earth, it heats and ionizes upper atmosphere gasses, creating tiny clouds that are twisted by high winds. These “trains” can persist for minutes. Binoculars are the best instrument to see these “trains.” Remember, November nights can be chilly and the observer should dress warmly.