Skywatch Line for Monday November 23rd and Tuesday November 24th, 2020

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday November 23rd and 24th, written by Joe Slomka.

The Sun sets at 4:26 PM; night falls at 6:06. Dawn breaks at 5:19 AM and ends with sunrise at 6:59.

Monday’s Moon rises at 1:47 PM in Aquarius, appearing 67% illuminated and sets at 1:08 AM, Tuesday. Tuesday, the Moon rises in Pisces at 2:09 PM, 41° high at 7 PM, appears 76% lit and sets at 2:08 AM, Wednesday.

Sagittarius continues to accommodate Pluto, Jupiter and Saturn. Dwarf Planet Pluto, 2°from Jupiter, is the first to rise at 10:53 AM, glowing with 14th magnitude, appearing as a tiny dot and sets at 7:50 PM. Jupiter rises next at 10:55 AM, glowing with minus 2nd magnitude, appearing 35 arc-seconds in size and sets at 8:02 PM. Saturn, 3° removed from Jupiter, rises at 11:05 AM, shines with zero magnitude, 15 arc-seconds wide, and sets at 8:17 PM. Jupiter relentlessly closes in on Saturn in preparation for their historic conjunction on December 21.

Mars resumes prograde (eastward) motion, rising in Pisces at 2:19 PM, gleaming with minus 1st magnitude, sized 15 arc-seconds, best observed at 8:40 PM and sets at 3:03 AM. Sharing Pisces, the Red Planet hovers 12° above the Moon on Tuesday night and 5° on Wednesday evening.

Neptune rises in Aquarius at 1:21 PM, glimmering with 8th magnitude, 2 arc-seconds small, best observed at 6:59 PM and sets at 1:21 AM. Uranus, rising at 3:12 PM in Aries, is brighter with 5th magnitude, a bit larger with 3 arc-seconds, best seen at 10:02 PM and sets at 4:57 AM. Neptune shares Aquarius with the Dwarf Planet 1Ceres. Ceres lies about 18° below Neptune and the Moon. Ceres rises at 1:37 PM, highest at 6:16 PM and sets at 10:55 PM. While Uranus is naked eye visible, Pluto, Neptune and 1Ceres are not. Beginners should obtain star charts from astronomy websites or magazines to assist in finding these distant and small members of our Solar System.

Ceres was the first asteroid discovered in the “Asteroid Belt.” It was discovered on Jan 1, 1800. Ceres was the goddess of agriculture and taught humans to grow grain. Ceres orbits the Sun about midway between Jupiter and Mars. It is the largest asteroid, about 600 miles across.

There is a lot of confusion about asteroids. The “asteroid belt” is usually pictured in movies as an almost solid ribbon of huge rocks. Actually, there are many thousands of miles between rocks of varying sizes. Scientists think they know the composition of some asteroids, from meteorites. Recently, Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa visited the asteroid Ryugu and NASA probe OSIRUS-REX called on asteroid Bennu; both explored and sampled the soil and are returning to Earth with samples. Several other missions are in various stages of development.

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