Skywatch Line for Wednesday November 4th and Thursday November 5th, 2020

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, November 4th, and Thursday, November 5th, written by Louis Suarato.

The 82% illuminated, waning gibbous Moon rises at 7:24 p.m. Wednesday, at the foot of Castor, the Gemini twin. Look .2 of a degree above the Moon with binoculars to see open star cluster M35. M35, also known as NGC 2168, was discovered in 1745 by Philippe Loys de Cheseaux. This star cluster is almost as wide as a Full Moon and is 3,870 light-years away. When not overwhelmed by the brightness of the close Moon, you can see several hundred stars, of which 120 are brighter then 13th magnitude.

Saturn and Jupiter are about 5 degrees apart over the southern horizon after sunset. The two gas giants will continue to close until they are less than a degree apart on December 21st. Jupiter sets at 9:05 p.m., and Saturn will set 25 minutes later. Wednesday night, all four Galilean moons will stretch out to the planet’s west, from the closest being Ganymede, then Io, and Europa, to Callisto at the far end.

Mars remains in the sky for most of the night, shining at magnitude -2.01. Venus rises in Virgo at 3:41 a.m., followed by Mercury 2 hours later. Look for 3rd magnitude star Gamma Virginis 1.1 degree to the left of Venus Thursday morning. The bright star 4 degrees to the right of Mercury is Spica, Virgo’s brightest.

The brightest visible comet currently is C/2020 M3 (ATLAS). Comet ATLAS, discovered on June 27, 2020, was recently reported to be magnitude 8.5. ATLAS is an anacronym for the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System, which discovered the comet earlier this year. Comet ATLAS has entered the constellation Orion from Lepus, and can be found 3 degrees to the east of Rigel at the foot of the Hunter.

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