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Photo of the Week. More wispy clouds against a blue sky.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, November 1, 2013.

Welcome to November. Though it's the 11th month in our calendar, the name, out of Latin, refers to the ninth month when you count March, the month of Vernal Equinox passage by the Sun, as first. Welcome also to the end of Daylight Savings Time on Sunday, November 3. All times below and until further notice are standard.

We start the week off with the Moon as an ultrathin waning crescent that is almost invisible in dawn's light as it approaches new the morning of Sunday, November 3, when it will produce a minimal partial eclipse of the Sun visible at sunrise from the east coasts of the US and Canada. While it's not worth much of a look for us, it's a curious event, a combination of annular (the Moon too far away to cover the Sun completely) and barely total, whose central line passes across the Atlantic into central Africa. The evening of Monday the 4th, a thin waxing crescent will show up in western evening twilight. The evening of Tuesday the 5th, the Moon will be as bit down and to the right of Venus, the following evening nearly above the brilliant planet. Then the evening of Thursday the 7th, find the Moon well up and to the left of Venus as the crescent fattens and the Moon heads towards its first quarter, reached the night of Saturday, November 9. While the Moon is passing Venus, be sure to admire the Earthlight that illuminates the lunar night, rendering the whole disk of the Moon quite visible. On Wednesday the 6th, the Moon passes perigee, where it is closest to the Earth.

Venus of course leads the planetary parade. Low in the southwest as evening fades, the planet does not set until nearly an hour after the sky fully darkens. As the month opens, Venus goes through its greatest elongation of 47 degrees to the east of the Sun. Only a few hours later, Mercury passes inferior conjunction with the Sun. While Venus leaves the evening scene early, Jupiter comes quickly upon it, rising in the northwest in Gemini below Castor and Pollux around 9 PM. With us the rest of the night, the planet shines nearly overhead as dawn begins to light the east. Jupiter hits a bit of a milestone this week, when on the night of Wednesday the 6th it ceases its normal easterly motion against the background stars and begins its westerly retrograde trek as the Earth prepares to pass between it and the Sun. By 2 AM, Mars has launched itself well upward to the south of central Leo, with Regulus to the west of it. Finally, to complete a busy week, Saturn passes conjunction with the Sun on Wednesday the 6th.

In mid evening, look high to the south for the Great Square of Pegasus, low for lonely Fomalhaut, as the star crawls nicely above the southern horizon. Down and to the right, if you have a flat horizon you might spot Grus, the Crane, one of nine celestial birds, stalking to the southwest. The others are Apus (the Bird of Paradise), Aquila (the Eagle), Columba (the Dove), Corvus (the Crow), Cygnus (the Swan), Pavo (the Peacock), the eponymous Phoenix, and Toucana (the Toucan). Of them all, however, only three (Aquila, Corvus, and Cygnus) are of ancient origin and, rather curiously, none is in the Zodiac.
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