Photo of the Week. Convective clouds seen from on
Astronomy news for the two weeks starting Friday, November 6,
The next skylights will appear November 20, 2015.
The Moon begins our fortnight in its waning crescent phase.
Having passed just south of Jupiter the
morning of Friday, November 6, it then makes a marvelous triangle
with Venus and much fainter
Mars the morning of Saturday the 7th, the crescent just a
degree south of the brilliant planet and below the red one. The
morning of Sunday the 8th, you might spot the Moon up and to the
left of the star Spica. Thinning
completely out, the Moon passes new around noon on Wednesday the
11th, so your last glimpse of it will be the morning of Tuesday
the 10th in growing eastern dawn.
We get to see the Moon again as a waxing
crescent in fading western twilight the evening of Thursday
the 12th when it invisibly passes a few degrees north of Saturn. The crescent then
fattens until first quarter is
reached the night of Thursday the 18th, after which the Moon
enters the waxing gibbous phase. The
Moon passes its apogee
(when it is farthest from Earth and angularly smallest,
though you can't really tell the difference) on Saturday the 7th.
The two bright planets, Venus and Jupiter, continue to grace the
morning sky. In the middle of our term, Jupiter (now in southern
Leo well to the southeast of Regulus and south-southwest of Denebola) rises around 1:30 AM as
it heads toward the evening sky in mid-December. Venus follows,
up by about 3 AM. While brighter Venus rises ever-earlier in the
morning sky, Jupiter rises ever later, and thus the two are slowly
separating. In between is Mars, which, while bright (just shy of
first magnitude), is outmatched by the other two. Saturn is
effectively gone, lost to evening twilight. Mercury is in superior
conjunction with the Sun
(on the other side of it) on Tuesday the 17th, while Neptune, in Aquarius, ceases
retrograde motion as our period ends.
The famed Leonid
meteor shower peaks the night of Tuesday the 17th (really the
following morning), but don't expect much this year, as the dense
cloud of debris from Comet Tempel-
Tuttle is long gone. In a dark sky one might make out 15 or so
meteors per hour radiating from the constellation Leo.
Eyes are now on the elegant Great Square of Pegasus, the Flying Horse, as it soars high to the
south in mid-evening. Lesser known is Equuleus, the Little Horse, that gallops faintly to
the southwest of its much larger mate. Directly east of the
Square find the flat triangle that makes most of Aries, the Ram, which in ancient
times held the Vernal Equinox,
that point now in Pisces as a
result of the 26,000-year wobble
of the Earth's axis. From off the northeast corner of the Square
comes the string of stars that best identifies Andromeda. Then later in the
evening look to the east to see the stars of winter, from Auriga to Orion, begin to replace those of autumn.