Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, November 6, 1998.
The Moon, disappearing from the early evening sky, passes its third
quarter this week the night of Tuesday the 10th a few hours before
it rises among the dim stars of Cancer to the west of Leo, moving
toward the bright star Regulus, which it will pass the next day.
The morning of Thursday the 12th, the Moon will be seen to the east
of the star and the morning of Friday the 13th to the west of
reddish Mars, which will pass this month into Virgo.
Mars, for all its brilliance when it is close to us, is now far
away, twice as far as the Sun, and rather dim, only second
magnitude. Very gradually, the Earth is catching up with it, and
the planet will slowly brighten as it rises earlier and earlier,
though even by the end of the year it is still rising after
Much more accessible are Jupiter and Saturn, brilliant Jupiter now
dominating the evening sky, Saturn about 35 degrees to the east.
Mercury also makes an evening appearance this week, though finding
it will be a challenge. The planet passes greatest eastern
elongation, when it is its maximum angle to the east of the Sun and
therefore visible in southwestern evening twilight, on Wednesday
the 11th. Like all planets, Mercury must stick close to the
ecliptic plane, the path of the Sun, and this time of year the
ecliptic in the evening lies very flat relative to the horizon, so
the little planet is not very high when the sky gets dark enough to
see it. Mercury passes close to the bright star Antares in
Scorpius on Monday the 9th. Venus lurks invisibly below it as it
prepares for its evening appearance toward the end of the
November features the classic autumn stars. Look high in the sky
around 10 PM to the north and nearly overhead for the upside down
W-shaped figure of Cassiopeia, the stream of stars that makes
Perseus falling off to the right. High to the south and a bit to
the west of the meridian find the Great Square of Pegasus. Nearly
overhead, in the constellation Andromeda, a dark sky will reveal a
fuzzy patch of light, the Andromeda Galaxy, M 31, a lovely sight in
binoculars. A galaxy much like our own at a distance of some 2
million light years, and consisting of hundreds of billions of
stars, M 31 is the most distant celestial object that can be seen
with the unaided eye.