Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, November 12, 2010.
The Moon begins our week just shy of its first
quarter, the actual phase of the moment reached on Saturday,
November 13, about the time of moonrise in North America. As it
waxes in the gibbous phase full phase not reached until Sunday the 21st), it
takes on three planets. The first, Neptune, is
passed by the Moon the night of Saturday the 13th, the planet five
degrees to the south. Given Neptune's dimness, it's not much of an
event. But then the evening of Monday the 15th, look for the Moon
to the northwest of bright Jupiter, the two
making a fine sight. They are closest during the day, so that by
the next night, that of Tuesday the 16th, the Moon will have moved
to the northeast of the planet and be a bit farther away. Since Uranus is so
close to Jupiter, it gets passed too, just a few hours later. The
Moon also passes its apogee, where it
is farthest from Earth, on Monday the 15th.
Both the evening and morning hours now have planets to be admired.
Crossing the meridian early, around 8
PM, Jupiter lights the sky to the south in northeastern Aquarius just below the border with
Pisces. Stopping its
retrograde motion (westerly against the stars) around midnight
the night of Thursday the 18th, the giant planet will then return
to its normal easterly motion. Drawing closer to Uranus (which
lies about 3 degrees to the northeast), the two will come into
conjunction with each other next January 2 with Jupiter just over
a half a degree south of its fainter neighbor.
The morning, on the other hand, brings us Venus and Saturn, each paired with a star. Look for
brilliant Venus, which now rises shortly before dawn, below (to the
east of) Virgo's Spica. The ringed planet will be
higher up and be a similar angular distance below Porrima (Gamma Virginis), at third
magnitude by far the faintest of the quartet. By the time Saturn
rises, around 3:30 AM, Jupiter will already have set. Back in the
Mercury passes two degrees north of Antares also on Monday the 15th, the
event quite lost to bright twilight.
Like August, November is a traditional meteor month, the former for
the latter for November 17th's Leonids, which arise from the periodic comet Tempel-Tuttle
and seem to emenate from the constellation Leo. The main blob of meteoroids, however, which
returns every 33 or so years, is long gone, and the brightening
Moon will rob us of much of the remainder, as it will the Taurids.
In early evening, bright Vega and Deneb are slipping seriously westward.
Look for the head of Draco the Dragon down and to the right of Vega.
The Big Dipper is essentially
gone, under the pole. It is replaced by Cassiopeia, whose "W" now rides high, Andromeda to the south of it.
To the northeast, Auriga's Capella climbs the sky.