Photo of the Week.. The Sun rises brilliantly over
high altitude clouds (another in a series from 35,000 feet).
Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, November 11, 2002.
The Moon moves toward full the early part of the week, reaching the
phase, when it is opposite the Sun, on the night of Tuesday, the
19th. That night witnesses a "penumbral"
eclipse of the Moon, which takes place when the Moon passes
through the partial shadow of the Earth (as opposed to a "partial
eclipse of the Moon," when PART of the Moon moves through the
TOTAL shadow of the Earth). If you were on the Moon at the time,
only part of the Sun would be cut off by the Earth. Penumbral
eclipses only barely dim the Moon, not darkening it at all, and are
barely worth a look. All one can at best see is a little shading
on the lunar disk.
On the morning of Friday, the 22nd, the Moon will lie just to the
northwest of Saturn,
which is now rising around 6:30 PM just as twilight ends, Jupiter
following 4 hours later, around 10:30 PM. The morning, on the
other hand, is now graced by Venus, which ends
her retrograde motion on Monday the 18th. Watch as it pulls away
from the morning Sun, climbing higher each day and now rising
Tuttle is once again on the scene through its debris, which
creates the famed Leonid
meteor storm. The comet and its following cloud of rocks and
dust have a 33-year period. When (rather, if) the Earth passes
through the debris, we get a meteor storm of vast proportions, tens
of thousands of meteors screaming through the sky per hour. The
debris, however, is in ribbons, so we may intersect it, or we may
not. The past two years have given us good events, and this one
may as well. Look the morning of Tuesday the 19th in the hours
before dawn, and you may get a good show; then again, maybe not.
Unfortunately, the nearly full Moon will wipe out the fainter
meteors. On the other hand, the
Leonids -- which seem to come out of the constellation Leo, a perspective effect -- are known
for their big ones, which would easily be visible. Unlike the
penumbral eclipse, the potential meteor shower, even storm, is
worth a look. The best place to watch from is a dark location away
from town lights, and the best place to look in the sky is always
straight overhead. While outdoors, you might also admire the
rising of the great figure of Leo itself, with bright Regulus at
the end of the "Sickle" that marks his head, the Sickle the seeming
origin of the meteors.
The evening sky offers two rather faint, though fine, asterisms of
larger constellations. Look a bit over halfway up the sky around
8 PM to see the Circlet of Pisces, a lopsided pentagon (or hexagon if you want to
add yet another star to it), which lies just to the northwest of
the Vernal Equinox. To the right
of it, and smack on the celestial equator, is the "Y-shaped" Water
Jar of Aquarius.