Photo of the Week. With the approach of winter, Orion and company (Taurus toward upper right) come onto the scene. Note the Pleiades in the upper right corner.
The bright body
above Orion is Saturn, which was passing through Taurus
in February of 2003. Procyon in
Canis Minor is at far left.
Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, November 17, 2006.
To those in the US (and elsewhere too), a Happy Thanksgiving.
We begin as always with the ever-popular Moon (at least unless you
are trying to see faint stars), which begins the week as a slim waning crescent in the morning sky
and then goes through new on Monday, November 20th. The morning of
Saturday the 18th finds it just to the east of Spica in Virgo, which is now in the act of clearing the Sun. By
the evening of Wednesday the 22nd you can find the narrow waxing crescent in western twilight, the
Moon then growing in phase during the remainder of the week. It's
a good time to admire the glow of Earthlight illuminating the lunar
Most of the bright planets remain bunched near the Sun.
Jupiter is the champion no-show, as it passes conjunction with
the Sun (far to the other side of it) on Tuesday the 21st,
thereafter becoming a morning planet (though not visible until mid-
Mercury at least makes the attempt. After a beautifully
observed transit across the Sun last Wednesday, it pops into the
morning sky heading toward greatest western elongation next
Saturday the 25th. By the end of the week it will be visible in
eastern morning twilight. The little planet is visited by the
waning crescent Moon the morning of Saturday the 19th, the event
essentially invisible in bright dawn.
The planetary sky is thus dominated by Saturn. Moving ever more into the evening sky, the
ringed planet (all the outer planets having rings, Saturn just
having by far the brightest) now rises an hour before midnight. Look
for it in the morning sky to the west of Regulus in Leo. As a planetary coda,
Uranus (in Aquarius) ceases
retrograde motion on Monday the 20th, and begins to move in its
normal easterly direction against the background stars.
It's worth a look to see if you can see any Leonid
meteors (named after the seeming direction of origin in the
constellation Leo), the shower peaking near the morning of Saturday
the 19th. The debris flaked from Comet
Tempel-Tuttle is, however, best seen from Europe and Africa.
Here we might see a few over a few-day period.
As northern hemisphere winter closes in, we might contemplate the
Vernal Equinox (where the Sun
will be on the first day of Spring), which now rides high in Pisces. The invisible point, where
the ecliptic (the apparent
path of the Sun) crosses the celestial
equator, lies just down and to the left of the faint "Circlet," which represents the body
of the western of the two mythical fishes. The rest of the
constellation sprawls in a huge "vee" to the east and then to the
north, wrapping around the Great
Square of Pegasus.