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Urban Observing November 2013 November 1, 2013

Posted by aquillam in MichiganAstro, Urban Observing.
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A rare hybrid eclipse occurs on Nov 3. A hybrid eclipse occurs when the Moon is slightly too far away at the beginning (or end) of an eclipse, so some observers at the start (or end) of the eclipse path see an annular eclipse, while observers later (or earlier) along the path see a total eclipse. This eclipse is best seen from equatorial africa and the north atlantic. People along the east coast of the US will see a partial eclipse at sunrise. The eclipse ends about 10 minutes before sunrise in Ann Arbor, but you might notice a dimmer than usual twilight. Maps and much more information available at http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/OH/OH2013.html#SE2013Nov03H

November 13 at 5:15 AM.  The comet, Mars, and several stars are marked. Image created using Sky Safari.

November 13 at 5:15 AM. Image created using Sky Safari.

As November opens, ISON is about magnitude 8, so it still isn’t really a good object for an urban observer. But if you’re willing (and able) to take a drive at 5 AM to someplace fairly dark, it should be a good binocular object. It heads eastward into the sunrise this month, disappearing into the glare sometime around Nov 25. If it’s bright enough, it will make a beautiful group along with Mercury and Saturn on the 23 and 24, about half an hour before sunrise.  The sky is fairly bright by then, so a small telescope will be a big help. The comet is closest to the Sun at 2 PM EST on Nov 28.  Check out sites like Spaceweather.com for news or whether this sungrazer survives it’s close encounter with the Sun.  If it does, Start looking for it north of Mercury in the pre-dawn sky of December 3. Ephemeris: http://scully.cfa.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/returnprepeph.cgi?d=c&o=CK12S010. Charts: http://www.aerith.net/comet/catalog/2012S1/2012S1.html

There are three meteor showers this month, two in Taurus, one in Leo.

The first is the South Taurid meteor shower, which peaks on Nov 4 or 5. This is an extended meteor shower, producing meteors from late September through early December at the rate of about 7 per hour. Expect about 10 per hour on the morning of the 5th. The nice thing about the southern Taurids is that many of the meteors are large, or even fireballs, so you can see many of them even in light polluted skies (though “many” out of 10 per hour probably means 4 or 5 an hour…). If you can find dark skies, this year offers the additional advantage of no Moon during the best viewing time, about midnight – 6 AM. The other nice thing is that they are close to the northern Taurids. The Northern Taurids are also an extended shower, running roughly mid October through early December. Again, this is a low number shower, about the same as the Southern Taurids. Northern Taurids tend to be slow moving, so they’re good for group observing.

The highlight of November is the Leonids. This shower has produced a couple famous outbursts with hundreds of meteors per hour, including one in 1966 where so many meteors fell that observers said it actually seemed as though they could feel the Earth moving through space. Most years, the peak is only about 10 – 15 meteors per hour. The best time to look is November 17,  1 – 3 hours before dawn. This year, a full Moon shines bright in Taurus, so it isn’t worth finding dark skies.

In the 19th century, the  Andromedids were a spectacular meteor shower that occurred at the end of the month. They originated from comet 3D/Biela, which broke apart mid-century. Its breakup sparked a couple meteor storms, including a predicted storm in 1885. Ladislaus Weinek of the Ksementium Observatory in Prague was able to capture an an image of one of these meteors on the night of Nov 27, the first known photograph of a meteor. http://www.catchersofthelight.com/

Finally, mark November 23 on your calendar. Algol goes into a minima at 01:06 UT on 11/24, which would be 8:06 PM EST.

Now on to things that we actually can observe this month from Ann Arbor.

Morning planets

Looking east at 7:45 in the morning on November 18. Mercury, Mars, and a couple stars are mared. Image created using Starry Night

Looking east at 7:45 in the morning on November 18. Image created using Starry Night

Mercury puts on a morning appearance mid-month. Look for it beginning around the 10th low in the ESE about 45 minutes before sunrise. Maximum western elongation is on Nov. 18, so that should be the easiest day to see it, but you’re still going to need a clear horizon and a pair of binoculars. Again, look ESE about 45 minutes to an hour before sunrise. It has a close conjunction with Saturn on Nov 25 & 26. A very old Moon joins the group on the 30th.

Mars is high in SE in the morning skies all month. It’s in Leo, so it’s not far from the pale blue star Regulus. A nice crescent Moon passes it between Nov 26 – 28.

November brings the return of Jupiter to our evening skies. It rises in the ENE around 11 PM at the star of the month so it is still best as an evening target. However, by the end of the month, it is up by 9 PM. It makes a beautiful addition to Gemini, passing not far from Castor and Pollux. For a real naked-eye treat, look for a nice last quarter Moon to join the group on November 21.

The Moon and Jupiter on Nov 20 at 11 PM. Image created using Starry Night.

The Moon and Jupiter on Nov 20 at 11 PM. Image created using Starry Night.

Saturn is in conjunction at the beginning of the month. It doesn’t really make it’s first appearance until the conjunction with Mercury on the 25. Look for it to return to the morning skies in December.

Conjunction of Mercury and Saturn on Nov 25. Image created using Starry Night.

Conjunction of Mercury and Saturn on Nov 25. Image created using Starry Night.

The crescent Moon just above and to the right of  Venus during late twilight on November 6. Image created using Starry Night.

The Moon and Venus on the evening of November 6. Image created using Starry Night.

Evening planets

You’ll find Venus hanging on in the SW at sunset. Look for it very low on the horizon half an hour after sunset at the start of the month. Near the end of the month, it hangs on until an hour after sunset. A very young Moon joins it on the 6th.

The Moon

The Moon is full on the 17.

On Nov 8 at 10 PM the terminator crosses near to Theophilus, Cyrillus, and Catharina craters (see https://aquillam.wordpress.com/2013/03/04/urban-observing-march-2013/), and highlights the Rupes Altai escarpment very nicely. Look for the craters Picolomini at the southern end of the escarpment, and Tacitus at the northern end. The western wall of the small crater Kant should be brightly lit too.

The Moon on __.

The Moon on November 8 at 10 PM EST.

Deep sky / Telescopic objects

Looking west at 10 PM on November 6. Several summer dep sky objects are labeled. Image created with Starry Night.

Looking west at 10 PM on November 6. Image created with Starry Night.

The sky is quite dark by 9 PM all month. On Nov 6, the waxing Moon is just setting, so if you head outside at 9, your eyes will be dark adapted about the time the Moon sets.

  • Get a last look at globular cluster M13 in Hercules, about 25º up in the WNW at 9 PM.
  • Swing up and to the west (left) for a look at the colorful double Albireo.
  • While you’re in the area, look for M57, the ring nebula, and the double-double, epsilon Lyrae.
  • By 10 PM, M32, the Andromeda Galaxy should be high overhead. Find it by using the sharper pointed part of Cassiopeia.
  • The Pleiades and Hyades both stand out as beautiful open clusters even without a telescope. In fact, they are so big they are generally best viewed with binoculars, rather than a telescope.
  • If you do have a telescope, look for NGC 884 and NGC 869, the Perseus double cluster.
Looking east, from the horizon to zenith on November 6 at 10 PM.  Several deep sky objects are marked. Image created using Starry Night.

Looking east, from the horizon to zenith on November 6 at 10 PM. Image created using Starry Night.



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