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November 2015 Urban Observing November 2, 2015

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy.
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Special Events

We start the month off with a clock change. That’s good news for evening observers and those of us who struggle to rise in the morning, but bad news if you like to observe pre-dawn.

Meteor showers

The Taurids are in progress at the beginning of the month. Actually two showers, the Northern and Southern Taurids, neither are highly active. However, both have a high proportion of fireballs, so if you have patience, it could be worth watching even from moderately light polluted skies. Both are extended showers, active from mid October to early December. The best time to look is around midnight – 3 AM, when Taurus is high enough to be easily visible and is in the part of the sky that is facing the direction the Earth is traveling. The best day for the Southern Taurids should be the morning of November 5, for the Northern Taurids it’s November 13.

Locations of the Taurid radiants, with the figure of Taurus

Locations of the Taurid radiants. Map for 5 AM.

November brings the Leonid meteor shower. Most years this is a modest shower at best. However, it has produced couple of the most famous meteor storms in history. On the morning of November 17 1966, rates were estimated at thousands per minute, but this storm only lasted about 15 minutes. Similar storms occurred in 1833, and in the mid 1860s. From 2005 – 2009, this was the strongest meteor shower of the year. The last few years has been feeble at best. This year’s shower is expected to be good, but not spectacular. The peak should occur in the afternoon of the 17th, making the early morning hours of the 16, 17, and 18th worth watching.

Location of the Leonid radiant, with the illustration of Leo.

Location of the Leonid radiant. Map for 4 AM.

Occultation

In the morning of Nov 26, you might want to get up early to watch the Moon occult Aldebaran. Local times will vary, but in Ann Arbor, you probably want to be out around 5:30 to see Aldebaran disappear, and around 6:15 to see it reappear.

The illustration of Taurus, with the Moon and Aldebaran noted.

The Moon will pass in front of Aldebaran as viewed from most of North America on November 26. Map is for Ann Arbor, 5 AM.

Moon:

  •      Full: 25
  •      New: 11

Planets

You’ll need a telescope and a keen eye to spot Mercury this month. It has already disappeared into the morning twilight at the start of this month. It should emerge in the evening twilight in December.

Venus continues to shine bright in the morning sky. Look for a very close conjunction with Mars on the morning of November 3.  A very old, very thin crescent Moon joins the pair on the 7th. At the end of the month, golden Venus makes a nice pairing with blue Spica. Although it is waxing, it is also getting further away from us, so it’s brightness will slowly decline for the rest of the year.

A thin crescent Moon joins the morning planets or November 7. Map for 5 AM.

A thin crescent Moon joins the morning planets or November 7. Map for 5 AM.

Mars pulls away from both Venus and Jupiter this month. By the end of the month the three planets will be spread in a fairly evenly spaced line in the predawn sky.

Venus, Mars and Jupiter line up in the morning.

Line of planets before dawn on November 30.

Look for Jupiter and a crescent Moon on the morning of the 6th. For those with a small telescope, the Galilean moons and their shadows will make several transits this month. Check the Sky & Telescope applet for moon positions and transit timings.

Saturn will be difficult to catch this month. Look for it with binoculars or a small telescope very low in the WSW soon after sunset at the start of the month. By mid month it will be lost in twilight. It returns to the morning skies in mid December.

Saturn in the evening twilight at 6 PM on November 2.

Saturn in the evening twilight at 6 PM on November 2.

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