Starguide: November


By Jenny Winder

The Summer Triangle is leaving our night skies to the West while Orion the Hunter is rising in the East, so winter is on its way. All the planets are on display this month, and with another meteor shower there will be plenty of celestial fireworks to be seen in the November night skies.

New Moon will be on November 13th. On November 28th the Moon will be full and will pass through the outer portion of the Earth’s shadow, causing a penumbral lunar eclipse making one edge of the Moon appear slightly darker. Unfortunately, UK observers will be poorly placed to see this as the eclipse ends at 16:51 UT when the Moon is still low over the Eastern horizon

Jupiter is visible for most of the night, lying in Taurus to the South, just East of the Hyades cluster. The Moon will pass close by Jupiter in the early morning of November 2nd and on November 29th. Mercury lies low in the Southeast in Libra at dawn. On November 30th it will form a line with both Saturn and Venus that lie in Virgo. After sunset look for Mars low to the Southwest in Sagittarius, while to the South Neptune is in Aquarius and Uranus lies just to the East of the Circlet asterism in Pisces.

Taurus the Bull is well positioned in the Southeast this month. It represents Zeus, taking the form of a magnificent white bull to abduct Europa. Its brightest star Aldebaran, marks the bull’s eye and the Hyades open cluster forms the bull’s head. At about 153 light years distant, this is the nearest open cluster to our Solar System and is estimated to be is about 625 million years old. Above the Hyades sits M45, the Seven Sisters or Pleiades lies between 390–460 light years from earth and contains over 1,000 members, mostly young, hot, blue stars that formed within the last 100 million years. Taurus also houses M1 the Crab Nebula. This was the first Messier object catalogued in 1758. It is the remnant of a supernova recorded in 1054. It lies about 6,500 light years away, has a diameter of 11 light years and is expanding at a rate of about 1,500 kilometers per second! At its heart lies the Crab Pulsar. A line drawn from Aldebaran through the Pleiades points to the small triangle of stars that mark the Triangulum constellation which contains the “Triangulum Galaxy” M33. This lies about 2.3 million light years from Earth, a distant member of the “Local Group” which comprises over 54 galaxies, including our own Milky Way

On November 14th there will be a total solar eclipse, visible over North Australia and the South Pacific. UK observers have the Leonid meteor shower that peaks on the night of November 16th and 17th, produced by the debris from Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle which visits our skies every 33 years. Expect a Zenithal Hourly Rate of up to 15 meteors.

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