The “Super SuperMoon”

full-moon

The full moon of November 14, 2016 will be the closest Supermoon to Earth since January 26,1948. The full moon won’t come this close again until November 25, 2034. Thus the November 2016 full moon is the closest and largest Supermoon in a period of 86 years!

 

The moon turns precisely full at 7:52 am CST on Monday, November 14 so the evenings of the 13th and 14th are best for seeing the larger full moon. Because it is opposite the sun in Earth’s sky, the full moon rises in the east at sunset, is high overhead at midnight, and sets in the west at sunrise. Thus this special Supermoon can be seen all night long.

 

To have a Supermoon, the moon must be full at the place in its orbit where it is closest to the Earth (called perigee). This November the full moon occurs within an hour and a half of perigee. On November 14, 2016 at 5:23 am CST, the distance between the moon and Earth will shrink to its smallest distance for the year: 221,524 miles (356,509 km). This super supermoon will be about 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than a normal full moon in Earth’s sky.

 

During a full moon, you can enjoy an interesting optical illusion by comparing the moon at moonrise (sunset) and the moon overhead (near midnight). The moon is not quite round and definitely orangish at moonrise. These are only atmospheric effects. Also the rising moon looks much larger than the moon high in the sky. This is an optical illusion: the moon is the same color, size, and shape all night long. Compare the moon to your thumb at moonrise and when the moon is overhead. The moon is actually the same width, even during the “Super Supermoon”.

 

Come to the Burke Baker Planetarium on the November 12-13 weekend to see a demonstration of the “Super Supermoon” in our Starry Night Express program.

Star Map: November 2016

november2016

This star map shows the Houston sky at 8 pm CST on November 1, 6:30 pm CST on November 15, and dusk on November 30.  To use the map, put the direction you are facing at the bottom.

The Summer Triangle is high in the west.  The ‘teapot’ of Sagittarius sets in the southwest.  How long can you follow Saturn as it sets in twilight?  The Great Square of Pegasus is high in the east at dusk. To the south and east, we see a vast dim area of stars known as the ‘Celestial Sea’, where only Fomalhaut stands out. 

Venus is a little higher in the evening sky this month.    Look low in the west southwest in evening twilight.  Venus pulls away from Saturn, having passed it late last month.

Mars is now in the southwest at dusk.  Mars continues to fade each night as Earth leaves it farther and farther behind

Saturn  gradually drops into the Sun’s glare this month.  Visible to the right of Venus on November 1, Saturn sets earlier and earlier each night until it sets in twilight by Thanksgiving.  You’ll need a clear horizon to the west southwest to find it.  How long can you still see it?

Jupiter is much higher in the morning sky this month.  Look in the east southeast at dawn. 

Autumn represents sort of an ‘intermission’ in the sky, with bright summer stars setting at dusk, while bright winter patterns such as Orion won’t rise until later (Orion is up by about 10 now and about 9 mid-month).  The Summer Triangle is in the west.   Meanwhile, the Great Square of Pegasus is almost overhead.  The stars in the southern sky are much dimmer than those overhead and in the west because when you face south at dusk in November, you face out of the Milky Way plane.  The plane of our Galaxy follows a path from the Summer Triangle in the west through Cassiopeia in the north and over to the northeastern horizon.  

Constellations in the November southern sky are almost entirely devoid of bright stars.  They represent beasts and gods related to water, indicating that they are part of the ‘Celestial Sea’.  Examples are Aquarius, the Water Bearer and Pisces, the Fish.  Even Capricornus, the Goat, has a fish tail because he’s originally Ea, Babylonian god of the waters.  Below Aquarius is the one bright star in this area, Fomalhaut, marking the mouth of the Southern Fish.  Ancient Mesopotamians imagined that the Persian Gulf extended upwards into the sky, joining this ‘sea’ of dim stars. 

All of these celestial happenings are on show every Saturday at our George Observatory. Located in Brazos Bend State Park, the seclusion provides a nice dark sky, perfect for viewing stars. Docents and Observatory staff are available to help new star gazers discover amazing extra-terrestrial wonders.

Sky events for October 2016

1st Quarter 1st-quarter1October 8, 11:33pm

Fullfull

October 15, 11:23pm

3rd Quarter3rd-quarter

October 22, 2:14pm

Newnew

October 30, 12:38pm

 

This star map shows the Houston sky at 10 pm CDT on October 1, 9 pm CDT on October 15, and 8 pm CDT on October 31.  To use the map, put the direction you are facing at the bottom. 

oct-sky1

The Summer Triangle is high in the west.  The ‘teapot’ of Sagittarius sets in the southwest.  How long can you follow Saturn as it sets in twilight?  The Great Square of Pegasus is high in the east at dusk. To the south and east, we see a vast dim area of stars known as the ‘Celestial Sea’, where only Fomalhaut stands out. 

 

Venus is a little higher in the evening sky this month. Look low in the west in evening twilight. On Saturday, October 29, Venus passes three degrees below Saturn.

Mars and Saturn are now in the southwest at dusk.

Mars continues to fade each night as Earth leaves it farther and farther behind. Also, it moves faster than Saturn against the background stars, so you can watch Mars pull away from Saturn this month.

Jupiter emerges into the morning sky this month. Look low in the east at dawn.

The Big Dipper is to the left of the North Star, with its handle pointing up. From that handle, you can ‘arc to Arcturus’ in the west at dusk.

Antares, brightest star of Scorpius, the Scorpion, is in the southwest, with the ‘teapot’ of Sagittarius to its left. Saturn is right above Antares. The Summer Triangle is almost overhead. The stars of summer remain high in the early evening sky. Meanwhile, the Great Square of Pegasus is high in the east at dusk. Autumn is here.

Moon Phases in October 2016:

1st Quarter Oct. 8, 11:33 p.m.

Full Oct. 15, 11:23 p.m.

Last Quarter Oct. 22, 2:14 p.m.

New Oct. 30, 12:38 p.m.

Just after midnight on Wednesday, October 19, the waning gibbous Moon occults the bright star Aldebaran. Aldebaran blinks out of view at 12:04 am as the Moon passes in front of it and reappears at 1:06 am from behind the dark limb of the Moon.

In fact, the Moon has occulted Aldebaran at least once a month since January 2015; this will continue until September 3, 2018. However, many of these events are not visible from North America or happen in daytime for us. This occultation, however, is clearly visible from Houston (weather permitting, of course). The waning gibbous Moon and Aldebaran will be high in the east by midnight. You may need a telescope to watch the actual moment of disappearance, as the sunlit lunar disk will wash out Aldebaran. The reappearance, however, is noticeable in binoculars since the opposite limb of the Moon will be dark. We’ll see another occultation of Aldebaran on Monday evening, December 12, with the Moon one day before full.

Come see us Saturday nights at the George Observatory! On most clear Saturday nights at the George Observatory, you can hear me do live star tours on the observation deck with a green laser pointer.

Our annual Astronomy Day at the George Observatory is on Saturday, October 8! On Astronomy Day we have activities from 3-10 pm, and all of the telescopes, even the ones that normally cost money to look through, are free. Surf to www.astronomyday.net for more information.

HMNS Weekly Happenings

Cultural Feast – Oktoberfest: The History and Science of Beer

st-arnold

In 1810, King Ludwig I of Bavaria proclaimed that the last sixteen days of September, ending with the first full weekend in October, should be set aside for feasting and beer drinking. To commemorate this tradition, join HMNS at St. Arnold Brewing Co. for the history and science of beer making. Tour St. Arnold³ production facility with founder Brock Wagner and special guest Scott Birdwell of DeFalco’s Home Wine and Beer. Drink your fill of brew and enjoy Bavarian pretzels and sausage.

 

Hosted at St. Arnold Brewing Company. 21 and up only.

Tickets $59, Members $49

Advance ticket purchase is required by September 25. No refunds will be made 72 hours before the event, however tickets can be transferred to another individual. Please notify webmaster@hmns.org with your name, transaction number, and name of the guests using your tickets.

 

Lecture – Archaeological Legacy of Poverty Point by Diana Greenlee

Factory-made modern cutting implements versus hand crafted, all natural paleo-cutlery (Image Credit: Gus Costa, The Flintstone Factory

Factory-made modern cutting implements versus hand crafted, all natural paleo-cutlery (Image Credit: Gus Costa, The Flintstone Factory

 

A remarkable earthworks complex that was built and occupied by American Indians from about 1700 to 1100 BCE in what is today northeast Louisiana is designated Poverty Point World Heritage Site. Some archaeologists refer to Poverty Point as the “New York City” of its day because it was so huge, sophisticated and out-of-character compared to everything else going on at that time. Trading hub, engineering marvel, monument to ingenuity—the original configuration included five earthen mounds; six nested, c-shaped, earthen ridges that served as the habitation area; and a flat interior plaza.

 

Although it is not the oldest or the largest mound complex in North America, it stands out as something special—a singularity—because of its scale and design, and because the people here lived by hunting, fishing and gathering wild foods. Also, because there was no naturally occurring rock at the site, tons of stone for tools and other objects were brought in over distances up to 800 miles. At Poverty Point, we can glimpse a reflection of humanity that no longer exists.

This program is co-sponsored by Fort Bend Archeological Society and Houston Archeological Society.

October 4, 2016 at 6:30pm

Tickets $18, Members $12

 

Coming Soon!

Lecture – Deep Life: The Hunt for Hidden Biology of Earth, Mars, and Beyond by Tullis Onstot

Photo by NASA

Photo by NASA

 

Taking us to the absolute limits of life–the biotic fringe–where scientists hope to discover the very origins of life itself, Dr. Tullis Onstott of Princeton University will explain how geomicrobiologists are helping the quest to find life in the solar system by going to uncharted regions deep beneath Earth’s crust. The recent discoveries of exotic subsurface life forms are helping understand the possibilities of life in the Universe. Book signing following lecture.

October 12, 2016 at 6:30pm 

Tickets $18, Members $12