Go Stargazing! November Edition

November 5, 2008

Creative Commons License photo credit: chipdatajeffb

The “main event” of November evenings occurs in the southwest at dusk, where you can watch Venus close in on Jupiter.  Look towards the southwest right as night falls for the two brightest objects in the sky, other than the Moon.  The brighter one low in the southwest is Venus, which outshines everything in the sky except the Sun and the Moon.  Jupiter is closer to due south at dusk and is the dimmer of the two, although it still outshines all the stars we see at night. 

Venus and Jupiter begin the month just under 30 degrees apart (your fist at arms length blocks about 10 degrees).  However, Venus will close that gap quite noticeably each night, until it appears directly under Jupiter on November 30.  The two planets will then be about 2 degrees apart.  When two or more planets are roughly in the same line of sight, astronomers say they are in conjunction. Saturnis still visible at this time of year, it resides high in the east and can be seen around dawn.  Mars is lost in the Sun’s glare this month, and will remain out of sight into 2009. 

Look for the enormous Summer Triangle, consisting of the stars Deneb, Vega and Altair, high in the west.  The Great Square of Pegasus is high in the east at dusk.  The star in its upper left hand corner is also the head of Andromeda.  Facing north, you’ll see five stars in a distinct ‘M’ like shape—this is Cassiopeia, the Queen.  Her stars are about as bright as those in the Big Dipper, and she is directly across the North Star from that Dipper.  In fall, while the Dipper is low and out of sight, Cassiopeia rides high.

Our Milky Way Galaxy..
Creative Commons License photo credit:
Sir Mervs (byaheng bicol)

You’ll notice that November skies at dusk, especially to the south and east, contain many fewer bright stars than skies of summer or winter.  This is because we are facing out of the galaxy plane when we look in that direction.  The Summer Triangle and Cassiopeia are in the galaxy plane, where most bright stars are.  Looking away from that, we see a large are of dim stars known to the ancients as the ‘Celestial Sea’.  By late evening (10 pm now, 8 pm by the 30th), dazzling Orion rises in the east, reminding us that winter is on the way.

Moon Phases in November 2008:

1st Quarter          November 5, 10:03 am
Full                      November 13, 12:18 pm
Last Quarter         November 19, 3:32 am
New                     November 27, 10:55 pm

Love Astronomy? Check these out:
Why do we dress up on Halloween – is it A Trick or a Treat?
What’s the difference between a meteorite and a plain old rock?
Why won’t the other planets let Pluto play? Is eight enough?

Authored By James Wooten

James is the Planetarium Astronomer at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. He teaches students every school morning in the planetarium, and also answers astronomy questions from the public.

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