November 2012 Night Sky Calendar


November 2012 Night Sky Calendar

Thursday, November 1


We didn't choose this close Moon-planet approach as the pick event as we'll see Jupiter and the Moon together again at month's end.    How splendid that the month should begin with a brilliant Jupiter-Moon gathering.  See the bloated world and gibbous moon in the eastern evening sky.


Sunday, November 4


Remember the mnemonic: spring forward; fall back.    When we switch to daylight savings time in the spring, we set our clocks ahead.  When we revert back to standard time in autumn, we set our clocks back one hour.   This reversion back to standard time doesn't exactly constitute an astronomical event, but we mention it because it makes us happy.

Tuesday, November 6


Just a reminder: the last quarter moon rises around midnight and sets around noontime.  This timeframe is not precise, but it serves as a handy approximation.


Wednesday, November 7


Planets appear to have two motions - prograde (west to east) and retograde (east to west.)  Each planet can "go retrograde," but inferior planets (Mercury and Venus) exhibit this apparent motion because we're observing them from outside their orbits.  Therefore, to us, they look like cars moving along  a race track:   at times they'll appear to move in one direction, as when they're on the track segment closest to us, and then in the opposite direction when they're on the farther track.    The inferior planets move similarly, but since they often appear to veer close to the Sun, we cannot observe them throughout an entire orbit.


Sunday, November 11


The Moon-Venus gathering will never disapppoint you.    See the waning crescent moon and the second world low in the eastern pre-dawn sky.    If you see them both through a telescope, you'll notice that Venus also appears as a crescent! Venus would only look "full" if it were on the opposite side of Earth, a position it can never occupy.


Monday, November 12


Though quite low, the thin sliver moon and Saturn are together in the pre-dawn eastern sky. Saturn has only recently emerged out of the solar glare and so having the Moon close to it will make it easier for observers to find it.

Tuesday, November 13

There's a solar eclipse today!  Alas, we here in the northern hemisphere won't see it at all.     To observe today's eclipse, you'd have to be in the South Pacific.  The totality path runs just north of New Zealand.    If you're in Hobbit land, you'll see a partial solar eclipse, but you best be out to sea to see the Moon entirely cover the Sun.


Friday, November 16


Mars is the dimmest planet this month (see Planet Watch),  So, if you've had a difficult time finding this devil eye world, look in the early evening western sky.  You'll find Mars just south of the crescent Moon.    Fortunately, the Moon will be bright enough to be easily observable, but not so bright as to completely obscure Mars.


Saturday, November 17

Of all the meteor showers, the Leonids can veer from utterly spectacular meteor storms with more than 1000 meteors an hour; to nothing but unbroken darkness.   This year, though we're not expecting another storm like the last one in 2002, we might have 'increased activity.'   The Leonid peak could deliver 30 - 50 meteors an hour tonight, particularly after midnight, the best time to observe.   Look toward the eastern sky tonight to see these Tempel-Tuttle comet fragments appearing to emanate out of Leo the Lion.


Saturday, November 17


Mercury passes between the Sun and Earth.  We cannot see Mercury in the configuration unless Mercury passes directly across the Sun's face, an event called a "transit."  The next Mercurian transit occurs in May 2016. 


Tuesday, November 20



Thursday, November 22   THANKSGIVING!


We call Scorpius the "Thanksgiving Constellation" because the Sun is generally within Scorpius on Thanksgiving.  (Possible dates:  November 22 - 28)   This year, the Sun enters the scorpion constellation on Thanksgiving.    The Sun doesn't actually enter Scorpius. Instead, Earth has moved on the far side of the Sun relative to the stars comprising the Scorpius pattern.   From our perspective, it appears as though the Sun has moved into Scorpius.


Monday, November 26


Yes, we know Mercury doesn't stop.   Instead, it appears to reverse course.  And, when it reverses out of retrograde, it goes prograde:  west to east.    Presently, one will see Mercury quite low in the western evening sky.


Tuesday, November 27


We know these two planets will be about 30 degrees from the Sun and therefore low in the eastern pre-dawn sky.     However, these two planets will be within a degree of each, making for a beautiful gathering.  It is for this reason that we conferred the pick event distinction on this appulse.  One should be able to easily distinguish between them, as Venus will be about 75 times brighter!    


Wednesday, November 28


Did you hear about the lunar eclipse tonight? Well, don't fret if you didn't because tonight there's a penumbral lunar eclipse.  That means that the Moon will move into the outer part of Earth's shadow.  The resultant darkening will be so subtle as to be all but unobservable.     A lunar eclipse precedes or follows a solar eclipse by two weeks, so this lunar eclipse is the follow up act to the mid-month solar eclipse.  We here didn't see the solar eclipse because it was visible on the other side of the world.  We won't see the penumbral lunar eclipse because there is nothing much to see.

Wednesday, November  28


We warned you that there would be another Moon-Jupiter appulse this month.    The first occurred on day 1.  Now, we see the Moon and Jupiter even closer, by a fraction of a degree.   Both the Moon and Jupiter will remain visible most of the night.  

Thursday, November 29


The "thirteenth zodiac constellation," Ophichus is the serpent charmer looming high above Scorpius and Sagittarius.   Yet, Ophiuchus dips its foot just between them and along the ecliptic: the Sun's apparent annual path through the sky.    Therefore, the Sun passes across Ophiuchus' foot, so it qualifies as one of the constellations the Sun crosses each year.    The Sun doesn't remain long in Ophiuchus, as will proceed into Sagittarius on December 17






MERCURY:   Now you see it; now you don't and now you see it again.  That is what we can say about Mercury this month.     It will be low in the early morning sky at month's beginning; it will scoot in front of the Sun (inferior conjunction November 17) and then reappear in the evening sky by month's end.    Throughout the month it will outshine Mars, be about as bright as Saturn, but remains dimmer than Jupiter and Venus.  VERDICT:  First week of November, see it in the early morning.    Last week, see it in the early evening.   Middle of the month:  give it a pass.


VENUS:   Dazziling as always. And, as always, is the brightest planet.  Even though Jupiter is close to maximum brightness for 2012, Venus is still 2.5 times brighter.  Of course, we didn't chose Venus as the pick planet because it is so low in the pre-dawn eastern sky.    VERDICT:  Venus always pleases!  If you're venture outside before sunrise, see our sister in the early morning sky. 


MARS:  Mars lingers alone in the western evening sky this month.   The fourth sphere is dimmer than the other visible planets, but still slightly brighter than Regulus, Leo the Lion's brightest star.   Though Mercury will share its early evening stage by month's end, Mars remains isolated from its planetary cohorts.  VERDICT:   Though not brilliant, Mars is a moderately easy planet to find if you're out in the early evening. It is best if you have a low western horizon.    


JUPITER (PICK PLANET!)    We're going to ruin the surprise.   Jupiter will be December's pick planet, as well.    Jupiter rises in the early evening and remains visible all night. It reaches opposition on December 2.    It is brighter than any night sky object apart from the Moon and Venus.    Also, the Moon visits Jupiter twice in November, making it all the easier to find.


SATURN:   We lost Saturn, but only from early October to early November.    The Ring Lord rises in the pre-dawn eastern sky and is visible again before mid-month.       Saturn.    Of the visible planets, only Mars is dimmer.  Watching Saturn is fun because one can see it rising to greater prominence throughout the late autumn, through winter and into spring and summer.  VERDICT:  Best to venture out around or after Thanksgiving if you want to see Saturn in the early morning eastern sky.    Remember that Saturn just returned and will become easier to find as time goes on.