What's Up in the Night Sky?

November 2019 - Vol. 23, No. 11

Astra's Star Gate

This Month's Night Sky - NOTE: The next paragraph describes the sky as it appears at 10 pm EST (11 pm EDT) near mid- month. The sky also looks this way at 11 pm EST (midnight EDT) during the beginning of the month and at 9 pm EST (10 pm EDT) by month's end.

If you are blest with a dark observing site, the Orion arm of the Milky Way(the galaxy we inhabit) arches overhead from horizon to horizon. Embedded are the stars of constellations Cassiopeia, denoted by its familiar "W" or Sigma asterism, and Perseus. The Summer Triangle finally disappears in the W. Although there are no bright stars due S., red Aldebaran and the tiny dipper asterism of the Pleiades’s, a famous open star cluster (Taurus), as well as yellow Capella (Auriga) glow in the SE. Later follows the twins, Castor and Pollux (Gemini), and the hour-glass asterism of constellation Orion with fuzzy M42 (Great Orion Nebula) just below its three "belt" stars, that heralds the coming of winter.

MERCURY in the evening sky will be more easily seen from the southern hemisphere. Special event this month is the transit of Mercury across the disk of the Sun on November 11. VENUS low in the evening sky will be best seen from the southern hemisphere. MARS emerges into the morning sky, small and distant at 1.8 mag. This is the first appearance of the red planet for the 2010 opposition. JUPITER is low in the evening sky this month, setting well before midnight. SATURN in the evening sky, will finish up a series of occultations with 2 occuring this month on the 2nd and 29th. URANUS will be above the horizon most of the night. NEPTUNE is visible most of the night in the constellation of Aquarius, resuming prograde motion on the 27th.

Review how to determine Angular Measurement.

Calendar of Events

NOTE: For those observers not in the ET zone, convert the calendar times to your zone's time by subtracting one hour for CT, two for MT and three for PT. Don't forget to adjust for Daylight Savings Time when necessary by subtracting one hour from your planisphere's time. Dawn and dusk times must also be corrected. See your local newspaper, TV news, or cable TV's Weather Channel for sunrise and sunset times or check with the U.S. Naval observatory. Unfortunately some of these events may occur during daylight hours in your area.

02 Saturn 0.6 deg N. of Moon, occultation from Kerguelen Island, Prince Edward Island, E. Antarctica, S. Tasmania, New Zealand, and S. Polynesia.
Pluto 0.4 deg N. of Moon, occultation from S. S. America, South Georgia, southern Africa, and Madagascar. (Need a large scope for this event!!)
07 Daylight savings time (DST) ends for affected areas.
06 S. Taurid meteor peak. The hourly rate of this shower is about 10 per hour at peak. This year the moon is 2 days past first quarter.
07 Moon at apogee.
08 Mars 3 deg N. of Spica.
11 Uranus 4 deg N. of Moon.
Mercury at inferior conjunction. Transit of Mercury across disk of the Sun, will be visible from N. and S. America, check for exact time is your area. Next transit will be in 2032, centered over Africa and not visible from these sites. The five-hour transit begins at 12:30 UT (7:30 EST.) You may use this link from timeanddate.com to check your local circumstances.
12 Vesta at opposition.
N. Taurid meteor peak expect to reach 15 per hour at peak, however the Moon is full this year and observing will be hampered.
16 Mercury at perihelion.
18 Leonids meteor shower peak at 6 UT. This shower can produce up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak. This is one of the most famous meteor showers because it has a habit of producing a massive amount of meteors in a cycle that seems to repeat every 33 years. Moon is approaching last quarter for this year's display.
Moon .9 deg N. of M-44 (Beehive) star cluster.
20 Mercury stationary.
23 Moon at perigee.
24 Mars 4 deg. S. of Moon.
Venus 1.4 deg S. of Jupiter.
25 Mercury 1.9 S. of Moon.
27 Neptune stationary.
28 Venus at aphelion.
Jupiter 0.7 deg. S. of Moon, occultation from N. Africa, most of Europe, Middle East, and W. Asia.
Venus 1.9 deg. S. of Moon.
29 Saturn 0.9 deg. N. of Moon occultation from S. New Zealand, Antarctica, and S. Georgia.
30 Pluto 0.5 deg N. of Moon, occultation from S. Australia, Kerguelen Island, parts of Antarctica, and S. Polynesia. (Need a large scope for this event!!)

Lunar Almanac for November 2019

Phases of the Moon Phase and Date(s) Best viewed before local midnight
new moon New
Deep Space Objects
first quarter moon 1st. Qtr
Planets & Moon
full moon Full
last quarter moon Last Qtr
Deep Space & Planets

Topic of the month: Andromeda and Perseus

In the northern hemisphere, autumn sky watchers remember the story that the constellations enact in the sky, the story of Andromeda and Perseus. This is due to the prominence of the circumpolar constellations of Cassiopeia (The Lady in the Chair) and Cepheus (The King) as they appear to rise in the eastern sky after the sun sets. The constellations of Andromeda and Perseus follow behind, and are visible in the evening sky on fall nights.

In Greek mythology, Andromeda was the daughter of Cepheus and Cassiopeia, king and queen of Ethiopia. Queen Cassiopeia boasted that Andromeda was more beautiful than the Nereids, nymphs who were followers of the god of the sea, Poseidon. This made Poseidon very angry and to punish the queen for her arrogance, he sent a sea monster named Cetus to ravage the coast of Ethiopia. Because of the suffering of the people, King Cepheus consulted the oracle of Apollo, who told the king that there would be no respite unless he sacrificed his daughter, Andromeda, to the monster. The beautiful Andromeda was chained to a rock on the coast. Fortunately for Andromeda, the hero Perseus spotted her as he was flying past on his magic winged sandals. Perseus was on his way to the island of Seriphos returning his task of slaying the Gorgon, Medusa. Perseus saw the plight of Andromeda, and showed the head of the Gorgon to Cetus, turning the sea monster to stone. He set Andromeda free and the two were married. Like all characters in Greek myths, they lived far from happily ever after.

fall sky image

The prominent stars in this story light up the fall nights. The constellation Cassiopeia is also called the celestial "W" or "M" after the letters they resemble. There is a double star cluster in this modern constellation that is often referred to as the "double cluster." They are visible to the naked eye from dark sites. The Milky Way galaxy is bright in this constellation, the spiral arm extending in Perseus. The bright star Beta Persei is also known as Algol or the "Demon Star", representing the head of the Medusa. This variable star, was the first variable star of its type recognized, called an eclipsing variable. It is really a star system comprised of three stars. The brightest of these, Beta Persi A, is regularly eclipsed by the dimmer component, Beta Persei B, this causes the apparent magnitude of the star to fluctuate from 2.1 - 3.4 every two days. The eerie nature of this star was noted by the Egyptians long ago.

The constellation of Andromeda is best known today for hosting a very large galaxy, called the Andromeda galaxy. Containing over 400 billion stars, this galaxy can be seen by the naked eye from a very dark site. It appears as a large elliptical cloud when observing conditions are right. This galaxy is the largest member of our Local Group of galaxies that includes the Milky Way and another spiral galaxy in the constellation of Triangulum. These are the three major galaxies and a host of other smaller galaxies and star system belong to our Local Group.

--See You Under the Stars!
Astra for Astra's Almanac

This installment of "What's Up?" is ©2018 by Dawn Jenkins for Astra's Stargate. View Ron Leeseburg's Farewell Issue for information on where to find information such as is presented in this almanac.