Whats Up, Ron? is a monthly almanac for Northern American astronomersastras


by Ronald A. Leeseberg, the Star Geezer

November 2011 - Vol. 15 No. 11

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Features: Calendar | Lunar Almanac | Monthly Topic

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.

Angular Measurement Review: It is interesting to note that the relationship between the angle subtended by combinations of fingers on your fully outstretched arm are the same for all viewers. This is due to the fact that the hand's size is proportional to the arm's length. A shorter arm is attached to a smaller hand while a longer arm is attached to a larger hand, thus the angle measured remains the same. If you hold your arm fully outstretched, your little finger, when sighted down your arm, is one degree wide. Your three middle fingers is five degrees, your fist, 10 degrees, and the distance between your little finger and your pointer finger is 15 degrees no matter what your age or size.

High in the S., find the "Great Square of Pegasus". (Note that the leftmost star, Alpheratz, is actually in Constellation Andromeda.) Far below, nearly on the horizon, glows lonely Formalhaut [FOE-ma-lot] of Piscis Austrinus. These are sure signs of autumn. The famous "W" asterism of Cassiopeia is well placed between Pegasus and Polaris, (Ursa Minor) the star nearest the celestial N. pole. The stars of Orion and Gemini are rising above the E. horizon and the stars of the "Big Dipper" sit low in the N. Although the "Summer Triangle" is still prominent with Deneb (Cygnus) high in the W., it will soon disappear over the horizon.

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 M45, the Pleiades, 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 hourglass asterism of Constellation Orion with fuzzy M42 (Great Orion Nebula) just below its three "belt" stars, all heralding the coming of winter.

MERCURY is visible in the SW after sunset and is located about 2 degrees below Venus for the first two weeks of this month. (You will probably need binoculars to see it.) By the 15th it should be high enough to see with the naked eye at about a half hour after sunset. It will finally be lost as it drops into the glare of the bright twilight. VENUS, becoming visible in the SW, is now the "evening star". Its altitude gradually increases after sunset for the rest of the month. MARS rises in the E at about 1 AM (DST) at the beginning of the month. It will gradually rise earlier until, by monthís end is will be rising at about 11:30 PM (EST). It is not yet close enough to see much in the way of surface detail in most telescopes. JUPITER is visible in the E after sunset, rising high in the S before setting in the W just before sunrise. As always, the dance of its Galilean Moons is fascinating if you have access to a telescope. SATURN rises in the SE at about 6 AM (EDT) but gradually rises earlier until by monthís end at 3:30 AM. It will be about half way up in the sky about an hour before sunrise. Even thought observation is not yet optimal, its ďopeningĒ ring system makes it a good target for the smaller telescope. The SUN is partially eclipsed on the 25th, but not for us unless you are observing from Antarctica! The LEONID METEOR SHOWER peaks during the night of the 17th-18th.

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. Unfortunately some of these events may occur during daylight hours in your area.

From a dark site, zodiacal light will be visible about an hour and a half before sunrise. Look for a faint rightward-leaning "pyramid" of white light.
DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME (EDT) ENDS AT 2 AM. Remember that your planisphere now reads correctly.
Look E about an hour after sunset to see the moon about 8 degrees to the left of Jupiter.

Look E at midnight to see a close pseudo-conjunction (less than 2 degrees) of Mars and the bright star, Regulus (Leo).

Now look SW (also at midnight) to see another pseudo-conjunction (again, a bit less than 2 degrees) of Mercury and the bright star, Antares (Scorpius).
Look SE about halfway up to the zenith (a point directly overhead) to see a pseudo-conjunction (a bit more than a degree) of Mars and the bright star, Regulus (Leo).
Look SW about a half hour after sunset to see an upward arc beginning with the bright star Antares, just above the horizon, continuing through Mercury and ending at Venus.

Look E about an hour after sunset to see the Moon hanging just above the horizon. M45, the Pleiades (Taurus), an open star cluster, floats about 5 degrees above the Moon.
Look ESE about an hour before sunrise and find the leftward arc beginning with the bright star Spica (Virgo) about 15 degrees above the horizon, continuing to Saturn and ending with the bright star Arcturus (Bootes). My favorite fall constellation, Corvus, appears as a "flattened kite" to the right of Spica.
The Leonid meteor shower peaks. Unfortunately its radiant is close to the bright last quarter Moon after midnight. This shower is the result of Earthís encounter with the debris shed by the passage of Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle. If you have a dark sky observing site, you can expect to see up to 10 events/hour. Remember to face away from the Moonís glare.
Look for a conjunction (8 degrees) of the Moon and Mars at 5 AM (EST).
Look SE about an hour before sunrise to see a horizontal arc beginning with the crescent Moon, then left to the bright star Spica, and again, to the left ending at Saturn.
Look for a close (less that 2 degrees) of the Moon and Mercury at 5 AM (EST).

Look SW about a half hour after sunset to see a lop sided triangular arrangement of Mercury (lower right), the crescent Moon (above and slightly left) and Venus (above, left).

Look for a close conjunction (3 degrees) of the Moon and Venus at 11 PM (EST).
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Lunar Almanac for November 2011

Phases of the Moon Phase and Date(s)

Best viewed before local midnight


Deep Space Objects

1st. Qtr

Planets & Moon



Qtr 18

Deep Space & Planets

Topic of the month: My Observatory

Although I "do" mostly street astronomy, Iíve always wanted a fixed location where I could do some serious astronomy; thus the observatory.

I originally built a 12' x 12' raised and leveled platform on the side of the highest hill on our share at Deersprings Partners, here in East central Ohio. It has 1' X 1' block of reinforced concrete, 4' deep, right in the center to support my then 13.1" Dobsonian reflector. (This telescope now "lives" at Oberlin College because it became too big for me to easily handle.)

The first "observatory" was a vinyl tent-like affair supported by framework of PVC pipe. It didn't last very long. A "rogue" wind blew it apart. Fortunately the Dob was safely stored in the garage.

I then built the present roll-roof observatory. Unfortunately, being a bit slow-learned at times, I originally made no provision to lock down the heavy +/- 200 pound roof. Silly me!! Another wind carried it over 100 feet from the observatory, knocking the roof "out of square" from which it still suffers, especially during periods of heavy rain.

Finally, a few years ago, I replaced the long extension cord that powered the observatory with an underground cable.

My Observatory with roll off roof

This view shows the south side with its roof rolled back. Note the gutter along the roof. This prevents condensing water from dripping on oneís neck during late night observations!

Obseratory roof latches

This view shows one of the two roof latches (left) preventing the premature closing of the roof should the winch cable break. The hinged latch is one of four preventing the wind from carrying the roof away...again! So far, so good!

observatory roof winch

This view shows the roof winch. (to the left is a portion of the east side entry door.)

image of wheel that rolls the oobservatory roof  on and off

This is a view of one of the six wheels that support the roof.

west side of the observatory with roof open

This view shows the west side of the observatory with the north track that carries its roof when itís open. Also shown is the associated "water-hole" (1.420 MHz, the neutral Hydrogen frequency, to 1.666 MHz, the Hydroxyl frequency) "bird bath" (fixed at the zenith) radio telescope dish antenna; H-OH thus, the "water-hole".

the water hole, the frequency of water

As you can see, the water hole is the "radio-quietest" place in the universe...thought to be the most likely place for the interstellar radio communication between intelligent life forms. Google SETI for more information concerning this interesting topic.

view looking into the observatory from the roll of roof

The view from a step ladder shows the instruments presently used in the observatory. I use the dual scope set up to study both the sunís Photosphere and Chromosphere. The central 'scope if for "everything". Note the GPS perched on top and the tripod leg resting on the central cement "block" (hopefully to become a pier mount, some day). To the right are the 11x80 astronomical binoculars, attached to a parallelogram mount...much too heavy to hand-hold!

--See you next month!
Ron, the star geezer

This installment of "Whats Up?" is ©2011 Ronald A. Leeseberg, encoded by Dawn Jenkins for Astra's Stargate. Images used in this installment of "Whats Up?, Ron"are ©2011 and ©2010 by Ronald A. Leeseberg.

The star chart above was generated by Stellarium, a free open source planetarium program. The above image was created by Dawn Jenkins, using Stellarium and a graphic editing program to format the image for this web page. Editing was done for educational purposes only. Stellarium offers much more to amatuer astronomers and is being used in planetariums and to guide telescopes in the field. Simple charts like the one above can be used on the internet for non-profit, illustration purposes. Proper credit is due of course! Thank you to the makers of this fine program from Astra's Star Gate.

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