This image shows northern summer and southern winter on Mars, with signs of spring are starting to appear at latitudes not far from the equator. This is Penticton Crater, showing streamers of seasonal carbon dioxide ice (dry ice) remaining in places that are still partially in the shade. In Muskegon County Mars is visible this month as an evening “star” high in the southeast about an hour after sunset. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona.
Jupiter, Saturn, Mars Visible Near Moon in November
BY JONATHAN TRUAX, ASTRONOMER, MUSKEGON COMMUNITY COLLEGE'S CARR-FLES PLANETARIUM
November can be a difficult month for star gazing. Nights in November are frequently cloudy here in Michigan, yet the clear nights offer a chance to enjoy the stars of autumn, as well a preview of some of the best stars of winter. Sky watchers will also have opportunities to enjoy five naked eye planets this month.
As this month begins, sky watchers can spot the bright planet Jupiter low in the southwest about an hour after sunset. Locate Saturn in the southwestern sky higher or close above Jupiter. Saturn is much fainter than Jupiter, but still brighter than most stars visible after sunset. The waxing crescent moon will be near the pair of planets the nights of November 18 and 19.
This month sky watchers can locate the brilliant red planet Mars as an evening “star” high in the southeast about an hour after sunset. The waxing Gibbous moon will be very near Mars the nights of November 24 through the 26.
During the month of November sky watchers have a great opportunity to see both Mercury and Venus in the predawn sky. Locate brilliant Venus in the east-southeast about 40 minutes before sunrise. Venus is closely paired with the bright star Spica of Virgo all month long. Lower and below locate Mercury as a fairly bright white “star,” much dimmer than Venus. The waning crescent moon is near Venus and Mercury on the mornings of November 12 and 13.
The Leonid meteor shower reaches peak activity during the early morning hours of November 17 and 18. Normally sky watchers can enjoy at least 25 meteors per hour coming from Leo. Meteors will appear in any direction of the sky, but their paths will trace back to Leo. The best time to view the show is between midnight and dawn. This month’s waxing crescent moon will not interfere with the shower making it easy to see some of the fainter meteors.
As darkness falls after sunset during November, the “Summer Triangle” made of the three bright stars Vega, Altair, and Deneb is high in the west. Low in the west, orange Arcturus, brightest star of summer is still visible.
Looking low on the north horizon, locate the “Big Dipper” formed by the stars of Ursa Major. High in the north, locate the “W” formed by the stars of Cassiopeia. Low in the northeast, locate the bright yellow star Capella of Auriga, the charioteer. The winter constellation of Taurus can be seen rising low on the east horizon. Looking low in the south, locate the bright white star Fomalhaut, of Piscis Austrinus, the only bright star in the south.
About three hours after sunset, the bright constellation of Orion is rising in the east. Look for three bright stars in a row, with two other bright stars above and below. The three stars are the famous “belt” of Orion. Above or northeast of the “belt” is orange-red Betelgeuse, a red supergiant star. The bright blue star below the “belt” is Rigel.
This month’s Full moon occurs on the night of November 29 among the stars of Taurus the Bull. Locate the faint stars of the Pleaides star cluster to the west of the moon, looking like a tiny dipper.
Visit the MCC Carr-Fles Planetarium website for upcoming events and call (231) 777-0289 for sky show information. Carr-Fles Planetarium is located on the Muskegon Community College campus in Room 135. Thanks to the generosity of the Reach for the Stars campaign donors, you can now experience Carr-Fles Planetarium with state-of-the-art digital projection, sound and lighting systems; all-new library of shows; and modern theater seating and domed ceiling.