Hubble views a vibrant cluster galaxy, NGC 4654, in the constellation Virgo. The galaxy is around 55 million light-years from Earth. Image: NASA, ESA, Space Telescope Science Institute/J. Lee; Processing: NASA/Catholic University of America/Gladys Kober.
Stars of Autumn, Winter Preview, Planets and Meteors in November Sky
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 three naked eye planets this month and observe a meteor shower.
This month Jupiter is a bright evening “star” high in the southeast among the stars of Aries after sunset. The waxing gibbous moon will be very near Jupiter on the nights of November 24th and 25th.
Saturn can be found in the southern sky to the west of Jupiter as a yellow “star,” fainter than Jupiter but brighter than most stars among the stars of Aquarius the Water Carrier. The waxing moon will be very near Saturn the nights of November 19 and 20.
This month the brilliant planet Venus dominates the predawn sky about an hour before sunrise. Locate Venus as a very bright white “star” among the stars of Virgo the Virgin. During November, the planet gradually moves eastward among the stars of Virgo slowly approaching the bright blue star Spica of Virgo by month’s end. The waning crescent moon is very near Venus the mornings of November 8 and 9.
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 year’s shower will have no interference from moonlight since the moon is in the evening sky, meaning that observers away from city lights should have no trouble seeing 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. In the northeast, try to find 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.
Further to the northeast about that time, the twin stars Castor and Pollux of Gemini are rising as well. The waning gibbous moon will be near the pair of stars the nights of November 2 through the 4th.
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.