The Night Sky

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Current Night Sky

Northern Hemisphere

Ian Morison tells us what we can see in the Northern Hemisphere night sky during November 2019.

The Night Sky

Northern Hemisphere

Ian Morison tells us what we can see in the northern hemisphere’s night sky during November 2019.

The Planets

  • Jupiter, shining on the 1st at magnitude -1.9 and falling to -1.8 during the month, can be seen very low in the southwest as darkness falls. As the month progresses, its angular size drops from 33.4 to 32.1 arc seconds - but, by the end of the month, will be lost in the Sun's glare. Jupiter lies in the southeastern part of Ophiuchus and is heading towards the southernmost part of the ecliptic so, as it appears in the twilight, will only have an elevation of ~8 degrees. With its low elevation, atmospheric dispersion will take its toll and an atmospheric dispersion corrector would greatly help to improve our views of the giant planet and it four Gallilean moons.

  • Saturn , will be seen just west of south as darkness falls at the start of the month. Then, its disk is ~16 arc seconds across and its rings - which are still, at 25.2 degrees, nicely tilted from the line of sight - spanning some 39 arc seconds across. During the month its brightness remains +0.6 whilst its angular size falls to 15.4 arc seconds. Sadly, now in Sagittarius and lying on the south-western side of the milky way, it is at the lowest point of the ecliptic and will only reach an elevation of ~13 degrees. As with Jupiter, an atmospheric dispersion corrector will help improve our view.

  • Mercury, following its transit of the Sun on the 11th - see Highlight below - Mercury rises rapidly into the pre-dawn sky, increasing in brightness by half a magnitude each day and rising about 7 minutes earlier as the days progress. The rates slow until Mercury reaches greatest western elongation some 20 degrees in angle from the Sun on the 28th. By then, it will have brightened to magnitude -0.5 and will rise one and a quarter hours before the Sun. It will then have an elevation of some 11 degrees before being lost in the Sun's glare.

  • Mars, which passed behind the Sun (superior conjunction) on September 2nd, can be seen in the pre-dawn sky at the start of its new apparition. It might just be glimpsed just south of east at the start of the month but will then only have an elevation of ~11 degrees at sunrise. Then, binoculars could well be needed to spot its +1.8th magnitude, 3.7 arc second disk - but please do not use them after the Sun has risen. However, by the end of the month, Mars rises some two and a half hours before the Sun remaining at magnitude -2.8 with disk still less than 4 arc seconds across. It will have risen to ~12 degrees elevation before being lost in the Sun's glare.

  • Venus, may just be glimpsed in the west south-west setting an hour after the Sun at the start of the month, but will be difficult to see due to the fact that the ecliptic is at a shallow angle to the horizon and so Venus will have a very low elevation. Bymonth's end the Sun sets just before 4 pm and Venus an hour and a quarter later but it will still be hard to spot with an elevation of just 6 degrees as darkness falls. Its magnitude remains at about -3.8 and its, almost fully illuminated disk, ~11 arc seconds across. Binoculars and a very low horizon will be needed to spot Venus, but please do not use them until after the Sun has set.

  • Highlights

  • November - still a chance to observe Saturn. Saturn is now low (at an elevation of ~13 degrees) just west of south as darkness falls lying above the 'teapot' of Sagittarius. Held steady, binoculars should enable you to see Saturn's brightest moon, Titan, at magnitude 8.2. A small telescope will show the rings with magnifications of x25 or more and one of 6-8 inches aperture with a magnification of ~x200 coupled with a night of good "seeing" (when the atmosphere is calm) will show Saturn and its beautiful ring system in its full glory.Due to the orientation of Saturn's rotation axis of 27 degrees with respect to the plane of the solar system, the orientation of the rings as seen by us changes as it orbits the Sun and twice each orbit they lie edge on to us and so can hardly be seen. This last happened in 2009 and they are currently at an angle of 25 degrees to the line of sight. The rings will continue to narrow until March 2025 when they will appear edge-on again.

  • November, late evening: the Double Cluster and the 'Demon Star', Algol. November is a good time to look high in the Southeast towards the constellations of Cassiopea and Perseus. Perseus contains two interesting objects; the Double Cluster between the two constellations and Algol the 'Demon Star'. Algol in an eclipsing binary system as seen in the diagram below. Normally the pair has a steady magnitude of 2.2 but every 2.86 days this briefly drops to magnitude 3.4.

  • November: find Uranus. This month is a good time to find the planet Uranus in the late evening as it reached opposition on October 28th. With a magnitude of 5.7, binoculars will easily spot it and, from a really dark site, it might even be visible to the unaided eye. A medium aperture telescope will reveal Uranus's 3.7 arc second wide disk showing its turquoise colour. It lies in Aries, close to the boarders of Pisces and Cetus as shown on the chart.

  • November 1st - after sunset: A crescent Moon between Saturn and Jupiter, after sunset, low in the south-west, Jupiter will be seen down to the lower right of a waxing crescent Moon whilst, up and to its left will be seen Saturn.

  • November 9th - before dawn: Mars lies above Spica. Before dawn, low in the southeast, Mars (at magnitide 1.76) will be seen just above Spica (at magnitude 0.95) in Virgo.

  • November 11th: A Transit of Mercury. Whereas in 2016 the whole of the transit was visible, this year the Sun will have set (~4:16 pm) well before its end. First contact is at 12:35 when its disk will just impinge onto the Sun's surface with second contact at 12:37. Then, the Sun will have an elevation of ~20 degrees over the south-southwestern horizon. Mercury reaches the midway point of its transit at 3:19 - with the Sun at an elevation of just 7 degrees but will be lost from view long before fourth contact as it leaves the Sun' surface at 6:04. Mercury's disk is just 10 arc seconds across - compared to the Sun's 1938 arc seconds, so a small telescope would be needed to observe the transit should, hopefully, it be clear.As the Sun is at solar minimum, it is unlikely that any sunspots will be visible to be confused with Mercury but, if so, Mercury's disk will appear darker and will, of course, be moving across the Sun's surface.

  • November 16th - late evening: the Moon in Gemini. In the late evening, looking southeast, the waning Moon before third quarter will be seen within the constellation Gemini.

  • November 22nd - in twilight: Venus lies close to Jupiter. After sunset, looking southwest, Venus will lie just two degrees below Jupiter - with Saturn high and away to the left.

  • November 5th and 18th: The Alpine Valley These are two good nights to observe an interesting feature on the Moon if you have a small telescope. Close to the limb is the Apennine mountain chain that marks the edge of Mare Imbrium. Towards the upper end you should see the cleft across them called the Alpine valley. It is about 7 miles wide and 79 miles long. As shown in the image is a thin rill runs along its length which isquite a challenge to observe. The dark crater Plato will also be visible nearby. You may also see the shadow cast by the mountain Mons Piton lying not far away in Mare Imbrium. This is a very interesting region of the Moon!

  • Haritina Mogosanu and Samuel Leske from the Carter Science Centre in New Zealand speaks about the Southern Hemisphere night sky during November 2019.

    Southern Hemisphere

    Haritina Mogosanu and Samuel Leske tell us what we can see in the southern hemisphere’s night sky during November 2019.

  • A bit about NovemberThe Sun rises around 6 AM on the beginning of the month and sets around 8 pm and at the end of the month earlier with about 20 minutes at around 5:40 and 40 minutes respectively later at night setting at about 8:40 .

  • Planets, We actually just came back from Rotorua where we enjoyed a bit of stargazing under the beautiful dark sky from there. We spotted the planet Jupiter, still bright, moving now towards Saturn, then of course Saturn and invisible next to it - we did not spot but we knew it was there - Pluto. November is still good to catch up with these two amazing planets if you have not had the chance to look at them yet. At the beginning of the month, Venus and Mercury are very close and joined by Antares and Jupiter make a spectacle in the evening sky. You’ll need a good opening on the horizon to spot them. Keep an eye on Venus all throughout the month. Around ninth of November it will pass close to Antares at about 4 degrees then it will move in closer to Jupiter and Saturn so that on the 24 of November is within one and a quarter degrees to Jupiter. That close enough to fit 2 and a bit full Moons between them, and watch this space around ten of December, when Venus will be within 2 degrees of Saturn. Neptune and Uranus are out there too, Neptune is in Aquarius and Uranus in Aries. .

  • Asterisms. November here is called Orongo, which means the time after the great rain. And does it rain in October! November harbours one the most beautiful asterisms I have ever seen, the grand canoe of Tama Rereti, te waka o Tama Rereti. And when I say harbours, it almost really does, the asterism stretches around the horizon as the Milky Way surrounds the horizon.The Milky Way is the canoe, Scorpius is the prow, Southern Cross is the anchor and Orion the stern. The Hyades and Pleiades are the feathers and the wake left behind by the canoe. From the bow, the anchor rope is marked by Alpha Centauri, the third brightest star in the sky, and also Beta Centauri; together these are also known as the Pointers of the Southern Cross. The Southern Cross represents the great stone anchor or Te Punga that keeps the canoe of Tamarereti in its place.

  • Southern Cross. This time of the year, the Southern Cross is in its lowest position on the horizon and points down indicating south. If you look up from the Southern Cross, you will come across Achernar, the end of the river Eridanus. On each side of this line are the Large Magellanic Cloud, on the left, and to the right of it, the Small Magellanic Cloud, our beautiful galaxies we admire here in the Southern Hemisphere.

  • Magellanic Clouds, - these are a great attraction in November for the simple reason that most of the centre Milky Way now is beyond the horizon or around it so we are looking at them through a layer of atmosphere. By the time Orion has enough height in the sky to observe it properly, it would be December so the Magellanic Clouds are always a good idea for a target to fall onto.Good times for observing would be at the end of the month, we have new moon on the 27 of November and don’t go observing stars on the 13th of November as the Moon is full.

  • Transit of Mercury, a spectacular event is going to happen on the morning of the 12th of November (nz time), that is the transit of Mercury. The transit will end as the Sun rises here in Wellington so not the best place to view it but hopefully with a clear eastern horizon we should be able to catch a glimpse.

  • Stars and Galaxies, up in the sky, almost at Zenith, is Grus and close to it is Fomalhaut in Piscis Austrinus. As you look up, Fomalhaut, Achernar and another star, Deneb Kaitos of Grus make a triangle. Just below the ecliptic, the great square of Pegasus is riding the Northern horizon. So in November we should be able to see again the brightest stars in the sky in order: Sirius, Canopus and Alpha Centauri and also the most prominent four galaxies The Milky Way, the Magellanic Clouds and very low in the north, the Andromeda Galaxy, easily seen in binoculars in a dark sky and faintly visible to the eye. It appears as a spindle of light.

  • From Wellington New Zealand, Haritina Mogosanu and Samuel Leske wish you a fantastic November.

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