The Sky This Month – November 2012

It seems like a long while since I’ve seen a star.  The cold wind and clouds of November have hit much of North America, and the eastern part of the continent now recovers from the aftermath of a massive hurricane.  Observers in the southern hemisphere may have better luck as the southern spring gets into gear.  In any case, the clouds won’t last forever, and there’s lots to see.  A meteor shower, bright planets, and for the lucky few, a total solar eclipse.  Here’s what to see in the night sky this month…

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1 Nov.  Jupiter is a splendid object and certainly the best planet for viewing in binoculars or a small telescope this month.  Look for the planet shining brilliantly in the mid-evening hours in the eastern sky all month.  Today it lies very close to a waning gibbous Moon.  The planet moves slowly this month in the constellation Taurus near the V-shaped Hyades star cluster and the bright orange star Aldebaran.

4 Nov.  Daylight Savings Time ends in North America at 2 a.m.

5 Nov.  The very modest Taurid meteor shower peaks early this morning and again next week.  You might see 10 meteors an hour from this shower.  Look anywhere in the sky as far from city lights as possible.

7 Nov.  Last Quarter Moon, 00:36 UT.

11 Nov.  Venus creates a splendid photo-op as it hovers near a slender crescent Moon in the eastern sky about an hour before sunrise.  Saturn and the star Spica also lie nearby.  At magnitude -3.9, Venus is easily the brightest object in the sky this month except for the Sun and Moon.  The planet lies about 25º above the horizon at the beginning of November and 18º by month’s end.

Bright stars and planets in the eastern pre-dawn sky on November 11, 2012. Click to enlarge.

13 Nov.  New Moon, 22:08 UT.

13-14 Nov.  By far the finest sight in the heavens this month is a total solar eclipse, the first in 2.5 years.  Like all solar eclipses, it’s visible only in a narrow band of the Earth’s surface, this time running across northern Australia and into the South Pacific and across the international dateline.  The eclipse peaks at 22:11 UT.  Observers in all of Australia, New Zealand, and parts of southern Chile will see a partial solar eclipse (with proper solar filters, of course).  Eclipse chasers have been planning for this for years and are now beginning their travels to northern Oz and to various cruise ships to observe this awesome sight!  Here is a link to the particulars of this solar eclipse…

17 Nov.  Look for the Leonid meteor shower early this morning.  The Moon is not around to obscure faint meteors, so this is a good year to see the Leonids.  Look for 15-20 meteors per hour.  They can appear anywhere in the sky, but they trace their path back to a point in the constellation Leo.  The Leonids are usually modest in number.  But they have been known to surprise to the upside…

20 Nov.  First Quarter Moon, 14:31 UT.

26 Nov.  Saturn has been lost near the Sun for the past many weeks, but it reemerges in the morning sky this month.  Brilliant Venus and Saturn are just 0.8º apart and lie just above the planet Mercury in the eastern pre-dawn sky about an hour before sunrise.  Bright Spica also lies nearby.  See image below.

Saturn and Venus make a close approach in the eastern sky before sunrise on November 26, 2012. Click to enlarge.

28 Nov.  Full Moon, 14:46 UT.  Just before sunrise, observers in western North America will see a penumbral solar eclipse in which the full Moon just grazes the Earth’s shadow.

28 Nov.  Jupiter once again makes a rendezvous with the Moon near the Hyades star cluster.  Observers in South Africa may see Jupiter pass behind the Moon this evening…