The November Skies
“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom”
The planet Mercury can be spotted with binoculars close to the southwestern horizon soon after sunset during the last half of November. A small telescope will reveal 80 percent of the planet’s disk is sunlit at midmonth but only 44 percent is illuminated at the end of November.
Bright Venus rises in the east-southeast during morning twilight. Before sunrise on the morning of November 13, the brilliant planet Venus will be in conjunction with bright Jupiter. During this dawn conjunction, both planets will be visible in the same field of view in a medium power telescopic eyepiece. Venus appears lower in the sky each morning and disappears into the solar glare by the end of the month.
Mars rises in the east-southeast predawn sky about 3-4 hours before the sun. Because of its great distance from Earth right now, the Red Planet glows at only magnitude 1.7. On November 29th and 30th, Mars passes close to the blue giant star Spica, a whirling double star in the constellation Virgo.
Jupiter is easily spotted low in the east at dawn. Don’t miss Jupiter’s conjunction with Venus as the two bright planets rise in the east-southeast before sunrise on November 13th. Jupiter will continue to rise higher in the sky each morning throughout November.
Early in November, Saturn appears low in the southwest an hour after sunset. The beautiful ring system currently tilts 27 degrees to our line of sight, providing a truly spectacular sight in a telescope. There occurs a close conjunction of Saturn and Mercury on the evening of the 27th as Mercury passes just south of Saturn.
The distant planet Uranus can be spotted with binoculars in the constellation Pisces. Its magnitude is now 5.7. Quite a few people with above average eyesight can locate Uranus without any optical aid when viewed from a very dark site. A telescope will allow you to see its blue-green disk.
Very remote Neptune, at magnitude 7.9, can be glimpsed in the southern sky with binoculars in the constellation Aquarius. A telescope will reveal a small greyish-blue disk.
Editor’s note: This monthly guide to the stars is from the Marshall Martz Memorial Astronomical Association and The Post-Journal. For further information, contact the M.M.M.A.A. at www.martzobservatory.org.