November Sky:Meteor showers, mighty Jupiter and the Hunter's Moon

-By Kedar S Badu

This month, we have two meteor showers, the Hunter's Moon and Jupiter dominating the evening skies. But let's talk of the stars first.

Along the Zodiac, from east to west, you can now observe the constellations Taurus, Aries, Pisces, Capricornus and Sagittarius. Just below Aries the Ram, enjoy the brilliant constellation Cetus the Whale, with its reddish, super giant binary star Mira, which will vary in brightness over successive nights. Note that the tail of Pisces the Fish points directly to Mira. Though summer has already given way to autumn, the well-known asterism of the Great Summer Triangle is still visible in the western skies. The Great Square (Pegasus) is just overhead.



In the northern skies, you can easily identify the constellations Auriga the Charioteer, Perseus, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Draco and Hercules from East to West. If you are away from dazzling city lights, enjoy the Milky Way, which stretches from the northeast to the southwest. Pre-dawn stargazers have the opportunity to enjoy the Big Dipper in the northeast and the Winter Hexagon (a group of bright stars around the constellation Orion) located just overhead. While watching the Big Dipper, don't miss the Great Galaxy (M81) that is located 15 degrees to the northwest from the star Dubhe. Note that the two stars of the Big Dipper, Merak and Dubhe, point straight to the Celestial North Pole (Polar Star).

Planet observing

Jupiter in Capricornus outshines everything else in the southern sky, save the moon. You can see its four largest moons and a couple of belts with a small telescope.

Saturn will rise in the east in the early hours of the morning, and is well up in the southeastern sky by dawn. It will move very slowly southeastwards towards Virgo.

Mars, getting brighter by the day, will rise in the northeast at around 11:30PM and will be high in the southern sky just before dawn. Catch it on the night of 2 November as it crosses the beehive cluster (M44).
Mercury will be invisible beginning 5 November as it passes behind the sun and Venus will rise before sunrise. Catch it low in the southeastern sky at dawn but be warned, it's getting gradually dimmer.

The Hunter's Moon - the particularly resplendent full moon that enables harvesting (not to mention hunting) past sunset - began on 3 September and will be 98 per cent full on 4 November. Catch it as it passes close to the Pleiades star cluster (M45).


Meteors


Two meteor showers occur about a week apart in November. The first is the Taurid shower, so called because meteors appear to shoot out of the constellation Taurus the Bull. This meteor shower begins around 4 November and peaks overnight on 11 November. Taurus will rise early in the evening so you won't have to stay up late. Don't expect too much since Taurid peaks at a mere eight meteors an hour.

The Leonids peak before dawn on 17-18 November and appear to come from the constellation Leo, which does not rise fully until after midnight. For early observers, note that Mars is leading Leo the Lion and Saturn is behind it. The radiant point is within the 'Sickle' of Leo, a hand's breadth to the left of Mars. There will be no interference from moonlight, giving you a good opportunity to enjoy the shooting stars. Meanwhile, sporadic (non-shower) meteors can be seen on any night, in any direction.

Source:Nepali Times,FROM ISSUE #474 (30 OCT 2009 - 05 NOV 2009)

Comments