What's Up in the Night Sky?

November 2015 - Vol. 19, No. 11

Astra's Star Gate

This Month's Night Sky - NOTE: The next paragraph describes the sky as it appears at 10 pm EST (11 pm EDT) near mid- month. The sky also looks this way at 11 pm EST (midnight EDT) during the beginning of the month and at 9 pm EST (10 pm EDT) by month's end.

If you are blest with a dark observing site, the Orion arm of the Milky Way (the galaxy we inhabit) arches overhead from horizon to horizon. Embedded are the stars of Constellations Cassiopeia, denoted by its familiar "W" or Sigma asterism, and Perseus. The Summer Triangle finally disappears in the W. Although there are no bright stars due S., red Aldebaran and the tiny dipper asterism of the Pleiades’s, a famous open star cluster (Taurus), as well as yellow Capella (Auriga) glow in the SE. Later follows the twins, Castor and Pollux (Gemini), and the hour-glass asterism of Constellation Orion with fuzzy M42 (Great Orion Nebula) just below its three "belt" stars, which heralds the coming of winter.

MERCURY will be visible for the first few days of the month. VENUS will shine brightly in the morning sky, reaching a last conjunction with the red planet, the third one this year. MARS is still also in the morning sky, rising around 3 am. JUPITER rises after midnight. SATURN vanishes from the evening sky this month, reaching conjunction with the Sun and month end. URANUS now past opposition can still be detected most of the night.

Review how to determine Angular Measurement.

Calendar of Events

NOTE: For those observers not in the ET zone, convert the calendar times to your zone's time by subtracting one hour for CT, two for MT and three for PT. Don't forget to adjust for Daylight Savings Time when necessary by subtracting one hour from your planisphere's time. Dawn and dusk times must also be corrected. See your local newspaper, TV news, or cable TV's Weather Channel for sunrise and sunset times. Unfortunately some of these events may occur during daylight hours in your area.

01 Daylight Savings time ends for the regions that change clocks. Clocks are adjusted to fall back 1 hour.
03 Venus 0.7 deg of Mars, another early morning conjunction, the planets will be interacting with the moon in a few days.
05 South Taurid meteor shower, expect 10 per hour during peak at 23 hours UT.
06 Jupiter 2 deg N. of Moon.
07 Venus 1.2 deg N of Moon. Mars 1.8 deg N. of Moon.

Moon at apogee.

12 North Taurid meteor shower, expect 10 per hour during peak at 23 hours UT.
13 Saturn 3 deg S. of Moon.
17 Mercury in superior conjunction.
18 Leonid meteor shower peak This shower can produce up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak.
20 Mars at aphelion.
22 Uranus .9 deg N. of Moon, occultation from parts of Antarctica and the Indian Ocean.
26 Aldebaran 0.7 deg S. of the Moon occultation from Japan, Eastern Russia, Northern USA, Canada and Greenland.
23 Moon at perigee.
18 Venus at parahelion.
30 Saturn in conjunction with the Sun, reappears next month before year end.

Lunar Almanac for November 2015

Phases of the Moon Phase and Date(s) Best viewed before local midnight
new moon New
Deep Space Objects
first quarter moon 1st. Qtr
Planets & Moon
full moon Full
last quarter moon Last Qtr
Deep Space & Planets

Topic of the month: The Charioteer, Auriga

cygnus Awash in the winter Milky Way, rising behind Perseus is the constellation of the charioteer, Auriga. The constellation of Auriga is completely over the horizon in the mid-fall when evening comes to the northern latitudes. For some unclear reason, the charioteer is depicted with goats under his arm perhaps when the constellation was associated with the Good Shepard. Auriga features Capella, whose name means little she goat, the northernmost first magnitude star as seen from planet Earth. At 45 light years distant, this star was discovered to be a double by spectrocope just before the turn of the 19th century. Later observations revealed that Capella was actually a multiple star system with at least 4 components.

The constellation Auriga is usually identified as a pentagon, but the star in the southern tip is El Nath from the constellation of Taurus and not officially recognized as part of Auriga. Near Capella, three stars form an elongated triangle. Eta and Zeta are known as "the kids," part of the triangle formed with Epsilon. Eta Auriga (Almaaz, or "he-goat") is one of the most interesting stars in the night sky. It is an eclipsing binary star, containing two stars that revolve around a common center, every 9883 days or 27 years. For two years, the eclipsing binary system dims from 3.0 to 3.8 magnitude as an unseen companion star hides the view of the primary for Earthbound viewers. The last time this happened was in 2009-2011 and the star was studied intensely by variable star observers. Still, a conclusive model has not been constructed that explains the complete system dynamics.The best theories will be tested again in 2036.

Other stars in the constellation have well known proper names as well. Beta Auriga is known as Menkalinan, itself an eclipsing binary, shines around mag 1.92 to 2.01about 10 deg E. of Capella. Perhaps best remembered in Auriga, are the fine star clusters M36, M37, and M38. M36 is the smallest, consisting of 60 stars. M37 is the largest containing about 150 stars and is about 20' in diameter. M38 contains perhaps 100 stars and also has a smaller and fainter cluster of stars nearby, NGC 1907.

A number of galactic clusters lie in this region of the Milky Way, including NGC 1664 containing 40, 10th magnitude stars. NGC 2281 consists of 30 stars arranged in a crescent shape. Auriga offers a wealth of star clusters as well as variables and doubles to intrigue amateurs. This constellation is never disappears in the Sun from the northern hemisphere and can be seen at some time every night of the year.

--See You Under the Stars!
Astra for Astra's Almanac

The star chart above was generated by Stellarium, a free open source planetarium program. This image was created by Dawn Jenkins, using Stellarium and a graphic editing program to format the image for this web page. Stellarium offers much to amateur astronomers and is being used in planetariums. Simple charts like the one above can be used on the internet for non-profit, illustration purposes. Proper credit is due of course! Thank you to the makers of this fine program from Astra's Star Gate.

This installment of "Whats Up?" is ©2015 by Dawn Jenkins for Astra's Stargate. View Ron Leeseburg's Farewell Issue for information on where to find information such as is presented in this almanac.