What's Up in the Night Sky?

November 2014 - Vol. 18, 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 blessed 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 in the month to the morning sky will favor northern hemisphere dwellers, observe early in the month. VENUS is in superior conjunction and will return to the evening sky in December . JUPITER rises in the morning sky, moving into the constellation of Leo this month. Watch as the giant planet approaches Regulus. MARS in Sagittarius passes the bright globular cluster M22. The red planet is now only 1.0 mag. SATURN reaches conjunction this month but may be glimpsed at the beginning of the month dropping below western horizon. URANUS will be at opposition on the 7th of October and can be observed all 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.

02 Daylight Savings Time ends.
03 Mercury 5 deg N. of Spica (Alpha Virginis). Moon at perigee.
04 .Uranus 1.2 deg S of Moon, an actual occultation from Iceland and Greenland.
05 S. Taurid meteors peak, produces about 10 meteors per hour.
08 Aldeberan 1.4 deg S. of the Moon.
12 N. Taurid meteors peak, this shower can produce 15 meteors per hour at its peak.
14 Jupiter 5 deg N. of Moon.
15 Moon at apogee.
17 Leonids meteor shower peak This shower can produce up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak. This is one of the most famous meteor showers because it has a habit of producing a massive amount of meteors in a cycle that seems to repeat every 33 years.
18 The Zodiacal Light or "false dawn" is visible in the E about 2 hours before sunrise. This pyramidal glow is caused by meteoroids, dust particles spawned by passing comets, etc., that have settled into the ecliptic plane (path followed by the Sun, Moon and planets), reflecting the Sun’s light before it rises here. This phenomenon will be visible through the end o the month.
20 It may be possible to see a nice arrangement of Mercury and Spica with the waning lunar crescent just before sunrise. Please use caution whenever observer near the Sun.
25 Moon at perigee.
26 Mars 7 deg S. of Moon.

Lunar Almanac for November 2014

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

Deep Sky Splendor: the Andromeda Galaxy

The fall sky is filled with the bright star clouds of the Milky Way running from the south western horizon toward the north east through the constellations of the Summer Triangle, that is now past the zenith for northern locations when the last gasp of twilight fades. Following the triangle, a Great Square formed by four fairly bright stars, one of them Alpheratz that really belongs to a neighboring constellation.. Galloping toward zenith, Pegasus, the flying horse carries with it the most distant galaxy that is easily visible by the naked eye.

Finder Chart for the Andromeda Galaxy

Known as M31, or the Andromeda galaxy is the brightest object outside of the Milky Way that is easily visible with the naked eye. It is a whopping 2,538,000 light years away and still covers 3 degrees of the night sky. In contrast, the full moon only covers half a degree.

Andromeda is a spiral galaxy, 110,000 light years in diameter containing a trillion stars. It is a splendid object from a dark site. Field glasses will reveal a well-formed oval cloud, because the spirals tipped about 15 degrees toward the Earth rather than edge-on or facing. Even so, an amateur telescope can reveal its central nucleus and good images reveal the dark veins of its spiral arms. Classified as a Sb spiral, the galaxy’s central bulge is composed of yellow stars while blue stars are more concentrated in its arms.

Andromeda and the Milky Way galaxy, along with M-33 in Triangulum, are the largest members of our Local Group that is, a number of galaxies that are gravitationally bound. The Local Group is thought to contain about 30 members, most of these are dwarf galaxies like the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds visible from the southern hemisphere. The “Clouds” are dwarf galaxies that are tightly bound to the Milky Way. Andromeda also has a number of dwarf companions. Notably, NGC 205 and M32 are often visible on images with the main spiral. There are two more members of Andromeda’s family, NGC 185 and NGC147 that are located in the nearby constellation of Cassiopeia.

M31 Andromeda Galaxy LRGB

This image is a composite of images of the Andromeda galaxy and the two nearby companions that were taken by Terry Hancock in August of 2012 and edited to produce this beautiful result. Visit Terry's Down Under Observatory for great astrophotos that may be purchased. You may also like Terry's "Sagittarius Starscape" featured on theAstronomy Picture of the Day (APOD)site on September 5, 2014! Many thanks to Terry for sharing this astrophoto with readers of the What's up? almanac!

It is possible that Andromeda and Milky Way collided 10 billion years ago and it is also possible that they will collide again in another 4 billion years. Although this collision might mean the end of Milky Way and Andromeda, it may be that a new, larger elliptical galaxy will result. In any case, we can sit back and enjoy the sight of this massive, distant spiral from a deep sky site free from worry. Some night when the conditions are just right and the site is dark enough, you might catch a glimpse of a huge oval cloud that you'll never forget.

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

This installment of "Whats Up?" is ©2014 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.