Asta's Almanac, is based on Whats Up, Ron? a monthly almanac for Northern American astronomersastras

Astra's Almanac

What's Up in the Night Sky?

November 2012 - Vol. 16, No. 11

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Features: Calendar | Lunar Almanac | Monthly Topic

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.

Links to On-line Almanacs

Starry Trails:

Abram's Planetarium
Sky Calendar

Classical Astronomy
The Sky this Month

Angular Measurement Review: It is interesting to note that the relationship between the angle subtended by combinations of fingers on your fully outstretched arm are the same for all viewers. This is due to the fact that the hand's size is proportional to the arm's length. A shorter arm is attached to a smaller hand while a longer arm is attached to a larger hand, thus the angle measured remains the same. If you hold your arm fully outstretched, your little finger, when sighted down your arm, is one degree wide. Your three middle fingers is five degrees, your fist, 10 degrees, and the distance between your little finger and your pointer finger is 15 degrees no matter what your age or size.

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 Pleiadesís, 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 early in the month is visible in the evening sky for observers in the southern hemisphere, reaches inferior conjunction and burst into the morning sky, cecoming more favorable for northern observers. VENUS is bright in the morning sky, still in a position that favors observers in the northern hemisphere, puts on a great show this month with SATURN. JUPITER is passing through Taurus rising in the early evening, keep watching the show as the giant planet mixes it up with Aldebaran and the two star clusters of Taurus, the Pleiades and the Hyades. MARS sets in the early evening, considerably dimmers as Earth pulls away from the red planet, now more than 2 AU separating the two planets. SATURN joins VENUS in the early morning sky, and for a new planetary dance showdown. Outer planets NEPTUNE and URANUS will be well placed for telescopic observations this month.

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.

Moon at apogee.
Jupiter occulted by the Moon for oberservers located near the south pole. For observers in the N, it will appear within 1 deg of the lunar disk.

Daylight Savings Time ends.

The S. Taurid meteor shower peaks. (Don't expect more than 7 per hour.) Venus, in Virgo, will be 1 deg away from Gamma Virginis.
Venus 4 deg N of the Moon. At this time of the month, our sister planet puts on a show in Virgo with the waning crescent moon, worth getting up early to see the show.
Total Solar eclipse visible from N Australia although most of the eclipse will take place over the south Pacific Ocean no where near land. Check NASA's Eclipse Web Site for details.
Spica .8 deg N of the Moon, occultation from the Indian Ocean and Antarctica. Venus 5 deg N of the Moon. The N. Taurid meteor shower peaks. (Don't expect more than 7 per hour.)
Mercury at Inferior Conjunction, is now crossing into the evening sky.
Spica .8 deg N of the Moon, occultation from the Indian Ocean and Antarctica.
The Leonid meteor shower peaks before dawn. Expect 10-15 meteors per hour, although sometimes the Leonids surprise us. This year the waxing crescent moon will be out of the way because meteor are best seen after midnight and the best showers are seen just before dawn.
Venus 6 deg away from Spica and Saturn forming an interesting triangle in the morning sky. This is a great time to keep watching the three of them as their positions change relative to each other for the rest of the month.
Four planets visible when Mercury joins Venus and Saturn in the E while Jupiter is still over the W horizon.
Venus .6 deg S of Saturn, look one hour before sunrise.
Jupiter .6 deg N of the Moon. Occultation from southern South America and southern Africa.
Jupter in Taurus, will be stationed above Aldebaran. While not a true conjunction, it should be a pretty sight with the Hyades and the Pleiadies with the Moon waning from its full disk on Oct 29.
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Lunar Almanac for November 2012

Phases of the Moon Phase and Date(s)

Best viewed before local midnight

new moon icon


Deep Space Objects
first quarter moon icon

1st. Qtr

Planets & Moon
full moon icon


last quarter icon

Qtr 08

Deep Space & Planets

Topic of the month: A Hunter and his Dogs

As the Sun slips away early for us northern observers, the November nights brings us the early show, a fabulous display of our home galaxy, the Milky Way, as it spans the sky after the glow from the shrinking twilight passes.

The fall Milky Way covers the sky

Not until those birds of summer, Cygnus and Aquila have quietly slipped under the western horizon, will observers discover the full majestic of the great hunter, Orion, and his two hunting dogs, Canis Major and Canis Minor. This is the late show of November, that crosses the sky all night and doesn't begin to fade until the lion of the morning, Leo appears.

One of the best known constellations in the sky, Orion, has appeared like a human figure to many cultures. Known as the hunter, Orion is followed into the night sky by the constellations of Canis Major and Canis Minor. Canis Major is home to the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius, a blue giant that is a mere 8 light years distant. The smaller hunting dog contains the first magnitude yellow star, Procyon, whose name means "before the dog" because it rises about 40 minutes before Sirius. Together with Alpha Orionis, the popular red giant, Betelegeuse, these first magnitude stars display the colors of the stars of the night, red, yellow and blue. Can you see the difference in their colors? Star color is influenced by the atmosphere of the Earth, so that the stars colors can vary from night to night and by location.

Orion the Hunter and his Dogs starchart

This is the first installment of the stars and stories of the Hunter and his dogs, to be continued next month. There are a few other stars that bear mentioning before closing. Three stars in the constellation of Orion form what is called, "the belt." These three stars are among the best known in the night sky. Each star in the belt is a blue giant, they are gravitationally bound together and all three are at the same distance from us. The westernmost star in the belt is Mintaka (Arabic for belt.) The central star is Alnilam, whose name means "a belt of pearls". Alnitak is the eastern-most star, whose name means "girdle". These stars are thought to have formed about ten million years ago. They are believe to be from the molecular clouds in the constellation that will be discussed next month when What's Up? investigates the great nebula of Orion. There is another first magnitude star in the constellation, the blue giant star Rigel, that represents the foot of the hunter. This blue giant sun is one of the brightest stars known in the Milky Way galaxy. It is only the fact that it is more distant from us that it does not outshine Sirius. Although Rigel is designated Beta Orionis, the star is usually brighter than Betelgeuse, the better known red giant. Compare the magnitudes of these stars when they are visible together in the night sky. Next month, we will visit Orion's sword and find out where the best nebulae can be found in this area of the sky.

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

The image of the Milky Way and star chart above were generated by Stellarium, a free open source planetarium program. The above image was created by Dawn Jenkins, using Stellarium and a graphic editing program to format the image for this web page. Editing was done for educational purposes only. Stellarium offers much more to amateur astronomers and is being used in planetariums and to guide telescopes in the field. 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 ©2012 by Dawn Jenkins for Astra's Stargate. View Ron Leeseburg's Farewell Issue

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