November 2017

• November 3rd, 2017

         Welcome to Observing With Webb, where a high school astronomy teacher tells you what you’re looking at, why it’s so cool, and what you should check out later this month…at night.  Don’t forget to check out my Podbean page, YouTube Channel, and Twitter feed, or get my podcast feed on Stitcher, or iTunes.

November brings us earlier nights, all the naked-eye planets visible at some point near dusk or dawn, and a couple of close encounters between them. You might catch some Leonid meteors or a lineup of Venus, Jupiter, and Mars in the mornings.

 

PLANETS...well, the ones visible with your naked eye

Planets you can see around Sunset – Saturn (SW), Mercury (SW, last week)

Planets you can see throughout the night – None

Planets you can see in the Morning – Mars (SE), Venus (SE), Jupiter (SE)

 

Mercury – You might be able to catch Mercury the last week of November, pretty low in the sky after sunset, and setting only an hour after the Sun.  Look SW, find Saturn, then find Mercury down and to the right.

Venus – Venus will be just 10˚ above the horizon at 6am at the beginning of the month, and drops lower every day.  It doesn’t drop completely out of sight, but harder and harder to see every morning.

 

Mars – Dim, but 30˚ high in the sky by 6am, rising around 4am. Look ESE and find the red object above bright Spica, Virgo’s brightest star.

Saturn – Look SW after sunset and find the brightest light only about 10˚ above the horizon. It will set around 7:30pm EST in early November and just after sunset by month’s end.

Jupiter – Makes its transition to morning planet this month. It seems to switch places with Venus, getting higher and higher in the sky every morning until it’s about 20˚ above the SE horizon on November 30th at sunrise.


EVENTS...

Full Moon – 4th (Visible all night)

5thDaylight Savings Time Ends

Last Quarter Moon – 10th (Visible from midnight into the morning)

13thClose Encounter – Venus, Jupiter – Get out after 6am on the morning of the 13th and look ESE toward the horizon.  You’ll find VERY bright Venus about a quarter of a degree away from Jupiter, making this a great time to get both of them in a picture in a telescope, along with all four Galilean Moons.  But get out there as close to 6am as possible, as the Sun will rise at about 6:45, ruining your view even by 6:25.

14th – 17thClose Encounter – Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Venus – An interesting 4 days.  Jupiter and Venus are close together low on the ESE horizon in the morning, with Mars over 20˚ up and to the right.  The Moon joins in on the 14th, being about 7˚ above Mars.  The next morning, the Moon will be down and to the left of Mars, but still far from Jupiter and Venus.  The 16th brings the Moon closer to Jupiter and Venus, much thinner, but still above them.  Lastly, and most difficult, on the 17th the Moon is incredibly thin, and hanging out to the left of Venus, with Jupiter nearby.  You’ll have to get out at 6am or shortly thereafter to witness this, as it is very low on the horizon.

 

17th – Leonid Meteor Shower – You might just catch a couple meteors coming from Leo, if you get out early in the morning and look at the whole sky in general, like other meteor showers.  However, this meteor shower is losing steam throughout the years, but still producing about 15 per hour.

New Moon – 18th (darkest skies) 

20thClose Encounter – Moon, Saturn, Mercury – Look SW after sunset (4:45pm EST) but before 6:15pm EST to see Saturn 3˚ to the left of the thin crescent Moon, with Mercury (if you can spot it) 7˚ below the Moon.

23rd – Thanksgiving – Saturn/Mercury in the SW after sunset, a nice crescent Moon until 8:30pm, Mars, Jupiter, and Venus in the morning.

First Quarter Moon – 26th (Visible until midnight)

28thClose Encounter – Saturn, Mercury – Look SW after the Sun sets, and you MIGHT be able to catch Saturn and Mercury only 3˚ apart very low on the horizon. Binoculars will certainly help.

 

CONSTELLATIONS... (see sky map link at the bottom for a Star Map for this month – or ask Mr. Webb)    Look straight up and you'll see...

After Sunset (sunset is around 5:00pm after Nov. 2nd) – Lacerta, Pegasus (the Great Square)

Between Sunset and Midnight – Pegasus, Andromeda - Extra Challenge!  Using your naked eye (dark-adapted and in a dark area) or binoculars under normal conditions and a star chart, try finding our neighboring Andromeda Galaxy.  It’ll be a faint, but bigger, fuzzy in the constellation Andromeda.

Midnight – Perseus, Taurus

Early Morning – Lynx, Cancer, Gemini - Extra Challenge!  Using binoculars, find the bright and open cluster M35.  Find Gemini, look at the rightmost leg, go down to the foot, and move 2-3 degrees to the right (W).  

 

GENERAL CONSTELLATION FINDING TIPS: 

Summer Constellations: Lyra, Cygnus, Aquila, Delphinus

Look to the West after sunset until about 9pm and you’ll still be able to see Lyra, Cygnus, Aquila, (and Delphinus.)  These three constellations have the three brightest stars of the summer constellations (Vega, Deneb, Altair – respectively.)  Those bright stars create the summer triangle.  Being summer constellations and it being fall right now, they are setting and are visible for a shorter period of time.  If you’re under dark skies (away from city lights) you may just catch a glimpse of the Milky Way passing through Cygnus and Aquila.

Fall Constellations: Andromeda, Pegasus

If you can find the Summer Triangle and Delphinus, about 40˚ to the East (leftish) will be the Great Square of the fall constellation Pegasus.  Perhaps you’ll even see the two curves of Andromeda off of one side, with the Andromeda Galaxy as a small, faint fuzzy nearby (you’ll need dark skies to see it).  A sky map will help you tremendously in finding these.  You’ll see these in the East after sunset, straight above you around midnight, and in the West in the morning.

Use a sky map from www.skymaps.com to help you out.

 

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October 2017

• September 29th, 2017

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Looking at my notes from last year for October, I was reminded that this was the month where all of you came together to vote for the Pequea Valley Planetarium to get a $100,000 Farmers Insurance Thank America’s Teachers Grant. It’s a year after voting, and things are progressing.  We’re at a standstill right now, but only because the room is gutted and ready to have everything installed while we wait for the new projection dome inside, which won’t be manufactured until February.  I’ll be posting a more detailed update on the Facebook page sometime soon, but we are moving forward.

We lose a couple planets in October, but Saturn and Venus continue to shine, with Mars getting brighter and higher in the morning. Morning seems to be the theme of the month, as we also get some nice close encounters involving Mars and Venus, an occultation of Regulus, and the Orionid Meteor shower, all happening before sunrise.

 

PLANETS...well, the ones visible with your naked eye

Planets you can see around Sunset – Saturn (SW)

Planets you can see throughout the night – None

Planets you can see in the Morning – Mars (E), Venus (E)

 

Mercury – Not visible

Venus – This is the descent of Venus as a morning star this year.  Watch every day as Venus gets lower in the morning sky toward the East until it will be just visible in the dawn by the 31st.

Mars – Pretty dim, but it’s there in the eastern sky, passing Venus on the morning of the 5th, and getting higher each day, but still difficult to see, with being so dim and far away.

SATURN – Look SW after sunset and find the bright light above and between Scorpius and Sagittarius. It will set around 10pm in early October and 8:30pm in late October.

Jupiter – Not visible anymore as it is on the opposite side of the Sun for the month.


EVENTS...

Full Moon – 5th (Visible all night)

5thClose Encounter – Venus, Mars – Look East after 5:44am, and you’ll easily find Venus. Look only ¼˙ down and to the right and you’ll find dim, red Mars.  Binoculars would certainly help.  Also, be sure to go out as early as possible, since the dawn will start drowning out Mars pretty quickly.

Last Quarter Moon – 12th (Visible from midnight into the morning)

15thMorning Occultation of Regulus – The Moon will pass in front of Leo’s brightest star Regulus this morning.  Times vary, and can be found at http://lunar-occultations.com/iota/bstar/bstar.htm, but for Lancaster County, PA, the lit portion of the crescent Moon will cover up Regulus right around 5:40am.  Regulus will then reappear at right about 6:41am from the dark portion of the Moon.

16th – 18thClose Encounter – Moon, Mars, Venus – These three days the Moon will visit and pass Mars and Venus. Each morning, get up after 6am and look for the Moon. On the 16th, the trio will make a nice line, with Mars in between Venus and the Moon, but a little closer to Venus than the Moon. The next morning, the Moon will be directly next to Mars, just about 1˚ to the left, making it easier to find Mars than the rest of the month.  On the 18th, it will be a challenge, but you can find a VERY thin crescent Moon 5˚ below Venus, with Mars 8˚ above Venus.

New Moon – 19th (darkest skies) 

20th – 22ndOrionid Meteor Shower – You’ll have to get up early in the morning for this one, as the meteors appear to radiate from the radiant, which is in the club of Orion.  I usually don’t say much about this one, since it usually produces only 10-15 meteors per hour, but the Moon will be non-visible, therefore you’ll get really good skies

23rd – 24thClose Encounter – Moon, Saturn – Look SW after sunset but before 8:30pm to see Saturn 7˚ to the left of the then crescent Moon on the 23rd.  On the next night, the Moon will have moved to be about 5˚ above and to the left of Saturn.

First Quarter Moon – 27th (Visible until midnight)

Halloween – A nice waxing gibbous Moon in the SE with Saturn in the SW

 

CONSTELLATIONS... (see sky map link at the bottom for a Star Map for this month – or ask Mr. Webb)    Look straight up and you'll see...

Just after Sunset (around 7:30pm) – Lyra the Harp, Cygnus the Swan

Extra Challenge! Use binoculars (or even a telescope) and a star chart to scan through the southern constellation of Sagittarius.  There are at least 7 easily visible clusters and nebulas up and to the right of the “teapot” of Sagittarius.

Between Sunset and Midnight – Lyra, Cygnus, Aquila (a little to the south) – These are the Summer constellations, and since they are visible right above us around midnight (and to the east after sunrise), it’s now summer!  More details below in the “General Constellation Finding Tips” 

Midnight – Lacerta, Pegasus, Andromeda – Extra Challenge!  Using your naked eye (dark-adapted and in a dark area) or binoculars under normal conditions and a star chart, try finding our neighboring Andromeda Galaxy.  It’ll be a faint fuzzy in the constellation Andromeda.

Early Morning – Perseus, Auriga -  Also, if you look to the SE in the morning, you’ll find the winter constellations of Orion, Taurus, Auriga, Gemini, and Canis Major.

 

GENERAL CONSTELLATION FINDING TIPS: 

Summer Constellations: Lyra, Cygnus, Aquila, Delphinus

Look straight up before 10pm and you’ll be able to see Lyra (the Harp), Cygnus (the Swan), Aquila (the Eagle), (and Delphinus the Dolphin.)  These three constellations have the three brightest stars of the summer constellations (Vega, Deneb, Altair – respectively.)  Those bright stars create the summer triangle.  Off to the east of this is the small but beautiful constellation of Delphinus. If you’re under dark skies (away from city lights) you may just catch a glimpse of the Milky Way passing through Cygnus and Aquila.  If you’re looking past 10pm, they’ll be moving toward the West and lower in the sky.

Fall Constellations: Andromeda, Pegasus

If you can find the Summer Triangle and Delphinus, about 40˚ to the East (leftish) will be the Great Square of the fall constellation Pegasus.  Perhaps you’ll even see the two curves of Andromeda off of one side, with the Andromeda Galaxy as a small, faint fuzzy nearby (you’ll need dark skies to see it).  A sky map will help you tremendously in finding these.  You’ll see these in the East after sunset, straight above you around midnight, and in the West in the morning.

Use a sky map from www.skymaps.com to help you out.

 

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