Night Sky Notes – November 2016

Sky notes for November 2016                   Geoff Mitchell

The change to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and the November night sky now sees the late autumn constellations prominent early evening and now heralds some familiar winter constellations. The November night sky contains many fine objects to view with both binocular and small telescopes. Perigee Moon occurs at Full Moon on November 14th , watch the moon rise at 4.44pm .See the `moon illusion ` , where the moon `appears  large ` against foreground objects as it rises  [ A trick of the eye and how we preserve distant objects ]

The constellations of Cygnus, Lyra and Aquila can be seen slipping into the west mid evening; these are noted for the bright stars of Deneb, Vega and Altair respectively forming the `Summer Triangle ` asterism.

The Milky Way stretches from the constellation of  Auriga , marked by the bright star Capella in the east up into Perseus  and through the `W` shaped constellation of Cassiopeia high overhead and down along the cross shaped constellation of Cygnus and down through  the constellation of Aquila low in the south west . This faint band of stars visible on dark moonless evenings, the rich star fields around the `double cluster ` in Perseus and through Cygnus are best seen using binoculars.

Auriga has the bright star Capella, which is circumpolar from UK latitudes and so is always visible. The constellation of Auriga contains some nice star fields and star clusters visible in binoculars.

High In the south the constellation of Pegasus, noted for its `Square ` shape and the adjacent constellation of Andromeda noted for The Andromeda Galaxy (M31) , visible to the unaided eye as a faint fuzzy patch on moonless evening  can now be seen mid evening .  The Square of Pegasus is a useful sign post constellation and also is a good test for sky conditions, (how many faint stars you see within the square is indicates just how good the seeing conditions are).  Follow the two end stars (Scheat and Markab) down to find the star Fomalhaut in the constellation of Pisces Australis (The Southern Fishes), visible very low on the southern horizon early evening mid month.  Another fine globular cluster is M15 in the constellation, best seen telescopically.

In the north Ursa Major, The Plough or The Great Bear is seen low with its handle or tail parallel to the horizon mid evening.   Use the right hand pair of stars  Dubhe  and Merak  (The pointers ) to find the faint pole star Polaris  and hence  the position of North .

Uranus in the constellation of Pisces and Neptune in the constellation of Aquarius are now both evening objects that can be located using binoculars and a suitable finder chart. A good starting point is to locate the Square of Pegasus and the ring of stars below the Square known as the `Circlet` in the constellation of Pisces (The Fishes), then star hop using the finder chart. Uranus and Neptune are notable due to the blue and green colour, Telescopes show a tiny disc rather than the sharp pinpoints of stars in the field of view.

Look to the east mid evening to see the seven sisters’ (Pleiades, M45) star cluster and constellation Taurus which heralds the autumn skies. The  Hyades star cluster makes the characteristic `V` shaped asterism in the constellation of Taurus and is noted for the bright, red foreground star  Aldebaren  in Arabic Al Dabaran is `The follower ` of the Pleiades across the skies `, in old English colloquially known as `the eye of the bull`.  Also in Taurus is the famous `Crab Nebula` M1, the first object catalogued by French astronomer Charles Messier, it is a remnant from a supernova explosion witnessed by Chinese observers in AD1054. Telescopically it looks like a grey oval shaped nebula, but larger instruments show some detail ie extensions that give it its name, looking like the claw of a crab. At the centre of the Crab Nebula is a rapidly rotating pulsar star, the remains of the supernova, surrounded by the expanding shell of gas that is the Crab Nebula.

By late evening the familiar winter constellations of Orion (The Hunter) with bright red star Betelgeuse (top left), white star Rigel (bottom right) and the three stars of Orion’s belt Mintaka, Alnilam and Alnitak. Below Orion’s belt can be seen the misty patch that is M42 / M43, visible to the unaided eye, it is one of the gem’s of the winter skies when seen with a telescope. This nebula some 30 light years across is illuminated by a group of four hot young stars that is known as the `Trapezium `asterism, visible under moderate magnification.


Planets in November  2016

Mercury is low the evening twilight early November, and is poorly placed

Venus is becoming more prominent low in the west in the evening twilight during November.

Mars is moves eastward into the constellation of Capricornus, visible low in the south west in early evening.

Jupiter is visible in the constellation of Virgo, rising in the early hours and will reach opposition in spring 2017.

Saturn is very low in evening twilight in November and has conjunction with the Sun December 10th, appearing in dawn skies by mid December low in the constellation of Ophiuchus.

Uranus rises early evening in the constellation of Pisces. (Binocular / Telescope required).

Neptune in Aquarius rises early evening (Binocular / Telescope required). The constellation of Aquarius is positioned low in the south / south west by mid evening.

Moons phases in November 2016

New Moon         Nov 29th              Moonless, best time for deep sky observing and Comets              .

First Quarter      Nov 7th               Best days to see shadow details in lunar craters (early evening)

**Full Moon       Nov 14th             Best days to see bright ray craters like Copernicus / Tycho.

 Last Quarter      Nov 21st              Moon visible in daytime skies.  Do not look directly at the Sun.


Meteor showers

Leonids range November 15th to 20th, maxima 18th November – Fast meteors with persistent trails.  Rates for 2016 are low around 10 to 20 per hour, moonlight interferes so unfavourable.

Taurids range October 20th to November 30th. Maxima Nov 12th – Rates are low for these slow meteors, moonlight interferes so unfavourable. The northern Taurids meteor stream contains larger sized particles resulting in bright `fireball` meteors.

The highlights of the month

Milky Way is high overhead and stretches from east to west, visible on moonless evenings in darker skies.

**Closest (Perigee) moon in 2016 occurs at Full Moon in November 14th; watch the Full Moon rise at 4.44pm

Uranus and Neptune, binocular objects to find using suitable finder charts

M31 the Andromeda Galaxy is visible on moonless evenings, best seen in binoculars.

M45, the Seven Sister’s star cluster in Taurus, rises in the east early evening, best seen in binoculars.

Double cluster, on the Perseus /Cassiopeia border, nice pair of star clusters

Albireo, the star Beta Cygnii is a nice blue/ yellow double star seen telescopically

The constellation of Orion returns to the late evening skies, rising by 9pm by late November.

Crescent Moon visibility, a 3.7 % waxing crescent moon is visible in twilight in the south west after sunset Nov 1st

Crescent Moon visibility, a very thin 1.4% waxing crescent moon is visible low in the south west from around 20 minutes after sunset (from 4.15pm) with moonset by 5:07 pm on November 30th.

More detailed sky notes and LAS Newsletters, Finder charts are available to LAS members via the Members` page on the LAS Website