Sky Notes for November 2015 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. In the pre dawn morning skies the bright planet Jupiter and the Red Planet Mars are both located on the Virgo / Leo border with Venus also shining brightly in the dawn twilight in early November. Comet C/2013 US10 (Catalina) continues to brighten as it reaches perihelion on Nov 15th and continues to move northward as a binocular object into UK dawn skies during late November / December and may become naked eye in dark moonless conditions ( see notes )
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 your 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 2015
Mercury is low in the dawn twilight early November returns to daytime skies, Superior conjunction Nov 17th
Venus is prominent in the dawn twilight with a close conjunction of Mars on Nov 2nd / 3rd and both form a triangle with the crescent moon on Nov 6th./ Nov 7th
Mars is visible in the dawn skies with Venus and Jupiter, the Red Planet reaches opposition in May 2016 in Libra.
Jupiter visible in the constellation of Leo rising in the early hours and reaches opposition in March 2016 in Leo
Saturn is a daytime object and has conjunction with the Sun November 30th appearing in dawn skies by late December, low in the constellation of Scorpius.
Uranus rises early evening in the constellation of Pisces. (Binocular / Telescope required). Uranus is 2°south of Moon on Nov 22nd.
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
New Moon Nov 11th Moonless, best time for deep sky observing and Comets .
First Quarter Nov 19th Best days to see shadow details in lunar craters (early evening)
Full Moon Nov 25th Best days to see bright ray craters like Copernicus / Tycho.
Last Quarter Nov 3rd Moon visible in daytime skies. Do not look directly at the Sun.
Leonids range November 15th to 20th, maxima 18th November – Fast meteors with persistent trails. Rates for 2015 are low around 10 to 20 per hour, moonless conditions are favourable.
Taurids range October 20th to November 30th. Maxima Nov 12th – Rates are low but these slow meteors, moonless conditions are favourable. The northern Taurids meteor stream contains larger sized particles resulting in bright `fireball` meteors.
The highlights of the month
Dawn skies planetary conjunctions 2nd / 3rd Nov Jupiter / Mars and Mars, Venus and crescent Moon Nov 7th.
November skies, Milky Way visible high overhead on moonless evenings in darker skies.
Uranus and Neptune, binocular objects to find using suitable finder charts
M31 the Andromeda Galaxy is visible on moonless evenings, 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
Leonid meteor shower, low rates 20 / hour and Taurid meteor shower 10/ hour (Fireballs)
Comet C/2013 US 10 (Catalina), a binocular object in pre dawn morning skies by late November/ early December
More detailed sky notes and LAS Newsletters, Finder charts are available to LAS members via the Members` page on the LAS Website www.lutonastrolink.org.uk