During November three planets will be stationary - Saturn on the 8th, Uranus on the
12th and Neptune on the 24th. The Leonids meteor shower is at its best from the 16th to the 18th and the Taurids meteor shower
continues from late October until late November. The full moon is on the 26th.
The Leonids and Taurids Meteor Showers
The Leonids meteor shower lasts from the 14th to the 20th November with maximum meteors occurring from the 16th -18th.
Visibility is favourable and a possible strong shower is predicted. The Leonids originate from the debris of comet
The Taurids meteor shower is not large but lasts for a very long period from late October to late November. These are
slow meteors with a radiant close to the Pleiades in Taurus.
They are thought to originate from the comet Encke.
The best time to observe a meteor shower is between midnight and sunrise when the dark side of the Earth is facing
directly into the streams of debris. You can see four times the number of meteors after midnight than before. As mentioned
last month, the best way to observe meteors is to lie outdoors in a reclining chair or sun-lounger. Try to take in as much
of the sky as possible. When you see a meteor mentally trace it backwards until you arrive at the radiant point.
||At 22 degrees Mercury is at greatest eastern elongation on the 21st November.
Setting shortly after the sun, Mercury is too close to the sun to be visible again until December.
The best times to observe Mercury are when it is an evening star in the spring and a morning star in the autumn. In midsummer the lighter skies make visibility difficult near the horizon.
||Venus is still an exceptional -4.0 magnitude rising at about 4.00h at the beginning
of November. During the month Venus moves closer to the sun rising at 6.00h by the 30th but remaining a brilliant morning
object during the rest of 2004. Jupiter is closeby on the 4th-5th and the moon on the 10th.
On the 8th June, Venus was at inferior conjunction
and transited the sun. Transits of Venus are rare, taking place at greater
than 100 year intervals and usually in pairs. The last two transits of Venus were in 1874 and 1882. June's transit
began at 7.20h and lasted 6 hours until 13.20h, the total event visible from Europe as a small black disc crossing
the lower part of the sun from left to right. The next transit will be in late June 2012. After that, transits of Venus
won't occur again until 2117 and 2125.
Before and after inferior conjuction, when Venus is
the closest it comes to the earth, are the times at which the planet is most brilliant and can be seen setting or rising
4 hours after or before the sun. The dates of the next two inferior conjunctions are October 28th 2010 and October 26th 2018.
||Mars passes from Virgo to Libra in late November and remains at 1.7 magnitude,
rising just after 6.00h. The moon is closeby on the 11th.
At opposition on the 28th August last year, Mars was only 56 million kilometres from the earth. It showed a
disc of 25.1 seconds of arc across which is almost as large as it can ever appear. Mars started 2003 at 310 million kilometres from
the earth at 4.5 seconds of arc and 1.6 magnitude. By opposition it brightened 50 times to reach -2.9 magnitude but faded to 0
magnitude by December. Even to the naked eye Mars was a striking object in the summer and autumn sky, easily identifiable by its
reddish hue in an area of sky poor in bright stars. Mars will not be as close again for another 15 years.
These favourable oppositions occur every 15 years but other oppositions occur at average intervals of 2 years 2 months. In general Mars is observable every other year, being too close to the sun for favourable conditions during other times. Brightness at opposition varies from -1.0 to -2.9 magnitude, and when furthest from the earth it fades to 1.7 magnitude. The planet can be identified by its orange-red colour.
||Jupiter remains in Virgo at -1.8 magnitude rising by 3.30h by the end of
November. The moon is closeby on the 9th.
Being 770 million kilometres from the sun, the difference in brightness between opposition and conjunction varies less than with Mars, from about -2.8 to -1.8 magnitude.
The 4 largest moons of Jupiter are easily visible through a small telescope, ranging from 4.6 to 5.6 in magnitude. The innermost, Io, takes 1.8 days to orbit the planet making its motion easily detectable within a few minutes.
||Saturn is in Gemini throughout 2004. At 0.2 magnitude the planet is stationary
on the 8th and rises just after 20.00h by the end of November. The moon is closeby on the 3rd.
Saturn crossed the equator into the northern hemisphere in 1996 where it will remain until 2010 with the southern side of the ring system facing the earth. Because of its distance, its brightness varies little between opposition and conjunction but is affected by the huge ring system. Seen edge on the rings contribute little or no light.
Every 15 years the plane of Saturn's rings passes through the sun, illuminating first the north and then the south side. For a few days the rings are edge on to the sun. About the same time the earth passes through the ring plane and, depending on the earth's position this may happen just once or 3 times. During 1995/96 there was a triple crossing and the next will be 2038/39. The next single crossings will be in 2009 and 2025.
Saturn's largest moon, Titan, is visible in small telescopes orbiting outside of the ring system.
||Uranus remains in Aquarius throughout 2004. Stationary on the 12th, by the end
of November Uranus will set by 24.00h. The moon is closeby on the 19th.
Brightness varies slightly reaching 5.6 magnitude at opposition. This is bright enough to see with the naked eye but identifying it against the stars is difficult.
||Neptune remains in Capricorn throughout 2004. At 8.0 magnitude Neptune is
stationary on the 24th, sets by 22.00h by the end of November and has the moon closeby on the 18th.
Neptune has an average magnitude of 7.9 which varies little with changing distance.
||Never brighter than 13 magnitude, Pluto is only visible through powerful telescopes and we will therefore not be reporting on its position in the sky.|
||Last quarter: 5th at 07.00h
New moon: 12th at 15.00h
First quarter: 19th at 06.00h
Full moon: 26th at 21.00h