|Events during November
· The Taurids meteor shower lasts throughout November with slow meteors, some bright, from below Pleiades.
· The Leonids meteor shower is at its height from the 16th to 18th November with the radiant just above Regulus.
· The Moon: Last quarter – 1st, New – 9th, First quarter – 17th, Full – 24th.
Snapshots for the 26th/27th November 2007
The first snapshot shows the evening sky on the 26th November shortly after the Moon, which is two days past full, and Mars rise in the east. As the night
progresses, the Moon moves less swiftly than Mars so that, just before dawn, they are very close indeed as in the second snapshot.
This year Mars has steadily increased in size and brightness from 1.4 magnitude in January until just before opposition on December 24th. The 18th/19th December is the
time when it will be closest to Earth at 88 million kilometres and –1.7 magnitude. After opposition it will decrease in size and brightness. So make the most of observing
Mars during this and next month when it is easily spotted by eyesight. Mars comes close to Earth every two years and over a 15 to 17 year cycle even closer still. The last
close encounter, when Mars was just 56 million kilometres away from Earth at –2.9 magnitude, was in August 2003 and the next is due in 2018. Beware the hoax email that flies
round the internet each August declaring that Mars is then due to appear the largest and most brilliant for years to come! In fact it refers to the event in August 2003.
||Mercury is at greatest western elongation, at 19º, on the 8th at –0.5 magnitude when it rises 2 hours before the Sun. It will
be visible low in the southeast until the 20th with the Moon nearby on the 8th.
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 rises 4 hours before the Sun, maintaining a brilliant –4.3 magnitude in the east before dawn. The Moon is above on the 5th.
On the 8th June 2004, 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 remains in Gemini, increasing in brilliance to –1.2 magnitude by the end of November. The planet is stationary on the
15th then follows a retrograde path. It is beneath the Moon on the 26th/27th.
At opposition on the 28th August 2003, 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 is in Ophiuchus at –1.8 magnitude, setting about 18.00h by the 30th. The Moon is below on the 12th.
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 at 0.8 magnitude, remains in Leo, rising about 24.00h by the 30th. The Moon is below on the 4th.
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 in Aquarius, sets about 01.00h by the 30th. It is stationary on the 24th and near to the Moon on the 18th.
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 in Capricorn, sets about 22.30h by the 30th. The Moon is nearby on the 16th.
Neptune has an average magnitude of 7.9 which varies little with changing distance.
||No longer an offical planet and never brighter than 13 magnitude, Pluto is only visible through powerful
telescopes and we therefore do not report on its position in the sky.
Last quarter: 1st
New moon: 9th
First quarter: 17th
Full moon: 24th
The Moon in 2007:
The Moon was seen unusually high and low in the sky during 2006 (see Moon). Although the extremities occurred last year, the Moon will still be seen very
high and very low each month this year, most noticeable around full Moon. It will be near full and high around the 2nd and 29th January, the 25th February
and the 24th March; and near full and low around the 1st and 28th June.
During each month of 2007, the Moon will pass through the Pleiades. This will mostly be in daylight but observable 01.00-04.00h 7th August,
0.00-03.00h 28th October and 22.00-01.00h on the 21st to 22nd December. Binoculars will give a clearer view.