Evan Hazard/Northland Stargazing: A poor showing for Venus, good for Mercury
Reminders: Earlier sunsets and daylight savings time (after Nov. 3) make evening stargazing easier. Also, at this time of year, it gets darker two or three minutes earlier each night, which seems to slow down the stars’ annual movement. The Leonid meteor shower won’t be much in the wee hours of Nov. 16-18 because Luna will brighten the sky those nights.
If you are on the Eastern seaboard on Nov. 3, you can see a partial eclipse at dawn. That will become an annular solar eclipse over the Atlantic, and a total eclipse by landfall in the evening in Cameroon.
Venus reaches greatest elongation on Halloween and greatest brilliancy in December, so it’s a nice evening object in the west, but it’s too close to the horizon this time around to elicit oohs and aahs. Jupiter will rise about 10 p.m. Nov. 1 and about 7 p.m. at month’s end. It remains near Pollux in Gemini most of the month. Mars doesn’t rise until 2:30 a.m. Nov. 1 but will be up by 1 a.m. on Nov. 30. Jupiter was high in the south when I picked up the Pioneer early in the morning on Oct. 15, the last clear dawn sky I’ve seen as of this writing. Actually, I was up early enough to see the brightest stars in Orion and also Sirius in Canis Major and Procyon in Canis Minor.
Mercury is roughly between us and Sol now, but will be visible to the naked eye in the predawn sky Nov. 9 or Nov. 10. It will reach greatest elongation and greatest brilliancy Nov. 18 and Nov. 20, respectively, one of its better apparitions for the year. Saturn is on the far side of Sol now but will show up dimly in the dawn sky about Nov. 23. It will then be lower than brighter Mercury, but it gets higher each morning and Mercury gets lower. By Nov. 26, Saturn will be higher than Mercury.
In the evenings, the Summer Triangle is still high in the west, the Great Square in Pegasus just south of the zenith, and M31, our sister galaxy in Andromeda east of the zenith. There are no near-horizon bright stars between reddish Aldebaran in Taurus due east and white Fomalhaut in Pisces Austrinus due south. The several bright stars in the evening November sky run along the Milky Way from Capella in Auriga in the northeast to Deneb, Vega, and Altair in the Summer Triangle.
Minima of Algol: Halloween, 9:35 p.m.; Nov. 2, 5:24 p.m. (Algol will be in eclipse when first visible); Nov. 20, 10:17 p.m. and Nov. 23, 7:06 p.m.
Evan Hazard also writes “Threescore and Ten” for The Pioneer’s “Prime Time.”