Novem­ber’s main sky at­trac­tions for early ris­ers

Wiarton Echo - - PAST & PRESENT -

he Milky Way re­mains the main at­trac­tion for a while longer in the south­west­ern sky and there you also find Saturn the ringed planet, but most of the plan­e­tary ac­tion has switched over to the morn­ing sky for the next month or two. To top it off, on two oc­ca­sions an earthly vis­i­tor – the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion (ISS) – joins the dis­play in midNovem­ber.

If you look east be­fore sun­rise, you may no­tice a bright light – Venus, the bright­est planet in the sky – only out-shone by the Moon. Venus is now a Morn­ing Star, Phos­pho­rus, by her Greek name, but also called the Evening Star, Hes­pe­rus, when she is on the other side of the Sun (He­lios). The Greeks prob­a­bly knew that both were the same ob­ject, but en­joyed a good rid­dle as much as any­one, I sup­pose (Q: Is that bright light Hes­pe­rus or Phos­pho­rus? A: Yes.)

The ac­tion heats up in the sec­ond week of Novem­ber and re­quires a score­card – a star map that shows plan­ets and Moon po­si­tions. Have a look on the links page at­wa­t­eras­tron­omy. com for some of th­ese. My favourite is Starry Night and my sec­ond favourite is Sky Sa­fari, but there are many other good apps for smart­phones, tablets and com­put­ers and many of them are in­ex­pen­sive and free.

I al­ways like a cres­cent Moon on the scene and by 6 a.m. EST, Nov. 12, a cres­cent Moon (four days be­fore new) sits be­low Leo, with its re­verse “ques­tion mark” for a head and mane. By 6:30 a.m., with the sky still in deep twi­light, the plan­ets Venus and Jupiter ap­pear just above the hori­zon. About half­way be­tween th­ese, look for a not-too­bright red­dish “star.” That is the planet Mars and right now it is on the op­po­site side of the Sun from Earth and rel­a­tively dim.

Venus and Jupiter are also across the so­lar sys­tem from us, but they are so bright, it hardly makes a dif­fer­ence in their ap­pear­ance. Mars makes a dra­matic come­back in bright­ness (and me­dia in­ter­est) in the sum­mer of 2018 when Mars and Saturn will be the plan­ets to ob­serve in the sum­mer sky.

The next morn­ing, Nov. 13, the Moon will be closer to Mars, but a more in­ter­est­ing sight will be the pair­ing of Venus and Jupiter. On that morn­ing, the two plan­ets will be so close that they will not likely be dis­tin­guish­able as sep­a­rate ob­jects to the naked eye. If you use binoc­u­lars, you can sep­a­rate them, but to the naked eye they will ap­pear as one very bright ob­ject. You can com­pare the sep­a­ra­tion to the size of the cres­cent Moon – half a de­gree of arc across, the equiv­a­lent of a pen­cil width held at arm’s length. The two plan­ets will be much closer, about onequar­ter of that or about the thick­ness of a toonie! Good luck split­ting them with just your eyes.

That is the back­drop for two more in­ter­est­ing events that hap­pen Nov. 14 and15. The ISS (with a crew of six aboard) will be vis­i­ble each morn­ing cross­ing the sky from west to east. Look north­west and half­way up to the zenith on Nov. 14 around 5:56 a.m. EST. That morn­ing the ISS is due to ap­pear as a very bright mov­ing point of light (as bright as Venus) and it will track across the sky to­wards the cres­cent Moon in the east. For most of us in Grey and Bruce, it will just miss the Moon, but if you are on the Cabot Head Road about 4 km south of the light­house, you will see it pass right across the lu­nar cres­cent.

Then on Nov. 15 at 5:08 a.m. EST, the ISS will re­peat the tran­sit. This time a wider au­di­ence – any­where from Miller Lake to Cape Cro­ker – can get a view.

To spot ISS that morn­ing, just look at the cres­cent Moon and the space sta­tion will ap­pear right above it and slowly drop down to cross the Moon’s nar­row cres­cent. Those of you liv­ing in Lion’s Head can see it from home if you have a low enough east­ern hori­zon where the Moon can be seen above the trees (I sug­gest the Isth­mus Bay Road).

There is de­tailed in­for­ma­tion on our web­site in­clud­ing a link to a web­site that will give you ISS view­ing in­for­ma­tion spe­cific to your lo­ca­tion. Check the BAS WEBLOG for the ar­ti­cle de­scrib­ing the Nov. 14 and 15 events, a high­light of the year, weather per­mit­ting.

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