Saturn a sight to see in Novem­ber

Siloam Springs Herald Leader - - NEWS - David Cater Star Gaz­ing — Dr. David Cater is a for­mer fac­ulty mem­ber of JBU. Email him at star­bug352@ya­hoo.com. The opin­ions ex­pressed are those of the au­thor.

We have had some good view­ing nights in Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber will also have some good view­ing, but it will be colder and prob­a­bly there will be more rain than in Oc­to­ber. Who knows… per­haps we might even have a bit of snow!

What this means for ama­teur sky watch­ers is that we must be ready to use the nights we have to full ad­van­tage. There are some great things to see in the Novem­ber night sky, but we need to be ready to go on short no­tice. Since I pri­mar­ily do as­tropho­tog­ra­phy, I have my equip­ment nearly all set up in my back­yard so that within about 20 min­utes, I am ready to shoot my first im­age.

This month the best planet to ob­serve is Saturn. The rings of Saturn are about as open as these can be and by about 8 p.m., it is al­most di­rectly south in the night sky. With good binoc­u­lars of about 15 power, it might be pos­si­ble to see that Saturn looks a bit egg-shaped be­cause of the rings. One would need to prop the binoc­u­lars against some­thing steady for the best view. Some binoc­u­lars can be at­tached to a tri­pod and this would be best. If you hap­pen to have a te­le­scope of at least four inches in di­am­e­ter, use about 100 power and you can clearly see the planet, some of its sub­tle band­ing and the spec­tac­u­lar rings. Add mag­ni­fi­ca­tion if you have it and do this un­til the im­age be­gins to de­te­ri­o­rate due to at­mos­phere tur­bu­lence. If you can do this, you will see one of the most spec­tac­u­lar as­tro­nom­i­cal sights to be seen!

If you have heard oth­ers talk­ing about how they have seen Mars but you could not find it, the First Quar­ter Moon [the Moon looks half Moon] passes 1 de­gree south [about two Moon widths] of Mars on Nov. 15. It will be ‘orangish’ and it will not twin­kle, as the sur­round­ing stars do. Here again, if you have a te­le­scope, look at this planet through it. It may be rather plain to see if the long-lin­ger­ing dust storm still ob­scures this planet. On the other hand, you might see some vari­a­tion in col­or­ing — not easy to see. With about 100 power, you can also see one of the po­lar caps.

If you are in­clined to be up be­fore sun­rise, look for Mer­cury and Jupiter in the di­rec­tion of where the Sun will rise. Jupiter is bright enough to see after dawn be­gins, but Mer­cury will have faded by then. Jupiter will be big enough to ap­pear as a dot, Mer­cury will look star-like and close to the Sun. If you see Mer­cury, count your­self one of the lucky few!

Here is a chal­lenge! Go out well after dark and lie on your back look­ing straight up. Don’t for­get the warm cloth­ing and put some­thing wa­ter­proof un­der you to lay on. Us­ing just your eyes, see if you can find the so-called Great Square. It should be di­rectly over­head by about 9 p.m. Now — the Great Square is BIG! It is part of the con­stel­la­tion Pe­ga­sus and the four stars that make it up are only about third mag­ni­tude which means not espe­cially bright. The Great Square is al­ways vis­i­ble in the fall, just over­head, and a sign that we are mov­ing to the end of the year. It would be a good idea to go out on your fa­vorite browser and type in ‘The Great Square in Pe­ga­sus.’ You should get one or more sky maps that should help you find it. Good luck on this chal­lenge!

As ever, each month shows its own won­ders. Soon, Orion the Hunter will be the har­bin­ger of win­ter and even if it is cold and clear, it is worth a look. To me, Orion is like an old friend. When I was 7 years old, I got a lit­tle as­tron­omy book for Christ­mas. The book showed me how to find Orion and it is easy to see in De­cem­ber of any year. I found it and I have been hooked on ama­teur as­tron­omy ever since!

Get out there and take a good look at a starry night and let your­self be awed by the won­der!

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