This Month’s Sky – November 2014

November “Skylights”
November 2014
By Tony Faddoul

November’s Evening Planets: Mars and dwarf planet Pluto will be up for a couple of hours after sunset in Sagittarius the Archer. Saturn will be visible in Libra the Scales for an hour after sunset in the first half of the month. Blue Neptune will be in Aquarius the Water Bearer until 1:00 AM, setting earlier every night. By the end of the month, it will set around 11:00 PM. Uranus will be in Pisces the Fish all night. Jupiter rises between Cancer the Crab and Leo the Lion at midnight then earlier and earlier each morning, rising at 10:00 PM by the end of the month. Venus will be visible during the last two weeks for less than an hour after sunset.

November’s Evening Stars: Spot the Summer Triangle of Vega in Lyra the Harp, Deneb in Cygnus the Swan, and Altair in Aquila the Eagle until around 10:00 PM. The Winter Triangle of Sirius in Canis Major the Great Dog, Betelgeuse in Orion the Hunter, and Procyon in Canis Minor the Small Dog will be up after 10:00PM and rising earlier each night. Bright Capella in Auriga the Charioteer will be up all night. Spot the stars of constellations Andromeda, Cassiope-ia, Perseus, Cepheus, Draco, Pegasus, Aquarius, Aries, Tau-rus, Pisces, Capricornus, and the Two Dippers.

November’s Morning Planets: Uranus will linger until pre-dawn hours at the start of November and will set by 2:00 AM at the end of the month. Jupiter will be up between Cancer the Crab and Leo the Lion until sunrise. Mercury will be visible in Virgo the Maiden for an hour before sunrise, ending up in Libra the Scales by November’s end.

November’s Morning Stars: The Winter Triangle of Sirius, Betelgeuse, and Procyon will be up until the morning. Spot Capella in Auriga the Charioteer and Aldebaran in Taurus the Bull until the morning along with the stars of Leo, Gemini, Orion, Pisces, Andromeda, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Draco, Perseus, and the two Dippers.

November Skylights
Nov 1 Moon is 5° north of Neptune
Nov 2 Moon is at perigee (228,590 mi from Earth)
Nov 4 Moon is 1° north of Uranus
Nov 6 Full Moon at 5:20 PM
Nov 12 North Taurid meteor shower peaks
Nov 14 Last Quarter Moon at 10:16 AM. Moon is at apogee (251,245 mi from Earth)
Nov 16 Neptune is stationary at 6:00 AM
Nov 18 Leonid meteor shower peaks
Nov 22 New Moon at 7:33 AM
Nov 26 Moon is 7° north of Mars
Nov 27 Moon is at perigee (229,800 mi from Earth)
Nov 29 First Quarter Moon at 5:06 AM
Times given in EDT.

The Winter Triangle and the Pleiades
With the beginning of fall, the three stars forming the Winter Triangle and the Pleiades are visible to the naked eye each night through most of winter. Looking south, you can spot these features moving slowly east to west during the night.

The Winter Triangle
The Winter Triangle asterism is marked by three bright stars from different constellations: Sirius, the brightest star viewed from Earth is in Canis Major the Great Dog; Betelgeuse is in Orion the Hunter; and Procyon is in Canis Minor the Small Dog. In addition to the red supergiant Betelgeuse, other bright features in Orion include the blue supergiant Rigel and the famous Orion Nebula are visible.

The Pleiades
The Pleiades is an open cluster of hundreds of extremely lu-minous blue stars. They appear as a dim, misty haze in the constellation Taurus the Bull. Six of the stars can be distinguished, forming a “Little Dipper” shape. The brightest star, Alcyone, is 1,000 times more luminous than the Sun; the faintest of the six is 40 times brighter. The cluster typically reaches its highest point in the sky around the third week of November. 440 light years away, its stars are roughly 100 million years old and will live another 250 million years. That’s a short lifespan com-pared to our Sun, which is roughly 5 billion years old and is expected to last 5 billion years more.

The Seven Sisters
The Pleiades are also known as the Seven Sisters. In Greek mythology, Atlas the Titan, who carries the heavens on his shoulders, had seven daughters: Maia, Electra, Alcyone, Tay-gete, Asterope, Celaeno and Merope. Hunting in the woods one day, the giant Orion slipped into a glade where the sisters were playing. Enamored, he chased after them for years. They pleaded to Zeus, King of the Gods, to save them from Orion. Zeus turned them into doves, so they could fly away. They flew through misty clouds to hide in their father’s land (today, the Atlas Mountains). But, Orion was undeterred. Zeus then transformed the doves into stars to hide in the heavens. The Orion constellation continues to pursue the Pleiades across the night skies of fall and winter.

Why do we only see six of the Seven Sisters?
Some ancient astronomical records indicate that a visible star in the cluster became faded towards the end of the 2nd millennium BCE. Greek legends say one of the Seven Sisters took a mortal husband, and so her star lost its glow.