November 2, 2015
The Night Sky: More meteor showers for November
By GERRY LEBING
Draconid meteor shower on Oct. 8 proved to be less than
spectacular. I spotted three faint shooting stars. On the
other hand, in the early morning of Oct. 23, I saw a very bright
meteorite shoot across the body of the Orion Constellation! On
the same morning, the light show of Venus, Jupiter, and Mars was
spectacular! Venus was so bright that it almost looked like a
I also managed a couple of good images during October.
The Andromeda Galaxy is about 2.5 million light years away. It contains
about 300 billion stars! It also has 14 known satellite
galaxies. Several of them are visible in the picture. M110 is
visible in the upper right-hand. M32 is just below and to the
left of M31.
The Andromeda Galaxy is supposed to be the most distant object visible
to the naked eye. During October, I was unable to spot it without
the aid of binoculars or a telescope. To find it using
binoculars, I first locate the W-shape of the constellation
Cassiopeia. Then I use the bottom two star’s larger “V” in
Cassiopeia to point towards the bright star Alpheratz in the bottom
corner of the great square of the Pegasus constellation. M31 is
about half of the way from Cassiopeia to Pegasus. On a very
dark, clear night, it should appear as a faint, cloudy object.
With binoculars, I can see quite a bit of detail. The visibility
of M31 is used as a reference point for the Bortle Light Pollution
Scale. The scale runs from 1 to 9, with 1 being the best and 9 the
worst. Not being able to see the Andromeda Galaxy puts Waves
somewhere around a 7.
Another fun fact about M31 is that it’s on a collision course with the
Milky Way. You can expect to feel the effects in about 5 billion
years, so there’s no need to sell the house and move to a safer galaxy
Another good shot I got in October is this shot of M81 -- Bode's Galaxy -- on the right and M82 -- Bode’s Nebula.
M81 and M82 were both discovered by Johann Bode in 1774. They are
both about 12 million light years away. On a clear night, you can
view them using a good pair of binoculars. To find them, first
locate the bowl of the big dipper. Try to imagine a line going
from the lower corner (below the handle) diagonally through the star
that forms the upper corner (furthest away from the handle). Now
double the length of that line. That’s where you will find M81
and M82. M81 has a magnitude of +6.9. M82’s magnitude is
+8.4 so you won’t be able to see either one without some visual aid.
NOVEMBER SKY WATCHING
The Orionids meteor shower is still active the first week of November.
Viewing is best from midnight until dawn. The meteors will
appear to originate from the constellation Orion, but they might appear
anywhere in the sky. At midnight, Orion will be visible just above the
The Taurid meteor showers continue through November with two distinct
peaks. The first peak on the night of Nov. 4 is the South
Taurids. The second, on Nov. 12, is known as the North
Taurids. Both peaks take place from midnight until dawn.
For the most part, the Taurids offer about seven meteors per
hour. But the Taurids also offer a very good chance of seeing a
“fireball” streak across the sky!
The Leonids meteor shower will peak in the early morning hours of Nov.
17. The Leonids are expected to produce up to 15 meteor and
fireballs per hour. They will appear to start in the
constellation Leo. Leo will be high in the southeast skies
on the morning of Nov. 17.
Neptune and Uranus will be in the night skies. On an
exceptionally clear night, you might be able to see Uranus with the
naked eye but you need strong binoculars or a telescope to see Neptune.
Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Mercury will all be visible near the eastern horizon in the early morning hours.
One of my favorite Messier objects -- M45, the Pleiades -- is prominent
throughout November. It starts the month rising in the east-northeast
shortly after sunset and remains visible all night! Throughout
November, it will rise earlier each night. By the end of the
month, it will be visible as soon as the sun sets.
The Pleiades is also called the "Seven Sisters." For
most people, six of the stars are visible with the naked eye. On
very clear nights, as many as 14 stars are reported in the
cluster. If you add binoculars or a small telescope, you will be
able to see some of the nebulosity surrounding many of the stars.
With a large scope, you can zero in on the brighter stars and study
each one like a diamond collector!
I took this picture of the Pleiades in October. It really doesn’t do justice to the beauty of this star cluster.
Third Quarter: Nov. 3
New Moon: Nov. 11
First Quarter: Nov. 19
Full Moon: Nov. 25
A "fireball" is a huge shooting star. Often, they are brighter than Venus. Seeing a fireball is a rare event.
Lebing is a retired computer scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey
in Washington, D.C. He has visited Hatteras Island since the
mid-1970s. He and his wife, Karen, have owned property here for several
years and moved to their home in Waves full-time in 2013.
Astronomy is a subject that Gerry says he has always been interested in
and one that he pursues seriously -- he's built an small observatory
next to his house. You can send him questions about the night sky
through e-mail, [email protected].)