November 2, 2017

Night Sky: Meteor Showers, Starburst Galaxy, and
More Night Sky Highlights for November 2017


This is NGC 253, the Sculptor Galaxy.  With a visual magnitude of +7, it’s a good target for binoculars and telescopes.   It will start appearing November near the SE horizon right after sunset.  It’s about 12 million light years away.  NGC 252 is a starburst galaxy.  Starburst galaxies are known for their intense star formation.  The dark streaks you can see in this image are believed to be large areas of cool gas. It’s being pulled towards the center of the galaxy where it will be used in the creation of new stars!


What to Look for in November 2017

Venus and Mars will both be visible near the Eastern horizon in the early morning hours.  Venus is the bright object close to the horizon.  Mars is the red object a little higher in the sky.  Jupiter will start the month very close to the rising Sun and will not be visible until the 10th.  From that point on, Jupiter will appear a few minutes sooner than the Sun each day.  Meanwhile, Venus will appear to get a little closer to both the rising Sun and Jupiter.  On the 13th, Venus will appear to be right on top of Jupiter.  This is the first planetary conjunction in November. 

On the 16th, Mars, the waning crescent moon, Jupiter, and Venus will form a line just above the rising Sun. If you miss the 16th, you’ll get another chance on the 17th.  The big difference is the moon will be a day closer to being a New Moon and it will appear to be very close to Venus.   I don’t know if we will be able to make out the silhouette of the moon, but it sounds to me like it could be an opportunity for a great picture!

Mercury will be near the WSW horizon just after sundown for all of November.  It will start the month in close proximity to the setting sun.  As the month progresses, Mercury will appear to distance itself from the sun, giving us all a better and longer view of this smallest planet - (remember Pluto is no longer considered a planet).

Saturn will be visible for about 2 hours at twilight for most of the month.  On the first, it will be visible for about two hours before disappearing below the horizon.  As the month progresses, you won’t get near that much viewing time, but things will get more interesting!  As the month goes by, Saturn and Mercury will appear to get closer and closer together.  On the 28th, they will appear to be about 3 degrees apart in the twilight skies.  This is the second planetary conjunction in November!

Both Neptune and Uranus will be in the night skies throughout November.  Neptune rises before sunset followed by Uranus just after sunset. You will need binoculars or a low power scope to spot them.

The Orionids meteor shower is active throughout the month.  It peaks on the 21st of October. Typically, there are 20-25 shooting stars per hour. 

November features three major meteor showers. The Southern Taurids peaked in October, but it will continue to produce shooting stars and fireballs throughout most of November.  The Northern Taurids meteor shower will peak just after midnight on the night of November 10th and continue producing meteors into early December.  The Leonids meteor shower peaks just before dawn on November 17. Experts say the morning hours of the 18th will also provide peak viewing!  The new moon is on the 18th so both nights should offer a great opportunity for viewing the meteor shower.

Moon Phases:

1st Quarter is the 26th
 Full Moon is the 04th
 Last Quarter is the 10th
 New Moon is the 18th

(Gerry 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]g.)

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