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Star Gazing
November Sky


KEDAR S BADU


This month Mars is hard to find, but Jupiter and Venus provide a brilliant display in the evening sky and we also have a couple of meteor showers. But before we get to them, let me tell you about the great stars of November. On any clear evening, if you look directly overhead, you will find four bright stars that form an almost perfect square.

This is the Great Square of Pegasus. To the north of Pegasus, you will find the 'W' shaped constellation of Cassiopeia. Just below Cassiopeia and to the east of Pegasus you can see the Andromeda constellation, near the centre of which lies the Andromeda Galaxy, M31? just visible to the naked eye but clearly seen through binoculars.

Next door to Cassiopeia is the constellation of another mythical hero, Perseus, which contains the winking star? Algol, 'the demon'? whose brightness changes every three days. Sometimes considered to be the evil eye of Medusa, this is well worth viewing through binoculars. Between Perseus and Cassiopeia is a beautiful sight for binoculars ?the famous Double Cluster. These two closely situated open star clusters are well worth a look. The Summer Triangle, made up of the three bright stars Vega, Deneb and Altair, is also fairly obvious in the western sky.

Low on the southwest horizon immediately after sunset is another large and beautiful constellation? Scorpius. Behind and just to the east, is Sagittarius, another constellation that is easy to see. It is supposed to be an archer but it looks more like a teapot. On a clear, moonless night, look carefully at the spout of the teapot and you will see what looks like steam rising from it. This is in fact the Milky Way band, which extends all the way up through the Summer Triangle. Planet watchers, get ready for the brilliant display of Jupiter and Venus in the evening sky.

Every clear evening in November, step outside after sunset to watch the show as Jupiter sinks into the twilight while Venus rises. The grand finale comes on 30 November when these two planets meet the crescent Moon to make a brilliant display on the western horizon. Mercury is at 'superior conjunction' (behind the Sun) on 25 November and is unlikely to be seen at all this month. Mars is almost directly behind the Sun (conjunction is on 5 December) so that too will not be visible. Saturn is rising in the early hours of the morning and is well up in the south-eastern sky by dawn. It is moving very slowly south-eastwards in Leo.

Meteor watchers get ready for the Leonid meteor shower, generally active between 15-20 November, and peaking around midnight on 17 November. The shower seems to spread from a radiant point within the 'sickle' of Leo, about midway between the planet Saturn and the waning gibbous Moon on the 17 November. Unfortunately, the light from the Moon will drown out all but the brightest meteors.

The Taurid meteor shower reaches its peak on 3 November but like the Leonids, you'll see fewer than 10 meteors an hour.

kedarbadu(at)gmail.com



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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