Deep Southern Skies - November
Welcome to a monthly description of our beautiful northern NSW night sky.
・Venus and Mars close.
・Jupiter and the Moon are close.
・Jupiter, Mars and Venus in the dawn sky.
・Mars, Venus and the Moon together.
・Comet C/2013 US10 (Catalina) appears in the dawn sky.
・The Northern Taurid meteor show peaks mid-month with its slow, colourful fireballs.
3rd Last Quarter.
8th Moon at apogee (furthest from Earth at 405,721 km).
12th New Moon.
19th First Quarter.
24th Moon at perigee (closest to Earth at 362,817 km).
26th Full Moon.
Mercury stays close to the Sun and not to be seen during November. It moves from the morning sky into superior conjunction (Mercury and Earth on opposite sides of the Sun) on the 18th and into the western evening sky.
Venus begins the month close to Mars in the predawn eastern sky and the distance between the pair narrows to just 0.7° on the 3rd and 4th and then Venus drops away toward the Sun. A beautiful view occurs on the 8th when Venus is situated between Mars and the 26-day old waning crescent Moon.
Mars spends the first couple of days of November in Leo before crossing into Virgo. Rising just before astronomical dawn begins, it shares the eastern horizon with the brightest two planets, Venus and Jupiter. The Red Planet and Venus will be within 1° of each other between the 2nd and 5th, with closest approach of 0.7° on the 3rd and 4th.
Jupiter’s close planetary companions of the past several weeks, Venus and Mars, take leave of the gas giant and moves into Virgo. The planet is visible low in the eastern sky prior to the brightening dawn. On the 7th, the 25-day old waning crescent Moon appears 2.5° from Jupiter.
Saturn is only visible low to the western horizon for a short time after evening dusk and by mid-month will be absorbed into the twilight. On the 13th, the ringed planet will be a little south (left) of the 2-day old Moon – a difficult observation in the twilight but a good challenge with binoculars. Saturn will be in conjunction (on the opposite side of the Sun to the Earth) on the 30th, and will be lost from view until its return in the morning sky in Ophiuchus late December.
Uranus, now past opposition, transits the meridian (is due north) around 9:30 pm mid-month.
Neptune is high in the early north-western sky at the end of astronomical dusk in Aquarius. The planet appears stationary on the 19th after five months in retrograde, returning to a west to east direction against the star field.
DWARF PLANETS AND SMALL SOLAR SYSTEM BODIES
Pluto, in Sagittarius, sets around 10:30 pm mid-month. Between the 16th and 18th the little world will be swamped by the brilliance of Chi Sagittarii as it passes within two arcminutes of this 4th magnitude star.
Comet C/2013 US10 (Catalina) after passing through perihelion on the 15th, moves into the dawn sky in the latter half of November. It is predicted to be at maximum brightness of 5.5 magnitude. At month’s end it is rising just after the beginning of astronomical dawn, about 12° to the lower right of the bright star, Spica. Unfortunately, the Moon will be in the morning sky at this time.
The Northern Taurids are bright slow meteors active during October and November. The shower is composed of two radiants of nearly equal activity ten degrees apart. The Northern Taurids peak around 12th November and the Southern Taurids in October. The Taurids are frequently bright, slow moving, and noted for producing amazing colourful fireballs. They are associated with Comet 2P/Encke, and can be seen from late evening to early morning. There will be no lunar interference this year with New Moon occurring during the peak.
THE SOUTHERN PINWHEEL GALAXY, NGC 300 IN SCULPTOR
A member of the Sculptor Group of galaxies. In 1834, John Herschell discovered NGC 300 at the Cape of Good Hope with his 18 1/2-inch reflector, however, James Dunlop listed this object in A Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars in the Southern Hemisphere, Observed at Parramatta in New South Wales, published in 1827. NGC 300 displays a barless spiral with wide, loosely wound arms and a tiny nucleus. NGC 300 has two dominant S-shaped spiral arms laced with dark lanes and starry clumps and two other feathery arms forming a weaker S giving it a pinwheel pattern. Its true diameter is 22,000 light years with a total mass of 30 billion suns and is 6 million light years away.
Astronomy 2015 Australia. Quasar Publishing 2014.
The SkyX Professional Edition planetarium software.
The Southern Pinwheel image, 5 hours exposure time, Al Brockman, Oct 2015.