What’s Up?

Updated November 8, 2019

The Moon is a waxing gibbous in the evening sky these days. It rises in mid- to late-afternoon and is up most of the night. As the day transitions to night, Venus is the first “star” to become visible, followed by Jupiter. Mercury has vanished into the evening glare of twilight, on its way to passing directly in front of the Sun’s disk as seen from Earth on Monday morning November 11, as seen from the Americas. More information on this transit event can be found at this website. Venus is still very low in the twilight and Jupiter is higher up and easier to see. The two are 15 degrees apart on November 8, closing to 9 degrees on the 15th. They come closest to each other on the 23rd and 24th, passing 1-1/2 degrees apart at closest approach. About 20 degrees to the upper left is Saturn, a steady-shining yellowish “star” in the south southwest during and after dusk. The star Nunki (magnitude 2.0) is below Saturn and it marks the handle of the Teapot of Sagittarius which is in the process of sinking into the solar glare at dusk. Uranus and Neptune need optical aid to see: Uranus is well up in the east by 8 pm local time and is highest in the south around 11 pm local time; Neptune is highest in the south in the early evening,

The Great Square of Pegasus is high above the gibbous moon this evening (the 8th), with Diphda, one of the brightest stars in Cetus below the Moon. The fall constellations are well up in the sky as it gets dark. Bright Capella is about the same height above the northeast horizon as Vega is above the west-northwest horizon around 8:30 pm give or take, and depending on your latitude and longitude. To the right of Capella is Taurus, with Aldebaran lower and the Pleiades higher in the eastern sky. The constellation Orion clears the eastern horizon by around 9 pm local time.

The planet Mercury transits the Sun from 7:35 am to 1:04 pm Eastern Standard Time (US) on Monday morning November 11. The planet will pass less than 76″ from the very center of the Sun’s disk. If it is cloudy at your location and/or you are on the “wrong side” of the Earth to see it, you can watch it live via https://www.virtualtelescope.eu/webtv/ or slooh.com. Also the website www.spaceweather.com will likely have additional links to transit webcams as well as images afterwards.

Full Moon happens on November 12/13 and shines in the east with the Pleiades to its upper left in the evening. Binoculars will help to see the Pleiades through the glare. The next night the Moon passes near the bright orange Aldebaran star with the Hyades in tow. The cluster will be easier to spot using binoculars. The waning gibbous Moon then crosses Gemini on the 15th and 16th of November, moving into Cancer by the 17th. It will make a right triangle, roughly, with Pollux and Procyon.

Go to https://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/this-weeks-sky-at-a-glance-november-8-16/ where you will find the current “Sky at a Glance” (currently for the week ending September 28). There are lots of links to interesting news stories and additional observing projects for those who are interested.

Last January’s total lunar eclipse featured a meteor impact flash seen and imaged widely. This event took place just as totality was getting started. One of the many imagers, Nicolas Lefaudeux, posted his images to his website. These images feature realistic views of recent total lunar eclipses as well as the meteor impact flash and other types of images. A nice montage of the total lunar eclipse was assembled by Doug Holland, it can be viewed at this website.

The Prairie View Observatory complex is almost complete and we are currently working to bring the telescopes on line. The PVO complex has 3 domes, including the existing Solar Observatory, and two new domes. For updates on this progress check out https://www.pvamu.edu/pvso/cosmic-corner/project-summary-2/. Also, more information and images can be viewed at https://sites.google.com/view/saganti-astro/home. The two new domes contain our Meade 16-inch advanced telescope (east dome, an Astrohaven clamshell style dome) and a new 0.6 meter (24-inch) PlaneWave Corrected Dall-Kirkham telescope (west dome, an Ash dome). The design features these two domes situated east and west of a visitor’s center, which is immediately north of the existing Solar Observatory. First light for the new observatory is expected later this summer. Keep checking back for updates.

Juno, the spacecraft, continues to send back spectacular images. You can find them at https://earthsky.org/space/juno-spacecraft-image-nov-2018-eichstadt-doran and  https://www.missionjuno.swri.edu/junocam/processing?ob_from=&ob_to=&phases%5B%5D=PERIJOVE+15&perpage=16. Juno has been approved to continue orbiting Jupiter until at least July 2021.  For more information about this mission in general visit www.nasa.gov/juno. You can also visit http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/30/health/juno-jupiter/index.html which has some additional interesting facts about the mission.