¡SkyCaramba! Weekly astronomy blog for the week ending November 2, 2013
This is an exciting month, especially for morning sky watchers. And if Comet ISON puts on a good enough show, it will be even more so. You never know what comets will do, so you’ll just have to watch the show and find out.
November starts with Venus at greatest elongation in the evening sky. It’s separated from the sun by 47.1°. The planet is rather far south, so southern hemisphere observers get the best view. It will be up about three hours after sunset from about 25° south. In the northern hemisphere, you can see it for an hour and a half.
Jupiter rises in late evening just below Gemini. Last month, the big planet passed close by the star Wasat. This month, it’s heading back like a person who passes a grocery store and turns around remembering he should have stopped to buy some milk. Jupiter will be almost as close to Wasat in early December as it was in early October. The moon passes by them on the 20th and 21st.
Mars rises in the early morning south of Leo in the early part of the month. It’s moving toward Virgo and will be close to the Virgo star Zavijava when December starts. Virgo’s bright star Spica is rising in the morning sky by November’s end. The moon passes it on the 29th.
Mercury, emerging from the sun’s glare in the morning sky, rises soon after Spica after about eight days into November. Mercury will rise earlier and earlier each day until it’s at greatest elongation on the 18th. However, the stars behind it will rise even earlier to make it look like the planet isn’t keeping up. Meanwhile, Comet ISON is closing in from above.
ISON will be about the same distance above Spica as Mercury is below it on the 15th. The comet will be close to the star on the 17th and will have passed it by the 18th. Watch for ISON and Mercury to be side by side on the 22nd. By this time, Saturn is emerging from conjunction with the sun to appear below Mercury and ISON. ISON is to the right of the two planets on the 23rd.
Look from morning to morning and you’ll see the comet is heading fast toward the sun. Unless it has brightened so much as to see it in daylight, don’t expect to see more than its tail in the morning sky by the 26th. That’s when Saturn is less than 0.7° west of Mercury. The two planets are between the Libra stars Zubeneschamali and Zubenelgenubi. In just a few more morning, the month will end with Mercury having dropped below Saturn.
From planet watching, you would reasonably expect Comet ISON to reemerge in the evening sky as quickly as it disappears this month from the morning sky. However, ISON’s orbit isn’t like a planet’s. It will reemerge into the morning sky! So early birds can look for it again in December.
A rare hybrid solar eclipse happens on the 3rd. For properly positioned ships in the Atlantic Ocean or people on land in Africa, the moon will pass directly in front of the sun. When the eclipse begins south of Bermuda, the moon is too far from Earth to block the entire sun, so there’s an annular eclipse. People will see a ring of the sun surrounding a black disk of the moon. Farther along the line of the central eclipse, it becomes a total eclipse because the moon will be close enough there to block the entire solar disk.
Partial solar eclipse phases will be visible from northeastern South America, most of the Atlantic, southern Europe, and nearly all of Africa.
There’s enough info to get you started on an exciting month. ¡SkyCaramba!