By the time you read this, we will only be five days from the Total Lunar Eclipse that will happen during the Full Moon of November 8. You will need to be an early riser to see this one as totality is scheduled to being at 5:16 a.m. and will last until 6:42 a.m. EST. The best viewing will take place in the far west while areas from New England down through the Eastern Seaboard will see the Moon setting while it is in total eclipse. The center of the United States from the west shore of Lake Michigan down to the Texas Gulf Coast will see the Moon set in partial eclipse after totality has passed. We begin November with the First Quarter Moon on Nov 1 while the Last Quarter and New Moon will take place on Nov 16 and Nove 23, respectively. The Last Crescent Moon can be seen near the ESE horizon one hour before sunrise on Nov 19-22 and the Very Young Crescent will make an appearance in the SW on Nov 25 40 min after sunset.
The Leonid meteor shower will grace our skies from midnight to dawn on Nov 17-19 when it reaches its peak activity. If skies permit, increased numbers of meteors may also be visible a couple of days before and after the peak nights. The parent of this meteor shower is Periodic Comet Tempelp-Tuttle which was discovered by William Tempel of Marseilles Observetory in France on December 19, 1865. Word of the comet spread througout Europe but it also bears the name of Horace Tuttle of the Harvard College Observatory who discovered it independently 17 days later. Measurements show it has an orbit of 33.17 years and astronomers were quick to realize the Leonid showers were the result of this comet. The Leonids have at times produced some of the greatest meteor storms observed like the one in the early morning hours of November 17, 1966 when it seemed the meteors briefly fell like rain with thousands of them being seen in a fifteen minute span. A normal year usually produces 10-15 meteors per hour.
In the evening sky, Jupiter and Saturn begin the month about 20 degrees apart and will be well placed for viewing in the south and southeast sky. Jupiter will be easy to spot shining at magnitude -2.5 with Saturn a more modest +0.2. With a small telescope, you may be able to find Neptune just to the right of Jupiter but it will only be a mag +7.8 object this month. Jupiter will end its retrograde motion (where it has been seen moving backwards against the star field) on Nov 23.
Mars can be found in the morning sky all month between the horns of Taurus the Bull. The Red Planet is nearing opposition in early December and will be making the transition from a morning planet to an evening planet. On November 30, Mars will be the closest to the Earth during this orbital pass at 50,612,000 miles. Venus and Mercury are both too near the Sun to be visible at this time. When they return next month, you will have the opportunity to see all seven planets in the sky between dusk and nightfall.
Uranus will also be visible with a small scope between the brightest stars of Aires the Ram and the head of Cetus the Whale but it will only be at mag +5.6. If one sees the Full Moon above the WNW horizon 40 minutes before sunrise on Nov 8, Uranus will be just above and to the left of the setting Moon.
Compiled by Ken Raisanen of WOAS-FM – information provided by Abrams Planetarium Sky Calendar, Michigan State University. More information and subscription information can be found on their website at http://abramsplanetarium.org/skycalendar/ or on Twitter at http://twitter.com/AbramsSkyNotes. Yearly subscriptions cost $12 and can be started anytime. Gift subscriptions to the Abrams Sky Calendar make your holiday shopping a little simpler!
Top Piece Video: We are going to have an eclipse this month, not of the HEART, but Bonnie Tyler will have to do!