Nov. 12 to 18

Celestial highlights:

The first few highlights are designed for you pre-dawn sky observers:

The waning crescent moon will be 6.7 degrees NNE of Spica on Tuesday. Both celestial objects will be 27 degrees from the Sun.

On Wednesday you’ll find the Moon less than 3 degrees to the NNE of both Mercury and Venus in the pre-dawn sky.

The Moon is new on Thursday, thus commencing lunation cycle 976.

WAITING FOR THE LEONID METEORS!

Alert to all meteor watchers!

The Leonid meteor shower peaks on the morning of Sunday, November 18th. Meteors are streaks of light that catch your eye and then vanish by the time you realize what you’ve seen.

Once thought to have been stars descending to Earth, meteors are truly pieces of debris cast off from comets. When they approach the Sun in their highly elongated orbits, comet ice melts, releasing the dust embedded within its icy layers. When Earth passes through a cloud of this debris, the particles are drawn into the planet’s atmosphere. Frictional heating occurs, causing the particle to melt and glow. It is this glow which we perceive as the meteor. The correct term for this glow is meteor luminosity.

The Leonid shower may produce 30-50 meteors per hour, possibly more if it reaches meteor storm rates.

WATCHING A SHOWER:

The best way to observe a meteor shower is to lie down with your gaze directed toward the southeast. The best time to observe is after midnight, when the planet is turning into the direction of the meteor stream. This shower is named the Leonid, for the meteors will appear to be emanating from this constellation.

Close observation will reveal that the meteors seem to be coming from the same direction in Leo. The point of apparent meteor origin is known as the radiant.

The apparent emanation of the meteors from Leo is a line of sight effect. The meteors actually travel along parallel paths to Earth’s surface during most of their descent.

LOOKING FOR PLANETS?

MERCURY: This elusive planet is always hard to observe. However, this week, Mercury will be relatively close to the brilliant pre-dawn planet Venus.

VENUS: The bright beacon of the eastern pre-dawn sky, Venus outshines all the planets and night-sky stars. Venus will rise by 4:30 a.m.

MARS: This red planet is low in the southwestern evening sky. The only planet visible after sunset, Mars will set soon after the Sun does.

JUPITER: The giant planet outshines all the night sky objects except for the Moon and Venus. Observe Jupiter as a bright light within the constellation Gemini. Jupiter will rise in the late evening.

Saturn resides in the Taurus region of the Sky. This slow-moving world can be found around the southern horn region. Taurus the Bull is marked by the V-shaped Hyades star cluster. Saturn rises in the mid-evening.

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