Skywatching November 2012


Moon Phases

Last Quarter — 11/06/12
New Moon — 11/13/12 — A solar eclipse accompanies this New Moon, but it is visible in the South Pacific.
First Quarter — 11/20/12
Full Moon — 11/28/12 — A penumbral lunar eclipse is part of this Full Moon.  A penumbral eclipse occurs when the moon passes through the outer part of the earth’s shadow.  Most eclipses of this type are hardly noticeable.  In the Chicago area, the eclipse begins at 6:04 a.m. CST, but the moon sets at 6:50 a.m. CST.  Because the moon is low in the west as the eclipse begins, this is largely a non-event for the region.

The sun continues to rise farther south of east and set farther south of east during the month.  A noon the sun is lower  in the south.  During November, we lose an additional hour of daylight with about 9.5 hours of daylight at month’s end.  Daylight Saving Time ends on November 4 with the return to standard time when clocks are set back one hour.

Evening Sky

Early in the month, Jupiter rises north of east during early evening hours.  It appears in front of the stars of Taurus.  The moon passes Jupiter twice during the month.

The chart above shows Jupiter, Moon, and Aldebaran at 9:30 p.m. CST on November 1.

Later in the month, the moon returns to the Taurus region. On November 27 and 28, as shown in the chart above, the moon is visible with Jupiter and Aldebaran again as the trio are visible in the eastern sky at 6:30 p.m. CST. As the moon and Jupiter rise, the moon is about 1 degree away from the planet.

Throughout the month Jupiter appears to be moving westward (retrograde) as compared to the stars.  The chart above shows Jupiter on November 1, 10, 20, and 30, 2012 as it appears to move backwards.  This retrograde motion is due to the faster moving Earth catching up to and passing Jupiter.  This occurs with all the planets that lie outside Earth’s orbit.  This illusion is most pronounced in the planets closest to Earth (Mars and Jupiter).  When Earth moves between a planet and the sun, we call this “opposition,” as the sun and planet are opposite in the sky.  When the sun sets in the west, Jupiter rises in the east.  Jupiter appears in the sky all night as our planet rotates.  Jupiter reaches opposition on December 3.

Mars is visible low in the southwest, setting before twilight ends throughout the month. On the evenings of November 15 and November 16, the waxing crescent is nearby.  The chart above shows the moon and Mars at 5:15 p.m. CST.  Locate a clear horizon to see the moon and Mars.

Morning Sky

Venus remains the bright starlike object in the eastern sky before sunrise.  This brilliant planet has been in the eastern sky for the last several months.  (See our outlook for Venus as a Morning Star.)  Venus is now rising south of east and continues to rise farther south of east each day.  At the month’s beginning, Venus rises about 3 hours before sunrise and decreases to 2 hours, 24 minutes by month’s end.

The faster moving Moon passes Venus on the morning of November 11.  On this morning Venus and the earth’s nearest celestial neighbor are about 6 degrees apart.  The star Spica is below the pair.

Venus continues its rapid eastward movement, passing Spica, the brightest star in Virgothe morning of November 16. They are separated by about 4 degrees.   Planet Saturn is re-entering the morning sky, after its conjunction with the sun in October, appears below.

Late in the month Saturn re-enters the morning sky and joins Venus .  On November 27, Venus passes Saturn.  Look in the eastern sky during early morning twilight.  Brilliant Venus appears below dimmer Saturn.  The pair are separated by less than 1 degree.  Spica appears above the planetary pair.

Mercury is at inferior conjunction on November 17 and rapidly moves into the morning sky.  The chart above shows Mercury, Venus and Saturn in the eastern sky at 6 a.m. on November 30, 2012.  Locate a view with a clear horizon to locate the planets and the nearby stars.

From the solar system view in the above chart (click the image to make it larger) shown for November 15, 2012, Mercury is nearly between the sun and Earth.  Earth is nearly between Jupiter and the sun.

As the fall season prevails, the diurnal cycle is now dominated by darkness, brilliant Venus dominates the morning sky and joins Mercury and Saturn late in the month.  Bright Jupiter enters the evening sky with an assortment of other bright stars.

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