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2019, November 11-20: Mercury Transit & Morning and Evening Planets


Morning Sky

Mars is low in the eastern sky about 1 hour before sunrise near the star Spica.  The planet is dimmer and redder than blue Spica.  During the next several mornings watch Mars move away from Spica.  The chart above shows the planet and the star about one hour before sunrise.  Both are low in the east-southeast.

Begin looking for the moon in the western sky during pre-sunrise hours on November 12.  On the morning of Nov 14, notice that the bright moon is above Aldebaran and the “V” of Taurus.

During these morning hours, watch the moon appear farther east and higher in the sky each morning.

Mercury begins a morning appearance.  On November 20, it is low in the east-southeast about one hour before sunrise.  Find a clear horizon to see it.

Evening Sky

Venus becomes easier to see if you look early enough.  The chart above shows the early evening sky, about 30 minutes after sunset on November 11.  Venus closes in on Jupiter for a November 24 conjunction.  This evening Venus and Jupiter are 13° apart.  Saturn is dimmer and farther to south.  It will become visible as the sky darkens further.

The bright moon is in the eastern sky during evening hours November 11 – 16.  Look for it in the east, beginning one hour after sunset on November 11.  Each night look one hour later.  It appears in the eastern sky each night, with a slightly different phase, and in front of other stars.

By November 20, brilliant Venus is 3.9° to the lower right of Jupiter.  Look shortly after sunset.  Find a clear horizon.

Daily Notes

The notes were originally published in the Observer.

At mid-month, when morning twilight begins (about 5 a.m. CST), Sirius, Orion’s Belt, Aldebaran, and the Pleiades are lined up in the western sky at nearly the same altitude. The bright gibbous moon is above them in Gemini. Procyon and Capella stand at nearly the same altitude as the moon on November 16th. Leo is farther east. Its great Sickle has not yet reached the meridian. The head of Hydra, the Snake, is at the meridian. Six 3rd and 4th magnitude stars outline the snake’s head. They are nearly 60° up about halfway between Procyon and Regulus. The snake wiggles eastward below Crater and Corvus. The tail goes below the horizon ending near Libra. Alphard, the “Solitary One,” is Hydra’s brightest star, over 20° to the lower right of Regulus and nearly 40° up in the south. It is a second magnitude star, the brightest in this part of the sky. Farther eastward along the ecliptic from Leo, Spica is low in the southeast, with Mars nearby. With Spica in the southeast, Arcturus is nearly 20° up in the east. The Big Dipper is high in the northeast with its curved handle guiding us to Arcturus. Cassiopeia is low in the north-northwest. Mars continues as a not-so-bright star, moving slowly in Virgo. Mercury pops into the morning sky as the second half of the month progresses, brightening as the apparition proceeds. Watch it move toward Mars, but there is no conjunction. Mercury has a nice appearance with Zubenelgenubi, but the star is low in the sky. Find a clear horizon and use a binocular to find the star. At the end of evening twilight (about 6 p.m. CST), the Summer Triangle – Vega, Altair, and Deneb – stands high in the southwest. Jupiter is low in the southwest with Saturn, in eastern Sagittarius, to Jupiter’s upper left. The Great Square of Pegasus approaches the meridian, high in the south. The square’s pair of western stars point downward to Fomalhaut that is less than one-fourth of the way up in the southern sky. The great Winter Congregation is now making its way into the evening sky, with the Pleiades leading the way from low in the east-northeast. Aldebaran is lower near the horizon. Capella is in the northeast, at about the same altitude as the Pleiades. The “fishhook” of Perseus hangs above Capella with Cassiopeia higher and above Pegasus toward the meridian. The Big Dipper may be hiding behind a neighbor’s house or other nearby building as it is low in the north-northwest. Venus continues to move toward Jupiter with a conjunction occurring in over a week.

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