Star Trak: November 2017

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A spectacular conjunction between Venus and Jupiter, the two brightest points of light in the night sky, will take place before dawn Nov. 13. The two planets will rise in the east-southeast about an hour before sunrise and climb 5 degrees above the horizon. Venus will be just 0.3 degrees to the left (east) of Jupiter. Venus will be brighter, while Jupiter will appear three times bigger with four bright moons. A telescope will show both in a single field of view.

By the end of November, Venus will be out of sight in the solar glare. But Jupiter will rise in a dark sky more than two hours before the sun and climb nearly 15 degrees high an hour before sunrise.

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Jupiter and Venus appear close to each other near a full moon.

As evening twilight falls early in November, Mercury and Saturn will shine brightly in the southwest. For observers at mid-northern latitudes, Mercury will stand 5 degrees above the horizon a half-hour after sunset on Nov. 15, bright enough to be visible in the glow of twilight. Binoculars will show it easily.

Saturn will be 15 degrees above the southwestern horizon an hour after sunset Nov. 1. The ringed planet will be four times brighter than any of the stars in the background constellation Ophiuchus. The best views of Saturn with a telescope will come early in the month, when it is highest. Its rings will be tilted 27 degrees to our line of sight.

Mercury will pass 3 degrees due south of Saturn on the evening of Nov 27.

Mars will rise nearly three hours before the sun Nov. 1 and an hour earlier by month's end. The planet's red-orange color will make it stand out against the background stars of the constellation Virgo the Maiden with its bright blue-white star Spica.

Meteor shower

The annual Leonid meteor shower will peak before dawn Nov. 17. The moon will be almost new and will not interfere with the best viewing hours before the start of morning twilight. The maximum rate will be 10 meteors per hour.

The shower's radiant, the point from which the meteors appear to come, will be in the constellation Leo the Lion. The bright star Regulus is part of Leo and can serve as a marker for the radiant. The farther sickle-shaped Leo climbs above the eastern horizon, the more meteors there will be all over the sky.

The Leonid meteors are caused by streams of dust particles from Comet Tempel-Tuttle. They strike Earth’s atmosphere at 44 miles per second, the fastest of any meteors, so they produce more fireballs than most showers.

Moon phases

The moon will be full on Nov. 4, at third quarter on Nov. 10, new on Nov. 18 and at first quarter on Nov. 26.

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Hal Kibbey

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Email: hkibbey@indiana.edu

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