Umpqua Star Gazer: November 2021 | Life


Tonight, as the sky darkens, look towards the southwest horizon to spot the brilliant Venus. Scan the southern sky to find Jupiter shining with Saturn. Each night this month, Venus will be heading east. Our brother world will slowly close the 57 degree gap with Jupiter on Halloween to about 38 degrees on Thanksgiving night.

Binocular observers can also find Neptune high in the southeastern sky of Aquarius about 30 degrees to the left of bright Jupiter. Look another 52 degrees to the left of Neptune to find dark Uranus in Aries. The five planets are visible when the sky darkens.

The moon visits Venus on the 7th, Saturn on the 10th, Jupiter on the 11th, Neptune on the 13th and makes a close visit to Uranus on the 17th.

Mercury and Mars in the sky before dawnLook east-southeast to spot Mercury in the pre-dawn twilight sky. Mercury loses altitude each morning but remains a bright target. Early risers on November 3 will be treated to a cute trio of Mercury, an old Moon and the bright star Spica.

Mercury’s partner before dawn, Mars, moves away from the glare of the rising sun after November 8. As Mercury falls, Mars rises. Watch the mornings of November 9-11 to see a close pairing of these worlds.

First, locate Mercury and it will guide you to nearby but very dark Mars. The closest conjunction occurs on the morning of the 10th with Mercury about a degree to the left of Mars.

As Mars moves away from sunrise, it will appear to pass very close to the brightest star in the constellation Libra (Zubenelgenubi) on November 22. Both targets will require binoculars to be spotted.

Almost total lunar eclipseWeather permitting, and this is a big if, we should be enjoying an almost total lunar eclipse on the night of November 18-19.

Officially, this lunar eclipse is called a partial deep since only 97% of the moon will pass through the earth’s darkest shadow or shadow. A small shard from the southern edge of the moon will not be obscured. Most casual observers will not detect this small, un-eclipsed piece of the moon.

The partial eclipse begins at 11:18 p.m. on November 18. The moon will be very high in the sky and easy to observe about 5 degrees below the Pleaid star cluster in Taurus.

The maximum eclipse will occur at 1:04 a.m. on November 19. It will only last a minute before the partial eclipse recedes and ends at 2:40 a.m., or about 3.5 hours in total.

Find a warm and comfortable spot facing south to enjoy the “blood moon” event. Fingers crossed for these clouds.

Leonid meteor showerLeonid’s annual meteor shower peaks on the morning of November 17. This year, a bright moon will light up the sky, wiping out many Leonid meteors until just hours before dawn.

Another option is to start searching earlier on the morning of November 12th. The moon will set around midnight when the shower begins. Your best views will happen after 2 a.m.

Weather permitting, look for Leonid meteors on the night of November 18-19 during the lunar eclipse. The best chance of seeing meteors will be from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. when the moon is eclipsed.

Meeting of Umpqua astronomersUmpqua astronomers and the interested public can join a monthly virtual meeting on Zoom. The meeting time is 7 p.m. November 9. Andy Crocker, a local astronomer, will talk about relativity.

Paul Morgan is an astronomer at Umpqua Community College.


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