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Astronomy Know How
Helping you See the Night Sky - Newsletter No. 37 November 2009
In this issue:
  1. November's Highlights
  2. Taurid Meteors
  3. Leonid Meteors
  4. Star Clusters of Late Autumn
  5. Other Deep Sky Delights in November
  6. News Links
  7. Become a confident Astronomer
  8. Are you interested in Imaging?
  9. Contact Us
November's Highlights

In the Northern Hemisphere the clocks have gone back at the end of October, so we can all start observing earlier in the evening!

There are 2 meteor showers to look out for this month. The Taurids peak in early November and the Leonids later in the month - but more of these later...

Saturn is back after the summer and can be seen rising in the east in the early hours. It rises about 3am in early November but as the month progresses it rises ever earlier and higher, so by the end of the month you will be able to see it rise at 1.30am. The planet's tilt also increases during the month, so the rings are opening up to show their illuminated north face. Watch out especially on the morning of November 15 as the satellite Titan emerges from behind Saturn at around 3.20am and will be completely visible by 3.45am. However, you will need a clear eastern horizon as Saturn will only be 8 degrees high as Titan begins to emerge.

Jupiter is still the brightest 'star' in the south and there are two special events to watch out for this month. Firstly, on November 13th Jupiter's largest moon (Ganymede) will completely occult the innermost moon (Io) and you can see this between 10:20pm and 10:46pm. Secondly, on the night of the 23rd, our own moon (which will be a 39% illuminated crescent) will be a mere 3 degrees north of Jupiter - an interesting sight and a photo opportunity!

Still on the planets; if you would like to spot Venus, the beginning of the month is best. You'll find it low down in the east before dawn. It's bright at magnitude -3.8 so you can't miss it! It's heading towards the Sun and is growing from 95% to 98% illumination, so it will appear almost circular. It is low down though, so you will need a clear horizon.

Finally Mars starts November in the heart of the Beehive Cluster or M44. Also known as 'Praesepe', this cluster is in the centre of the constellation of Cancer the Crab. You will only have a couple of night to see it like this though, as it will only be visible in this position from the morning of the 1st November through to the 3rd. After that, it will move away from the cluster. Use binoculars or a small telescope with a low power eyepiece to spot this lovely sight.
Taurid Meteors

Also called the Halloween fireballs because they can be seen late October, early November, the northern Taurids peak this year on November 3 but continue sporadically all month. Called the Taurids, the radiant point in the constellation of Taurus and they are the debris left by comet Encke nearly 5000 years ago.

The Northern Taurids were observed by Giuseppe Zezioli in 1869 in Bergamo (Italy) while the Southern Taurids were not fully appreciated until 1920.

You can find everything you could possibly want to know about the Taurids here
Leonid Meteors

The Leonids (so called as their radiant is in the sickle of Leo) promise to be quite good this year. They will peak at about 11pm on the night of November 17th.

We are extra lucky this year as the moon will be new and so won't be causing celestial 'light pollution' and with some of the brightest leaving trails that persist for several seconds, this year is a good year to familiarise with this famous shower.

Predicted rates are good. Measured as the Zenithal Hourly Rate, the peak rate is expected to be 20 to 40 plus this year. It may even reach 100 meteors per hour. The Leonids do go through these enhanced peaks and this year is looking promising. So all we need now is for the clouds to stay away!

Star Clusters of Late Autumn

November is a great time of year to enjoy some wonderful star clusters.

The most obvious is the famous Pleiades cluster in Taurus. It can be found in the south east around mid evening at the beginning of the month and can be instantly recognised by its tight grouping of stars. Sharp eyes from a dark site should easily make out 6 or 7 stars in the group, but some people can make out as many as nine. There are in fact up to 150 stars in the cluster.

The Pleiades or M45 lies around 400 light years away, so the light left these stars when Galileo was first turning his telescope to the heavens.

While you are looking around Taurus, don't miss the opportunity to take a look at the Hyades cluster. This loose group of stars represents the 'head' of the Bull in a 'v' shape. The eye of the Bull is marked by the red giant star Aldeberan, one of the brightest stars in the northern hemisphere. Aldebaran is in fact not part of the cluster but appears to be due to a 'line of sight' effect.

Head north towards the constellation of Casseopeia the 'w' shape high overhead. Between the constellation of Perseus and the left hand side of the 'w' you should find the lovely Perseus double cluster or 'Sword Handle'. These lovely clusters are close together and look fantastic in binoculars or a low power telescope eyepiece.
Other Deep Sky Delights in November

If you head back eastward and an little south you should find the constellation of Auriga the Charioteer. This marked by the star Capella a fairly bright yellowish coloured star that is very similar to our own sun.

Auriga plays host to three star clusters within in body. These are M36, M37 and M38.

One of my personal favourite objects is the Perseus Double Cluster or NGC 884 and 852 otherwise known as the 'Sword Handle'. They look like two adjacent clumps of diamonds in the sky and you can find them by following an imaginary line down from the middle star in the 'w' of Cassiopeia through the next lowest left hand star in the constellation and down towards the constellation of Perseus itself. Again, you might be able to detect a misty patch of light here with the naked eye, but the best tool to use is definitely a pair of 7x or 10x50 binoculars. Some of the stars in the clusters are quite noticeably orange in colour.

The constellation of Cepheus the King (husband of Queen Cassiopeia) if not particularly noticeable, but worth trying to find, as it plays host to several interesting objects.

It resembles a house with a very steep roof and you can find it right overhead, in fact slightly due north, in November. The bottom right hand star is called Alderamin or alpha Cephei and the bottom left hand star is delta Cephei. Just below the midpoint of these two stars is mu Cephei. This is Herschel's Garnet Star and is one of the most massive stars that we know. It is over 1000 light years away! It is on the edge of a nebula known as IC1396, but you won't see this without using a CCD camera and a long exposure. However, if you move back towards delta Cephei you should find three star clusters which should show up nicely in an 8-inch aperture telescope. These are NGC7235, 7261 and 7281.
  Here are some links to some other recent news stories that I thought you would find interesting...

Celestial delight
The Hubble Space Telescope's cameras are taking stunning images of celestial phenomena with technology developed by University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy researchers in Hilo.

Astronomers seek glimpse of `Dark Ages'
Huge radio telescopes with thousands of detectors will help astronomers peer back into a 800 million-year-old slice of cosmic history that has previously been unknown. more...

Meteorite crashed into an SUV near Hamilton
Astronomers say they have found a meteorite fragment the size of a golf ball... small space rock came to rest in an SUV in Grimsby, Ont., more...

Barrington Hills wants to turn out the lights and see the night sky
Barrington Hills is looking seriously at being certified as a Dark Sky Community, becoming only the third in the nation. more...

Vatican exhibition pays homage to Galileo
The Vatican is commemorating physicist and philosopher Galileo Galilei, who was prosecuted by the Inquisition in the 17th century... more...

  Do you want to learn more about the night sky and how to use telescopes and binoculars to see it better?..

My online course gives you all the essential information to be a good astronomer, without lots of jargon or difficult maths. You'll get loads of free bonuses and it also has videos and animations to help make the explanations clear and concise. So if you want to know what Sir Patrick wished for...

...please take a look at my eCourse called
'Basic Astronomy with a Telescope'. It's what Sir Patrick wished he'd had when he started out in astronomy!

  Are you interested in Imaging?

You can learn how to take stunning images of the night sky with your digital slr camera that will amaze your friends and family with the eBook
DSLR Astrophotography - A Beginners Guide which I co-wrote with my friend Jon Walton...

To contact us

Telephone me on +44(0)208 144 1091

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