Sky at a Glance November 17 – 24

Photo showing the summer constellations in the night sky.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, November 17 – 24 ~by Curt Nason

Like Nate the pirate in the Overboard comics, some people do not want to let go of summer. I usually don’t succumb to the cold right away, waiting for -10 C before my winter coat gets worn regularly. But you have to accept the inevitable, so around 8:30 pm this week don your coat and imagination to say goodbye to the summer constellations as they sink below the western horizon.

The first thing you might notice is the Summer Triangle, balanced on Altair and tipping to the right. Aquila the Eagle, with Altair at its head, is flapping furiously and futilely to stay above ground, a battle it will lose over two hours. To its right, Hercules is diving head first, hopefully into a lake. Between them, if you are in the country, you might see the haze of the Milky Way spilling over the ground, perhaps to become frost. Four smaller constellations form a line above Altair, highlighted by Lyra to the right with its brilliant star Vega. Foxy Vulpecula, Sagitta the Arrow and eye-catching Delphinus the Dolphin are balanced across the eagle’s wingspan. While you are at it, try for the triangular head of Equuleus the Little Horse, who leads his big brother Pegasus by a nose.

You will have more time to pay regards to the main summer constellation. Cygnus is into its swan dive but it is head doesn’t go under until late evening. In fact, one wing never sets to remind us that summer will be back, sometime. It is this time of year that Cygnus lives up to its asterism nickname of the Northern Cross, which stands upright over the western horizon all evening.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 7:22 am and sunset will occur at 4:45 pm, giving 9 hours, 23 minutes of daylight (7:25 am and 4:52 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 7:32 am and set at 4:39 pm, giving 9 hours, 7 minutes of daylight (7:34 am and 4:46 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is full, the Mi’kmaq Rivers Freezing Moon, early next Friday and passes near Aldebaran that evening. Saturn is at its best viewing in twilight, while the rapid eastern motion of Mars keeps it in good observing position most of the evening. Venus is the brilliant morning star, known as Lucifer (light bringer) in ancient Rome. Jupiter and Mercury are too close to the Sun for observing. The Leonids meteor shower peaks on Saturday evening but your best chance to see them is early Sunday. The shower is at its best every 33 years when its parent comet, 55P/Tempel-Tuttle rounds the Sun, but that is 15 years away.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

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