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November 2018 Skies

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November Skies

by Dick Cookman


Highlights: Comet Journal, Martian Landers, Meteor Showers, Planet Plotting, Celestial Sea, November Moon

Focus Constellations: Hercules, Aquila, Lyra, Cygnus, Pegasus, Pisces, Aries, Triangulum, Andromeda, Perseus, Camelopardalis, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Draco, Ursa Minor, Ursa Major

Comet Journal

Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner (2018) is currently in southern hemisphere skies and retreating from the Sun as it orbits back to its aphelion beyond Jupiter after passing through perihelion in early September when it reached 8th magnitude.

Comet 46P/Wirtanen (2018) is in southern hemisphere skies in Fornax and is at 8th magnitude. It is moving northward and has the potential to be a bright Christmas Comet, reaching ~ 4th magnitude as it reaches perihelion on Dec. 12th in Taurus. It is closest to Earth 4 days later and will remain bright through the Christmas season. It is a short period (5.5 years) comet from the asteroid belt and its exceptionally close approach to Earth of 6.8 million miles may result in several weeks of naked-eye visibility from dark skies.

Comet 38P/Stephan-Oterma (2018) in Gemini is approaching its peak magnitude of 9th magnitude in Gemini. It is a short period comet (38 years) orbiting the Sun from the Kuiper Belt beyond Uranus to a November 10th perihelion on the other side of the Sun slightly beyond the orbit of Mars.

Mars Landers

It has been 7.5 years since the last attempt to communicate with the Spirit rover. On Oct. 29, 2018 NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory provided the following update about efforts to resume communication with the Opportunity rover silenced on June 10th during the recent planet-wide dust storm:

"....NASA will continue its current strategy for attempting to make contact with the powerless(?) Opportunity rover for the foreseeable future. Winds could increase in the next few months at Opportunity's location on Mars, resulting in dust being blown off the rover's solar panels. The agency will reassess the situation in the January 2019 time frame."

After Curiosity’s successful drilling attempt on target Stoer was completed on Sol 2138 (Aug 13th), the drilling products were dumped from the drill on Sol 2155 for analysis by the rover’s instruments. On Sol 2157 the rover departed from the Stoer location and drove toward an interesting grey colored patch of bedrock identified from orbit and referred to as Loch Eriboll which is within the Jura member of the Murray Formation on the Vera Rubin Ridge. After examination of 4 sites in the area, Curiosity moved toward Inverness, a large blocky rock selected as the next drilling target. Drilling attempts on Sols 2170 and 2171 were unsuccessful due to rock hardness so further observations at Inverness with other instruments proceeded. Communication issues which interfered with transmission of scientific data to satellite relays in contact with mission scientists on Earth were examined during the interval from Sol 2175 and Sol 2217 after which limited science activities resumed in the Inverness area. Curiosity will next drive towards Lake Orcadie, where further drilling attempts will occur in one of the interesting bright grey areas on the Vera Rubin Ridge identified from orbit.

Meteor Showers

According to Guy Ottewell’s 2018 Astronomical Calendar, November skies bring the following meteor showers:

  • Nov. 12 Mon. - Northern Taurids. Active Oct 20- Dec 10. ZHR ~5. 29 km/sec. 4 days before First Quarter Moon.
  • Nov. 18 Sun. - Leonids. Peak 23:27 UT? Active Nov 6-30. ZHR ~15. 71 km/sec. 3 days after First Quarter Moon. Favorable. Progenitor comet - P/Tempel-Tuttle.
  • Nov. 21 Wed. - Alpha Monocerotids. Active Nov 15-25. ZHR ~5. 65 km/sec. 2 days before Full Moon. Unfavorable.
  • Nov. 28 Wed. - November Orionids. Active Nov 13-Dec 6. ZHR ~3. 44 km/sec. 2 days before Last Quarter Moon.

Planet Plotting

Mercury (-0.81 to +2.9) will be low in the southwestern sky in Scorpius after sunset in early November and will disappear into the glow of sunset by mid-month. It will be within 7° of the waxing crescent Moon on the 9th.

During November, Jupiter (-1.6) moves from Libra to Scorpius in the post-sunset western evening sky but will dip below the horizon by the 8th when it is 2.7° from the waxing crescent Moon. Jupiter reaches conjunction with the Sun on the 26th. Saturn (+0.6 to +0.5) in Sagittarius is low in the Southwest after sunset and sets in the latter part of the evening. The waxing gibbous Moon passes 1.5° from Saturn on the 11th.

Mars (-0.6 to 0.0) in Capricornus dims by 40% in November but maintains its 1st magnitude status. Telescopic views still reveal icecaps and numerous dark mare and sinus surface features. The first quarter Moon will be 1° south of Mars in the southern evening sky on the 15th. Best viewing for Mars is in early November in the early evening. During mid-November, glare from the Moon will become more of an issue and later in the month, Mars will be poorly positioned for viewing as it will appear low in the southwest close to the horizon.

Neptune (+7.9) in Aquarius and Uranus (+5.7) in Aries rise in the afternoon. The waxing gibbous Moon passes within 3° of Neptune on the 17th and 5° from Uranus on the 20th.

PlanetConstellation(s)MagnitudePlanet PassagesTime, Date
SunLibra, Scorpius-26.811:02AM EST, 11/7New Moon, 0 days
MercuryScorpius, Libra-0.1 to +2.9Max. East Elongation
Inferior Conjunction
10:00AM EDT, 11/6
4:00AM EDT, 11/29
VenusVirgo-4.1 to -4.5  
MarsCapricornus, Aquarius-0.6 to-0.0  
JupiterLibra, Scorpius-1.6Solar Conjunction2:00AM EST, 11/26
SaturnSagittarius+0.6 to +0.5  

Venus (-4.1 to -4.5) passed through inferior conjunction late last month and moved into the morning sky in Virgo. On the 1st a thin crescent Venus rises a half hour before the Sun and gets brighter during the month as the crescent thickens. The waning crescent Moon will be 10° from Venus on the 5th at 9:00PM EST and north northwest of Venus the following morning.

Celestial Sea

In the Middle East and Mediterranean areas, autumn and winter are the rainy seasons. Ancient civilizations in these regions populated the evening sky with constellations associated with water. The eastern evening sky in November introduces some of these constellations to observers, warning them of the coming winter. By midnight the sky is replete with constellations such as Pisces (the Fish), Cetus (the Whale or Sea Monster) sent by Neptune to devour the maiden, Andromeda. Eridanus (the River), Aquarius (the Waterbearer - considered to be the source of floods by Egyptian and Mesopotamian cultures), Pisces Austrinus (the Southern Fish), and Capricornus (the Sea Goat). These six constellations decorate evening skies for several months, announcing the cool days and nights which replenish the thirsty land, enabling successful food production.

Pisces, Aquarius, and Capricornus are Zodiac constellations astride the ecliptic and the other three are south of the ecliptic, almost entirely confined to southern hemisphere skies. Peering into the Celestial Sea with its scarcity of bright stars, we view at a high angle to the plane of the disk of the Milky Way, between it and our galaxy’s south pole. Beyond these constellations lies the void of intergalactic space characterized by a sparse scattering of galaxies, galactic clusters, and superclusters.

November Moon

November’s New Moon on the 7th at 11:02AM EST is the beginning of Lunation 1186 which ends 29.62 days later with the New Moon of December on the 7th at 2:20AM EST. The Full Moon on the 23rd at 12:39AM EST is known as the “Frosty or Beaver Moon.” Colonial Americans called it the “Beaver Moon” and Celts called it the “Dark Moon”. Since they lived on the opposite side of the Earth, Chinese refer to it as the “White Moon”. It was the “Snow Moon” in Medieval England. Anishinaabe (Odawa and Ojibwe) people recognize it as “Gashkadino-Giizis” (Freezing Over Moon)

Lunar Apogee (maximum orbital distance) occurs on the 14th at 10:56AM EST when the Moon is at 251,245 miles (63.40 Earth radii). Perigee occurs on the 26th at 7:12AM EST when the Moon is at a distance of 227,807 miles (57.48 Earth radii).

PlanetConstellationMagnitudeMoon PassageMoon Phase, Moon Age
SunLibra-26.811:02AM EST, 11/7New, 0 days
MercuryScorpius-0.17°N, 7:00AM EST, 11/9Waxing Crescent, 1.83 days
VenusVirgo-4.210°N, 9:00PM EST, 11/5Waning Crescent, 27.88 days
MarsAquarius-0.31.0°S, 9:00PM EST, 11/15Waxing Gibbous, 8.42 days
JupiterScorpius-1.62.7°N, 9:00PM EDT, 11/18Waxing Crescent, 1.42 days
SaturnSagittarius+0.61.5°N, 11:00AM EST, 11/11Waxing Crescent, 4.50 days
UranusAries+5.75.0°S, 3:00PM EST, 11/20Waxing Gibbous, 13.17 days
NeptuneAquarius+7.93.0°S, 1:00AM EST, 11/17Waxing Gibbous, 9.58 days


  • NeilMac, SpectralMike and SSD like this


Bill Barlow
Nov 28 2018 09:40 PM

Does the Curiosity rover have any meteorological instruments on it to measure daily temperature trends?  I believe the lander Insight that just got to Mars has some weather instruments.



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