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The Skies of November, 2023

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November Skies

by Dick Cookman

November 3, 2023

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

Focus Constellations: Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Draco, Cepheus, Cassiopeia, Camelopardalis, Lynx, Auriga, Taurus, Perseus, Andromeda, Pegasus, Cygnus

Comet Journals

Ptolemy, one of the most influential Greek astronomers and geographers of his time, propounded the geocentric theory in a form that prevailed for 1400 years. He was born about 85 AD which was when Comet C/2023 H2 (Lemmon) started its long inward journey to the Sun. The comet recently passed through perihelion on October 29 and was at perigee (closest to Earth) on November 1. It streaks southeasterly from Bootes in the northwestern skies through Capricornus in the 1st three weeks of November after which it drops into southern hemisphere skies. It may reach 7th magnitude during the first two weeks of the month.

Comet 103P/Hartley is a nice sight at 7th to 8th magnitude in larger (50+mm) binoculars, or small (3 to 4in.) diameter telescopes. It is circling counterclockwise below Cancer in November. It was closest to Earth on September 26 and reached perihelion on October 12. It is a regular visitor as it circuits back and forth between the Sun and Jupiter every 6.46 years.

Martian Landers

The Mars Curiosity rover has reached the sulfate bearing layers as it ascends Mt. Sharp in Gale Crater. These layers were formed as the lake (sea?) which once filled the crater dried up. The rovers investigating Martian geologic history have gathered copious evidence that Mars once had conditions favorable for life, will the sulfate layers provide direct evidence for ancient life? The Perseverence rover and its Ingenuity scout are exploring the delta on the edge of Jezero Crater. They ascended the outer edge of the delta, crossed the fine grained sedimentary rocks on the periphery, the coarser grained rocks and boulders closer to the craters edge, and are now approaching the carbonate bearing rocks adjacent to the inner edge of the crater. Carbonates often form by precipitation from lake or sea water, but formation of some carbonate rocks involves the intervention of life forms which are sometimes preserved in the rock as fossils. Both rovers are preparing for when they will be out of communication with Earth during the upcoming solar conjunction.

Meteor Showers

The Leonid meteor shower peaks on the 17th and 18th. It is traditionally one of the better meteor showers of the year, occurring when we orbit through the debris trail from previous passages of Comet 55P/ Tempel-Tuttle. The shower emanates from the tail of Leo which rises about midnight EST. The shower is best viewed long after the waxing crescent Moon has set and slightly before morning twilight when eastern USA is orbiting head first into the trail of comet debris. In 2023, the Alpha Monocerotids may be better. Look to the southern hemisphere skies.

  • November 18, 4AM: Leonids. Active November 15 – 25. Radiant 10h12m +22°. ZHR 15 to storm. 71 km/sec. favorable – Waxing Crescent Moon. Progenitor: Comet 55P/ Tempel-Tuttle
  • November 22, 4AM: Alpha Monocerotids. Active November 15 – 25. Radiant 07h48m +01°. ZHR 5-400. 65 km/sec. favorable – Waxing Crescent Moon. Progenitor: ?

Planet Plottings

Venus (-4.2 to -4.1 in Leo and Virgo, and Uranus (+5.6) and Jupiter (-2.8 to -2.7) in Aries are morning planets. Before sunrise on the 1st, Venus rises 4 hours before the Sun and moves from Leo to Virgo on the 3rd. On the 9th, the waning crescent Moon passes Venus at 4:00AM EST. Jupiter and Uranus are at their brightest during their oppositions at 1:00AM EDT on the 3rd and noon EST on the 13th respectively. The waxing gibbous Moon passes Jupiter on the morning of the 25th and Uranus on the afternoon of the 26th.

Uranus and Jupiter are also evening planets in the eastern sky. Neptune (7.8 to 7.9) in Pisces and Saturn (0.7 to 0.9) in Aries are high in the southeast and south. Mercury (-0.7 to -0.4) in Libra, Scorpius, Ophiucus, and Sagittarius is buried in the glow of sunset in early November but may be visible southeast of the waxing crescent Moon on the evening of the 14th. The waxing gibbous Moon passes Saturn on the 20th and Neptune on the 22nd.

PlanetConstellation(s)MagnitudePlanet PassagesTimeDate
SunLibra, Scorpius-26.5New Moon4:27AM EST11/13
MercuryLibra, Scorpius, Sagittarius-0.7 to -0.4   
VenusLeo, Virgo-4.2 to -4.1   
MarsLibra, Scorpius1.5 to 1.4Solar Conjunction1:00AM EST11/18
JupiterAries-2.8 to -2.7Solar Opposition1:00AM EDT11/3
SaturnAquarius0.7 to 0.9   
UranusAries5.6Solar OppositionNoon EST11/13
NeptunePisces7.8 to 7.9   

November Moon

The New Moon of November is in Libra on the 13th at 4:27AM EST. The New Moon marks the start of Lunation 1248 which ends 29.09 days later with the New Moon of December in Sagittarius on the 12th at 6:31PM EST.

The Full Moon on the 27th occurs at 4:16AM EST in Taurus. It is called the Frosty or Beaver Moon. It was called the Snow Moon in Medieval England. For Celts, it was the Dark Moon and, in China, it is the White Moon. Colonial Americans called it the Beaver Moon. Eastern and western dialect Anishnaabe (Odawa and Ojibwe) first people respectively recognize the 11th Moon of the year as “Gashkadino-Giizis or Baashkaakodin-Giizis” (Freezing Over Moon).

Ontario’s Earth Haven Farm presents cultural teachings explaining the cycle of life and nature of November’s Grandmother Moon of Creation: “The eleventh moon of Creation is the Freezing Moon, a time when the Star Nation is closest to us. As every creature being prepares for the coming fasting grounds, we are reminded to prepare ourselves for our spiritual path by learning the sacred teachings and songs that will sustain us.”

Lunar Apogee (maximum lunar distance) is on November 6 at 4:49PM EST when the Moon’s distance is 251,388 mi. (63.43 Earth radii). Lunar perigee is on the 21st when the Moon is at 229,795 mi. (57.98 Earth radii) at 4:01PM EST.

The waning crescent Moon appears to pass Venus on the 9th. The waxing crescent passes Mars on the 13th and Mercury on the 14th. The waxing gibbous Moon passes Saturn on the 20th, Neptune on the 22nd, Jupiter on the 25th, and Uranus on the 26th.

PlanetConstellationMagnitudeMoon PassagesMoon PhaseMoon Age
SunLibra-26.84:27AM EST, 11/13New0 Days
MercuryScorpius-0.41.55°S, 9:04AM EST, 11/14Waxing Crescent1.19 Days
VenusVirgo-4.41.0°N, 4:00AM EST, 11/9Waning Crescent25.59 Days
MarsLibra1.52.35°S, 6:18AM EST, 11/13Waxing Crescent0.08 Days
JupiterAries-2.83.0°N, 6:00AM EST, 11/25Waxing Gibbous12.06 Days
SaturnAquarius0.83.0°S, 9:00AM EST, 11/20Waxing Gibbous7.19 Days
UranusAries5.63.0°N, 4:00PM EST, 11/26Waxing Gibbous13.48 Days
NeptunePisces7.91.5° S, 3:00AM EST, 11/22Waxing Gibbous8.94 Days

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