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A Guide to the Night Sky: November 2016

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A Guide to the Night Sky
November 2016 

By Tre Gibbs, LAAS

Thanksgiving is almost here which means winter is right around the corner. Some familiar landmarks, or should I say, skymarks, signal the return of the majesty that is the night sky this time of year. While winter is still more than a month away, Orion The Hunter, which rises in the east early in the month around 10:00pm (compensating for the time change on the 6th), is one of the most recognizable constellations. As Earth continues her 365 day orbit around our nearest star, Orion will rise about two hours earlier by month’s end. Orion is also rather easy to spot since it’s a very large and bright grouping of stars – just look for the three bright stars in a row that make up his belt. The two bright stars “above” his belt make up his shoulders and the two bright stars “below” make up his ankles. There’s even an arc of stars in “front” of him that represents his shield! As he rises, Orion appears to be on his side, although by mid winter he appears upright, high in the sky.

November’s full moon, known as The Full Beaver Moon, takes place on the 14th at 5:52 am. It will be closer to Earth than its average distance, thereby becoming a “Super Moon”. While appearing slightly larger in size to the trained observer, most people will probably not even notice the subtle difference. FYI – the moon hasn’t been this close to Earth since January 1948, and won’t be this close again until November 2034! Since the moon is constantly moving eastward, orbiting our planet, it’s only technically full for a moment – but down here on Earth, roughly a quarter of a million miles away, it appears full for several nights.

The planets are putting on their own show as well. Mars is still prominent in the SSW just after sunset this month. Look low in the SW just after sunset, and you may notice that the brilliant Venus has continued her eastward movement and is now to the left of the dimming Saturn, which continues it’s journey, eventually fading from sight into the glare of the sun. Over the next several months, Venus will continue her move eastward, seemingly attempting to catch up to Mars. Although, Mars stays just out of reach and sadly Venus gives up the chase, going retrograde and drifting noticeably westward by early March. Hey! it looks like mighty Jupiter will be spending Thanksgiving with the moon! Just prior to sunrise on Thanksgiving morning, look east and see the brilliant Jupiter sitting just underneath the crescent moon. As the sky brightens on this annual Holiday, Jupiter will fade to the point that it can’t be seen any longer, appearing to abandon it’s waning, lunar partner. Ah, but Jupiter is still there! Though out of sight, the two will travel the daytime sky together, gracefully setting in the west in the late afternoon, soon to be followed by our own magnificent life-giving star, the Sun.

This month, give thanks and enjoy the majesty and wonder that is the night sky. And above all, have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

Don’t forget, the LAAS meets at the Garvey Ranch Observatory every Wednesday night, rain or shine, from 7pm to 10pm. All members are eager to answer your questions, and let you have a peek through our 8” telescope. Feel free to contact us via any of the methods below. We would love to see you there!

Address: 781 S Orange Ave, Monterey Park, CA 91755. Web: laas.org/