Night Sky


Every morning I get up about 10 minutes before 6 a.m. and look to the east to view Venus and Jupiter. They're low in the horizon at that time, but gradually climb higher. Soon they will separate as Venus drops below the horizon and Jupiter climbs higher.

After I look at Venus and Jupiter, I go to my front door and look to the southwest. There I see a really bright star that remains visible until the sky gets light. At that time nothing else is visible in that part of the sky. I did a little research and realized that it's Sirius, the brightest star in our sky.

I resolved that by getting up a few minutes earlier and going directly to the front door. Then I could see the Orion constellation in the WSW with his belt pointing over to the bright star on its left. Then I knew it was Sirius, which is the closest star to us at only 8.6 LY away.

Since the new moon was on Nov. 18, this is still a great time for sky viewing. Mercury hits its greatest elongation from the Sun on Nov. 23. So this is the time to try to find it. You have about a week before it disappears, as it drops lower in the horizon.

The Sun sets around 4:50 p.m., so look for Mercury about a half hour after that. It's very low on the horizon and may not be visible if you're close to the mountains in the southwest. It's just to the lower right of Saturn. So if you can see Saturn, you may be able to see Mercury.

November is sometimes called the "month of the Pleiades." The Pleiades star cluster shines from dusk until dawn starting in the east and setting in the west. You can find it in the evening about one-third of the way up in the sky to the right of the Milky Way. It's a star cluster that's very easy to spot.

Have you noticed that as soon as the sky darkens enough to see the stars, the Milky Way appears from the southwest to the northeast? A few hours later it moves to the west and ENE. We no longer look at the dense center which is why it appears so sparse. I still love viewing it.

It turns out that the Taurid meteors' didn't peak while I was gone. I was just overtired from being gone for two weeks doing art sales up in Denver and Boulder. They peaked on Nov. 11 and 12, and I did get up at 2 a.m. on the 12th. The moon was shining in the east and the sky was hazy with stars only visible in the northeast. So I went back to bed.

Tomorrow the Leonids peak and of course it's going to be cloudy. Maybe Saturday morning will be okay. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

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