GARRETT COUNTY SKIES
By Dr. Bob Doyle, Frostburg State Planetarium
Garrett County Skies for November 2019
Moon-Planet Groupings in November, Full Moon on 11th, Early Winter Sky Sights in East
November opens with an Oakland 7:45 a.m. Sunrise, Mid Day at 1:01 p.m., Sunset at 6:16 p.m. and Sunlight lasting that day for 10 hrs. & 33 min. Then on Nov.3, we switch to Standard Time, shifting the Sunrise to 6:47 a.m., Mid Day to 12:01 p.m. and Sunset to 5:15 p.m. By the end of November, Sunrise is at 7:17 a.m., Mid Day is 12:06 p.m., Sunset is at 4:55 p.m. and Sunlight lasting that day for 9 hrs. & 38 min. So during November, we lose 55 minutes of daily sunlight (from start to end of month). During November, the sun slides from Libra, across a narrow strip of Scorpius and into Ophiuchus (the little known 13th Zodiac constellation).
There are four interesting groupings of the planets and moon in November. On November 2 (best date) about 7 p.m. DST looking Southwest, you will see (from left to right): the crescent moon, the planet Saturn (resembles a bright, steady ‘star’), the bright planet Jupiter and very close to the horizon, the very bright planet Venus. In each of the following evenings, Venus will slightly creep upward while Saturn and Jupiter will slowly drop back. On November 24 in the southwestern dusk, there will be a line up of the brilliant planet Venus and the bright planet Jupiter. On November 25, there will be a line up low in the southeastern dawn of a very slender crescent moon (bowed downward), the planet Mercury above, the planet Mars (much dimmer than Mercury) higher up and Virgo’s bright star Spica on top. Best time to view will be about 6:15 a.m. The Thanksgiving (Nov.28) line up at dusk will be the best. Look low in the Southwest about 6 p.m. You will first spot the crescent moon and below it the brilliant planet Venus. Then a line from the moon through Venus and extended diagonally will take you to the bright planet Jupiter. Above and to the left (along same diagonal line) will be the planet Saturn (appearing as a bright point). If you miss seeing this line up on Thanksgiving, it will be just as good on Friday with the moon with Saturn close by.
The moon will be full on the evening of November 11, appearing in the star group Aries. As usual, the full moon will rise about sunset and stay in view through the night. As winter approaches, full moon stay in the sky longer as if to make up for the diminished sunlight during the day.
In addition to the moon and planet meetings, the early winter sky sights can’t wait to show themselves in the eastern evening sky. You will likely first notice the bright yellow star Capella (kah-PELL-ah) in the Northeast. Capella is the brightest star closest to the North Pole of the sky (where the North Star is close to).
For this reason, Capella can be seen in the evenings of fall, winter and spring. Capella means ‘she goat’ and nearby are a triangle of stars known as the ‘kids’ or ‘baby goats’. Well to the right of Capella is a tiny mingling of stars that resembles a tiny dipper. This is the Pleiades or Seven Sisters star cluster. Binoculars will show more than a dozen ‘sisters’. This star cluster is a family of several hundred stars formed about the same time that are about 400 light years away. (For comparison, our sun is 500 light seconds from Earth.) Below the ‘Sisters’ is the bright orange tinted star, Aldebaran, which marks the eye of Taurus, the Bull. Aldebaran means ‘follower’ for once the ‘Sisters’ get up in the sky, Aldebaran can be seen below.
I am in the process of preparing my 2020 Night Sky Sights. This two page information sheet lists the key planet-moon get togethers for 2020, when the bright planets can be seen at dusk, late in the evenings and at dawn. The back page lists the times of sunrise and sunset for every 2020 Sunday in Oakland and several other local towns such as Cumberland, Romney and Meyersdale. Probably in late November, I will be sending this two page document as an email attachment. It is free. Request your copy from firstname.lastname@example.org .
For an easy to use monthly evening sky chart, go to Telescopes.com, the web site of the Orion telescope company. Look for the community section where you will find a tab marked monthly evening sky chart that shows the stars and bright planets. Print the black and white version if you have a printer. It is free.