Dark Skies November Update
On the planetary side, Venus is by far the brightest object in the low south western skies, visible for some 11-12 hours after sunset, although suffering somewhat from the twilight glow.
If you fancy a challenge around the 2nd or 3rd of November, and have a good low south-west horizon, take a look some 40 mins after sunset for Venus. Once you’ve spotted the planet look a couple of degrees further right and slightly higher in the sky and you should glimpse Saturn and also a very thin crescent moon. On the 3rd Nov, the moon will be a few degrees to the left of this evening planetary line up, but will still make an interesting photo opportunity. This also represents the last real chance to see Saturn for this year; from mid month it will be too close to the solar glare for observation.
Moving towards the south, Mars will be joined by the moon on the 6th for a further photo possibility. For the next couple of months, Mars will remain on view in the south-south-west skies although becoming fainter as the Earth-Mars distance increases. As with previous months, to view the outer gas giants of Uranus and Neptune, tripod mounted binoculars or telescopic aid will be needed and even then, only a small blue-green disc will be seen. I’ve been following these gas giants over the past months with my telescopes and taken a couple of photographs through my main instrument, the 10” Schmidt Cassegrain. As you can see from the attached photograph of Uranus, all you see is just a small planetary disc which, if you compared to other photographs taken some days apart, would show the movement of the planet among the more distant starfields.
For the early risers among us, look east-south-east from 4am onwards and you will see the beacon of light that is the planet Jupiter, slowly pulling away from the sun into the morning skies.
Looking out for meteor showers this month, we’ve a couple reaching their best, although a full moon a couple of days either side of the predicted maxima of the showers - 12th for the Taurid meteors and the 17th for the Leonid meteors - will drown out all but the brightest meteors. The Leonids are best seen in the early morning hours, and are famous for their “storm” shows. These occur roughly every 33 years due to the Earth passing through a more dense patch of meteoric material, but are not expected to provide another major storm for another 18 years or so. However, keep your eyes on the skies, you never know your luck!
Clear skies until next month!