EYES ON THE NIGHT SKY: NOVEMBER 2018
Welcome to November’s edition of Eyes on the Night Sky. This month, there are two meteor showers to watch and a bright morning planet stealing the show. Look for a fine open cluster that resembles a flower and discover a fine, autumn globular cluster with a secret.
Venus steals the show this month as it reappears as ‘the Morning Star’. You will start to see it rise during the second part of November at around 5:45am. The planet is so bright it can cast a shadow. If you are in a dark area with no light pollution, hold a sheet of paper with your finger placed in front and face Venus. You will see your finger’s shadow cast onto the paper!
There are two meteor showers worth noting this month: the first is the Taurids with peaks around 5th – 6th November and 12th – 13th November. This meteor shower only produces a handful of ‘shooting stars’ but they are slow moving and bright. Associated with Comet Encke, it’s trail lies in Earth’s path which causes the meteors.
The Leonids are more interesting as it peaks on 18th November. Look out for the meteors from 1am onwards as they peak around 20 an hour.
The New Moon occurs on 7th November and the Full Moon on 23rd November.
The Blue Snowball (NGC 7662)
The Blue Snowball is situated in the constellation of Andromeda. A planetary nebula located between 1800 and 5600 light years away, this object was once a red giant star that shed its outer layers. Those outer layers are lit by the new, central white star.
Observers won’t be able to see the central star but will see a beautiful, blue planet-like structure through telescopes of 6 inches and above. In much larger apertures, the nebula seems to have an outer, lumpy appearance.
The Great Pegasus Cluster (M15)
M15 is a pretty globular cluster in Pegasus. Also known as the Great Pegasus Cluster, it lies 33,000 light years away and is 120 light years across.
Through 10x50 binoculars, a nebulous patch is seen but a 4 inch scope and larger will start to resolve stars at the circumference inwards. If you have a nebula filter and would like a challenge, there is a bonus planetary nebula within the cluster in the 2 o’ clock position called Pease 1. You will need a 12 inch telescope in dark skies to see this.
Caroline’s Rose (NGC 7889)
This fine, open cluster was discovered in 1783 by astronomer Caroline Herschel. William Herschel, Caroline's brother, included it in his catalogue of observations. Also known as NGC 7789 and ‘The White Rose Cluster’, its flower shape becomes apparent viewed through telescopes of around 8 inches aperture and upwards as the dark lanes and stars appear like rose petals.