The November night sky.jpg

The November night sky

By: CLIVE JACKSON

[email protected]

Clive Jackson is the Director of the Astronomical Observatory of Tavira (Sitio do Malhão, Tavira) and the Camera Obscura (next to the Castle in Tavira), specialising in education and public outreach.

AFTER THE clocks have been put back an hour and as the Sun is lower in the heavens, night comes much sooner than the previous month.

Over on the south western horizon, just after sunset, the brilliant planet Venus can be seen. This planet is often called the evening star when it is visible at this time. Just to the left and slightly above Venus is the planet Jupiter.

This planet is much fainter than Venus, even though it is bigger, it shines less brilliantly as it is not so reflective and is further away from the Sun. As the month draws to a close, Venus and Jupiter move together in the early evening sky and on the December 1 the faint crescent Moon joins the pair and in fact the Moon covers Venus at sunset for a short while on this date.

Towards the eastern horizon in November the star cluster called ‘the Pleiades’ is rising, and below it is the grand constellation of Orion. This constellation is on the equator of the sky and can be seen from all over the world during the night.

As Orion rises higher, the bright star Sirius will be seen low on the south eastern horizon. Sirius is a white star but when it is close to the horizon it will flash all the colours of the rainbow due to the refraction of the starlight because of our Earth’s atmosphere. By midnight Sirius is well clear of the horizon and will shine with a steady sparkle in the crisp clear late autumn sky.  

Low in the northern sky at this time of the year we can just see the constellation of Ursa Major or the Plough, as it is commonly known. It skims the northern horizon at sunset, but from further north, for example the UK, this constellation is well clear of the horizon, demonstrating the fact that the Earth really is round!

The middle of November is traditionally good for seeing meteors or ‘shooting stars’ as we have two meteor showers at this time; one is the northern Taurids visible for two weeks approximately, and the other on the night of November 17 is the Leonids. Unfortunately this year the Moon is near full at mid month, so only the brightest meteors can be seen.

The Moon is at First Quarter on November 6, full on the November 13 and Last Quarter on November 19 and New on November 27.

For more information, please call Clive Jackson on 281 321 754, fax 281 324 688, email [email protected] or visit http://www.cdepa.pt