Minnesota Starwatch is a newsletter describing the night sky in the Midwest.
Updated monthly, it is produced by the
Minnesota Starwatch for November 2015
by Deane Morrison
November brings one of the roundest rising moons any of us will ever see. On the evening of the 25th, the moon rises within a half hour of the instant of perfect fullness, which comes at 4:44 p.m. In some places, moonrise and perfect fullness coincide. And with the moon just two days past perigee—its closest approach to Earth in a cycle—it will be one of the bigger ones, so try not to miss it.
This is the full beaver moon, named for the industrious rodents now preparing their lodges for winter. But their namesake moon is also busy. The next morning, it occults the bright star Aldebaran, the eye of Taurus, the bull. The star disappears behind the moon at 4:35 a.m. (Twin Cities time) and reappears below the moon 50 minutes later. If you want to watch it, consider putting out a reclining chair with a clear view of the western sky. And because both the disappearance and the reappearance take but an instant, this is a clear case of "don't blink or you'll miss it."
The first two weeks of November offer at least a few moon-free hours for enjoying the evening stars. Go out right after nightfall to catch Capricornus, a chevron-shaped constellation, in the southwest before it sets. Moving northeast, look for spidery Aquarius, then the Circlet of Pisces, and above it the Great Square of Pegasus, high in the south.
In the morning sky, Venus, Jupiter and Mars rule from their movable thrones in the southeast. Venus, the most brilliant of the three, is just west of Mars on the 1st. Our sister planet drops away from the Red Planet, but high to the northwest of both, Jupiter distances itself from Mars even faster.
The moon also lends its beauty to the morning show. On the 6th, a waning crescent moon rises near Jupiter. But for a truly spectacular view, grab your binoculars the next morning and feast your eyes on a thinner moon hovering even closer to Venus, with Mars just above. Finally, on the 30th you'll see a diagonal line of, from lower left to upper right: Venus, Mars, Jupiter, the bright star Regulus, in Leo, and a waning moon.
And speaking of the lion, the Leonid meteor shower is predicted to peak on the night of the 17th-18th, between a late-evening moonset and the dawn's early rays. The morning of the 17th may also be good, although Leonids generally produce only 10-15 meteors per hour. Meteors will radiate from the east, in the Sickle of stars outlining Leo's head. Leonids are bright and often leave persistent trails, and this year the moon won't wash many of them out. These meteors are the fiery remains of dust from Comet Tempel-Tuttle, which reached its last perihelion in 1998 and will reach its next in 2031.
Duluth, Marshall W. Alworth Planetarium: www.d.umn.edu/planet
Twin Cities, Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics (during fall and spring semesters): www.astro.umn.edu/outreach/pubnight
Check out the astronomy programs at the University of Minnesota's Bell Museum ExploraDome: www.bellmuseum.umn.edu/ForGroups/ExploraDome/index.htm
10/22/15 Contact: Deane Morrison, University Relations, (612) 624-2346,
Find U of M astronomers and links to the world of astronomy at http://www.astro.umn.edu.