WHAT’S UP IN THE SKY THIS NOVEMBER 2018?

WHAT’S UP IN THE SKY THIS NOVEMBER 2018?

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Let’s give up a warm welcome to November. Winter season is indeed imminent. Expect cooler nights ahead. Wondering what’s going to be up at the sky for the new month? The following is a list of astronomical events for November 2018. All dates and times were given in UAE Local Time.

November 6, 2018 – Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation

The smallest planet in the Solar System, Mercury will appear at its highest point just few moments after sunset.  The maximum extent of angular separation from the Sun as seen from Earth will be at around 11° (in the UAE). This means Mercury can be only seen up to 11° above the southwestern horizon, from 6 PM, before disappearing from view as it sets 30 minutes later. Though it is moderately bright (at apparent magnitude of -0.4), observing it will be challenging due to twilight glare from the fact that Mercury is situated near the Sun in the sky.

Illustration of Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation (about 11° above the eastern horizon) right after sunset on November 6, 2018 at 6 PM (not to scale) (Image Credit: Stellarium)

November 7, 2018: New Moon

On this day, the moon will not be visible as it will be situated at the same side of the Earth as the Sun, in the constellation of Libra (the scales). With no moonlight glaring much of the night sky, this is the best time to observe the deep sky objects throughout the night. It is predicted that the lunar phase will occur on this day. However, the month transition from Safar to Rabi al-Awwal shall take place three days later (November 10) in accordance to the Hijri Calendar 1440.

November 10-11, 2018: Northern Taurid Meteor Shower

The peak of long-running minor meteor shower known as the Northern Taurids will take place. It is projected to bring up to 5 meteors per hour under completely dark, moonless, and cloudless skies. Though little in quantity, it is known for cascading bright meteors known as “fireballs” or bolides. These meteors will seem to radiate from the constellation Taurus (the bull) but can be observed anywhere of the sky from around 9 PM all the way through dawn of the next day. The space debris from Comet 2P known as Encke entering Earth is the one responsible for this meteor shower. The Taurids peak is expected to occur on the night of November 10 until dawn of November 11. A must have in observing this astronomical phenomenon is patience; lots of them and of course, comfort. With the Moon at its waxing crescent phase, as it will set earlier in the night, there will be no moonlight interfering the dark night skies, providing a better chance to maximize the viewing of the meteors.

The position of Northern Taurids radiant (Graphic Courtesy of Stellarium)

November 11, 2018: Moon – Saturn Conjunction

The bright Waxing Crescent Moon and the ringed planet Saturn will appear close to each other in the sky. The two celestial objects will be separated 1°26’ from each other in the night sky. The conjunction will be seen at the southwestern horizon right after sunset (around 6 PM) until 8:25 PM when they both set. Both celestial objects will be situated in the constellation Sagittarius (the archer). Saturn would look like a yellow-orange “star” to the left of the Moon. Also visible to the far west of the two celestial objects is the red planet Mars.

Moon-Saturn Conjunction on November 11, 2018 at around 6:30 PM (not to scale) (Graphic Courtesy of Stellarium)

November 16, 2018: Moon – Mars Conjunction

The bright Waxing Gibbous Moon and the red planet Mars will appear close to each other in the sky. The two celestial objects will be separated 0°59’ from each other in the night sky. The close approach will be seen at the southern horizon right after sunset (around 6 PM) until midnight when the Moon will set earlier. Both celestial objects will be situated in the constellation Aquarius (the water bearer). Mars would look like a vivid red “star” east of the Moon.

Illustration of the Conjunction of the Waxing Gibbous Moon and Mars on November 16, 2018 (not to scale) at around 7 PM (Graphic Courtesy of Stellarium)

November 17-18, 2018: Leonids Meteor Shower

On the early morning hours until dawn of November 17 and November 18, 2018, the peak of the average meteor shower known as the Leonids will take place. It is projected to bring up to 15 meteors per hour under completely dark, moonless and cloudless skies. These meteors will seem to radiate from the constellation Leo (the lion) at the sky’s eastern portion but can be observed anywhere of the sky from around midnight all the way through dawn. The space debris from Comet 55P known as Tempel-Tuttle entering Earth is the one responsible for this meteor shower. The Moon will be at its waxing gibbous phase, providing some moonlight glare across the night sky, reducing the number of meteors to be actually seen. The best viewing time at least will be at 1:30 AM onwards until sunrise when the bright Moon sets. A must have in observing this astronomical phenomenon is patience; lots of them and of course, comfort.

The position of Leonids radiant (Graphic Courtesy of Stellarium)

November 23, 2018: Full Moon

Situated on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun, the moon will be fully illuminated (100%) on this day. For selenophiles (people who love the moon), this is the best time to observe all the surface features of this celestial object, including the craters and maria. It will start appearing at around 6:10PM (at the eastern horizon) as it rises, and can be seen throughout the night until sunrise; positioned in the constellation of Taurus (the bull). Because of its full illumination during this phase, it will not be a good night for deep-sky observation with the entire moonlight glaring out most of the faint celestial objects.

The Full Moon taken from Al Sadeem Observatory last October 24, 2018

In the UAE and other regions in the Northern Hemisphere, November is considered the apparent starting month of the winter season. Many brilliant prominent autumn and winter constellations and deep-sky objects will be seen during night time and early morning hours such as the Great Orion Nebula, Andromeda Galaxy, and the brilliant open star cluster Pleiades known as the “Seven Sisters” in Taurus.  The bright planets Saturn and Mars will show up in the early evening hours, particularly right after sunset (about 6 PM), until 9 PM (for Saturn) and 12 AM (for Mars). The dimmer and distant planets Uranus and Neptune can be seen using larger aperture telescopes for most of the night, from sunset until 1:30 AM (for Neptune) and 5 AM (for Uranus). The other planets Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter will be either barely or not visible because they are positioned near the Sun in the sky. For this month, sunrise occurrences range between 6:29 AM and as late as 6:48 AM while sunsets shall happen between 5:42 PM to as early as 5:33 PM.

Have a pleasant November, everyone! Clear Skies!

Planets Mars, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Orion Nebula, Andromeda Galaxy and the Pleiades taken from Al Sadeem Observatory (Image Credit: Al Sadeem Astronomy)

References

Astronomy Calendar of Celestial Events 2018 . (n.d.). Retrieved from Sea and Sky: www.seasky.org/astronomy/astronomy-calendar-2018.html

Calendar of Astronomical Events. (n.d.). Retrieved from In-The-Sky.org: http://in-the-sky.org/newscal.php?year=2018&month=11&maxdiff=5

Islamic calendar 2018. (n.d.). Retrieved from Calendar.sk: https://calendar.zoznam.sk/islamic_calendar-en.php

Sunrise and sunset times in Abu Dhabi, November 2018. (n.d.). Retrieved from timeanddate.com: https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/united-arab-emirates/abu-dhabi?month=11&year=2018

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