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Sky Report - November 2008

Standard Time Returns and Venus Creeps Towards Jupiter

On the first Sunday of November (the 2nd) , we fall back an hour and return to Eastern Standard Time. The sunset which was taking place about 6:15 p.m. now occurs at 5:15 p.m.(EST), when many are returning home from work. By evening news time on television, the sky is dark enough to see the brighter stars and planets. In the morning, the sunrise which had advanced to about 7:45 a.m. will now occur at 6:45 a.m.(EST). So school children taking an early bus will have more light as they wait. For a number of years, Standard Time in the fall started on the last Sunday in October and Daylight Time began on the first Sunday in April. But due to an Act of Congress in 2005, we altered our scheme beginning in 2007. As a result Daylight time now lasts nearly 8 months, starting in early March and ending in early November.

The most interesting November sky sight is the slow creeping of the brilliant planet Venus towards the bright planet Jupiter in the southwestern dusk. During November, Venus is approaching the Earth as her distance from us drops from 111 to 94 million miles. This intense point of light glides across the star group Ophiuchus in early November and then enters Sagittarius. At the start of November, Venus sets a little after 7 p.m. which increases to a few minutes before 8 p.m. at month’s end. (All preceding times are Standard Time.) You can easily identify Venus by her steady, intense light, outshining all other planets and night stars. The dimmer planet Jupiter is in eastern Sagittarius, at a distance of about 500 million miles from Earth. Jupiter’s greater distance and slower orbital motion causes it to move only about 5 degrees (10 moon widths) in November while Venus moves 40 degrees. At the start of November, the two planets are 32 degrees apart; the two planets end the month appearing only 2 degrees apart. At month’s end, Venus will appear underneath the dimmer Jupiter in the 6 p.m. southwestern dusk.

A slender crescent moon will appear to the left of the brilliant planet Venus on November 1st. On November 3rd, the moon will appear under the bright planet Jupiter. The evening moon appears half full on November 5th, offering the best views of its craters and mountains through binoculars or telescopes. (At full moon, more of the moon can be seen, but there are a few shadows so raised features such as craters and mountains don’t stand out by the shadows they cast.) The evening moon grows to full on the evening of November 12th, then shining in front of the stars of Aries. By November 19th, the moon appears half full in the morning sky; this moon is well seen in the early daylight hours in the western sky. On November 21st, the crescent moon appears near the bright planet Saturn in the southeastern dawn. On November 30th, a very slender crescent moon may be spied below and to the right of the Venus-Jupiter pair in the 5:45 p.m southwestern dusk.

The November program at the Frostburg State Planetarium is “StarDeath and Elements” with free public presentations on the Sundays at November 2, 9, 16 and 23 (no programs on November 30). Our show times are 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Our programs begin with an informal tour of the current evening sky and good sights in the months ahead. The Planetarium is in Tawes 302. Tawes Hall is near the FSU Clock Tower, the Lane University Center and the Performing Arts Center (where many recitals, plays and musicals are staged). Park in the Performing Arts parking area and walk around the Performing Arts building to the right. Several hundred feet away on the left is Tawes Hall. To the right is the larger Compton Science Center. Call (301) 687-7799 to request a free bookmark (that includes a small map showing all these buildings); please leave your name and mailing address.

To contact Dr. Doyle, his mailing address is Planetarium, Frostburg State University, Frostburg, MD 21532 or by email at rdoyle@frostburg.edu.

By Dr. Bob Doyle









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