Night Skies for November and December
All the planets are now back which us, although mostly in the early morning hours until we get past the start of 2003.
With Venus in the morning sky later this year we will once again have all the visible planets in the same field of view as we did last spring. Mars, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn. From time to time the crescent moon will also be seen nearby each of them. You may even catch a glimps of Mercury at times low in the East before the morning sunrise, but Mercury is very, very hard for the casual observer to find. The rest are firey bright, although Mars and Saturn will be a little plae for the here and now. By spring of next year Saturn will be a very bright yellow-orange. Jupter a very, very bright white-yellow. Around the turn of the New Year Venus a brillian blue-white low in the East about two hours before sunrise.
Saturn, Jupiter and much later next year Mars, will be heading back into the evening skies.
For even the novice one of the two best meteor shows of the year occurs in November, the Leonids. Rates on this shower (which were boosted recently by a returning comet) have been above 50 per hour in dark locations and as high as 500 per hour. These seem to come from the constelation Leo and are best seen after midnight in the early morning hours. They travel from about the zeinth (that point straight up) in all directions down to the horizon. I saw many in the south and west, plus some in the north and east last year. This year the full moon will hamper viewing, especially in the brightly lighted cities. Best observing dates will be November 18th and 19th.
For more information visit: http://www.arm.ac.uk/leonid/
For the experienced observer there will be a prenumral eclipse of the Moon on November 19-20. This is not a very promient event (the moon passes into the weak outer shadow cast by the Earth deep in space and darkens only factionally).
A total solar eclipse occurs on Wednesday, December 4th, visibile only in central and southern Africa.
For more information visit this eclipse site: www.hermit.org/Eclipse/2002-12-04
On Saturday Morning, December 14th the Geminid meteor shower reaches it's peak in the early hours (stay up from Friday night to Saturday after 1 am) with between 50 and 120 meteors per hour in dark areas and about 25 in the city.