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Tuesday, November 06, 2012


The Sky This Week - Thursday November 8 to Thursday November 15

The New Moon is Wednesday November 14, at this time a total eclipse is seen in North Queensland and a partial eclipse elsewhere in Australia. Mars is in Ophiuchus in binocular distance of  some beautiful clusters. Mercury heads into the twilight  in the western evening sky.  Jupiter is visible in the late evening sky and is visited. In the morning skies Venus is low on the horizon. The crescent Moon is close to Venus on 11 and 12 November.

eclipse sky  Morning sky at totality as seen from Cairns on 14 November 2012, 6:38 am (click on image to embiggen)

The New Moon is Wednesday November 14. On November 14 2012, just on Sunrise, there will be a total eclipse of the Sun visible from Northern Australia. 

While only a few places in Northern Australia will see totality, most of Australia will see a significant partial eclipse, with between 60%-90% of the suns disk being obscured north of Canberra.

A partial eclipse of the sun is one that does not cover the whole of the Sun's disk. 
This is not as spectacular as a full solar eclipse, but will be incredible in it's own way. For example, in areas where there is greater than 60% solar disk coverage, there will be significant darkening and cooling, and the shadows of leaves will show crescent sun effects. This is also the first significant solar eclipse in Australia since 2002.

I have a detailed page on viewing the eclipse, with times at various locations, viewing hints and helpful  links to more information (such as how to build a safe projections system) and webcams at http://home.mira.net/~reynella/skywatch/ECL_2012.HTM  

Morning sky on Monday November 12 looking east as seen from Adelaide at 5:30 am local daylight saving time in South Australia. The nearly Crescent Moon is close to Venus. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

Jupiter is still easily seen above the north-western horizon in the early morning sky. Jupiter is below the Hyades, between the red star Aldebaran and the dimmer blue white star Elnath. Jupiter moves slowly towards Aldebaran during the week.

Jupiter, Aldebaran and the red star Betelgeuse in Orion form a long triangle in the sky. With the Pleiades cluster and the constellation of Orion close by, this is a beautiful sight. 

Jupiter is now seen in the late evening sky, rising shortly before 10 pm local daylight saving time and is moderately high by midnight. Still not quite high enough for telescopic viewing though. . 

Bright white Venus is still moderately  high above the eastern horizon, but continues sinking lower over the week. Venus looks like a waxing Moon when seen through even a small telescope.

Venus is in the constellation of Virgo.  It continues to approach the bright star Spica, alpha Virginis. Venus is now relatively low to the horizon, but still clearly visible in twlight skies. It will become harder to see over the coming weeks. Venus will still be bright, but hard to see from cluttered horizons. The thin crescent Moon is close to Venus on 11 and 12 November.

Evening sky looking west as seen from Adelaide at 8:30 pm local daylight time on Saturday November 10. Mercury is in the head of the Scorpion. Mars is in Ophichusus. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time.  Click to embiggen.

Saturn is lost in the twilight.

Mercury is no longer rising in the sky, and is now becoming dimmer. It is still the brightest object just above the western horizon towards the end of twilight, just above delta Scorpii in the head of the Scorpion. It will become harder to see as the week progresses.

Mars is in the constellation Ophiuchus, but enters Sagittarius by the end of the week. Mars is third brightest object in the western sky (after Mercury and the red star Antares, which is just a little brighter than Mars). Mars's distinctive red colour makes it relatively easy to spot. Mars will be in binocular range of several beautiful clusters for most of the month.

Mars sets shortly after 11:00 pm local daylight saving time.

Mars was at opposition on March 4, when it was biggest and brightest as seen from Earth. Sadly, this is a poor opposition and Mars will be fairly small in modest telescopes.

There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. If you don't have a telescope, now is a good time to visit one of your local astronomical societies open nights or the local planetariums.

Printable PDF maps of the Eastern sky at 10 pm AEDST, Western sky at 10 pm AEDST. For further details and more information on what's up in the sky, see Southern Skywatch.

Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.


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