The Sky Above You – November 2019


By Duncan Lunan



The Moon will be Full on November 12th and will be New on November 26th. It will pass through the Hyades Open Cluster in Taurus on the night of 13th/14th November, and it will pass through the Praesepe cluster in Cancer on the morning of the 22nd.


On 11th November the planet Mercury transits the face of the Sun, starting at 12.35 p.m. (GMT/UT), and still in progress at sunset. The event is not visible to the naked eye, so DO NOT stare at the Sun, NOR look at it directly with any optical aid – look up how to project the image of the Sun in safety AND STICK TO IT.


Mercury reappears in the morning sky around November 18th, passed by the Moon on November 25th, and reaches greatest elongation on the 28th, rising about 5.45 a.m. by the end of the month.


Venus is low in the evening sky and sets about 5 p.m., near Jupiter on November 24th, with the crescent Moon between it and Jupiter on the 28th.


Mars rises about 5 a.m. in November, crossing the constellation Virgo and passing Spica, the brightest star in Virgo, on November 10th. The Moon appears near Mars on November 24th, and Mars is above and to the right of Mercury on the 28th


Jupiter in Ophiucus sets around 6.30 p.m. in November, near Venus on the 24th with the Moon passing them on the 28th. That morning, Jupiter is occulted by the Moon at 11 a.m., shortly before moonrise in the UK, and it will reappear at the bright limb of the Moon as it rises. Jupiter disappears into the twilight by the end of the month as it nears conjunction with the Sun in December.


Saturn in Sagittarius sets about 7.30 p.m. in November, and is soon to disappear. The Moon is near Saturn on November 2nd and 29th.


Uranus in Aries passed opposition on October 28th, and is moving westward among the stars as the Earth draws ahead of it.


Neptune in Aquarius sets at about 1 a.m. in November, around midnight by the end of the month, and reaches the ‘stationary point’ where its motion against the stars appears to reverse as the Earth pulls ahead of it, on the 27th.


Taurid meteors can be seen throughout November, peaking on November 5/6th and 12/13th (two streams), along with occasional meteors from the Leonid shower which peaks on November 17/18th. As the Leonid shower has a 33-year cycle, last peaking in 1999-2002, no major activity is expected this year – just as well, because both showers will be spoiled by moonlight.


At the Astronomers of the Future Club meeting on Thursday November 28th the guest speaker will be Robert Law of the Mills Observatory in Dundee, on his latest visit to Kennedy Space Centre and current space developments. The meeting will be from 19:15 to 21:00 hrs at the RSAS Barassie Works Club, 4 Shore Road, Troon, KA10 6AG. For more details, contact Alan Martin on 07947 331632.


Duncan Lunan’s new book “From the Moon to the Stars”, a collection of space travel stories old and new relating to the Moon and Project Apollo, is now available from the publishers at https://othersidebooks.wordpress.com, as well as on Amazon or through booksellers; details of that and his other books are on Duncan’s website, www.duncanlunan.com.










The Sky Above You


By Duncan Lunan


About this Column


I began writing this column in early 1983 at the suggestion of the late Chris Boyce.   At that time the Post Office would allow 1000 free mailings to start a new business, just under the number of small press newspapers in the UK at the time.   I printed a flyer with the help of John Braithwaite  (of Braithwaite Telescopes)  offering a three-part column for £5, with the sky this month, a series of articles for beginners, and a monthly news feature.   The column ran from May 1983 to May 1993 in various newspapers and magazines, but never in more than five outlets at a time, although every one of those 1000-plus papers would have included an astrology column.   Since then it’s appeared sporadically in a range of publications including The Southsider in Glasgow and the Dalyan Courier in Turkey, but most often, normally three times per year, in Jeff Hawke’s Cosmos from the first issue in March 2003 until the last in January 2018.   It continues to appear monthly in Troon's Going Out and Orkney News. Enquries from other outlets welcomed!


 The monthly maps for the column were drawn for me by Jim Barker, based on similar, uncredited ones in Dr. Leon Hausman’s “Astronomy Handbook”  (Fawcett Publications, 1956).   Jim had to redraw or elongate several of them because they were drawn for mid-US latitudes, about 40 degrees North, making them usable over most of the northern hemisphere.   The biggest change needed was in November when only Dubhe, Merak and Megrez of the Big Dipper, as the US version called it, were visible at that latitude.   In the UK, all the stars of the Plough are circumpolar, always above the horizon.   We decided to keep an insert in the January map showing the position of M42, the Great Nebula in the Sword of Orion, and for that reason, to stick with the set time of 9 p.m., (10 p.m. BST in summer), although in Scotland the sky isn’t dark then during June and July. 


To use the maps in theory you should hold them overhead, aligning the North edge to true north, marked by Polaris and indicated by Dubhe and Merak, the Pointers.   It’s more practical to hold the map in front of you when looking south and then rotate it as you face east, south and west.   Some readers are confused because east is on the left, opposite to terrestrial maps, but that’s because they’re the other way up.   When you’re facing south and looking at the sky, east is on your left.  


The star patterns are the same for each month of each year, and only the positions of the planets change.   (“Astronomy Handbook” accidentally shows Saturn in Virgo during May, showing that the maps weren’t originally drawn for the Hausman book.)   Consequently regular readers for a year will by then have built up a complete set of twelve.





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