Magazine article Natural History

The Sky in November

Magazine article Natural History

The Sky in November

Article excerpt

Mercury sets in the southwest soon after the Sun does throughout the month, which gives it a poor evening apparition-though you can view it easily enough with binoculars. The farther south you are, the easier time you'll have seeing the planet. On the 20th Mercury reaches its greatest eastern elongation, or apparent distance from the Sun, twenty-two degrees east of our star. On that evening it sets seventy-five minutes after sunset. Thereafter Mercury sets earlier with each passing night.

Venus, queen of the predawn hours, is brilliant, as always. The planet rises an hour or so before dawn twilight; by fifty minutes before sunrise it is at least twenty degrees above the east-southeastern horizon. Early in the month Venus joins with Jupiter-the latter shining brightly, but with only about one-eighth the brilliance of Venus-in the constellation Virgo, the virgin. The two planets are closest on the 4th and 5th. On the 9th the duo is joined by the Moon; Mars and the first-magnitude star Spica are not far below. Imagine the astrological significance the ancients might have ascribed to such a celestial encounter! Venus is on its way around the far side of the Sun, so through a telescope it appears gibbous and small. The planet passes Spica at midmonth, moving four degrees north of the star on the 16th.

Mars rises out of the east-southeast just after 5 A.M. on the 1st and only about fifteen minutes earlier by the end of the month. At magnitude 1.7, Mars is still a relatively inconspicuous object. The planet moves from Virgo into the constellation Libra, the scales, by the 22nd. …

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