Night sky guide for November 2014


It doesn't quite fit in a night sky guide, but this month might also be called "Rosetta's" month. After years of traveling through the solar system and finally reaching comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko in August 2014, ESA will attempt humanity's first landing on a comet with its Philae lander on November 12. The lander is named after Philae island in the Nile river, where an obelisk was found that was used to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics along with the famous Rosetta Stone. 

The joint show of the North and South Taurid meteor showers this month will provide many viewing opportunities. South Taurid meteor shower observations on their peak night on November 5 will be severely limited by this month's full moon, but this shower known for high percentage of exceptionally bright meteors which will be visible between midnight and sunrise. Adding to that, North Taurids will join the show on 5th but will have a slightly better chance on November 12 when they peak.

Well known Leonid meteor shower will peak on the night of November 17 and the morning of November 18 with about 40 meteors per hour. The waning crescent moon will not be much of a problem and skies should be dark enough for a good show. This shower has produced some of the greatest meteor storms in history. The last great one was during the morning of November 17, 1966 with rates as high as thousands of meteors per minute during a span of 15 minutes. 

  • November 5 – South Taurid meteor shower peak. The Taurid meteor shower is a long-running (September 25 – November 25) minor meteor shower producing only about 5 – 10 meteors per hour. It is unusual in that it consists of two separate streams. The first – South Taurids – is produced by dust grains from Asteroid 2004 TG10 and the second – North Taurids – by the debris left behind by Comet 2P Encke. The full moon this year will block out all but the brightest South Taurids but this shower is well known for having a high percentage of exceptionally bright meteors. South Taurids are currently active from a large radiant centered at 03:16 (049) +15. This position lies in eastern Aries, 5 degrees south of the 4th magnitude star known as Botein (Delta Arietis). These meteors may be seen all night long but the radiant is best placed near midnight LST when it lies on the meridian and is located highest in the sky. 

  • November 6 – Full Moon – 22:23 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Beaver Moon because this was the time of year to set the beaver traps before the swamps and rivers froze. It has also been known as the Frosty Moon and the Hunter's Moon.

  • November 6 – Conjunction between Mars and M22. Mars and M22 will make a close approach, passing within 0°45' of each other on November 6. At the moment of closest approach, Mars will be at mag 0.5, and M22 at mag 5.1, both in the constellation Sagittarius. They will be a little too widely separated to fit comfortably within the field of view of a telescope, but will be visible to the naked eye or a through pair of binoculars.

  • November 12 – North Taurid meteor shower peak. North Taurid meteor shower is a long-lasting and modest meteor shower. The dust grains hit the atmosphere at 27 km/s, which would produce meteors of slow velocity. Expected rates would be near 2 per hour this year, no matter your location, according to AMS.

  • November 12 – Philae attempts landing on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. The pre-delivery maneuver will shift Rosetta's trajectory so that the orbiter would be on a path so as to pass over the comet at a distance of 5 km, while the separation will occur at 08:35 UTC on board the spacecraft about 22 km (the confirmation signal will arrive on Earth at 09:03 UTC). The Philae lander will spend about a week studying the comet. It will send back images from the surface and try to determine what the comet is made of.

  • November 17, 18 – Leonid meteor shower peaks. The Leonids are dust grains left by comet Tempel-Tuttle. This shower is producing an average of up to 15 meteors per hour at its peak from the constellation Leo. This shower is unique in that it has a cyclonic peak about every 33 – 34 years where hundreds of meteors per hour can be seen. The last one was in 2001 but it did not come even close to the show in 1966. The waning crescent moon will not be much of a problem this year and skies should be dark enough for a good show. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Leo, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

  • November 22 – New Moon – 12:32 UTC. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This will be the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

Featured image: Leonid meteor shower by Andrés Nieto Porras in background with ESA's Rosetta spacecraft and Philae lander art. Edit: TW.

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