Evening Planets — Spot 6 planets tonight

Bright Jupiter and Mercury open November evenings very low in the west southwest just after sunset.

Say goodbye to Jupiter and new comer Mercury by Veterans Day. Look for a bright “star” hugging the western horizon as the sun sets. That’s Jupiter. Look to the left and up in a diagonal line to spot dimmer Mercury. More challenging to spot is the star Antares to the left of Mercury.

Each night, Jupiter drops a bit toward the setting sun; while Mercury stays in place as it slips above and past Antares.

On Wednesday, an ultra-thin crescent moon hangs about 4 degrees above Jupiter, with Mercury about 2 degrees above Antares.

Jupiter will be lost in the sun’s glare by Nov. 11. Mercury will hug the horizon for another day or two.

Saturn can be found tonight in the southwest in upper Sagittarius as a modest extra “star.” This planet also begins its sunset plunge this month. Telescope observers can still enjoy views of the wide open rings during the first two weeks of November. After mid-month, Saturn sinks into the thick and unsteady air above the southwest horizon, making observing difficult.

Mars is well placed for observing as the sky darkens. Look to the south by southeast right after dark tonight to spot a bright reddish “star” near the eastern part of Capricornus. Tonight and Monday night, Mars will hover near third magnitude Delta Capricornii, less than a moon-width away each night.

Mars will gradually fade in brightness and apparent size as this month progresses. Telescope observers should seek to find the polar caps before Mars is too small to show any details.

As Earth retreats from pokey Mars, the Red Planet will seem to move eastward from Capricornus to Aquarius. Each night, Mars will creep a bit closer to Neptune. Tonight, Mars is about 20 degrees to the west of Neptune and by Nov. 30, the two worlds will appear only four degrees apart. Mars and Neptune will have a wide conjunction on Dec. 6, passing a little over one degree apart.

Gas giants Neptune and Uranus can be tricky to find. A handy star chart can be found in the September 2018 issue of Sky and Telescope magazine. Uranus, at magnitude 5.7, is technically a naked-eye object this month.

Look in Pisces with the aid of a star chart to spot Uranus. Neptune is a bigger challenge since it is much dimmer at magnitude 7.5 this month. Use your binoculars or small telescope to track down Neptune.

Dawn Planet-Venus, the Morning Star

Venus explodes away from the rising sun. Look on Monday morning around 5 a.m. toward the east by southeast horizon to spot Venus, which will be a dizzling sight. About 4 degrees below Venus is the bright star, Spica of Virgo. Each morning, Venus climbs rapidly away from the sunrise and gains in brightness. Telescope observers will notice a rapid change from an ultra-thin crescent Venus to a much fatter crescent during November.

By mid-month, Venus will sail near Spica as a wide double “star.”

Meteor Shower-Leonids

Mid-November brings the annual Leonid meteor shower. This early morning shower peaks on Nov. 17 and 18. This year, some astronomers are predicting a rate of 20 meteors per hour on the morning of Nov. 17 just before sunrise.

Others, expect a more normal count of 15 per hour peaking in the afternoon of Nov. 17, with the best counts likely coming early on the morning of Nov. 18.

A bright moon will set about 2 a.m. PST, permitting excellent observing on either morning. Look to the north or south to spot the most meteors. Bundle up since fog-free November mornings can be very chilly.

Morgan Observatory at UCC (PMO)

Planned public star gazing events have concluded. Depending on weather, more evening and daytime solar events may be possible. Look for short-term notices of events as weather patterns allow at umpqua.edu/observatory.

Generally, only 48 to 72 hours notice will be given on these events. Please check the site frequently.

Observatory seating is limited and parking is available near the Tower Building at UCC. All events are offered without charge. Dress warmly as the nights can be chilly at the observatory.

Umpqua Astronomers Meeting- January 2019

Come on Jan. 8, 2019 at 7 p.m. to U.C.C. Wayne Crooch Hall Rm. 18 for the Umpqua Astronomers January meeting. Club news, monthly sky events and astronomy news will be presented. The astronomical events for 2019 will be discussed. Everyone interested in astronomy is welcome. Newcomers to astronomy are invited to a special pre-meeting at 6:30 p.m. to ask questions and learn about beginning astronomy. For more information visit, umpquaastronomers.org or call 541-673-1081.

Paul Morgan is an astronomer at Umpqua Community College.

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