Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of November 2019
On May 9, 2016, Mercury passed directly between the Sun and Earth, as captured in this image. This event is called a transit. On November 11, 2019, Mercury will once again transit across the face of the Sun and appear as a dark round spot that seems to crawl across the Sun’s surface. Solar transits are much rarer than eclipses of the Moon. The next Mercury transit that will be visible from North America isn't until 2049. As for Venus, the next solar transit will not occur for another century, on December 11, 2117. Not all transits are the same because from Earth’s perspective, the planets cross the Sun at different places, sometimes just grazing the Sun's outer edges. The 2019 Mercury transit is an especially good one because it will pass very close to the Sun’s center, making it a real treat for observers. (Credits: NASA, JPL – Caltech, and the Office of Public Outreach – STScI) (Image Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, SDO, Genna Duberstein)
Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of November 2019
Welcome to the night sky report for November 2019 -- Your guide to the constellations, deep sky objects, planets, and celestial events that are observable during the month. In November, hunt for the fainter constellations of fall, including Pisces, Aries, and Triangulum. They will guide you to several galaxies, including the spiral galaxy M74 and M33 (the Triangulum Galaxy). On November 11 we're in for a rare treat, as the innermost planet, Mercury, passes directly in front of the Sun. The event will last about five and a half hours, during which Mercury's path will take it right across the middle of the Sun's disk. The next Mercury transit that will be visible from North America isn't until 2049. (Warning: You should never look directly at the Sun without proper protection, as it can permanently damage your eyes). The night sky is truly a celestial showcase. Get outside and explore its wonders from your own backyard.
Dark, cold nights of November make for good hunting for the fainter constellations of fall.
Pegasus flies high in the southeast after nightfall and is a good guidepost for some of autumn’s dimmer patterns.
Look south and east of the Great Square of Pegasus for Pisces, the fish. In Greek legend, the two fish, tied together with a rope, represent Aphrodite and Eros, who transformed themselves to escape a monster. The sprawling star pattern includes the Circlet, marking the western fish.
Located below the pattern of the eastern fish is the spiral galaxy M74. NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has rendered it in exquisite detail. M74 is known as a grand design spiral and has two prominent bluish spiral arms wound neatly around the redder galactic nucleus. The nucleus appears redder because there is little new star formation there and many of the hot blue stars have evolved to become red giant stars or have exhausted their fuel altogether.
To the east of the Great Square and Pisces lies the small pattern of Aries the ram. The third-brightest star in the pattern, named Mesarthim, is a lovely pair of white stars, easy to distinguish in a small telescope.
Above Aries is the constellation of Triangulum. The constellation contains the third-largest galaxy of our Local Group, after the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies: M33, the Triangulum Galaxy. This galaxy is relatively large and diffuse from our perspective, and can be spotted with binoculars. NASA’s space telescopes have imaged M33’s spiral features in great detail.
On November 11 we're in for a rare treat, as the innermost planet, Mercury, passes directly in front of the Sun for a few hours. This event is called a transit, and for Mercury they happen only about 13 times in a century. (Transits of Venus are even more rare.)
The event will last about five and a half hours, during which Mercury's path will take it right across the middle of the Sun's disk. For observers in the Eastern US, the transit begins after sunrise, meaning you'll be able to view the entire thing. For the central and western US, the transit begins before sunrise, but there's enough time left as the Sun climbs up the sky for you to catch a glimpse before Mercury makes its exit.
Warning: You should never look directly at the Sun without proper protection, as it can permanently damage your eyes.
If you have a pair of eclipse shades, those are typically OK for viewing the Sun, but Mercury is so small in comparison that it is impossible to see a transit without magnification.
Your best bet is a telescope with a certified sun filter, but other options include solar projection boxes and sun funnels. Better yet -- NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft will be sharing near-realtime images during the transit. Whatever method you choose, be safe when observing the Sun.
The next Mercury transit that will be visible in the US isn't until 2049. So if you're in the US, you might want to make the effort to catch this special celestial event.
A more frequent type of transit you might want to check out is the regular dimming and brightening of Algol (the Demon Star).
Found in the constellation Perseus, Algol is actually two stars orbiting each other, and they're oriented nearly edge-on such that from our perspective, the smaller star regularly passes in front of the larger, brighter one, causing it to dim for about 10 hours at a time. This happens like clockwork, every 2 days, 20 hours, 49 minutes. You can find tables of these "minima," as they're called, in lots of astronomy magazines and websites.
To observe Algol's eclipses, find the date and time of a predicted minimum and start observing maybe an hour or two before that time. Take a look about every half hour (binoculars are really useful for this). Over a few hours following the minimum, Algol will slowly brighten back to its normal state.
At its normal brightness, Algol appears about as bright as the nearby star Almach, while at its minimum, it dims to around the brightness of its neighbor Gorgonea Tertia. So these two stars provide a helpful way to compare Algol's brightness throughout the night as you observe.
The night sky is always a celestial showcase. Explore its wonders from your own backyard.
The following Deep Sky Objects are found in constellations that peak during the month. Some can be viewed with a small telescope, but the majority will require a moderate to large telescope. The following is adapted from my personal viewing list: "The Guy Pirro 777 Best and Brightest Deep Sky Objects."
NGC 772 Galaxy Herschel 400 H112-1
- NGC 770 Galaxy - Paired with H112-1
NGC 821 Galaxy P234
IC 1613 Galaxy C51
NGC 157 Galaxy Herschel 400 H3-2
NGC 246 Planetary Nebula C56, Herschel 400 H25-5
NGC 247 Galaxy C62, Herschel 400 H20-5
NGC 584 Galaxy Herschel 400 H100-1
NGC 596 Galaxy Herschel 400 H4-2
NGC 615 Galaxy Herschel 400 H282-8
NGC 720 Galaxy Herschel 400 H105-1
NGC 779 Galaxy Herschel 400 H101-1
NGC 908 Galaxy Herschel 400 H153-1
NGC 936 Galaxy Herschel 400 H23-4
- NGC 941 Galaxy - Paired with H23-4
NGC 1022 Galaxy Herschel 400 H102-1
NGC 1042 Galaxy P221
NGC 1052 Galaxy Herschel 400 H63-1
NGC 1055 Galaxy Herschel 400 H1-1
NGC 1068 Galaxy M77 Cetus A Seyfert Galaxy
NGC 1097 Galaxy C67
NGC 1201 Galaxy P153
NGC 1316 Galaxy P30 Fornax A Galaxy
NGC 1326 Galaxy P154
NGC 1340 Galaxy P83
NGC 1350 Galaxy P155
NGC 1360 Planetary Nebula P84
NGC 1365 Galaxy P51
NGC 1380 Galaxy P85
NGC 1399 Galaxy P32
NGC 1398 Galaxy P33
NGC 1404 Galaxy P86
NGC 2903 Galaxy Herschel 400 H56-1
NGC 2964 Galaxy Herschel 400 H114-1
- NGC 2968 Galaxy - Paired with H114-1
NGC 3190 Galaxy Herschel 400 H44-2
- NGC 3187 Galaxy - Paired with H44-2
NGC 3193 Galaxy Herschel 400 H45-2
NGC 3226 Galaxy Herschel 400 H28-2 Paired with H29-2
NGC 3227 Galaxy Herschel 400 H29-2 Leo Seyfert Galaxy Paired with H28-2
NGC 3351 Galaxy M95
NGC 3368 Galaxy M96
NGC 3377 Galaxy Herschel 400 H99-2
NGC 3379 Galaxy M105, Herschel 400 H17-1
NGC 3384 Galaxy Herschel 400 H18-1
NGC 3412 Galaxy Herschel 400 H27-1
NGC 3489 Galaxy Herschel 400 H101-2
NGC 3521 Galaxy Herschel 400 H13-1
NGC 3593 Galaxy Herschel 400 H29-1
NGC 3607 Galaxy Herschel 400 H50-2 Paired with H51-2
NGC 3608 Galaxy Herschel 400 H51-2 Paired with H50-2
NGC 3623 Galaxy M65
NGC 3626 Galaxy C40, Herschel 400 H52-2
NGC 3627 Galaxy M66
NGC 3628 Galaxy Herschel 400 H8-5
NGC 3640 Galaxy Herschel 400 H33-2
- NGC 3641 Galaxy - Paired with H33-2
NGC 3655 Galaxy Herschel 400 H5-1
NGC 3686 Galaxy Herschel 400 H160-2
NGC 3810 Galaxy Herschel 400 H21-1
NGC 3900 Galaxy Herschel 400 H82-1
NGC 3912 Galaxy Herschel 400 H342-2
IC 348 Open Cluster P95
IC 2003 Planetary Nebula P237
NGC 650 Planetary Nebula M76 Little Dumbell Nebula
NGC 651 Planetary Nebula Herschel 400 H193-1 Part of M76
NGC 744 Open Cluster P96
NGC 869 Open Cluster C14a, Herschel 400 H33-6 Double Cluster (West)
NGC 884 Open Cluster C14b, Herschel 400 H34-6 Double Cluster (East)
NGC 957 Open Cluster P97
NGC 1023 Galaxy Herschel 400 H156-1
NGC 1039 Open Cluster M34 Spiral Cluster
NGC 1220 Open Cluster P238
NGC 1245 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H25-6
NGC 1275 Galaxy C24 Perseus A Seyfert Galaxy
NGC 1342 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H88-8
NGC 1444 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H80-8
NGC 1496 Open Cluster P174
NGC 1499 Diffuse Nebula P44 - California Nebula
NGC 1513 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H60-7
NGC 1528 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H61-7
NGC 1545 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H85-8
NGC 1582 Open Cluster P45
NGC 1605 Open Cluster P239
NGC 1624 Open Cluster P240
NGC 488 Galaxy Herschel 400 H252-3
NGC 524 Galaxy Herschel 400 H151-1
NGC 628 Galaxy M74
NGC 676 Galaxy P175
Messier 45 Open Cluster M45 Pleiades
Caldwell 41 Open Cluster C41 Hyades
IC 1995 Diffuse Nebula P64
NGC 1514 Planetary Nebula P120
NGC 1554 Diffuse Nebula P200 Von Struve’s Lost Nebula
NGC 1555 Diffuse Nebula P201 Hind’s Variable Nebula
NGC 1647 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H8-8
NGC 1750 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H43-8
NGC 1807 Open Cluster P65
NGC 1817 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H4-7
NGC 1952 Diffuse Nebula M1 Crab Nebula
NGC 598 Galaxy M33 Herschel 400 H17-5 Triangulum Galaxy
NGC 925 Galaxy P66
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