The sky this week from October 29 to November 5


Monday November 1
The American Association of Variable Star Observers is an amateur organization dedicated to observing celestial objects whose brightness changes over time. This year, they highlight a different star each month, and that of November featured variable featured is Almaaz, also known as Epsilon (ϵ) Aurigae.

Almaaz is a 3rd magnitude star located just under 3.5 ° southwest of Capella, easy to spot. The pair will rise around 5:30 p.m. local time tonight roughly tied, with Capella on the left and Almaaz on the right. Wait a bit for them to rise, then focus on Almaaz, which is part of a little asterism called The Kids. With Haedus I (Zeta [ζ] Aur) and Haedus II (Eta Aur), these three stars form a tall, thin triangle south-southwest of Capella.

Almaaz itself is a rare and hot F-type supergiant star that is also found in a binary eclipse system. This means he has a partner star that crosses him every 27 years – and each eclipse lasts for 2 years! When eclipsed, Almaaz appears of roughly the same brightness as Haedus I (magnitude 3.7); when not eclipsed, it is magnitude 3. The last eclipse occurred between 2009 and 2011, so Almaaz is currently un-eclipsed and at its peak. Compare it to Haedus I 2.8 ° south to see the difference.

Sunrise: 7:30
Sunset: 5:57 p.m.
Moonrise: 03:27
Moon setting: 4:33 p.m.
Moon phase: Ascending descending (14%)

Tuesday, November 2
Taurus the Bull now rises in the evening, and he has his eye – literally – on a visitor from the asteroid belt. The dwarf planet 1 Ceres is barely brushing 7 ‘south of the bright star Aldebaran tonight and tomorrow morning.

In the middle of the evening, Aldebaran is already at an altitude of 15 ° to the east. This red giant star shines with a brilliant magnitude of 0.9 and is easy to find east-southeast of the famous Pleiades star cluster (M45). Ceres is 7.7 magnitude – much fainter, of course, but still brighter than any other faint star within 20 feet of Aldebaran. You can catch the pair with binoculars or a telescope, although the former can be more difficult in light-polluted city skies.

The largest body in the Main Belt, Ceres has been promoted from asteroid to dwarf planet. Just under 965 kilometers in diameter, it was first spotted in 1801 by Giuseppe Piazzi. This relatively nearby icy world was visited in 2015 by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, which spent the next three years in orbit, until the ship’s fuel depletion brought the mission to an end.

Sunrise: 7:31
Sunset: 5:56 p.m.
Moonrise: 04:37
Moon setting: 5:00 p.m.
Moon phase: Descending descending (7%)

Wednesday, November 3
The thin crescent Moon is suspended near Mercury in Virgo this morning; see if you can catch a glimpse of the view before the sun rises.

But the pair have more in store for us today: Our satellite passes in front of the planet Mercury in an occultation that can be seen during daylight hours from the eastern half of the United States and Canada. The exact time the blackout occurs depends on your location, for example 2:38 p.m. CST in Chicago and an hour earlier, 1:38 a.m. CST, in Kansas City, Missouri.

If you plan to watch the event, be extremely careful – the pair will only be 15 ° from the Sun. If possible, try to observe from an area where the sun will be blocked, such as through foliage or buildings. Make sure your telescope is properly aligned and calibrated before setting out to search for the sight and if you are particularly inexperienced, avoid trying to find it yourself. Instead, ask for help or visit a local club with experienced members.

The Moon later passes 1.2 ° due north of Mercury at 3:00 p.m. EDT.

Sunrise: 7:32
Sunset: 5:55 p.m.
Moonrise: 05:51
Moon setting: 5:28 p.m.
Moon phase: Descending descending (2%)

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