The Sky Tonight Update: Nov. 18, New Moon

new moon, sky tonight

This November 18, the Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 11:42 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Nov. 17-18, Leonids Meteor Shower

Leonids Meteor Shower

The Leonids is an average shower, producing up to 15 meteors per hour at its peak. This shower is unique in that it has a cyclonic peak about every 33 years where hundreds of meteors per hour can be seen. The last of these occurred in 2001. The Leonids is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tempel-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1865. The shower runs annually from November 6-30. It peaks this year on the night of the 17th and morning of the 18th. The nearly new moon will not be a problem this year. Skies should be dark enough for what should be good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Leo, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

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Nearby Exoplanet May Harbor Life

ross 128 b may harobor life

A newly discovered extra-solar planet located some 11 light-years away may be suitable for life.  It’s called “Ross 128 b” and you may be hearing a lot more of this exoplanet in the months and years to come.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Nov. 13, Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter

Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter

This November 13, a spectacular conjunction of Venus and Jupiter will be visible in the evening sky. The two bright planets will be extremely close, appearing only 0.3 degrees apart. Look for this impressive pairing in the Eastern sky just before sunrise.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Nov. 4-5, Taurids Meteor Shower

Taurids Meteor Shower

The Taurids is a long-running minor meteor shower producing only about 5-10 meteors per hour. It is unusual in that it consists of two separate streams. The first is produced by dust grains left behind by Asteroid 2004 TG10. The second stream is produced by debris left behind by Comet 2P Encke. The shower runs annually from September 7 to December 10. It peaks this year on the the night of November 4. Unfortunately the glare from the full moon will block out all but the brightest meteors. If you are extremely patient, you may still be able to catch a few good ones. Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Taurus, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Nov. 4, Full Moon

full moon, sky tonight update

This November 4, the Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 05:23 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.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Oct. 21-22, Orionids Meteor Shower

Orionids Meteor Shower

The Orionids is an average shower producing up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Halley, which has been known and observed since ancient times. The shower runs annually from October 2 to November 7. It peaks this year on the night of October 21 and the morning of October 22. The crescent moon will set early in the evening leaving dark skies for what should be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Orion, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Oct. 19, Uranus at Opposition

Uranus at Opposition

This October 19, Uranus will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. It will be brighter than any other time of the year and will be visible all night long. This is the best time to view Uranus. Due to its distance, it will only appear as a tiny blue-green dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Oct. 7, Draconids Meteor Shower

Draconids Meteor Shower

The Draconids is a minor meteor shower producing only about 10 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet 21P Giacobini-Zinner, which was first discovered in 1900. The Draconids is an unusual shower in that the best viewing is in the early evening instead of early morning like most other showers. The shower runs annually from October 6-10 and peaks this year on the the night of the 7th. Unfortunately, the nearly full moon will block all but the brightest meteors this year. If you are extremely patient, you may be able to catch a few good ones. Best viewing will be in the early evening from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Draco, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

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