THE MOON JOINS THE DANCE OF THE PLANETS FOR THANKSGIVING

by William J. Bechaver

Last week, we spent a couple of evenings watching the planets congregate in the evening sky.

Jupiter and Venus have now exchanged positions, with Jupiter lower in the sky, and brilliant Venus climbing ever higher night by night.

This week, the crescent Moon will join the party, adding extra intrigue to the beautiful spectacle.

As the Moon was below the gathering of planets on Wednesday evening, it has now moved up amongst them for Thursday.

Go out just after sunset on Thanksgiving evening, Thursday 28 November. Look to the west. Now, low on the horizon, you can see bright Jupiter. Up and to the left, is more brilliant Venus. Above the beautiful pair is the crescent Moon, now situated amongst the planetary dance.

Further up to the left, you will see even fainter Saturn.

The Sun will be down, with the sky darkening nicely by 5 o’clock that evening. Get out there shortly after, for Jupiter will be gone about an hour later, with Venus setting about fifteen minutes after that. Twenty minutes later, the Moon will set, followed by Saturn less than an hour later.

So, get out there quickly, shortly after sunset on Thanksgiving evening to witness the dance of the planets and moon. The entire thing will be gone just two-and-a-half hours after sundown.

The following night, Friday 29 November, the Moon will have climbed a bit higher, to join Saturn. The two will be a mere one degree apart just after sundown. Venus will be a little higher, further from descending Jupiter, below the beautiful pair.

Remember to continue to watch during the coming weeks, as Venus climbs higher, and Saturn continues to descend, until the two come together on the tenth next month, for an early holiday treat.

With a promising holiday season, get out there to watch the party of the year, as the moon becomes the guest of honor at the dance of the planets.

Thanks for all the positive feedback about our featured columns, and your continued interest in astronomy. If you have any questions or article requests, contact us at spacescape@rocketmail.com, or follow us on Twitter @ColoSpacEScapE for updates and additional viewing opportunities.

Astronomical Times of naked-eye objects for this weekend.

Sun Set = 4:41 p.m.
2 minutes earlier than last week
Jupiter Set = 6:04 p.m.
21 minutes earlier than last week
Venus Set = 6:28 p.m.
11 minutes later than last week
Saturn Set = 7:28 p.m.
24 minutes earlier than last week
Moon Set = 8:35 p.m.
5 hours 22 minutes later than last week
Mars Rise = 4:22 a.m.
4 minutes earlier than last week
Mercury Rise = 5:15 a.m.
6 minutes later than last week
Sun Rise = 6:55 a.m.
7 minutes later than last week

First Quarter Moon occurs on Tuesday, December 3rd, at 11:58 p.m.

Note: Times are local Mountain Time. Actual sundown is about ten minutes earlier than calculated sunset. Along the front range, differing times may vary depending on your distance from the mountains.

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• · William J. Bechaver is the director of SPACE • Spanish Peaks Amateur Cosmos Enthusiasts, the premier Astronomical Society for Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico.

The planets and their relative positions in the solar system for this weekend.

Planets and distances are not to scale.

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THE PLANETS CONGREGATE IN THE EVENING SKY

by William J. Bechaver

Three of the four brightest planets are currently congregating in the evening sky.

If you go out any night this week, shortly after sunset, and look to the west, you will see them, all in a straight line. Brilliant Venus lies closest to the horizon, with dimmer Jupiter a short distance above, and even fainter Saturn yet higher in the sky.

But watch closely all this week, as their positions begin to change.

Jupiter is further from the Sun than are we, so we are quickly outpacing it in the solar system. As it fades into the distance, nearer Venus has entered the race.

Venus is closer to the Sun, so travels in its orbit even more quickly than does Earth, so it is climbing further from the Sun each evening, as Jupiter sinks lower.

This week, as the more distant sink from view, and the nearer climb higher, they will eventually change positions in the sky, and it all happens this week!

If you go out on the evening of Saturday 23 November, Venus is below Jupiter, and will set about eight minutes before the mighty giant will sink from view.

The following morning, check in with Mars, as the Moon has a near encounter with it in the eastern early morning sky, slightly higher and to the north of the red planet.

That evening, Sunday 24 November, the two evening planets are only two degrees apart as the Sun sets, with Venus only slightly lower, and to the south of Jupiter. Venus will set only three minutes before Jupiter disappears, as the two appear the closest during this encounter.

Then, on Monday 25 November, the two will seem to have exchanged positions, as Jupiter is slightly lower, setting just before Venus dips below the western horizon.

By the time Tuesday evening rolls around, Jupiter will be setting a full six minutes before Venus, and the transition in the evening sky will be complete. Jupiter will continue to set earlier each evening, until it will be lost in the Sun’s glow in the weeks to come.

Check out their positions on Wednesday evening as well, as Jupiter is a bit lower, and see if you can spot the fine crescent Moon below Jupiter, as it has left Mars, and joins the evening gathering by mid-week.

And in the weeks to come, Venus will continue to climb, becoming a prominent jewel in the evening sky. Saturn, as well as Jupiter, will continue to descend, and will have its own encounter with Venus in early December, before following Jupiter out of sight.

So, get out there all week, for a unique congregation of planets in the evening sky.

Thanks for all the positive feedback about our featured columns, and your continued interest in astronomy. If you have any questions or article requests, contact us at spacescape@rocketmail.com, or follow us on Twitter @ColoSpacEScapE for updates and additional viewing opportunities.

Astronomical Times of naked-eye objects for this weekend.

Sun Set = 4:43 p.m.
4 minutes earlier than last week
Venus Set = 6:17 p.m.
7 minutes later than last week
Jupiter Set = 6:25 p.m.
21 minutes earlier than last week
Saturn Set = 7:52 p.m.
25 minutes earlier than last week
Moon Rise = 4:23 a.m.
7 hours 58 minutes later than last week
Mars Rise = 4:26 a.m.
5 minutes earlier than last week
Mercury Rise = 5:09 a.m.
28 minutes earlier than last week
Sun Rise = 6:48 a.m.
8 minutes later than last week

New Moon occurs on Tuesday, November 26th, at 8:06 a.m.

Note: Times are local Mountain Time. Actual sundown is about ten minutes earlier than calculated sunset. Along the front range, differing times may vary depending on your distance from the mountains.
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· William J. Bechaver is the director of SPACE • Spanish Peaks Amateur Cosmos Enthusiasts, the premier Astronomical Society for Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico.


The planets and their relative positions in the solar system for this weekend.

50th ANNIVERSARY OF APOLLO 12

by William J. Bechaver

This week marks the Fiftieth Anniversary of NASA’s Apollo 12 Mission to the moon.

Though not as memorable as Apollo 11, the first mission to the moon, it is just as groundbreaking, and historical. Then, overshadowed by the drama that was Apollo 13, Apollo 12 seems to be the forgotten mission in between.

Apollo 12 launched on 14 November 1969. Right off, the launch vehicle was struck by lightning, not only once, but twice. The surge wreaked havoc with some of the electrical components on board, but the problems were overcome while in orbit, before heading to the moon.

The landing in the region of the moon called The Ocean Of Storms on 19 November was the most accurate.

Conrad and Alan Bean spent one day and seven hours on the moon, spending over seven hours outside the vehicle. Their goal was to walk to and visit the Surveyor III probe. Two years earlier, the probe had been sent to the moon. They were the only astronauts to visit an earlier probe on the surface of the moon.

They were the first to take a color television camera to the moon, capturing amazing footage in full color, and returning it to the earth. For the very first time, we could see color images from the moon.

The mission went as planned, with Dick Gordon orbiting in the command module above the moon. They returned safely to the earth, splashing down on 24 November.

So, when you look up at the moon this week, remember the groundbreaking missions of fifty years ago, when man would spend ten days, traveling to the moon and back. Remember especially the second mission to the moon, fifty years ago this week, and the success of the often forgotten Apollo 12 mission to the moon.

Pete Conrad, Apollo 12 Commander, examines the unmanned Surveyor III spacecraft during their second extravehicular activity. The Lunar Module Intrepid is in the background.

This picture was taken by astronaut Alan Bean. They landed on the Moon’s Ocean of Storms only 600 feet from Surveyor III. The television camera and several other components were taken from the probe and brought back to Earth for scientific analysis. Surveyor III soft-landed on the Moon on 19 April 1967.

THE LEONIDS ARE SPECTACULAR DESPITE THE MOON

by William J. Bechaver

This week, the Leonid Meteor Shower peaks in the early morning hours of Monday 18 November.

Unfortunately, like last month’s Orionids, the Moon is prominently in the sky on the early morning of the peak.

However, last month’s meteor shower proved quite productive with the Moon in the same position, so the Leonids this month could promise just as favorable a showing.

You may want to start the watch on Sunday night. The Moon rises before ten, but seeing meteors in the early evening hours is not very feasible. Go out between nine and ten, to try to catch a few early arrivals before the Moon becomes prominent.

Later, in the early morning hours, as the Moon climbs further overhead, more meteors will present themselves. Some of the fainter ones will be washed out by the moonlight.

But the Leonids are known for brighter fireballs. The particles responsible for creating the Leonids strike the atmosphere at an amazing speed. Many of them are traveling at 44 miles per second! That’s an astounding 158,400 miles per hour. That’s why many of them produce brighter fireballs, many of which will be seen despite the moonlight.

So, go out in the early morning hours of Monday morning. Look to the east, lower than the Moon, and watch for an amazingly brilliant fireball to punch its way through the atmosphere, and pierce the moonlight. With a dark sky, you could expect to see about fifteen an hour. With the Moon’s interference, about half of them will be too dim to see.

To review, a meteor shower is the result of the Earth passing through a debris field left behind, most commonly, by a passing comet. As the comet passes, the icy particles left behind cross the orbital path of Earth. As Earth passes through the field, the particles impact upon the upper atmosphere, burning up as they enter.

Also like the Orionids, the field of debris responsible for the Leonids is spread out, so you can see a few the nights preceding and following the peak night. Earth actually began entering the Leonid field last week, and will be amid the debris for a couple of weeks. Get out there a couple of nights late, to try to catch the evasive Leonids.

When out earlier in the evening, look to the west just after sunset. A fair distance above the horizon, you can spot brilliant Venus. Further above is Jupiter, and above that, dimmer Saturn. Venus will continue to climb higher night by night, as it catches up to the Earth in our orbit.

Likewise, we are outrunning Jupiter, as it sinks lower each night, as it fades into the distance. Venus sets about a minute later each night, as Jupiter sets earlier, and the gap between the two is rapidly closing over the next couple of weeks. Later in the month, they will lie close together.

Watch for the next couple of weeks to see their positions change, as Venus climbs and both Jupiter and Saturn descend into the distance.

Thanks for all the positive feedback about our featured columns, and your continued interest in astronomy. If you have any questions or article requests, contact us at spacescape@rocketmail.com, or follow us on Twitter @ColoSpacEScapE for updates and additional viewing opportunities.

Astronomical Times for this weekend.

Sun Set = 16:47
Venus Set = 18:10
Jupiter Set = 18:46
Saturn Set = 20:17
Moon Rise = 20:25
Mars Rise = 04:31
Sun Rise = 06:40

Third Quarter Moon occurs on Tuesday 19 November 2019 at 14:10

Note: Times are local Mountain Time. Actual Sun Down is about ten minutes earlier than calculated Sun Set. Along the front range, times may vary depending on your distance from the mountains.
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• · William J. Bechaver is the director of SPACE • Spanish Peaks Amateur Cosmos Enthusiasts, the premier Astronomical Society for Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico.