November 2023 Stargazing Guide
Greetings junior scientists, scientists and citizens of this great big weird, wild and wonderful world in which we live. As always I'm your humble science communicator the great Orbax, coming to you from the Department of Physics here at the University of Guelph and I'd like to welcome you to our November 2023 Star Gazing Guide!
November 5th marks the end of daylight savings time meaning that our clocks go back an hour and we are well and truly in one of our darkest months. By the month's end the sunrise will be as late as 7:30 a.m. and sunset is going to be as early as 4:46 p.m. but there's no reason to see this as gloomy junior scientists, instead let's exalt over nearly 15 hours a day of prime stargazing action! This month we seek out some familiar constellations, gaze towards the planets and are on on the lookout for, not one, but two different meteor showers! All this and more if you just take some time... to look.
This month we look back towards some familiar late year constellations. In Greek mythology, Cassiopeia and Cepheus were the Queen and King of ancient Ethiopia. They can be seen high in the sky throughout November and are actually pretty easy to spot. Cassiopeia can be seen sitting in her chair looking in her mirror and is quickly identified by the W asterism that shines brightly in the sky. Just slightly to the west and a few degrees below Cassiopeia is her husband Cepheus. Now I always had a hard time spotting Cepheus until I start looking for the home plate in the sky. Spot the W and then slide on home to Cepheus. Continuing up from these two you'll see their daughter Andromeda. This mythical family houses several interesting Deep Sky objects including the Andromeda Galaxy in Andromeda, the Heart Nebula in Cassiopeia and the Iris Nebula in Cepheus but to see those you'll definitely need a m a microscope Ha!
And the Iris Nebula in Cepheus but to see those you'll definitely need a telescope.
This month Venus will brighten our mornings and Jupiter and Saturn will light up our evenings but we haven't talked much lately about Mars, the Planet of Robots. On November 17th, Mars experiences a Solar Conjunction meaning that from our perspective it's directly on the opposite side of the Sun from us so not only will we not be able to see Mars from our vantage point but we'll also not be communicating with our Martian Rovers for fear that our communication signals will be corrupted by charged particles from the Sun. This happens for about 2 weeks every 2 years and it's a well-deserved break time for all of our Mars Rover operators.
In the Southeast Venus will be visible from 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. until the sun rises about 7 or 7:30 a.m. On November 9th the thin waning crescent of the Moon and brightly shining Venus will be in conjunction around 5:00 a.m. and stay close together for the rest of the morning. As we'd expect this time of year, Jupiter and Saturn are both massive in our evening sky. Visible starting right around sunset, Saturn will appear higher in the sky in the South with Jupiter just a smidge lower in the East. Jupiter reaches opposition on November 3rd which means it'll be directly opposite the Sun, with us right in between. This results in the most reflected light from the Sun and therefore the brightest Jupiter will appear to us all year long. If you have a pair of binoculars, or even a small telescope, you might actually be able to see the four Galilean moons of Jupiter: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. Even though Jupiter is nearly 600 million km away, these four large moons are all at least as big, or bigger than, our Moon and should be visible as four bright spots lined in a nearly straight line as they orbit around Jupiter. Actually on the evening of November 24th and the morning of the 25th our nearly full Moon will appear very close to Jupiter in the sky, so check it out junior scientists!
And speaking of full moons... our Full Moon this month is on November 27th. This month's Full Moon is known as the Beaver Moon, named for the time of year when the beavers hurriedly complete the gathering of food in their lodges and take shelter for the long winter ahead. The Anishinaabe people call this moon Gahskadino-giizis - the Freezing Over Moon or Baashkaakodin Giizis - the Freezing Moon.
The Mi'kmaw of Eastern Canada call the November Full Moon Keptekewiku's - Rivers Freezing over Moon, and the Cree Nation call it Kaskatinowipisim - the Freeze Up Moon, all referring to the dramatic drop in temperatures that occur this time of year in Canada.
This month we have two opportunities to spot some shooting stars. The night of November 4th and the morning of the 5th is actually the peak of the Taurids meteor shower. Meteors will be radiating from the constellation Taurus in the East and may be difficult to see due the light of the second quarter moon... but you might still get lucky. On the night of November 17th and the morning of the 18th the Leonids meteor shower will be peaking with up to 15 meteors an hour radiating from the constellation Leo! Radiating from the constellation Leo, these meteors can appear anywhere in the sky. The crescent moon sets around 8pm that night which will leave the sky dark enough to actually catch these meteors so don’t miss out!
Well junior scientists, another month is come and gone and this month marks two years of these Star Gazing Guides! Thank you so so much for sharing these videos in your classrooms and watching them with your families. I'm always thrilled by the messages you send when you tag us online and I'm so happy to see your photos. Good luck out there, clear skies and here's to many more years... of looking up.
See you next month junior scientists and don't forget to have a science-tastic day!
Special thanks to Royal City Science's own planetary geochemist Dr. Glynis Perrett for her help preparing our Star Gazing Guide. And the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.