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Northern Hemisphere gazer's guide

Nov. 1: Get up bright and early this morning to watch the moon pass ever so close to Regulus, the bright star of Leo. Along the US- Canada border, and in Alaska and Canada, the moon covers Regulus (an occultation) about 4:30 to 6 a.m. Eastern standard time (the time varies with location, but be sure to adjust for other time zones.)

Nov. 1-3: Venus is moving swiftly between Jupiter and Saturn, and you can follow its race eastward past them in the morning sky each day. On the 1st, Venus is nearest to Jupiter, on the 2nd about midway between, and on the 3rd it passes very close to Saturn.On the 4th and after, Venus appears below the other two planets, separating from them continually, while Saturn and Jupiter (the brighter) remain close to one another.

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Nov. 3: The Taurid meteor shower (radiating from the constellation Taurus) reaches maximum. After 1 a.m. on the 3rd or 4th, you might see up to 15 per hour of its dim, rather slow objects.

Nov. 4: Mercury is at inferior conjunction, passing between sun and earth. Moving from left to right past the sun, the planet now enters the morning sky.

Nov. 4: Be sure to look for the crescent moon and the three planets Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn this morning, from before dawn until daylight fades them. The moon is past Jupiter, and then passes Saturn and Venus in turn within an hour between 5 and 6 a.m., e.s.t. It's easy to distinguish the planets by their brightness: Venus by far the brightest, then Jupiter, and third Saturn, no brighter than an ordinary first magnitude star.

Nov. 5: The moon is at apogee, the place in its orbit where it is farthest from earth.

Nov. 10: The crescent moon may help you find Mars this evening, perhaps your last chance to see it as an evening star during this cycle. Look below the moon , close to the horizon, about an hour past sunset.

Nov. 11: Mercury ends its retrograde (westerly) motion and resumes its normal (easterly) path through the stars after passing between earth and sun a week ago.

Nov. 16-17: After 1 a.m. tonight you might try looking for the Leonid meteors , the most famous show in history. In past years, the shower has produced veritable "storms" of meteors, but expect only the more usual 15 or so per hour.

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Nov. 17: Venus has been sneaking up on the star Spica, in Virgo. This morning it catches and passes the star and moves to its east. Spica is to the right of Venus in the dawn sky today, but Venus will appear below it on successive mornings later.

Nov. 19: Mercury is at its greatest distance to the sun's right (greatest westerly elongation). This ordinarily situates the planet in the best position for viewing as a morning star, and the planet's position today illustrates this very nicely. The orbit of Mercury is steeply inclined to the horizon this morning, so that the planet is located almost vertically above the rising sun, making this a very favorable elongation. Look for the planet in the parade of very bright morning stars over in the east at dawn. You should be able to see it any clear morning for at least several days before and after the 19th. But the eastern sky is so full of bright objects that you had better be careful to check them off. First find Venus, the brightest object in the sky by far. Mercury is halfway between Venus and the horizon at dawn; Spica is the star to the right of Venus; and Jupiter (the brighter) and Saturn are the two objects above Venus.

Nov. 20: The moon is at perigee, nearest to earth.

Nov. 22: The full moon passes very close to Aldebaran, the bright star of Taurus, about 5 p.m., e.s.t., covering the star over western and northern North America, but in daylight. After dark, the moon will be seen to separate slowly to the left (east) of Aldebaran.

Nov. 30: Jupiter rises about midnight, Saturn a little later, both near the late crescent moon. The two planets are exceptionally close to one another.

All Month: The evening star map is still void is bright planets. There simply are none above the horizon at the early evening times for which the map is prepared. Mars is the only one of the naked eye planets in the evening sky, except for Mercury during the first two days, but Mars is too dim and sets too early to be seen easily, much less to be of interest. The crescent moon may help you find it on the 10th.

The morning sky is something else again. Venus, Jupiter and Saturn are putting on quite a show in November, and Mercury joins them later in the month during an exceptionally good "morning" elongation. Look for Venus over in the east about dawn on any morning, and you will find Jupiter and Saturn above it. If you watch them regularly through November, their continually changing relationships (with one another, with the nearby bright stars Arcturus and Spica , and with the crescent moon during the first week) will be a joy to follow.

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