Celestial events in the skies for the week of Nov. 8th-14th, 2016, as compiled for The Loafer by Mark D. Marquette.
This is a moonlit week as our celestial neighbor moves through Aquarius, Pisces and is full in Taurus on Monday. Because it is closes to Earth as this phase approaches it is billed another “Super Moon,” though astronomers never heard of that moniker until 2011 when some horoscope astrologers began popularizing the notion. The Moon’s orbit is not exactly circular, and it varies from 226,000 miles to 252,000 miles away. When closer the Moon is 14 per cent bigger (imperceptible to the human eye) and up to 30 per cent brighter (something you can tell by reading in the moonlight!) Enjoy the moonshine! The great Leonid Meteor Shower is this week and you might see 10 to 20 meteors an hour around the peak on Friday morning, despite the moonlight.
Mon. Nov. 8
Planet Venus is blowing minds as it is high above the western horizon after sunset, looking like a blazing UFO. But is positively identified as our second planet, its global cloudbank reflecting sunlight like a mirror. And don’t forget red Mars in the south. Jupiter is in the morning sky shining brightly.
Tues. Nov. 9
On this 1967 date in space history, NASA’s Surveyor 6 spacecraft safely landed on the plains of Sinus Medii, almost dead center in the Moon. The three legged landers were all engine and instruments mounted on a tubular structure that gave it a spidery look. Surveyors 1-7 had two failures, but the successes helped pave the way for the manned Apollo landings that began in July 1969.
Wed. Nov. 10
The early evening finds a void of stars when looking south, except one bright, but rather lonely looking star. Called Fomalhaut, or the fishes mouth of the constellation Piscis Austrinus, the Southern Fish, this amazing star is also nicknamed “the lonely one.”
Thurs. Nov. 11
On this 1966 date in space history NASA launched Gemini XII, the last of the two-man missions laying ground work for the Apollo Moon landings. Crucial was the success of two spacewalks by Buzz Aldrin testing the moon suit. Two and one-half years later, Aldrin would stand on the surface of the Moon with Neil Armstrong during the historic Apollo 11 conquest of the Moon.
Fri. Nov. 12
On this night in 1999 the Leonid Meteor Shower rained “shooting stars” like has never been seen before. Hundreds a minute, thousands an hour streaked the skies as Earth plowed though an unusually thick section of cosmic debris. This exceptional Leonid meteor “storm” is experienced every 33 years, the next one in 2032.
Sun. Nov. 13
On this 1971 date in space history NASA’s 9 became the first spacecraft to orbit Mars. And it still is, though now defunct. Mariner 9 made many discoveries, including the giant shield volcanoes and the 2,000 mile canyon that bares its name, Vallis Marineris. Other NASA orbiters have been Viking 1 and Viking 2, Mars Global Surveyor, Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter; Europe’s Mars Explorer and India’s Mars Orbiter Mission. And a new one last month, Europe’s ExoMars!
Mon. Nov. 14
Full Moon…that super-stupid “Super Moon.” You’ll definitely look up as it rises around 6:20 pm in the twilight. This is the traditional Beaver Moon to Native Americans as the critters were busy building cozy dams for winter homes.