Celestial events in the skies for the week of Nov. 15-21, 2016, as compiled for The Loafer by Mark D. Marquette.
The big, bright Moon is up all the night and the moonlight is magical, illuminating the landscape and casting shadows from our defoliated world. Also a good time to remember the 24 brave Americans who orbited—and 12 who walked—on the Moon. The brightest stars poke through the twilight. Venus rules the early evening in the west and Jupiter the pre-dawn sky.
Tues. Nov. 15
Venus is brilliant high in the west as twilight begins shortly after sunset. Mars is the red “star” to the left in Scorpius, chasing the Sun and gone quickly in the evening.
Wed. Nov. 16
Looking north at around 9 pm the next two weeks is interesting…Cassiopeia is looking like a “W” or an “M” directly above Polaris, the North Pole star. Bookending Polaris are two bright stars, Vega setting in the west and Capella to the right, or east.
Thurs. Nov. 17
On this 1970 date in space history, the USSR landed the unmanned Luna 17 on the Moon and it deployed the first alien rover, Lunokhod 1. The bright Moon will interfere with the Leonid Meteor Shower, but you still might see a dozen an hour in the early morning hours of Friday.
Fri. Nov. 18
After sunset around 5:30 pm (!) four planets are strung along the sky. First, Mercury is beginning a short climb into the twilight, followed by Saturn. They set before 6 pm, but Venus is brilliant in Sagittarius while red Mars is fading in Capricornus.
Sat. Nov. 19
On this 1969 date in space history Apollo 12 safely landed on the Moon. Commander Pete Conrad, deceased, maneuvered the lander called Intrepid to the edge of football field-sized crater where the Surveyor 3 spacecraft was waiting where it landed two and one-half years earlier. The other moonwalker, Alan Bean, 83, helped dismantle the camera and scoop from the unmanned lander. Bean came back from the mission to later command the second Skylab Space Station mission. Bean is an accomplished artist, painting huge murals of his space experience that sell for tens of thousands of dollars.
Sun. Nov. 20
On this 1998 date in space history, Russian launched the Zarya module, the first element of the International Space Station. The $10 billion structure has been continuously occupied for 16 years; the 50th Expedition crew of six is now under the command of American Peggy Whitson.
Mon. Nov. 21
Your guide to the night sky can be found at many sources, including a star map from Skymaps.com, a library book, a monthly astronomy magazine or one of those dial-the-date “planisphere” from a bookstore.