Celestial events in the skies for the week of Nov. 7-13, 2017 as compiled for The Loafer by Mark D. Marquette.
The great Leonid Meteor Shower is next week, but this week you might see 5 to 10 meteors an hour after midnight. The peak is the night of Friday, Nov. 17-18 when maybe 30-50 meteors and hour might be seen. The Moon belongs to the after-midnight scene, so there are plenty of dark skies in the evening. And how! Are you adjusted to the darkness settling in around 6:30 pm? There certainly are a lot of people yawning around supper time! But the Eastern Standard Time switch is welcomed by stargazers, who can see a few celestial sights and still get a good night’s sleep.
Tuesday, November 7
The Milky Way is still hanging in there as it splits the Summer Triangle of three bright stars now dipping toward the western horizon. Altair in Aquila the Eagle sets first, and Deneb in Cygnus the Swan is to the north while Vega in Lyra the harp sets directly west by 11 pm.
Wednesday, November 8
In the northeast skies begins a passion play that includes six key figures of mythology: Cassiopeia the Queen, Cepheus the King, Andromeda their Princesses, Perseus the Hero, Cetus the Monster (Whale) and Pegasus the flying horse.
Thursday, November 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 had 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.
Friday, November 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.”
Saturday, November 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.
Sunday, November 12
On this night in 1833 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 through an unusually thick section of cosmic debris. In 1966 and then in 1999, another such meteor “storm” was experienced as the Leonids are stronger every 33 years.
Monday, November 13
On this 1971 date in space history NASA’s Mariner 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 orbiters have been NASA’s Viking 1 and Viking 2, Mars Global Surveyor, Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Maven; ESA’s Mars Explorer and India’s Mars Orbiter Mission.