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6 Sky Events This Week: Leonids, Green Giant and a Stellar Snow Globe

The brightest and nearest globular star clusters to Earth will be easy to track down thanks to Venus pointing the way this week. Credit: N.A.Sharp, REU program/NOAO/AURA/NSF
The brightest and nearest globular star cluster, to Earth, Messier 22, will be easy to track down thanks to Venus pointing the way this week. Credit: N.A.Sharp, REU program/NOAO/AURA/NSF

A treasure-trove of celestial sights are on display this week, ranging from a double-dose of meteor showers, a green-giant planet and one of the most beautiful deep-space sights seen in the heavens. 

North Taurids Peak.  Late night on Monday, November 11, and during the following morning, the North Taurid meteor shower peaks. Individual meteors will appear to radiate out from the shower’s namesake constellation Taurus, the Bull, which will be riding high in the south for mid-northern latitude regions.  Skywatchers away from city lights may see as many as 10 to 15 shooting stars per hour, peaking at around 5 am local time on Tuesday.

Moon and Uranus.  All night long on Wednesday, November 13, the seventh planet from the Sun, Uranus, will hang just underneath the waxing gibbous moon.

The green giant will appear less than 3 degrees from the moon—equal to six full moons side-by-side.

The green-colored ice giant has four times the width of Earth, but since it lies nearly 2 billion miles (3.1 billion kilometers) away from Earth, it’s barely visible to the naked eye—and only in very dark, pristine skies.

With the glare from the nearby moon, binoculars will be your best bet for spotting Uranus.  Just look for a tiny greenish-blue disk in the field of view. By the way, the absorption of red light by methane in the atmosphere is what gives Uranus it’s cool cyan coloring.

Venus and M22.  On Thursday, November 14,  Venus appears to pose next to a beautiful stellar snow globe, a globular star cluster in the low southwestern sky soon after dusk.  The goddess of love  slides 3 degrees lower left of the 65 light-year-wide M22, also known as the Sagittarius cluster.

At about 10,000 light-years away, M22 is the closest globular cluster to Earth and the brightest visible from the Northern Hemisphere at 5.2 magnitude. The cluster looks great in small telescopes  appearing as an impressive pile of sugar crystals with clumps and streamers of stars on a black table cloth. Meanwhile,  binoculars from a dark site will show it off as a small sparkly halo.

This week Venus points the way to the globular cluster M22  in the constellation Sagittarius - easily found by the giant Teapot star pattern. Credit: Starry Night Software / A.Fazekas
This week Venus points the way to the globular cluster M22 in the constellation Sagittarius – easily found by the giant Teapot star pattern. Credit: Starry Night Software / A.Fazekas

Comet ISON Update. The much-hyped comet continues to brighten in the low, pre-dawn eastern sky and has now brightened enough to be visible through large binoculars from dark locations, according to observer reports.

ISON now shines between magnitude 8 to 9 in the constellation Virgo.  By the 15th, it may brighten to magnitude 6.5, making it an easy target for 7 x 50 sized binoculars. Observers report that it sports a tail equal in length to width of a quarter moon. Observers closer to the equator will find ISON higher up in their local skies, making it an easier target to spot.

Special dates of interest are Nov. 17th and 18th, when the comet will pass by the bright star Spica.

Full Moon in Taurus. The full Moon rises in the east at local sunset on Sunday, November 17, and officially reaches the full phase at 10:16 a.m. EST.  Earth’s natural companion will be parked within the constellation Taurus, the Bull. Once darkness sets in and the moon rises higher in the southeast sky, look for the bright, orange star Aldebaran to its lower left and the open star cluster, the Pleiades, above it.

While the 65 light-years-distant red giant star is easy to see, even from bright suburban skies, binoculars will really help track down the famous Pleiades—which rests some 400 light-years from Earth.

The moon appears sandwiched between the Pleiades star cluster and Aldebaran - the lead star in the constellation Taurus - the bull. Credit: Starry Night Software / A.Fazekas
The moon appears sandwiched between the Pleiades star cluster and Aldebaran – the lead star in the constellation Taurus – the bull. Credit: Starry Night Software / A.Fazekas

Leonid Meteors. Wait late into the night on Sunday, November 17, and into the following early morning hours for the annual Leonid meteor shower. While on most years as many as 20 shooting stars can be counted from the dark countryside, the full moon will unfortunately drown out all but the brightest ones.

With the lunar glare in the way, your best shot will be in the pre-dawn hours while the moon is setting in the west.

 

Follow Andrew Fazekas, the Night Sky Guy, on Twitter and Facebook.

Comments

  1. Anacaren
    Louisiana
    May 23, 12:27 am

    Me too.

  2. Sarah Arnold
    January 3, 9:05 pm

    It almost looks like one of my paintings,I am an artist.

  3. Sky Dreamer
    November 17, 2013, 4:50 am

    california just dreamt of taurus last night, I’ve never known coordinates or secrets of the stars but this dream made me look this up, now I am going outside to see what it looks like.

  4. Abigail
    New York
    November 16, 2013, 2:59 pm

    I love this! I caught the Leonids last year and it was amazing. Found some great viewing info here: http://www.spacedex.com/leonids

  5. Nancy Gutierrez
    Mt. Airy NC
    November 12, 2013, 10:07 pm

    Can’t wait to see the show!

  6. kayla
    washington
    November 12, 2013, 4:22 pm

    pretty cool looking

  7. elsa sagua
    argentina
    November 12, 2013, 9:53 am

    gracias por ver hoy, imgenes como estas

  8. Fai
    November 12, 2013, 6:07 am

    Poor me for not having any binoculars ㅠㅠ

  9. Michael Lohg
    Denver
    November 11, 2013, 10:42 pm

    Thanks, Andrew, for this bright news!

  10. Nelly Sanchez Loor
    Otavalo-Ecuador
    November 11, 2013, 8:20 pm

    Me encantan las fotos del caballero del cielo nocturno,sus imágenes son únicas.Gracias.

  11. luis angel
    peru - lima
    November 11, 2013, 4:40 pm

    me encanta el espacio lo q acen manden mas x fa esta bacan