Stellar Vista Observatory Sky Report for Nov. 8 – 14

Stars shine brightly over Quail Creek Reservoir, Quail Creek State Park, Utah, May 26, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Mike Seamisch, St. George News

Stellar Vista Observatory Sky Report
John Mosley

Nov. 8 – 14

The Sky Report is presented as a public service by the Stellar Vista Observatory, a nonprofit organization based in Kanab, Utah, which provides opportunities for people to observe, appreciate and comprehend our starry night sky. Additional information is at Send questions and comments to [email protected]

The moon is nicely placed for observing this week, moving eastward day-by-day (or night-by-night) in the evening sky. It begins this week in the summer constellation Sagittarius and moves through the autumn constellations Capricornus, Aquarius and Pisces – and ends the week in Cetus! Cetus, the Whale or Sea Monster, is not a constellation of the traditional zodiac, but the moon cuts across a corner of it now and then according to the way modern astronomers divide the sky into 88 official constellations.

The moon is in Cetus for only one day, from about 6:30 p.m. on Sunday until about 6 p.m. on Nov. 15.

Cetus was recognized by the ancient Greeks who got it from the Babylonians, so it’s not a new invention.
Along the way the moon is in the vicinity of Saturn on Tuesday and Wednesday, below Jupiter on Thursday, and below Neptune on Saturday, but it’s not especially close to any of them.

The constellations Capricornus, Aquarius, Pisces and Cetus lie away from the Milky Way and consequently have no bright stars. You may not see them at all from urban areas and even from dark locations they do not have easily-recognizable star patterns. By the way, by far the best way to learn the constellations is to have someone who knows them point them out to you; it’s tricky to teach them to yourself with printed charts or even a smartphone.

Don’t forget brilliant Venus, the brightest object in the night sky after the moon, which is low in the southwest at sunset. Venus sets 2½ hours after the sun.

Mercury and Mars are both in the morning sky; Mercury is leaving as it moves more nearly in line with the sun while Mars is reappearing to view after having been behind the sun. They pass on Wednesday morning and if you like a challenge, look for them then with binoculars or a wide-angle telescope.

Mercury will be reasonably bright very low in the east-southeast in early morning twilight while Mars is much fainter and only 1 degree to the right of Mercury. Mars is very hard to spot now, being both faint and still close to the sun, but it rises earlier each morning and very slowly brightens, and 13 months from now it will rise at sunset and will rival Jupiter as the brightest planet.

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