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A busy month for November’s night sky

ColumnHead-StargazingThe comet ISON is heading in for a close encounter with the Sun on November 28, when it will pass 1.1 million kilometres from the solar surface (less than one solar diameter). The sun’s intense heat will vaporize some of the comet’s ices, which may transform it into a brilliant object in early December. However, without precise knowledge of its composition, it is difficult to say how bright it is likely to become. It is possible that ISON may be destroyed by this solar encounter, as so many previous comets have been.

November is a busy month for meteor showers: The South Taurids are a long lasting meteoroid shower originating in the constellation Taurus from September 25 to November 25, peaking from late night November 4 until dawn November 5. This is a very diffuse meteor shower: no more than 7 meteors per hour. However, the South Taurids have a reputation for producing spectacular fireballs and extremely bright meteors. During the peak the waxing crescent moon will set in the early evening on November 4, leaving dark skies for enhanced viewing.

Meanwhile the North Taurids occur between October 12 and December 2, peaking between late night November 11 until dawn November 12. This is another diffuse meteor shower averaging 7 meteors per hour at peak. Typically, you see the maximum numbers at around midnight, when the constellation Taurus is highest in the sky. The moon will set after midnight around the time of the North Taurid peak enhancing viewing conditions in the predawn of November 12.

Another November meteor shower is the Leonids, peaking between late night November 16 until dawn November 17. The Leonid meteor shower has a reputation for producing very intense meteor activity with rates as high as thousands of meteors per minute, though some years it can be as low as 15 meteors per hour. In November 1966 the Leonids were so dense they seemed to fall like rain. Peak Leonid meteor storms seem to recur in cycles of 33 to 34 years, but the Leonids around the turn of the century did not match the shower of 1966. Unfortunately the moon will be full on the 17th, interfering with viewing conditions for the Leonid meteor shower.

Friday November 8 – Engaging amateur astronomer and educator Bill Burnyeat will be the featured speaker at the next astronomy club meeting and AGM at the Sunshine Coast Art Centre.  Don’t miss Bill’s presentation: “The Discovery of Galaxies, how we came to know of our place in the universe” The AGM will be at 7:30 p.m. followed by the presentation around 8:00 p.m. The public is welcome and donations at the door are appreciated.

Friday Nov. 15 – Astro Café meets at Pier 17 at 8:30 p.m. for “Astro” talk and telescope viewing.

Submitted by the Royal
Astronomical Society of Canada – Sunshine Coast Chapter,  

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