Last quarter Moon (Chris Vaughan, Starry Night Education)

This Week’s Sky: November 2 to 8, 2020

The Moon passes the Shoe-Buckle Cluster and the Bull’s face as it wanes through the week.

Monday, November 2 – Moon passes the Bull’s face (all night)

Moon passes the Bull’s face (Chris Vaughan, Starry Night Education)

On Monday, November 2, the orbital motion (green line) of the waning gibbous Moon will carry it closely above the Hyades cluster — the collection of stars that form the triangular face of Taurus, the Bull. The bright orange star Aldebaran, which marks the southern eye of the bull, will sit several finger widths below (or 4 degrees to the celestial south) of the Moon. To better see the Hyades’ stars, many of which are doubles, hide the bright Moon just above your binoculars’ field of view (red circle).

Wednesday, November 4 – Moon passes the Shoe-Buckle Cluster (all night)

Moon passes the Shoe-Buckle Cluster (Chris Vaughan, Starry Night Education)

After it rises in early evening on Wednesday, November 4, the waning gibbous Moon will be positioned less than a lunar diameter below (or half a degree to the celestial south of) the large open star cluster designated Messier 35, or the Shoe-Buckle, in Gemini. During the rest of the night, the Moon’s orbital motion (green line) will draw it away from the cluster. To better see the cluster’s stars, wait until they are higher in mid-evening, and then hide the bright Moon just below the field of view of your binoculars (red circle).

Thursday, November 5 – Southern Taurids Meteor Shower peak (after midnight)

Southern Taurids Meteor Shower peaks (Chris Vaughan, Starry Night Education)

Meteors from the Northern Taurids shower, which appear worldwide from September 23rd to November 19th annually, will reach a peak of about 10 per hour on Thursday, November 5. The long-lasting, weak shower is derived from debris dropped by the passage of periodic Comet 2P/Encke. The debris’ larger than average grain sizes often produce colourful fireballs. Although Earth will be traversing the densest part of the comet’s debris train during mid-day in the Americas, the best viewing time will occur hours earlier, at around 1 a.m. local time, when the shower’s radiant, located in central Taurus, will be high in the southern sky. A bright, waning gibbous Moon will shine all night long, somewhat spoiling the shower.

Sunday, November 8  – Last quarter Moon (at 13:46 GMT)

Last quarter Moon (Chris Vaughan, Starry Night Education)

When it reaches its last quarter phase at 6:46 pm EST on Sunday, November 8 (or 13:46 GMT), the Moon will rise at around midnight, and then remain visible in the southern sky all morning. At last quarter, the Moon is illuminated on its western side, towards the pre-dawn sun. Last quarter Moons are positioned ahead of the Earth in our trip around the sun. About 3½ hours later, Earth will occupy that same location in space. The week of moonless evening skies that follow last quarter will be ideal for observing deep-sky targets.

Chris Vaughan is a science writer, geophysicist, astronomer, planetary scientist and an “outreach RASCal.” He writes Astronomy Skylights, and you can follow him on Twitter at @astrogeoguy. He can also bring his Digital Starlab portable inflatable planetarium to your school or other daytime or evening event. Contact him through to tour the universe together.