On Friday November 19th, the Sun, Earth, and the Moon will line up and most of the Moon will pass through Earth’s shadow. Though this will be a nearly TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE; it will be close. Ninety-seven per cent of the Moon will be inside Earth’s shadow.
The eclipse will start at 1:02 am EST as the Moon enters the lighter part of Earth’s shadow (called the penumbra). The eclipse really gets going when the Moon enters the umbra (darker part of the Earth’s shadow at 2:18 am EST. The Moon will slide through this darkest part of the shadow for almost 3 1/2 hours. Lunar eclipses last long enough for sky-watchers to observe the progress of the eclipse and then go away for awhile and come back to observe it again. All told from start to finish, the Moon will be in the penumbra shadow for 6 hours! (1:02 am to 7:03 am).
Because this will not be a full total eclipse, it will not be as dark as usual. But only 3% of the Moon will be outside the umbra, so it will be interesting for us to watch this eclipse to see exactly how dark it will be. The eclipse will take place in the region of the sky where the constellation Taurus the bull resides. It will be a very interesting night!
On November 7th we shift back to standard time (at 2 am on Sunday November 7th). All month three bright planets continue to dominate our evening skies; Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn.
Venus, the brightest of the three, sits the lowest to the horizon. But it is so bright that it can be seen within 1/2 hour of sunset and will remain visible for 90 minutes after the Sun goes down above the southwestern horizon. On November 7th a slim crescent Moon may be seen to the right of Venus.
Sky-watchers with binoculars should look at Venus on November 14th and look for a misty smudge of light just above it. This is M 22, a globular star cluster, one object from a list of some 100 clusters, galaxies, and nebulae collected by French astronomer Charles Messier back in the late 1700’s. This list of objects remains popular today for backyard telescope owners to locate with their scopes.
By the end of November Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter will span a 35 degree arc from southwest to south, looking back to the left of Venus. Between November 7 and 11 the waxing crescent Moon will trace along this line of planets.
Saturn comes into view as twilight descends and will not set until 11:30 pm on November 1st; by 9:30 by November 30th. The Moon will be nearest Saturn on November 9th and 10th. Jupiter is very bright and easily spotted left (east) of Venus. Jupiter sets around midnight. Saturn’s rings and Jupiter’s cloud belts remain highlights for telescope viewers all month.
It will be a busy month for all sky-watchers with the eclipse and the planets —— and, in November we start to get a glimpse of the bright winter constellations peaking up above the eastern horizon.