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Starry Night® Times

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Welcome again to our monthly newsletter with features on exciting celestial events, product reviews, tips & tricks, and a monthly sky calendar. We hope you enjoy it!

   

Browse the Universe on Your iPhone, iPod touch and Blackberry

Starry Night® is now available on your portable handheld device. Using a simple and intuitive interface, view the stars, planets, constellations and more from any location on Earth.

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Have an iPhone or iPod Touch? Visit the following URL:

Blackberry

Find out how to download the Starry Night® BlackBerry application at the following URL:

Pedro Braganca
Content Director, Starry Night®

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The Great Starry Night® Solar System Challenge

Back in April 1996, Stephen James O’Meara suggested in Sky & Telescope that we hold occasional solar system marathons when all of the planets are visible. Right now happens to be one of those times. It’s a fun challenge for any observer, no matter what their equipment. The idea is to observe as many solar system objects as you can in a 24 hour period, giving yourself one point per object. The total possible scores depend on whether you’re using naked eye, binoculars, telescopes, or imaging.

The Sun

The Sun counts as a solar system object... heck, it’s the most important object in the solar system! You should never look at the Sun without some sort of protection: a #14 welder’s glass or “eclipse shades” from a telescope store for naked eye, and a full aperture solar filter for binoculars and telescopes:

Give yourself a bonus point if you see a sunspot (pretty rare right now because we’re near solar minimum) or a flare or prominence (visible only with special Hydrogen Alpha filters).

Planets

Mercury is at greatest elongation west (19° from the Sun) on November 8, and is well placed for observation at dawn by observers in the Northern Hemisphere for about a week on either side of that date. This is one of the more challenging targets for all observers, but, once you spot it in the dawn sky, it’s easy to track it up into full daylight, when the blue sky will kill the planet’s glare, the higher altitude will improve seeing, and you should be able to see the planet’s shape very well. One bonus point if you can see the phase of the disk.

Here’s what Mercury will look like on the morning of November 6, along with Venus, Saturn, the Moon, and the bright stars Spica and Regulus:

Venus is the brightest object in the sky after the Sun and Moon, and is putting on a brilliant show high in the dawn sky before sunrise. You get a bonus point for seeing its phase (just visible in binoculars) and another bonus point if you can spot it in the full daytime sky. This will be easy to do on the morning of November 5, when Venus will be only a few degrees away from the waning crescent Moon; this is how they will look in 10x50 binoculars:

Earth: Sure, you can count the Earth! Just look down at your feet, and give yourself a point.

Mars: Mars is now rising around 9 p.m. and dominates the southern sky for the rest of the night. Give yourself a bonus point if you can detect telescopic features like its gibbous phase, polar cap, or dark surface markings. Major challenge points for spotting either of its tiny moons, Phobos or Deimos; an occulting bar in the eyepiece is essential.

A useful aid in spotting Mars’ elusive surface markings is a good set of filters especially designed for Mars:

This set includes a No. 21 orange filter, best for all around viewing of Mars, a No. 82A blue filter, best for seeing clouds and other atmospheric features, and a special new Mars interference filter, which emphasizes surface and atmospheric features while cutting glare from the middle of the spectrum. This is the modern equivalent of the famous magenta filter loved by Mars observers but long unavailable.

Jupiter, the largest of the planets, will actually be one of the most difficult to see, because it is rapidly disappearing into the glare of the setting Sun. Get it while you can low in the southwest just after sunset, and give yourself a bonus point if you see any detail on the disk. Each of its four bright moons is of course worth a point each.

Saturn rises around 1:30 a.m. and is visible the rest of the night. Saturn’s famous rings are rapidly narrowing, and will be playing hide and seek with the Earth next year. Give yourself a bonus point for seeing the rings, and of course a point for each of its moons which you can positively identify on a Starry Night chart like this:

These are the six moons most commonly seen in amateur telescopes, but be sure to try for some of the fainter moons; they all count.

Uranus: If you have really dark skies and good eyes, you may be able to see this with your naked eye; otherwise you’ll need binoculars or a telescope. Starry Night comes in handy to make a customized finder chart for Uranus on the night you’re looking for it.

Several of Uranus’ moons are within visual range of larger amateur telescopes, and are also targets for astro-imagers.

Neptune is more of a challenge than Uranus, because it’s two magnitudes fainter and much smaller in diameter. You will need a more detailed chart, like this one for November 6:

Neptune’s brightest moon, Triton at magnitude 13.5, is actually easier to see than any of Uranus’ moons, but the rest of its moon’s are photographic objects only.

Pluto, thanks to the I.A.U., is no longer a planet but you can still get a point for it as a dwarf planet and/or Kuiper Belt Object. A good Starry Night chart is essential, and be sure to download faint stars. Located just north of Jupiter, Pluto will be a challenge because of twilight and low altitude.

Ceres: Speaking of dwarf planets, Ceres reaches opposition on November 9 between Taurus and Cetus. The V of the Hyades points to a chain of stars which leads directly to Ceres, easily visible in binoculars at magnitude 6.9:

StarShoot Solar System Color Imager IIOther asteroids: There are always at least a dozen other asteroids visible at any given time in a typical amateur telescope; Starry Night will tell you which ones are currently visible and show you where to find them. Imagers can use a long exposure to show asteroid trails; hundreds of asteroids are in range for them, and each is worth a point.

Comets: Prospects are not very good for most observers. Comet LONEOS (C/2007 F1) should still be visible in telescopes for southern observers, as will be a couple of very faint comets further north, McNaught (P/2007 H1) and Lovas (93P). These require a large aperture, or else can be imaged.

The Moon

The Moon is certainly worth at least one point, especially since it will require a bit of effort to observe in early November. That’s because it is will be New on November 9, so only visible low in the dawn sky before sunrise. Of course, it will rise with the Sun, and be visible all morning. You’d be surprised how many people are unaware that the Moon is often visible in full daylight!

Those with binoculars and telescopes should try to identify by name some craters on the Moon’s surface: one bonus point per crater identified. Even with the naked eye, you can identify some of the larger lunar topographic features.

Many people find the Moon very bright to look at. It really isn’t very bright; it’s just that it is in full sunlight while the sky is usually dark, as is the observer’s location. One way to overcome this brightness is to light up your observing area, or at least use a white flashlight to consult your map of the Moon.

Another trick is to use a high magnification. The Moon can tolerate higher magnifications than any other astronomical object, so don’t be afraid to push your telescope to 200x or 300x. This may require a new eyepiece or at least a Barlow lens; the Orion Shorty Plus Barlow lens is one of the best available:

Smaller solar system objects

Finally, let’s not forget the smaller members of the Sun’s family.

Meteors: Meteors, popularly known as shooting stars, are small particles which enter the Earth’s atmosphere and disappear in a brilliant flash of light. A bit of time spent under dark skies, especially after local midnight, will almost always show a meteor or two. Add a point if the meteor can be traced back to the constellation Taurus, making it a member of the South Taurid meteor shower, which peaks on November 5.

Interplanetary dust: Early November is a good time to look for the Zodiacal Light in the pre-dawn sky. This ghostly light, fainter than the Milky Way, comes from light reflected from millions of tiny interplanetary particles. It is cone shaped, centered on the point on the horizon where the Sun will rise. Rarer still is the Gegenschein, a concentration of interplanetary dust located directly opposite the Sun in the midnight sky. That’s worth another point.

Aurora: The aurora is the visible result of even smaller solar system denizens: charged particles emitted by the Sun and drawn into the Earth’s polar regions by our magnetic field. Like sunspots, auroras are dependent on the Sun’s eleven-year activity cycle, so are currently at minimum, but perhaps we will get lucky!

Artificial satellites: There are currently thousands of objects in orbit around the Earth, ranging in size from the International Space Station and the Space Shuttle down to nuts and bolts dropped by spacewalking astronauts. Give yourself a point for each satellite seen and identified; another place where Starry Night comes in handy.

So, choose your 24 hour period in early November and see how many points you can score on our Solar System Challenge. Even with only your naked eye, you should be able to score ten or twelve points. With binoculars, telescope, or camera, you can score many more. Good luck!

Geoff Gaherty
Geoff has been a life-long telescope addict, and is active in many areas of visual observation; he is a moderator of the Yahoo "Talking Telescopes" group.

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Constellation in Focus: Cetus

Constellation Map: Cetus

Lying far from the galactic plane (which contains so much obscuring matter) Cetus, representing the gates of the underworld, is home to many observable galaxies.

M77 is a 9th Magnitude spiral galaxy, one of the first recognized spiral galaxies, and the closest and brightest of Seyfert galaxies (their central regions having rather bright nuclei whose light output varies over time and atypical spectra with unusual emission lines).

NGC 936 a faint galaxy best viewed with averted vision.

NGC 246 a large and reasonably bright planetary nebula (the last breath of a dying star) with an irregular "surface texture".

While technically in the constellation Sculptor, NGC 253, the Sculptor Galaxy, is a remarkable spiral galaxy with an unusually high rate of star formation. It's the brightest member of the Sculptor group, a group of galaxies centered around the south galactic pole. A small telescope reveals a long bright haze intermingled with brighter regions and dark lanes. Due to its high surface brightness it takes magnification quite well.

Sean O'Dwyer
Starry Night® Times Editor

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Astrophoto of the Month

Astrophoto of the Month

Lunar Eclipse

Phillip Holmes from Rockhampton Australia took this beautiful mosaic of the recent Total Lunar Eclipse. The background was taken with STL-11000M on aNP101mm and the moon was taken with a Cannon 30D on the same scope.

   

PRIZES AND RULES:

We would like to invite all Starry Night® users to send their quality astronomy photographs to be considered for use in our monthly newsletter.

  • Featured submissions (best of month) will receive a prize of $75 USD.

Please read the following guidelines and see the submission e-mail address below.

  • Format: Digital images in either JPG, GIF or TIFF format.
  • Size: 700 pixels wide maximum.
  • File size should be less than 2 MB.
  • Include a caption: Your full name, location where photo was taken and any interesting details regarding your photo or how you took it. Please be brief.
  • Important notes: We may edit captions for clarity and brevity. We reserve the right to not use submissions. In submitting your image or images to Imaginova®, you agree to allow us to publish them in all media—on the Web or otherwise—now and in the future. We'll credit you, of course. Most important, you'll have the satisfaction of sharing your experience with the world!
  • Send images, following the above guidelines, to photo@starrynight.com (by sending an image you agree to the above terms, including Imaginova®’s right to publish your photos). Please do not send .ZIP files as they will not reach us.

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NOV 2007

Starry Night Pro 6.0
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Free Download
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Pond Horizon Panorama

Pond Horizon Panorama

Joe Bergeron supplied this beautiful horizon panorama featuring a pond.
   

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SN Pro 4.x and higher users: simply download these two files and place them in your Sky Data/Horizon Panoramas Folder.

Pedro Braganca
Content Director,
Starry Night®

   

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Free Download
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Sky Events
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A guided video tour of celestial events visible this month.

  • Click Here to Download

   

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Tips Tricks
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Tips & Tricks
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Milky Way Options

By default, Starry Night® displays a stunning photographic image of the band of the Milky Way.

If you find this image is too bright, you can use the Brightness slider to tone down the image brightness, or uncheck the Milky Way box in the Options pane under the Stars Layer, to turn off the image entirely.

Pro and Pro Plus users: From the Wavelength drop list, you can select from several images of the Milky Way taken at different wavelenghts. These include X-Ray, Infrared, Gamma, Radio and more.

Pedro Braganca
Content Director,
Starry Night®
   

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Tips Tricks
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Sky Events
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Moon Phases

Full Moon:
Oct 25
 

Last Quarter:
Nov 1
 

New Moon:
Nov. 9
 

First Quarter:
Nov 17
 

Observing Highlights

Sun., Nov. 4
DST ends, 2:00 a.m.

Time returns to Standard Time. Set clocks back an hour before bed on Sat. evening.

Sat., Nov. 17
Leonid Meteors, 11:00 p.m.

Sometimes this shower is a real torrent, although it is predicted as average this year (10-15 meteors per hour at maximum). But the conditions this year are favorable since there will be no bright Moon in the sky at the time of maximum, and for eastern observers the radiant is high overhead at 11 p.m. If all goes as predicted, the best observations likely will come from about 10 p.m. until perhaps 1 or 2 a.m. the following morning.

Planets

Mercury is in the morning sky, and while it is never particularly easy, usually being too close to the Sun, it is reasonably well placed in the eastern sky before sunrise for most of the month.

Venus is still a spectacular beacon in the east before sunrise. Many people are startled by its brilliance, and refuse to believe that it is a natural object. It is. Don't miss it. It will dominate the morning heavens well into the New Year.

Mars is bright and easy to find in Gemini. It comes up about mid-evening and is high overhead by dawn. As it rises, it is to the north (left) of Orion, and by dawn it is the bright "star" above and to the left of Orion.

Jupiter is quickly being lost into the southwestern evening twilight. Currently in Ophiuchus, it will be lost to view altogether by mid-December.

Saturn is easy to find in Leo, not far from Regulus, rising shortly after midnight. It is high in the southern sky by sunrise.

Dates

Sat., Nov. 3
Moon/Regulus, 8:00 a.m.

The just past Last Quarter Moon passes near the bright star Regulus in Leo. While the closest moment is after sunrise for eastern locations, there will be good views before dawn, well up in the eastern sky. Saturn shines just a few degrees below, and much brighter Venus is considerably below that. For some locations in the southern U.S., Central America and northern South America, this is an occultation. For details, see the International Occultation Timing Association page: For details, see the International Occultation Timing Association page.

Sat., Nov. 3
Moon/Saturn, 11:00 p.m.

The Moon passes less than two degrees south of Saturn, but unfortunately this is well before moonrise. However, the two are still close together when they rise at roughly 2 a.m. Sun. morning. You will be up then anyway, setting your clock back to Standard Time!

Mon., Nov. 5
Venus/Moon, 2:47 p.m.

The Crescent Moon appears to pass close to Venus in the daytime sky. This occurs after moonset for most eastern locations, but the two should be visible several hours earlier in the southern to southwestern sky. At the time of closest approach. the two will be reasonably well positioned for western observers. At closest, Venus will appear about 3 degrees (6 widths of a full moon) above and slightly to the right of the Moon.

Mon., Nov. 5
South Taurid Meteors, 5:00 p.m.

This is a minor shower, but it is not hampered by bright moonlight. The radiant does not rise in the east (in Taurus) until about an hour or so after sunset.

Thur., Nov. 8
Mercury at greatest elongation west, 3:40 p.m.

About 19 degrees from the rising Sun, Mercury can be found to the lower left of Spica, perhaps 7 or 8 degrees above the east-southeastern horizon an hour before dawn. Much brighter Venus is some 27 degrees to the upper right of Mercury at this time.

Fri., Nov. 9
New Moon, 6:03 p.m.

Of course, New Moons cannot be observed, but a razor thin Crescent Moon will debut in the western evening twilight on Sun. or Mon.

Sat., Nov. 10
Mercury at brightness max, 8:21 p.m.

If you observed Mercury at its greatest elongation west on Thur., it will be in a similar location this morning, and very slightly brighter (-0.9 magnitude).

Sun., Nov. 11
Moon/Antares, 4:00 p.m.

This occurs before sunset, but sharp-eyed observers may catch the two together very low to the southwest after sunset. In parts of South America and the Pacific, this is an occultation.

Mon., Nov. 12
Jupiter/Moon, 4:46 p.m.

A very thin Waxing Crescent Moon is below and the to left of Jupiter, quite low in the southwestern twilight this evening. The closest approach is during daylight (about 5 degrees), but they are still close after sunset.

Thur., Nov. 15
Mars begins retrograde, 11:10 a.m.

The Earth is faster than Mars in its orbit, and is now catching up to the Red Planet, which it will pass in December. This causes a kind of optical illusion called "retrograde motion," which makes Mars appear to move backwards (to the west) among the stars for a while. This is akin to a slower moving car appearing to move backwards as you pass it.

Sat., Nov. 17
First Quarter Moon, 5:33 p.m.

The First Quarter Moon is well-placed for observing in the southern sky at sunset.

Sat., Nov. 24
Moon/Pleiades, 7:00 a.m.

Although before sunrise for eastern observers, the Moon and the Pleiades are quite close before the morning twilight, well up in the western sky. Western observers have it better, with the Moon passes less than a degree from the star cluster. unfortunately, the very bright Moon will drown out most of the Pleiades' glory!

Sat., Nov. 24
Full Moon, 9:30 a.m.

Look for this Moon rising at about sunset. The November Full Moon was called the "Freezing Moon" by the Cheyenne, and the "Every Buck Loses His Horns Moon" by the Oto. (Moon names courtesy of The Moon Book by Kim Long, Johnson Books, Boulder, 1998.)

Tues., Nov. 27
Mars/Moon, 12:38 a.m.

The Waning Gibbous Moon passes slightly more than 3 of its own diameters from Mars, in Gemini, high overhead to the southeast.

Wed., Nov. 28
Moon/Beehive Cluster, 9:00 p.m.

The Moon passes less than a degree North of the Beehive Cluster (M44) in Cancer. This occurs before moonrise in most locations, but the two will be close after they rise as well.

Sat., 12/1
Last Quarter Moon, 7:44 a.m.

Last Quarter Moons, with the "backwards D" shape, generally rise at about midnight and set the following day around noon. However, the exact timing varies by location and the exact timing of the phase. Since this Last Quarter Moon occurs in the morning, but the midnight following, it is somewhat past the phase and the Moon is slightly behind this schedule, rising after midnight in most North American locations.

Data for this calendar has been derived from a number of sources including the Observer’s Handbook 2007 of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Starry Night software, and others. Only events with a reasonable possibility for Northern Hemisphere observers, or those events with some other significance, are given.

As always, there's more to explore on NightSky.

All times EST after Nov. 3 (DST ends at 2 a.m. Nov. 4)
   

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