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What's in the Sky: November


November 6, 2019

With November, our rainy season is normally in full swing. That's important, as precipitation replenishes our landscapes after a dry summer, and we begin to build a mountain snowpack. Alas, this means lots of cloudy skies and limited opportunities for stargazing. But when the clouds do part, enjoy the view of fresh snow in the mountains, and look skyward when darkness comes!

There is an interesting event on the morning of Nov. 11, one that will not be repeated until 2032. That is a transit of the planet Mercury in front of the Sun. On that morning, little Mercury will sit right between Earth and the Sun and can be seen as a small dot in front of old Sol. The transit will be in progress when the Sun rises, at about 7 a.m., and will end at about 10 a.m. To see it, you'll need a telescope and a proper solar filter. If skies are clear, I'll have a telescope set up at the Trout Lake School for this event. Remember never to look at the Sun without a filter, be it using your eyes, binoculars, or a telescope!

Another option for viewing the transit will be the Goldendale Observatory. As you may know, the Observatory has been undergoing a major upgrade in the past year and a half and is planning a limited opening in the remainder of 2019. They will be open on the weekend before the transit (Nov. 9 and 10- by appointment only); on the morning of Monday, Nov. 11, for the transit; on Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 30 through Dec. 1); and on Christmas/New Year's Weekend (Dec. 27 through 29). Go to the Observatory Web page ( and go to the "Visit" tab to make a request. Remember that the Observatory is a State Park and requires a Discovery Pass to park on-site.

November's full Moon will be on the 12th of the month, followed by new Moon on the 26th. At the start of the month, you can find the waxing crescent Moon located low in the southern evening sky, between the planets Saturn (to the left of the Moon) and Jupiter (to the right). In the early morning of November 18, the Moon will skirt along the edge of the Beehive star cluster in the eastern sky. On the 29th, the Moon will again join Saturn, low in the southwestern evening sky after sunset.

While we can still view Saturn and Jupiter in November, both are getting low in the southwestern evening sky and setting earlier as time goes on. At the start of November, Jupiter will set by about 8:15 p.m., with Saturn following at about 8:50 p.m. By the end of the month, Jupiter will set at about 5:45 p.m., shortly after sunset. Saturn will set shortly after 7 p.m.

Winter constellations are starting to peek over the eastern horizon in November. Look for Taurus, the Bull, Auriga the charioteer, and the Pleiades star cluster all low in the eastern evening sky. Late in the month, the easily recognizable constellation Orion will be above the horizon by 9 p.m. Check them out when you find a clear November night!


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