6 Sky Events This Week: Taurids, Lagoon, and Neptune

The moon and Venus help guide sky-watchers this week to the Lagoon nebula. Credit:  N.A.Sharp, REU program/NOAO/AURA/NSF
The moon and Venus help guide sky-watchers this week to the Lagoon nebula. Credit: N. A. Sharp, REU Program/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Sky-watchers will see a sprinkling of shooting stars, bask under autumn’s brightest star pattern, and take a dip in a cosmic lagoon.

Taurid meteors. Look toward the southeast sky on Monday, November 4, and into the following morning to catch sight of the minor South Taurid meteor shower.

A moonless night means darker skies, which promise to bring more of the five to ten shooting stars per hour into view this year. While they are no torrent of meteors, the Taurids are known to be slow moving and can produce more spectacular fireballsmaking them easy to spot even from brightly lit suburbs.

Cosmic queen. After darkness falls on Tuesday, November 5, look toward the high northwestern sky for the constellation Cassiopeia, the Queen.

As the Big Dipper swoops low in the late autumn sky, Cassiopeia’s five stars in a zigzag-shape ride high overhead, on the other side of the North Star, Polaris.

Locating this constellation is as simple as connecting the dots. Find the two pointer stars in the Big Dipper’s bowl that are used to find the North Star. Then continue to follow this imaginary line past Polaris for about the same distance until you reach the lopsided “M” pattern directly across from the Great Bear.

THe constellation Cassiopeia is easy to find for sky-watchers in the northern hemisphere in autumn as it sits high in the north evening sky and the Dig Dipper can be used as a convenient guidepost.  Credit: Starry Night Software/ A.Fazekas
The constellation Cassiopeia is easy to find for sky-watchers in the northern hemisphere in autumn, as it sits high in the northern evening sky and the Big Dipper can be used as a convenient guidepost. Credit: Starry Night Software/A. Fazekas

 

Venus and moon. About a half hour after local sunset on Wednesday, November 6, look for the waxing crescent moon low in the southwest sky, posing to the upper right of brilliant Venus. The stunning cosmic pair will appear only 8 degrees apart in the skyabout equal to the width of a fist at arm’s length. At this time of the year, the goddess of love shines as the brightest evening planet visible across the globe.

Lagoon nebula. Meanwhile, binocular and telescope users can try this observation challengethe famous Lagoon nebula will appear sandwiched right in the middle of the Moon-Venus alignment.

A giant star factory some 4,000 light-years from Earth, the Lagoon nebula (also known as Messier 8) is nestled within the star-rich fields of the constellation Sagittarius. As the nebula rests close to the western horizon and its glare at dusk, the best views will be from southern latitudes, where the Lagoon nebula will be higher in local skies.

Altair-Fomalhaut sandwich. On Saturday, November 9, look toward the relatively sparse southwest evening sky for the first quarter moon, joined by the Fomalhaut (which is 25 light-years away) to its far left. The Altair (16 light-years distant) will be on its far right.

Neptune poses with the moon in the constellation Aquarius, making the blue giant planet easier to track down with backyard telescopes. Credit: Starry night Software/ A.Fazekas
Neptune poses with the moon in the constellation Aquarius, making the blue giant planet easier to track down with backyard telescopes. Credit: Starry Night Software/A. Fazekas

Moon and Neptune. After nightfall on Sunday, November 10, the moon acts as a convenient guidepost to track down the most distant giant planet in our solar system, Neptune. The two objects will appear only 6 degrees apartequal to about a fist-width held at arm’s length.

The blue ice giant lies some 4.5 billion kilometers from Earth and shines at 7.8 magnitude, making it barely visible as a tiny blue-colored star in binoculars and as a small disk among a field of pinpoint stars in a backyard telescope.

Backyard astronomers with medium-aperture telescopes measuring at least 12 inches can try spotting Neptune’s largest moon, Triton, shining at magnitude 13.

Tell us—what amazing sky phenomena have you seen lately?

Follow Andrew Fazekas, the Night Sky Guy, on Twitter and Facebook.

Andrew Fazekas, aka The Night Sky Guy, is a science writer, broadcaster, and lecturer who loves to share his passion for the wonders of the universe through all media. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic News and is the national cosmic correspondent for Canada’s Weather Network TV channel, space columnist for CBC Radio network, and a consultant for the Canadian Space Agency. As a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Andrew has been observing the heavens from Montreal for over a quarter century and has never met a clear night sky he didn’t like.

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