This article was contributed by David Baumgartner as part of a local series on astronomy.
The princess Andromeda seems to have become chained to the horse, Pegasus. She is a line of three stars, about as bright as the ones in the square of Pegasus. In fact one of them is the upper left corner star of the square. The ancient people thought of it as belonging to both constellations. It has now been decided that it belongs to Andromeda, not Pegasus, which rather spoils the square (I have no idea who makes these important decisions).
Go from this corner star along the line of Andromeda, past a dimmer star, to the middle star in Andromeda’s line. This star has the name Mirak. You are now looking at the “zenith” or part of the sky directly overhead; you will have to be lying on your back. Turn right at Mirak. Your eye is moving along a shorter and more crooked line of fainter stars. The third of these little stars is fuzzy, if you look careful. It is not a star at all. It is the Great Galaxy in Andromeda.
Everything else you can see in the sky is inside our own Milky Way Galaxy. Only this fuzzy galaxy is outside. It is another galaxy, consisting of billions of stars. It is the most distant thing you will ever see with your naked eyes: two million light years away. So that faint light you see coming from that galaxy left that area more than two million years ago traveling at a speed of 184,000 miles per second. Just stop and think about that for a while.
Make sure you get out in your back yard on the night of the 17th, and morning of the 18th, for the viewing of the Leonid meteor showers. We could have an hourly rate of as high as 200, but most likely in the 10s and 30s per hour. Back a few years ago I witnessed this same shower and it was one of the most spectacular heavenly sights that I have ever seen. We were having three and four at a time, what a sight. Each year it shows up a little different, but you have to be out there just in case it is the best one ever.
I just had a disagreement with someone who was asking me what that bright object was in the early morning, I said it was Venus. My friend said, ‘oh no, it is not Venus; it is something else, out there every morning.’ He seemed to think it was some sort of an alien type event. So whatever you think it is, it will be there every morning through the end of the year.
Hoping I don’t disagree with someone else, I’d like to mention that the bright object you see in the western skies just after sunset is the planet Jupiter. I don’t know of any alien events that are happening in that area around that time, but I could be wrong. Clear skies.
Things to watch out for this month:
Nov. 15: New Moon
Nov. 17: Leonid meteor shower peaks
Nov. 19: Moon passes 2 degrees south of Jupiter
Nov. 19: Moon passes 3 degrees south of Saturn
Nov. 21: First Quarter Moon
Nov. 23: Moon passes 5 degrees south of Neptune
Nov. 25: Moon passes 5 south of Mars
Nov. 26: Moon is at apogee (252,211 miles from Earth)
Nov. 27: Moon passes 3 degrees south of Uranus
Nov. 30: Full Moon