Status Report

The Sky This Week 2003 November 7 – November 24

By SpaceRef Editor
November 8, 2003
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The Moon puts on a spectacular show to open this current skywatcher’s period, then drifts into the morning sky before eclipsing the Sun on November 23rd. Full Moon occurs on the 8th at 8:13 pm Eastern Standard Time. November’s Full Moon is popularly known as the Frosty Moon or the Beaver Moon. Yes, frost has formed on the pumpkin already, and beavers are making haste to prepare their dens for the rigors of winter. Last Quarter occurs on the 16th at 11:15 pm, and New Moon occurs on the 23rd at 5:59 pm.

The Full Moon traverses the southern half of the shadow of the Earth on the evening of the 8th. Washingtonians have a ringside seat for this event, which begins in the early evening hours. You’ll probably notice a subtle darkening of Luna’s northeastern limb by around 6:15 pm, and at 6:32 the first dark ìbiteî of the earth’s shadow should start to slide across Luna’s face. The total phase begins at 8:06 pm and lasts 25 minutes. Most of the Moon’s disc will be immersed in the deepest part of the Earth’s shadow, but the southern limb of the Moon may be quite bright, since it will be just inside the shadow’s limit. The color will be a deep coppery red near the center, brightening toward the shadow edge. The receding partial phase lasts until 10:05 pm, and the last of the penumbral shading will be gone 10 to 15 minutes later. Our next chance to see a total lunar eclipse comes exactly 12 lunations after this one, in October 2004. After that we’ll have to wait until 2007 for our next glimpse of one.

On the 23rd, residents of far southern climes will be treated to a total eclipse of the Sun. Unfortunately by ìfar southernî we mean Antarctica, since the path of totality is confined to the icebound continent. Folks in Australia, New Zealand, and Tierra del Fuego will see varying degrees of a partial eclipse, but the seals and penguins will have a great show, along with a few intrepid tourists who have booked passage on eclipse chasing expeditions.

Mars steadily fades in the evening sky, but he still remains brighter than zero magnitude through the end of the month. As such he is still quite prominent in the evening sky, and his ruddy tint will seem to deepen as he fades. His apparent diameter shrinks to half the size of his record close-approach disc, but small telescopes can still glean details from his rusty surface.

Saturn continues his press to the evening sky. On the 15th he rises shortly after 8:00 pm, and by the 24th he rises at around 7:30. His brightness begins to rival that of Mars by the end of the month. Perched among the stars of the Winter Circle, he makes a fine telescopic target by 10:00 pm.

Early risers are still getting the best views of Jupiter, who won’t crack the evening barrier until December. That’s alright, though, as there’s plenty of other heavenly sights to distract us for the next few weeks.

SpaceRef staff editor.