This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report for the week ending Wednesday, November 20, 2013. Here is what’s happening in the skies of Southern California:
The brightest planet, Venus, blazes in the southwest for more than 2½ hours after sunset. Venus is bright enough to see in broad daylight if you know precisely where to look. This week, Venus will be highest in the sky when it crosses the meridian, due south, at 2:56 p.m. Looking like a tiny white spot in the blue sky, Venus will then be 30 degrees high–one third the distance from the horizon to the zenith, the overhead point. Through a telescope, Venus displays a crescent phase.
The moon brightens many of the nighttime hours this week. Full moon occurs at 7:16 a.m. on the 17th, and is traditionally called the “full beaver moon” or “frosty moon”.
Jupiter, the second brightest planet, is in Gemini the Twins and rises in the east-northeast at 8:30 p.m. Jupiter is nearly overhead, 78 degrees above the southern horizon, when it transits at 3:45 a.m. In addition to its four largest moons, which are visible as tiny star like points in binoculars, the planet itself reveals a wealth of cloud details through a telescope.
Orange planet Mars is in the southeast corner of Leo the Lion. By dawn, Mars is half as high as Jupiter, in the southeast.
The innermost planet, Mercury, is at its greatest distance west of the sun on the 17th. This means that it can be seen about 10 degrees high in the east-southeast 30 minutes before sunrise, between Virgo the Maiden’s bright star Spica (which Mercury outshines) and the eastern horizon.
Comet ISON is steadily brightening, and is faintly visible through ordinary binoculars from dark sky locations far from urban light pollution. Best seen in the hour before dawn, comet ISON is less than 2 degrees from Virgo’s bright star Spica, low in the east-southeast at dawn, on the 17th and 18th. Unfortunately, bright moonlight will interfere with viewing comet ISON starting on the 16th. More information about comet ISON is available on our comet ISON web page.
Free views of the sun during the day and of the moon, planets, and other celestial objects at night, are available to the public in clear weather through Griffith Observatory’s telescopes Tuesday-Sunday before 9:30 p.m. Check our website for our schedule. The next public star party on the grounds of Griffith Observatory, hosted by the Los Angeles Astronomical Society, the Sidewalk Astronomers, and the Planetary Society, will take place on Saturday, December 7.
From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook and I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.