This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report through November 18, 2015. Here’s what’s happening in the skies of southern California.
Our last chance to see Saturn in the evening sky this year happens on Thursday the 12th. The slender crescent moon, only 1½ days past new, will then be only two degrees to the upper right of Saturn, making Saturn easier to spot. The best time to look is the end of civil twilight, at 5:18 p.m., when Saturn will be five degrees above the west-southwest horizon. Binoculars should help you to find both the moon and Saturn.
The moon waxes and night by night gains elevation in the early evening sky. It is first quarter phase on Wednesday the 18th. The time of moonset advances from 5:56 p.m. on the 12th to 11:27 p.m. on the 18th.
The planets Venus, Mars, and Jupiter form and eye-catching line in the eastern sky between 3:15 and 5:30 a.m. The brightest planet, Venus, is the lowest in the sky and the second brightest planet, Jupiter, is the highest. Mars is the faintest of the trio, but has a distinctive orange color, and is located between the two brighter planets. Mars appears closest to Venus. The separation between Venus and Jupiter grows from 14 to 21 degrees between the 11th and 18th, while the gap between Mars and Venus grows from four to over seven degrees over the same period.
The Leonid meteor shower is expected to reach its modest peak between midnight and dawn on Wednesday, November 18. The meteors appear to come from the direction of the “sickle” of the constellation Leo the Lion, and their greatest numbers, as many as 12 per hour from a dark sky location, are seen shortly before 5:00 a.m., when dawn starts. The sickle of Leo is then 69 degrees high in the east-southeast, above the planet Jupiter, but the meteors streaming from that point can appear anywhere in the sky. Fewer meteors are visible from light polluted urban or suburban skies.
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 from Tuesday through Sunday before 9:30 p.m. Check our website for the 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, November 21.
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From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook and I can be reached at email@example.com