~ St. Maarten’s Backyard Astronomy for November 25-27 ~
Sun rises at 6:24am
Sun sets at 5:34pm
Lunar phase: 1st quarter, waxing crescent
Moon rises at 9:14am, Saturday
Moon sets at 8:24pm, Saturday
This weekend, it’s nearing the last hurrah for most of our summer constellations – as autumn turns to winter, these familiar star shapes will soon disappear from the night sky. Case in point: the teapot-shaped constellation of Sagittarius the Centaur Archer. The archer is sinking down more and more each day, although it is still noticeable, look low in the southwestern sky. The best time to look is about 25 to 45 minutes after sunset.
Also, while admiring the glorious sight of Sagittarius, check out the delicately thin crescent moon, sitting right at the handle of the teapot-shape. Can you make out the dark sphere of the lunar orb? It might be glowing ever so dimly with earthshine. Such a lovely sight! On such nights as these, the old folks used to say the old moon sits within the arms of the new moon.
By the way, the “pouring spout” of the “teapot” points directly at the Milky Way Galaxy, which can give the illusion of steam billowing out of the spout. This “steam” is the glow from the millions of distant stars within the thickest part of the Milky Way.
By Monday and Tuesday of the coming week, the not-quite-so-thin crescent moon will approach the ringed planet Saturn. Currently, we see Saturn low in the southwestern sky about an hour and a half after nightfall. And Jupiter follows Saturn, setting around 1:30am.
Want more planets? No problem! Venus is currently the Evening Star! And Mercury is right beside her! But you can only see these two beauties just after the sun sets, low in the western sky.
Meanwhile, Mars is currently sitting in the middle of the Winter Circle which rises shortly after sunset in the east, and travels the zenith track across the high point of the celestial dome around midnight and nears the eastern horizon as the dawn approaches. The horns of Taurus the Bull will frame the field in which to search for the Red Planet.