Join the star party in Placitas
On Saturday November 1, Las Placitas Association and The Albuquerque
Astronomical Society will co-host an annual star party to promote
dark skies in the Placitas community.
The party will begin around sunset, which occurs at 6:11 p.m. Just
like last year, the event will be held at the Homestead Village
Shopping Center (the Merc), with telescopes set up along the dirt
road leading toward the Homesteads subdivision.
The moon (a waxing crescent) will set early at 8:45 p.m., so it
shouldn’t interfere with our dark skies for long. Be sure
to arrive early to catch Venus and then Jupiter setting in the west,
and stay late to see the ghostly Helix Nebula rising in Aquarius.
For additional information, contact Las Placitas Association at
November 15 at 8:30 p.m.
November 2008 Night Sky
THE AGE OF AQUARIUS
This month at 8:30 p.m., Aquarius resides due south about forty
degrees above the horizon. This is a very old constellation dating
back to Babylonian stone carvings. Normally, Aquarius is thought
of as a water carrier running across the heavens, spilling water
as he goes. The river Endanus (a constellation) is sometimes depicted
as flowing from the constellation Crater, sometimes identified as
the cup of Aquarius.
One myth associates Aquarius with Ganymede, a beautiful young lad
with whom Zeus fell in love. Zeus, in the disguise of an eagle,
depicted in the sky as the constellation Aquila, carried him to
Olympus to be the cup bearer to the gods.
There are five stars with known planets in Aquarius. In 1998, the
first planet to orbit a red dwarf star was found around Gliese 876b.
It is the outermost known planet in its planetary system with two
other planets: Gliese 876a and Gliese 876c. Two of the planets are
similar to Jupiter, while the closest planet is thought to be similar
to a small Neptune. Gliese is approximately fifteen light-years
from our Sun.
91 Aquarii is another of the stars in Aquarius having an exo-planet.
91 Aquarii is a multiple star system approximately 148 light-years
away in the constellation of Aquarius. The system comprises five
stars, with the primary star being an orange giant. 91 Aquarii B
is a hot Jupiter orbiting the primary star, 91 Aquarii A, with a
mass nearly three times that of Jupiter.
Much was made in the 1960s about the Age of Aquarius. The exact
date of the beginning of this Age is in question. According to different
astrologers’ calculations, approximated dates for entering
the Age of Aquarius range from 1447 AD to 3621 AD. Some believe
it began in or around 2000. Astrological ages exist due to procession
of the equinoxes. The stars and constellations appear to slowly
move over the years. The locations of the stars and constellations
repeat approximately every twenty-six thousand years. For the purposes
of astrological Ages, the zodiacal constellation where the Sun resides
at the Vernal Equinox in March each year defines the Age. The dispute
on the date arises because the border between the current constellations,
Pisces and Aquarius, has changed over the centuries. When the age
does arrive, astrologers believe it will be a time of peace, democracy,
freedom, idealism, and technology.
Lacerta, the lizard, is located just north of straight overhead
this month at 8:30 p.m. It runs through one of the richest areas
on the Milky Way and only the Alpha star shines brighter than 4th
magnitude at 3.78. The rest of its stars are 4th to 5th magnitude
stars. From a dark site, the zigzag pattern is all but lost in the
background stars in the area. Binoculars will help you find this
Alpha Lacerta is an optical double star. Another multiple star
group is Roe 47, consisting of five components.
TWO MORE FOR THE SHOW
Grus, the crane, can be seen on the southern horizon this month
at 8:30 p.m., flying south for the winter. The brightest star here
Just above Grus is Piscis Australis, the southern fish. The brightest
star here is Fomalhaut. Fomalhaut, “mouth of the whale,“
is a binary star. The primary is a young star twice the mass of
the Sun and fifteen times brighter. Its companion is a small white
dwarf. There is a debris disk around Fomalhaut that could be a proto-planetary
THE PLANETS AND THE MOON
Mercury will be visible in the east very low on the horizon the
first week of November about 6:30 a.m.
Venus is the bright light in the western sky after sunset. Jupiter
joins Venus in the southwestern sky on the 30th, with the waning
Moon below, an hour after sunset.
Mars is up during the daylight hours and sets just before sunset
Jupiter can be found in the southwest after sunset. There is a
Moon-Jupiter conjunction on the 3rd an hour after sunset.
Saturn is located in the southeast before sunrise. Saturn and the
Moon get close together on the 21st one hour before sunrise.
Uranus can be seen with the naked eye under very dark skies. Otherwise,
use binoculars and look in the northern central part of Aquarius.
Neptune can be located in the northeastern side of Capricornus.
It is a dim 8th magnitude, but a small telescope can find it.
The Moon is full on the 13th and new on Thanksgiving Day, the 27th.