Skywatch for the week of November 7, 2022
Mon Nov 7, 2022 NOVEMBER FULL MOON, TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE
The moon is full tonight. The Creek Indians call this the Moon When the Water is Black with Leaves, a time when falling leaves darken ponds and rivers. The Mandan Hidatsa people who live farther north, say this is the Moon When Rivers Freeze. It’s the Frost Moon for the Seminole people, and to the Tewa Pueblo this is the Moon When All is Gathered In. There’s a total lunar eclipse tonight, which will begin long after midnight. The first shadow “bite” will be taken out of the moon shortly after 4:09 am. At this hour, the moon will be down near the western horizon. That bite will continue to grow, until the moon is completely inside earth’s shadow just before 6 am. Totality ends 41 minutes later, but by this time, the moon will be setting and you probably won’t see the rest of the eclipse.
Tue Nov 8, 2022 EDMUND HALLEY’S BIRTHDAY
Edmund Halley, whose name is attached to a very famous comet, was born on November 8th, 1656 near London. Halley saw his comet in 1682, and although millions of people had seen it before him, going back to BC times, he was the first person to predict its return, in 1758. Halley had asked Isaac Newton to write the equations he needed to solve the comet’s orbit, (Newton had to invent calculus to do it,) and using Newton’s work, Halley figured out it would return in 76 years, saying that he hoped that posterity would record that an Englishman had made the prediction. Now if you missed seeing the last appearance of Halley’s Comet in 1986, then you’ll want to hang around for its next apparition in the year 2061. I’ll be 108, and I’m looking forward to seeing it again.
Wed Nov 9, 2022 DARKNESS WASTING TIME
I hope everyone has recovered from our recent semi-annual lurch in time. After more than half a year of Daylight Savings Time, we’ve finally returned to the more sensible Standard Time. Daylight Savings Time was implemented in the United States in 1918 by the Woodrow Wilson administration, and it has been with us pretty much ever since. By setting our clocks ahead one hour in the Spring, we can stretch out the afternoon and evening daylight periods. But for astronomers, Daylight Savings Time is known as Darkness Wasting Time, because it makes us wait an extra hour for the skies to darken so we can see the stars. Now as nights get longer and daylit periods shorter, and a return to Standard time, at least for now we can get some serious observing done long before the midnight hour.
Thu Nov 10, 2022 BRAIN BOWL QUESTIONS
Indian River State College recently held a “brain bowl” for its students, who compete to answer questions about history, art, literature, science and other subjects. In honor of the brain bowl, here’s a quiz for you: Where is the Sea of Serenity? What is Newton’s Third Law of Motion? Which star is closest to earth? What is New Horizons? Here are the answers: The Sea of Serenity is a dry lava basin on the moon. Newton’s Third Law states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The tallest volcano is fifteen-mile-high Mt. Olympus on Mars. The nearest star after the sun is Proxima, part of the Alpha Centauri system, 25 trillion miles away. And New Horizons is a spacecraft that was launched toward Pluto; it reached this distant world six years ago and sent back incredible images of Pluto and its moons.
Fri Nov 11, 2022 MOON IN CONJUNCTION WITH MARS
Starlight, star bright - up until a month ago, it was pretty easy to find the first bright star after sunset, what that old poem refers to as a “wishing star.” Of course, that bright star shining in the east at sunset wasn’t a star at all, but the planet Jupiter, which was about 400 million miles away from us when our planet passed it last September. But now Jupiter’s got some competition, another planet – Mars, which now rises in the east in mid-evening. Jupiter’s still a bit brighter, and it has a creamy white color; but Mars has a distinctive red tint, and it’s outshining two actual red giant stars, Aldebaran and Betelgeuse, which appear to the south of Mars. Still not sure which is which? Well, tonight the old gibbous moon will be next to Mars, a cosmic bookmark to help you find the red planet!