Discovering the wonders of the night sky

Highlight: One of the year’s most spectacular views in the night sky will be a grouping of the two brightest planets with the moon on Monday evening, Dec. 1.
Jupiter, Venus and the moon will meet in the southwest just after sunset.

  • Nov. 5, 2008 1:00 p.m.

Ken From

Star Enthusiast : 

Highlight: One of the year’s most spectacular views in the night sky will be a grouping of the two brightest planets with the moon on Monday evening, Dec. 1.

Jupiter, Venus and the moon will meet in the southwest just after sunset.

This will make an ideal photo if you make preparations to frame this celestial view with some landscape or unique building.

Circle December 1 on your calendar to see this gathering of the night sky’s three brightest objects.

Planets: As November begins, Venus shines brightly in the southwest and appears slightly higher each evening as the sun sets.

Jupiter, which has dominated the southern summer skies is setting further to the west each night.

Watch these two planets throughout November as they move closer together each night.

They will be closest to each other on Nov. 30, but the following evening the moon joins them for the special conjunction mentioned above.

The other planet visible this month is Saturn which rises in the east well after midnight.

With darkness stretching into the morning hours, you can catch Venus in the morning before sunrise.

However, this year we will see Saturn’s rings almost “edge on” and it will be another couple of years before they spread open again.

Sluggish Mars is now hidden in the glow of the sun and will be directly opposite the sun on Dec. 4.

On November evenings you can watch the Pleiades star cluster rise in the west.

Known also as the “Seven Sisters” people could traditionally see seven bright stars in this cluster.

Binoculars or a small telescope will reveal dozens of bright stars sparkling like diamonds on a black velvet background.

About two hours later Orion rises above the eastern horizon.

The emergence of Orion in the evening sky signals a change of seasons as this constellation glides across our winter skies.           

The year 2009 has been declared the International Year of Astronomy by the United Nations.

It celebrates 400 years of astronomy from the time that Galileo first looked at the night sky with a telescope and discovered moons around Jupiter.

Watch for special events in your community and special observing nights to celebrate IYA.

A special website has also been created for support IYA -http://www.rasc.ca/education/iya/

If you are in the area of Didsbury, Alberta on the evening of Saturday, Nov. 22, you are invited to a Celestial Celebration with a launch of the International Year of Astronomy.

 Guest speaker, Alan Dyer, will make a presentation and offer a tour of the night sky.

 Check our website, listed below, for more details.

At this time of year we are often asked for astronomy gift suggestions.

A good pair of binoculars often makes a better gift than a cheap telescope.

Most astronomy writers also warn us to avoid purchasing a telescope from a department store and to not be tempted by the computerized telescope that promises 300X or more power.

 The best telescope is one that you can easily use and enjoy the celestial wonders.

 In most cases larger is always better – a five inch or larger reflector or a 100mm or larger refractor should open up the wonders of the night sky to you.

May all your skies be clear!

Ken and his wife, Bev, offer regular public observing nights at their acreage near Didsbury, Alberta.

Information on observing nights and further observing resources are available on their website,

www.WhatsUpTonight.net