Leo, Lion, constellation rises in the east about 1 a.m. Ruddy Mars brightens to the right of the star Denebola, Lion's tail, by 1:45 a.m. In predawn the annual Leonid Meteor Shower reaches maximum activity. This year, a bright full moon will reduce the visual hourly rate to 15 Leonids per/hour radiating from the Lion's head from midnight to dawn, diminishing by mid week. Leonids race across the night sky at 160,000 mph (44 mph per second) with bright colorful trains. Equipment required: lawn chair and hot beverage!
The Earth zips around the sun at 67,000 mph and plows head on into the dust tail of Comet Tempel-Tuttle, a visitor to our solar system every 33 years. As the dust particles are pushed into our atmosphere at a tremendous speed they ignite into colorful "shooting stars." Before dawn, aim optical equipment and cameras to the southeast to capture Comet Ison cruising downward 1 degree from the bright star Spica in Virgo. Kite-shaped Corvus, Crow, flies above Spica. Silver Saturn appears below Mercury and Spica. Westbound Jupiter glows near the Gemini Twins overhead. The Beehive cluster shimmers near Jupiter.
The Big Dipper rises higher in the northeast. Its bowl always faces Polaris, North Star. Arcturus, Herdsman, sparkles on the northeastern horizon. Capella guides Auriga, Charioteer, into the northwest. The Seven Sisters (Pleiades cluster) leads Taurus, Bull westward. Aldebaran (Bull's red eye) winks from the V-shaped Hyades cluster (Bull's face). Northern Taurid Meteors may be visible radiating from the Bull. Orion, Hunter, strides westward in pursuit of the Bull. Procyon, Little Dog, follows Orion. Brilliant blue Sirius (nearby star) sparkles in Orion's Big Dog trotting across the south on its hind legs. Canopus radiates rainbow colors from the ancient ship Argo low in the south. Canopus was the navigational star for seafarers in the southern hemisphere. The autumn moon is full at 10:16 a.m. The bright moon rises in the east-northeast at sunset and sets in the west at dawn.
At dawn Mercury reaches its highest altitude in the southeast.
Tonight the moon floats between the Pleiades and Hyades clusters. Brilliant Venus glows high in the southwest. Neptune sails across the southwest in Aquarius followed by Capricornus, Sea Goat. Blue-green Uranus drifts across the south in Pisces, Fish. Aries, Ram chases Pegasus, Winged Horse, overhead. The star clusters Pleiades and Hyades shimmer in the east in Taurus, Bull. The Royal Family reigns in the north: Cepheus, Cassiopeia, Andromeda and Perseus. Capella brings Auriga higher in the northeast. Bright Jupiter rises in Gemini mid-evening. Orion, Hunter, awakens in the east. Vega leads the Summer Triangle across the northwest. Cygnus, Swan becomes the Northern Cross.
Comet Ison cruises between Spica and Mercury in the southeast.
Brighter Mercury glistens 3 degrees above silver Saturn. Comet Ison lies 5 degrees right of the planets.
Compiled by Barb Yager, Southern Cross Astronomical Society, 305-661-1375, scas.org