What's in the night sky of the week of 14 to 20 November 2022.


Chris Bramley Hello and welcome to Star Diary, the podcast for the makers of BBC Sky at Night Magazine. You can subscribe to the print visiting skyatnightmagazine.com or to our digital edition by visiting iTunes or Google Play.

Ezzy Pearson Greetings listeners and welcome to Star Diary, a weekly guide to the best things to see in the Northern Hemisphere as night sky as we are based in the UK all times are in GMT. In this episode we'll be covering the coming week from 14th to 20th November as episode in the magazine's features editor. And I'm joined on the podcast today by reviews editor Paul Money. Hello Paul.

Paul Money Hello there. Ready for some more treats?

Ezzy Pearson Absolutely. So, Paul, what are your recommendations for the coming week?

Paul Well, we're still following the Moon because unfortunately, you know, it does tend to dominate the sky. Now, obviously, for deep sky fans, you like to get rid of the Moon. But we will come to that. But we begin this week with the waning Moon about the Beehive star cluster in Cancer. Now, you start off late in the evening, around about 10 p.m. when they're higher in the sky, if you do it too early, then they're very low down and they're only just rising and you get all the murk and such. So allow them to actually get higher in the sky before you start observing. And if you do observe later into the night, you'll notice the Moon slowly draw in a line, a northern line in conjunction, as we say, with the cluster itself, and there'll be Gamma Cancri and Delta Cancri as well. So they form that triangle with the beehive cluster, sort of thing, to view. So you've got the cluster itself... the Moon, now that it's no longer full, it won't be dominating quite as badly, won't be flooding the sky with as much light. So you should be able to see the cluster as well as the Moon with binoculars. But bear in mind that when you look directly at the Moon, your eyes will... The irises close down, of course. And when you look towards the deep sky, the cluster, they will take a while to open out again sort of thing to allow the light in. So do bear that in mind. So there we are. But yeah, it's a wonderful cluster. I mean, the Beehive, it is one of those showpiece clusters. I think that the Pleiades and the Double Cluster, those those are probably three of my favourites I have to say in the sky. I always look forward to when it comes back. You know, I'm one of these miserable devils that can't wait for the summer to be over on one of these dark nights of last. Oh, you know, get the telescope out. But I don't mind the Moon I must admit. I don't mind the Moon at all. So that was on the 14th, the next night, really, it's in between. It's sort of like the other side of Cancer. It's between Cancer and Leo. And then on 16th to 17, just before midnight on 16th, look towards the east northeast. That will be the last quarter moon rising and it lies between Regulus and Algieba in Leo. Now the thing about Algieba, it's a wonderful golden pair of stars is a binary system, absolutely stunning system to have a look at, so well worth exploring. And you've got the Moon and you've got Regulus there. Regulus itself is a double star. Quite a contrast though. You've got a bright primary in the main star Regulus, and then the companion is a lot fainter but visible in binoculars if you are careful. So there we are. So we've got Regulus, we've got the Moon at its last quarter and you've got Algeba to actually look at that just before midnight itself sort of thing and then allow them to gradually get higher. As they get higher, of course, the Moon will start to move away. It won't be quite in that alignment with Algieba and Regulus. It'll slowly form more of a triangle such as it does. So now 17th is always... We always get excited on 17th November. Because 17th to 18th is around about the time for the peak of the Leonid meteor shower. Now the Leonids themselves, they're well known because they have a major storm roughly every 33 years and they go bonkers. You know, I mean, we we're talking about thousands per hour can be seen. Now, I missed the last one in 1998. I missed it. So I'm looking forward. I've got ten years left. About 12 years or so before we have the peak next. But I get... I to excite... I'm with two thirds of the way. I can't believe we're already two thirds of the way to the next one. So what's the chances it'll be cloudy when it comes around? However, it doesn't stop us looking at the shower every year and the general numbers are quite low, 15 per hour. Remember, the zenith hourly rate is perfect conditions, looking directly above you, the zenith, under pitch black sky is, you know, in very, I would say, without any atmosphere to make it even darker. But then you wouldn't see any meteors, would you.

Ezzy You wouldn't see a lot if there was no atmosphere to be fair. I mean, you wouldn't have any meteors, because that's what a meteor is. It's a piece of space debris coming through the atmosphere.

Paul Yeah. I mean, at least... At least... Well, if it's in space, it's a meteoroid. If it's actually going through the atmosphere, we see it as a meteor. And of course, if it's big enough to land as a lump, it's a meteorite. Too many sci fi movies and shows have said, Oh, look, there's a meteorite, and you see these things streaking across the sky. And those astronomers were all screaming at the TV going, Oh, no, that's a meteor, not a meteorite. So it's got to land.

Ezzy And I will say it is easy enough to make that mistake, to mis-speak on that when I know I've done that a couple of times.

Paul But the filmmakers and programme makers should do their research. They should contact all says, yeah, we should have us as consultants. But the thing is, even with the zenith hourly rate of 15, you know, if you're lucky you should see a few over the course of the night. I think that's the key and there is a prediction. Now, these predictions are always difficult. They don't always come to fruition. But there is a suggestion that on the morning of the 19th, just before the twilight begins, there could be an enhanced activity. So more meteors. So although its... These are streams. What happens is that a comet... These are from comets Meteors come from comets as a rule and basically this its sort of material that has been released by the comet as it got close to the Sun. That material follows the comet around in its orbit. And if we have to intersect that orbital path, that's when we get the meteors. And the thing is, these streams, these these particles gradually spread out. And so, therefore, you might get patches where there's been an outburst from the comet. So you get this slight patch of enhanced activity and they're getting very clever modelling these now. So this is why it's becoming a lot easier to model them and make it hopefully, fingers crossed, we will see this and it'll help confirm the models.

Ezzy It's actually those when you bring up those models because a lot of the data that was taken from those was a lot of it's done by amateur astronomers at home who are monitoring these. There's professional observatories as well, but there are also people every time there's a meteor shower, they go out and record when and where and how bright they see their meteors are. And that helps researchers map out exactly where these meteor streams are. So that's one of those areas where amateur astronomy can really help with science as well.

Paul And one of our writers, regular contributors to the magazine, Mary McIntyre. Her and her husband, Mark, actually did a feature on DIY meteor watching. And this is the Meteor Watch Network. So yeah, I mean, the thing is, a lot of astronomy in the early days was done by the amateurs, the grand amateurs, as Dr. Alan Chapman would call them. So, you know, it is these down tools so we can still contribute. And I think that's amazing that we actually can still contribute to real science by observing these meteors because the professionals don't have the time or the resources always to monitor these sort of things.

Ezzy And if that's something any of our listeners are interested in getting involved with, please visit at www.skyatnightmagazine.com where we have a guide about how to go about doing that.

Paul We've got a guide for everything, you know. That's why we are they trusted source of astronomical information. Now there will be the moonlight diminishing the number of meteors seen. So that's one of those things. But turning to the Moon, the 18th is an interesting effect. Now the moon appears to wobble too us. Pete Lawrence has done a really good feature in the November issue that is now out. And so therefore, you know, have a look at it because this is called libration and libration is like a slight wobble in the orbit. The moon is slightly eccentric in its orbit and sometimes we see slightly around one limb and this is a good opportunity to see the feature known as Mare Orientale. So the Oriental Sea was right on the limb, but the 18th, 19th are actually a good time to catch a little bit more detail on that. So it'll be worth astrophotographers, especially lunar imagers – they're out there, I know they are – having a go, seeing if you can capture a little bit more of Mare Orientale well worth having a look at. It's fascinating to see the difference because a month later you might not be able to see Mare Orientale all the way, barely any sign of it because of bad libration. So this is the good libration actually for it itself. So there is what we call a favourable libration. Now 18th and 19th also has another... I like unusual events. We hear a lot about the transits of the Galilean moons across the actual surface of Jupiter, or appearing to pass in front of Jupiter. And they are fascinating, no doubt about it. And we often feature these in the magazine. But one that's interesting is when they just miss and Callisto does this and it just its just the fact that it will appear to be directly above and almost touching the northern limb of Jupiter. So to all intents and purposes it will look like there's a star just above Jupiter. But it won't be. It'll be Callisto. So you want to be looking around about 11:30 – and 18th remember this is GMT – for Callisto passing close to the northern limb. And again if you're one of those that like to do animations of Jupiter's cloud tops, do this and show Callisto over the course of a couple of hours moving past the northern limb of Jupiter, something different than the usual "the moon is next to a star or planet". Talking of which on the 20th we end with the Moon actually as a very thin crescent now, but it's extremely close to another really good double but tight double star gamma virginis, Porrima. So this isa... it has to be in the morning and I'm sorry but yes it's 5:00 in the morning. But, you know, sometimes these things are worth it. I mean, the crescent moon itself at that time of morning is gorgeous, you know, so well worth having a look at it sort of thing. And you'll still should be able to see Mare Orientale as well. So another bonus for observing it. But I say Gamma Virginis will be very close. It's one of those things that you'll see with binoculars. You'll probably see the naked eye as well as this little dot next to the Moon. But a telescope will bring out hopefully not just the Moon in its detail, but you'll also start to split Porrima as well. They are fairly tight, but well worth having a look at that, just to finish of the week sort of thing with this wonderful view of the crescent moon and Porrima, Gamma Virginis.

Ezzy So thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us about all of those wonderful things Paul. It does certainly sound like it's a really good week. This week on 14th, you've got the Moon just above the Beehive cluster. Then on 17th to 18th, you've got the Leonid meteor shower will be peaking with perhaps a chance for some enhanced activity on the night of 19th as well. So lots of opportunities to see that one if it does get nice and good this year. Then on 18th libration will reveal Mare Orientale on the moon. You also have the opportunity on that night, around about midnight UK time, to see Callisto as it brushes past Jupiter. Then on 20th you've got the thin crescent moon passing next to the double star Porrima. So lots of great things to see this week. And if you want to keep up to date with the best things you can see in the night sky every week, be sure to subscribe to the Star Diary podcast and we'll hope to see you here next week. If you want to find out even more spectacular sites that will be gracing the night sky throughout the month. Be sure to pick up a copy of BBC Sky at Night Magazine. Well, we have a 16 page pull out Sky Guide with a full overview of everything worth looking out for. Whether you like to look at the moon, the planets, or the deep sky, whether you use binoculars, telescopes, neither. Our sky guide has got you covered with the detailed star charts to help you track your way across the night sky from all of us here at BBC Sky at Night Magazine. Goodbye.


Chris Bramley Thank you for listening to this episode of Star Diary our podcast from the makers of BBC Sky at Night Magazine. For more of a podcast, visit our website at www.skyatnightmagazine.com or head to aCast, iTunes or Spotify.


Elizabeth Pearson
Ezzy PearsonScience journalist

Ezzy Pearson is the Features Editor of BBC Sky at Night Magazine. Her first book about the history of robotic planetary landers is out now from The History Press.