Our Celestial Neighbors
Planets and the moon brighten these dark nights
Darkness descends before 4:48 this week, revealing the last visage of Jupiter clinging to the west-southwest horizon. Within a week, the gaseous giant slips from view, not to return to view until the new year, when it emerges before the sun in pre-dawn skies.
Mars rises in the northeast before 8pm and is growing fast as it nears its closest pass to earth come Christmastime. Monday evening Mars rises just after the the waning gibbous moon. By midnight the two are high overhead with less than one and a half degrees separating them. By 3am, the two are directly overhead, and with daybreak they shine high in the west.
Saturn rises at midnight with the constellation Leo. As sunrise nears at 6am, the ringed planet is straight overhead. Less than 10 degrees to the west is Regulus, the heart of Leo the lion.
Just six weeks ago, Saturn and Venus rose in unison. But now Saturn has pulled far ahead of the morning star, which doesn’t rise until 3:15am. Once above the horizon, however, there’s no mistaking Venus, which easily outshines everything but the sun and moon. By comparison, look to the southeast of Venus for Spica, the bluish-white, first-magnitude star in the constellation Virgo. While Spica is the 16th brightest star in the heavens, it pales beside Venus, which shines more than four times brighter.
Saturday marks November’s full Beaver Moon. The paddle-tailed creatures are finishing work on their dens before hunkering down for the winter. Among early Native Americans and settlers, this was time to hunt and trap the thick-furred critters before the waters surrounding their dens freeze over.
Illustration: © Copyright 1925 M.C. Escher/Cordon Art-Baarn-Holland; Graphics: © Copyright 2007 Pacific Publishers. Reprinted by permission from the Tidelog graphic almanac. Bound copies of the annual Tidelog for Chesapeake Bay are $14.95 ppd. from Pacific Publishers, Box 480, Bolinas, CA 94924. Phone 415-868-2909. Weather affects tides. This information is believed to be reliable but no guarantee of accuracy is made by Bay Weekly or Pacific Publishers. The actual layout of Tidelog differs from that used in Bay Weekly. Tidelog graphics are repositioned to reflect Bay Weekly’s distribution cycle.Tides are based on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and are positioned to coincide with high and low tides of Tidelog.