A crescent Moon and the planet Venus set behind an American flag at sunset on July 15, 2018 in … [+] Bayonne, New Jersey.

Each Monday I pick out the northern hemisphere’s celestial highlights (mid-northern latitudes) for the week ahead, but be sure to check my main feed for more in-depth articles on stargazing, astronomy, eclipses, and more.

Is there anything more beautiful than a super-slim crescent Moon cradling a bright planet? That’s the key attraction in the night sky this week when the Moon and Venus put on a special show before breakfast.

You can kill two birds with one stone by also having a look for the “swift planet” Mercury, which is also making an early morning appearance in the same part of the sky.

Although it’s the early-rising stargazer that gets rewarded this week there’s also a small meteor shower that makes it worth doing some late-night stargazing, though you’ll likely have to stay up past midnight to stand a chance of seeing a “shooting star” or two.

If you’ve never seen the Solar System’s smallest planet then here’s a great chance. Today it reaches its greatest western elongation, its biggest separation from the Sun from our point of view. It presents a special chance to see it since it’s mostly lost in the Sun’s glare. This morning before dawn it will be visible in the eastern sky about 19º from the Sun. Look for it low in the eastern sky just before sunrise—you’re after a small red dot. It will shine at magnitude -0.4. If you have the, binoculars will help you scan the sky. It’s OK to look Wednesday and Thursday, too, but it will be slightly lower, so dimmer.

Can you really see Pluto? Actually, you almost certainly cannot, and yet tonight is ideal if you do know anyone with access to a large telescope. That’s because there’s a conjunction between Jupiter and the tiny dwarf planet. Jupiter takes 12 Earth-years to orbit the Sun while Pluto takes a whopping 248 Earth-years, but tonight they appear to be close to each other from our moving point of view.

A meteor that’s extra-bright and leaves a visible trail is called “fireball” or a bollide.

The early pre-dawn hours of Thursday see the peak of the Northern Taurids meteor shower. It’s not an especially prolific display of “shooting stars,” with only about five or 10 per hour predicted, but if you’re outside stargazing then it’s worth knowing about because it has a tendency to unleash the odd “fireball”.

Watch and wait for bright streaks in a dark night sky—you might just get lucky. What’s more, the Northern Taurids have a fairly long peak so, if it’s more convenient, you can take an hour or so to wait for a fireball before midnight on Wednesday.

This morning will be ushered-in by the magical sight of a 11%-illuminated crescent Moon rising in the east. It will be quickly followed up from the horizon by the bright planet Venus, presently shining in its “morning star” apparition. However, if you wait a bit longer you’ll next see Virgo’s brightest star Spica appear, followed by Mercury.

Today it’s a New Moon, but since it occurs while the Moon is at its monthly “apogee“—the furthest its gets from Earth on its egg-shaped monthly orbit—it’s a “super New Moon.” There’s nothing to see because the Mon is roughly between the Earth and the Sun, but expect big tides.

It’s also the peak night for the lesser-known Iota Aurigid meteor shower, which produces about eight fast-moving meteors per hour. That’s not many, but at least there’s a dark moonless sky—and the peak is such that you can start looking right after dark.

I’m an experienced science, technology and travel journalist and stargazer writing about exploring the night sky, solar and lunar eclipses, moon-gazing, astro-travel,

I’m an experienced science, technology and travel journalist and stargazer writing about exploring the night sky, solar and lunar eclipses, moon-gazing, astro-travel, astronomy and space exploration. I’m the editor of WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com and the author of “A Stargazing Program for Beginners: A Pocket Field Guide” (Springer, 2015), as well as many eclipse-chasing guides.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamiecartereurope/2020/11/08/a-crescent-moon-meets-venus-and-a-super-new-moon-what-you-can-see-in-the-night-sky-this-week/

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