Skynotes November 2013

Month Highlights

Venus is the only planet in the evening sky but it shines brilliantly. In the morning sky, Jupiter and Mars can be seen, while at the end of the month, Mercury and Saturn begin to make their way above the eastern horizon.

Now is your chance to catch a glimpse of the Andromeda galaxy. It lies 2.5 million light years away and is the most distant object you can see without a telescope.

Planetarium Highlights

Natural Satellites - Grigoryan Brothers

The Planetarium is hosting a unique music event on Friday 15th. Internationally acclaimed guitarists, Slava and Leonard Grigoryan, will perform the world premier of Natural Satellite. Composed by Stuart Greenbaum, this beautiful guitar-duet was inspired by the moons of our Solar System. As the piece is performed the audience will journey to the different worlds under the planetarium’s dome.

Natural Satellite will be performed at 7.30pm and 9pm on Friday 15th November. See the What's On for more information, pricing or bookings.

Rare Hybrid Eclipse 

On 3rd November an unusual eclipse will be seen from the North Atlantic and Africa. Called a hybrid, some sections of the eclipse path will see a total eclipse while other regions will see an annular eclipse (where a ring of the eclipsed Sun remains visible around the Moon). Such strange eclipses come about because of the curvature of the Earth’s surface, and the eclipse path is also quite narrow. At the height of this eclipse, which occurs over the Atlantic Ocean, totality lasts for only 99 seconds.

Comet ISON

There has been a lot of excitement surrounding Comet ISON ever since it was discovered last September. There’s a good chance that it will be a great comet – albeit, for the northern hemisphere. It is due to pass very close to the Sun on 29th November and, if it survives the encounter, will then swing by Earth. It’s always hard to predict exactly how a comet will behave and ISON is no exception, especially because it is the first time the comet has ventured into the inner Solar System.

Here in Melbourne, the best chance to see the comet will be towards the end of November, as the comet moves towards the Sun and hopefully brightens. It will be very low in the eastern sky before sunrise. The comet will be near the bright star Spica around the 18th and by the 26th, it will be very low to the horizon with Mercury and Saturn.

The most optimistic predictions have the comet becoming bright enough to be seen in the daytime sky around the 29th. If this happens, there’s sure to be lots of interest. But being very close to the Sun, special care will be needed to view it – remember to always protect your eyesight first.

Sunrise & Sunset Times

  Rise Set
Friday 1st 6:13 7:54
Monday 11th 6:03 8:05
Thursday 21st 5:56 8:16
Saturday 30th 5:52 8:25

Moon Phases

New Moon Sunday 3rd
First Quarter Sunday 10th
Full Moon Monday 18th
Last Quarter Tuesday 26th

The Moon will be at perigee (closest to Earth) on Wednesday 6th at a distance of 365,361 km.
The Moon will be at apogee (furthest from Earth) on Friday 22nd at a distance of 405,445 km.

Let the Moon be Your Guide

The Moon can be used as a pointer to find other objects in the sky.

  • The waxing crescent Moon sits between Antares (Scorpius) and Venus after sunset on the 6th.
  • On the 7th, the Moon is directly to the right of Venus.
  • The waning gibbous Moon travels across the sky with Aldebaran (Taurus) on the night of the 18th.
  • On the morning of the 22nd, the Moon is near Jupiter.
  • Before sunrise on the 28th the waning crescent Moon is near Mars.
  • On the 30th, the Moon is just below Spica (Virgo).


Mercury and Saturn just make it above the eastern horizon at the end of the month. A very good view of the eastern horizon on the 26th, may reveal the planets with Comet ISON to the right.

Venus remains the jewel of the evening sky, shining so brightly in the west at sunset. The crescent Moon sits to the right of Venus on the 7th.

Mars begins the month low in the east before sunrise, and Comet ISON will be just to the right. Mars will move higher in the sky and on the 28th the crescent Moon will sit just above the red planet.

Jupiter can be found in the north before sunrise with the twin stars of Gemini, Castor and Pollux, just below. On the 22nd, the Moon is above Jupiter.

Stars & Constellations

Scorpius and Sagittarius are low in the south-west after sunset and will gradually disappear into the twilight. They make way for the summer constellations of Taurus, the bull and Orion, the hunter that are rising in the east.

The Southern Cross is now upside down with the Two Pointers to the right and the bright star Canopus to the left.

In the north, it's possible to see the most distant object visible to the unaided eye, the Andromeda Galaxy. From dark country skies this magnificent spiral galaxy can be seen as a faint smudge just above the northern horizon, sitting below and to the right of the square of Pegasus.

International Space Station

The ISS orbits the Earth every 90 minutes at an average distance of 400 km. From Earth, the ISS appears as a bright star that steadily moves across the sky. It can often be seen from Melbourne, for example at:

5:21am - 5:28am, Sunday 3rd November.

The Station will first appear in the south-west and travel directly overhead passing the bright star Canopus before disappearing in the north-east.

Predictions of when to see the ISS can be obtained from the Heaven's Above website.

On this Day

1st 1977, Chiron, an unusal object in orbit between Saturn and Uranus that is classified as both a comet and an asteroid, is discovered.

2nd 2000, William Shepard (USA), Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko (USSR) became the first residents of the ISS.

3rd 1957, Laika (the dog) became the first animal in space onboard Sputnik 2 (USSR).

7th 1631, A transit of Mercury is observed for the first time by Pierre Gassendi.

11th 1572, Tycho Brahe observed a supernova and showed that it is amongst the stars, proving that the heavens can change.

12th 1981, Columbia (USA) became the first spacecraft to be flown twice.

13th 1971, Mariner 9 (USA) became the first spacecraft to orbit another planet - Mars.

16th 1974, the first intentional interstellar radio message was sent into space from the Arecibo Observatory towards the M13 star cluster, 25 000 light years away (USA/Puerto Rico).

18th 1989, COBE (USA/ESA) the satellite that discovered the remnants of the 'Big Bang' was launched.

21st 1783, J. de Rozier (France) made the first manned balloon flight.

26th 1965, France became the third nation to launch a satellite.

27th 1971, Mars 2's probe (USSR) became the first craft to impact Mars.

28th 1967, Jocelyn Bell (UK) discovered the first known pulsar, initially named LGM1 for "little green men".

29th 1961, Enos' became the first chimpanzee in space onboard Mercury 5 (USA).

29th 1967, Australia became the fourth country to lauch a satellite with WRESAT-1.

30th 1609, Galileo Galilei studied the Moon with a telescope for the first time.

30th 1954, Elizabeth Hodges (USA) is hit by a 5kg meteorite in Alabama, one of the few documented instances of such an incident.

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