• The Next Full Moon is the Beaver Moon

    Everything I’m about to post here comes from a keyboard in the office next to my cubicle, manned by the brilliant Gordon Johnston. With the approach of every full moon, Gordon sends an email with text similar to what I paste below. I do so with his permission. Enjoy!

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    The next full Moon will be on Thursday, November 10, 2011.  The Moon will be “opposite” the Sun at about 3:16 pm EST and will appear full for about three days centered on this time, from Wednesday morning to early Saturday morning.

    November’s full Moon is known as the Beaver Moon or the Frosty Moon.  November is time to set beaver traps before the swamps freeze to ensure a supply of warm winter furs.  Another interpretation suggests that the name Beaver Full Moon come from the fact that the beavers are now active in their preparation for winter.  This is also called the Frosty Moon, as frosts begin to occur in November.

    As usual, the wearing of suitably celebratory celestial attire is encouraged in honor of the full Moon.

    As for other celestial events between now and the full Moon in December:

    * For most of the night Jupiter will be the brightest object (other than the Moon).  Jupiter was at opposition in late October (effectively a “full Jupiter” appearing opposite the Sun as seen from the Earth).  Jupiter rises around sunset and sets around sunrise. Although the distance between Jupiter and the Earth is starting to increase again after opposition, this is still a good time, if you have a telescope or even a good pair of binoculars, to take a look at the four bright moons of Jupiter.  These moons are named Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.  They are also called the Galilean moons as Galileo was the first person to report seeing them when he turned the newly invented telescope towards the stars.

    * The Taurid meteors, sometimes called the “Halloween fireballs,” occur every year  between mid-October and mid-November. This year, the peak time for viewing is expected to be in the early morning of Saturday, November 5, 2011.  This is not a major shower.  If you are in a dark area away from city lights, and the sky is clear, looking after midnight but before the sky starts to lighten for dawn (before about 6:40 am EDT in the Washington DC area), you might see 10 to 15 meteors per hour.  The Taurids are attributed to debris left by Comet Encke.

    * Saturday, November 5, 2011 (the day before we change to Standard time), in the Washington, DC area, sunrise will be at 7:39 am EDT and sunset will be at 6:03 pm EDT.  This will be the latest sunrise (i.e., darkest morning) of the year.  Later in winter (just after the solstice) the sunrises get close to occurring this late, as the sunrises will be at 7:36 am EST from Thursday, December 29, 2011 through Friday, January 13, 2012.

    * Sunday, November 6, 2011, will be when we “Fall back” an hour for most of the United States with the end of Daylight Savings Time.  For the Washington, DC area sunrise will be at 6:40 am, and sunset will be at 5:02 pm EST.

    * On Tuesday, November 8, 2011, asteroid 2005 YU55 (approximately 400 meters in diameter) will pass by the Earth at about 0.85 lunar distances.  As reported by NASA’s Near Earth Object Program (URL <http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news171.html>) “this will be the closest approach to date by an object this large that we know about in advance and an event of this type will not happen again until 2028 when asteroid (153814) 2001 WN5 will pass to within 0.6 lunar distances.”  Assuming that the object that flattened an estimated 80 million trees covering 2,150 square kilometers (830 sq mi) in 1908 was between 50 and 100 meters in diameter, asteroid 2055 YU55 is 60 to 500 times larger (in volume, at least, which is a pretty good proxy for mass) than the Tunguska impactor.

    * Between Tuesday night, November 8, 2011 and Wednesday night, November 9, 2011, the nearly full Moon will appear near bright Jupiter.

    * On Friday, November 11, 2011, the full Moon will appear between the Pleiades star cluster and the bright orange star Aldebaran (the brightest star in the constellation Taurus the Bull).

    * The Leonid meteor shower is usually one of the better showers of the year, producing an average of 40 meteors per hour at their peak. However, this year the last quarter Moon will be in the sky during the best times for observing, making it much harder to see these meteors.  The shower itself has a cyclic peak year every 33 years where hundreds of meteors can be seen each hour. The last of these occurred in 2001. The shower usually peaks on November 17 & 18, but you may see some meteors from November 13 – 20. Look for the shower radiating from the constellation Leo after midnight.

    * On Monday, November 14, 2011, Mercury will be at its greatest visual separation from the Sun (23 degrees to the east).  Mercury will appear just below Venus, low on the southwestern horizon in the twilight just after sunset (Venus will be the brighter of the two).  You will need a clear view of the southwestern horizon.  For the Washington, DC area, sunset will be at 4:55 pm EDT, civil twilight (mostly dark) by 5:23 pm, nautical twilight (no longer able to use the horizon for navigation) by 5:55 pm, Mercury will set around 6 pm and Venus will set around 6:12 pm (these last two assuming you have a clear view to the “ideal” horizon, which almost none of us have).

    * The Third Quarter Moon will be on Friday, November 13, 2011.

    * Early in the morning on Saturday, November 19, 2011, rising shortly after midnight and riding high enough to clearly see early in the morning, the waning Crescent Moon will appear close to Mars.

    * Thursday, November 24, 2011 (Thanksgiving Day) will be the day of the new Moon.  There will be a partial solar eclipse as the Moon moves between the Earth and the Sun, but this will be visible only from the southern tip of Africa, the southern Indian Ocean, Antarctica, Tasmania, and New Zealand.

    * A few days after the new Moon, when the crescent Moon becomes visible, will be the start of the year 1433 AH under the Islamic or Hijri calendar.  The Islamic calendar is tied to the cycles of the Moon and not to the solar seasons, and each Islamic year is about 11 or 12 days shorter than the Julian or Gregorian year our civil calendar is based on.

    * Friday, December 2, 2011, will be the day of the First Quarter Moon.

    * For the Washington, DC area, Saturday, December 3, 2011 through Sunday, December 11, 2011 will be he earliest sunsets (i.e., darkest evenings) of the year. Rounded to the nearest minute, sunset will be at 4:45 pm EST for these dates. Although the shortest period of daylight is on the Winter solstice, the earliest sunsets occur before the solstice (and if it were not for daylight savings time the latest sunrises would occur after the Solstice).

    * On Monday, December 5, 2011 and Tuesday, December 6, 2011, Jupiter will appear near the waxing Gibbous Moon.

    * On Thursday, December 8, 2011, the nearly full Moon will appear very close to the Pleiades star cluster.

    * The full Moon after next will be on Saturday, December 10, 2011.  This will also be a total eclipse of the Moon, but this will not be visible from the Washington, DC area.

    A note about my sources. I generally search the Web, picking and choosing from different sky calendars.  Because I have found some errors, I usually check events by using multiple sources and by using either <http://www.heavens-above.com/> or <http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/mrst.php>.  Recently I have found <http://www.chabotspace.org/sky-calendar.htm> particularly useful (although it is written from a west coast perspective, so I check to ensure what they describe applies for the Washington, DC area where I live and work).