This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2019 November 30 – December 7

By 1930 the borders of 88 constellations had been set to cover the entire sky by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the overlords of all things astronomical. Many constellations were created by stargazers in Babylonia more than 6000 years ago, later to be adopted and expanded by the Greeks. Claudius Ptolemy’s second-century treatise, The Almagest, included a star map which included 48 constellations, most of which survived the IAU. A few centuries ago many constellations were made up for the newly “discovered” skies of the deep southern hemisphere and to fill in gaps in the familiar northern hemisphere. In New Brunswick we get to see all or parts of 66 constellations, but some are rather elusive.

Two of the gap-fillers lurk between the traditional autumn and winter constellations in the northeast these evenings, and they can be as difficult to see as their namesakes in New Brunswick. Stretching between Ursa Major and the Gemini-Auriga pair is a sparse zigzag of stars making the Lynx. Just as you are unlikely to see a lynx near urban areas, you need to be in a rural region to spot Lynx. Between Lynx and the semicircle of Cepheus, Cassiopeia and Perseus is the enigmatic and tough-to-pronounce-after-a-few Camelopardalis, which of course is a giraffe. With its head near Polaris, a critter this far north should have been a reindeer. Before you have a few, go out and see if you can locate them.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 7:39 am and sunset will occur at 4:35 pm, giving 8 hours, 56 minutes of daylight (7:41 am and 4:43 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 7:47 am and set at 4:33 pm, giving 8 hours, 46 minutes of daylight (7:49 am and 4:41 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is at first quarter on Wednesday, making this a great week for lunar observing. Mercury is still readily visible in the morning sky, extending its eastward distance from Mars from 10 to 15 degrees over the week. The eastward motion of Mars relative to the stars keeps it about midway between Mercury and Spica. In the evening sky, Venus zooms from 1/3 to 3/4 of the distance from Jupiter to Saturn. By midweek, Jupiter is situated where the Sun will be on the first day of winter.

The Saint John Astronomy Club meets in the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre on December 7 at 7 pm. All are welcome.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason at nasonc@nbnet.nb.ca.

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