The constellations Scorpius and Sagittarius are slowly leaving our night skies to be replaced by Orion and its nebulae, and the bright star Sirius. Looking towards the celestial pole you can find the constellations Reticulum, the Net; Hydrus, the Little Water Snake; Tucana, the Toucan; and Octans, the Octant, while the Southern Cross (Crux) grazes the southern horizon before rising again in summer.
Conjunctions are when two astronomical objects appear close to each other in the sky, and this month there are several between the moon and various planets, including November 2 with Saturn, November 5 with Jupiter, November 12 with Mars, and again with Saturn on November 29.
The Leonid meteor shower is active each November, and this year the Leonids will peak late on the night November 17 until early next morning. The shower is called Leonids because its radiant, or the point in the sky from which the meteors seem to emerge, lies in the constellation Leo. The Leonids occur when the Earth passes through the debris left by Comet Tempel-Tuttle, which takes about 33 years to orbit the sun.
On November 8 we will witness the only total lunar eclipse of the year. The moon will start passing into the Earth’s shadow from 7pm when it is still below the horizon as seen from Melbourne. The partial eclipse begins at 8.09pm, and the moon will be fully within the Earth’s shadow from 9.16pm until 10.41pm. The eclipse ends at 12.49am on November 9 when the moon leaves Earth’s shadow again. For a great viewing opportunity, visit the Mornington Peninsula Astronomical Society at the Mount Martha Observatory, where the evening will start with a short presentation about why eclipses happen and when we can expect the next ones. Then head outside to observe the event through our telescopes and get tips on what to look for or how to take photos of the eclipse. Bookings are required and can be completed on our website.
By Nerida Langcake
This article appeared in the November 2022 issue of the Mornington Peninsula Magazine.