The weather and seeing conditions the past few weeks in October have been spectacular. I heard lots of comments by both residents and visitors about how wonderful the skies were. Jupiter has been putting on a fine show and now that the moon is waning, the Milky Way has been clearly visible almost directly overhead.

Now on to November. This month starts off with the new moon on the 6th which means great viewing conditions until around the 14th when the first quarter moon begins to brighten towards full. On the 21st look for the full moon near the wonderful Pleiades cluster. Before the moon is full check out the Pleiades in the eastern sky after dark. It looks like a fuzzy patch to the naked eye but is one of the most spectacular winters sites through binoculars or a small telescope.

Venus will be a morning ‘star’ this month rising before the Sun in the east. Best time to see the goddess of love will be later in the month when it rises about 3 hours before the Sun and lights up the pre-dawn skies for you early risers. If you are up before dawn on the 4th, Venus and a very thin crescent moon are close together.

Jupiter continues to dominate the night sky and is high in the southeast at sunset. If you have a small telescope look for shadows of the larger moons (Io, Europa and Ganymede) as the cross the giant planet’s surface.

Saturn re-appears in the east and near the end of the month it will be about 30 degrees elevation. Its rings are now much more open adding to its apparent brightness.

Comet Harley is still out there and might brighten enough to be visible to the naked eye. Look for it above and then later below the bright star Procyon. You can get a finder chart here.

Be sure to look for web and NASA TV coverage of the flyby of Hartley by the Deep Impact spacecraft on November 4th.

The annual Leonid meteor shower is back again and peaks before dawn on the 17th. You should be able to see up to 20 meteors an hour under Balsam’s dark skies. Wait until the moon sets around 3 AM.

You may notice a different look for the Skies Over Balsam blog this month. You should now be able to log in with your email address and post questions and comments. I will check it every few days and post replies. You can either access the blog via the Dogstar Observatory web page or directly here.

Thats all for this month. Turn out your lights and go out and enjoy our night skies.

Jim Stratigos
Resident Astronomer