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Starwatch column: It's a great month to watch Mars

The full moon will undergo a total eclipse in early November.

Minnesota Starwatch graphic for November 2022
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MINNEAPOLIS — As night falls on Tuesday, Nov. 1, a just-past-first-quarter moon hangs below Saturn, with brilliant Jupiter off to the east. The moon continues to wax as it glides between the two planets on Wednesday, Nov. 2 and Thursday, Nov. 3 and below Jupiter on Thursday, Nov. 4.

Between and well below the planets shines Fomalhaut, dubbed the “loneliest star” due to being located nowhere near any other bright stars. Fomalhaut represents the mouth of Piscis Austrinus, the southern fish, an extremely dim constellation.

November’s full moon undergoes a total eclipse in the early hours of Nov. 8. The eclipse begins at 3:09 a.m., when the moon starts to enter Earth’s dark inner shadow. Totality lasts from 4:16 to 5:41 a.m., with maximum eclipse at 4:59 a.m. The eclipse ends at 6:49 a.m.

As the moon darkens, the bright winter stars come into their full glory, complete with special guest Mars. The Pleiades star cluster glimmers above the moon, and Aldebaran, the eye of Taurus — the bull — shines to the east of the Pleiades. Aldebaran and Betelgeuse — at Orion’s right shoulder — form a nearly equilateral triangle with Mars; the red planet will be the highest of the three.

Mars rises in the northeast about two and and a half hours after sunset on Tuesday and appears earlier every evening. This is a great month to watch Mars, not only because it's rising in convenient evening hours but also because it’s rapidly brightening as Earth gains on it in the orbital race. Mars reaches its peak brightness in early December, when Earth finally catches up to it.

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The Leonid meteor shower peaks after midnight on the mornings of Nov. 17-19. This can be an exciting shower; however, for most of this year’s show a waning but still bright moon will interfere.

The University of Minnesota’s public viewings of the night sky at its Duluth and Twin Cities campuses have been curtailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information visit the Marshall W. Alworth Planetarium: www.d.umn.edu/planet.

Related Topics: SCIENCE AND NATURE
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