Reading break is coming up, and for many students that means taking the time to catch up on some well-deserved sleep. Jupiter, Mars, Venus and Saturn are still early morning risers this month, but don’t worry if you’re planning to sleep in — there’s still plenty to see in the skies at night.
Nov. 5 marks the start of the Taurid meteor shower, which will be visible through Nov. 12. Meteor showers happen when Earth passes through the debris of a comet — in this case, comet Encke. What we see as “shooting stars” are actually small particles of rock and ice, usually only the size of a grain of sand up to a pebble, burning up on contact with Earth’s atmosphere. Face south to view the Taurids.
The constellation Cassiopeia is prominent in Northern Hemisphere skies. Learn to recognize it in these next two weeks by looking east after full sunset, then straight up at the apex of the sky — known as the “zenith.” Look for a roughly W-shaped cluster of bright stars.
Late Nov. 17 through dawn on Nov. 18 will be the peak opportunity to view the Leonid meteor shower. Be sure to bring patience, warm clothing and a comfortable chair. Find a dark spot and face east. The meteors will appear to emanate from the constellation Leo, which gave them their name. An extra bonus is that the moon will have set by this time of night, which means the sky will be dark enough to offer prime viewing.