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This Week's Night Sky

This Week’s Night Sky: Moon Eclipses the Bright Star Aldebaran

Sky-watchers can see the moon cover a star and look for a Mars, Jupiter, and Venus in a diagonal line.

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At dawn Thursday, the full moon will have a super-close encounter with the bright orange star Aldebaran in the constellation Taurus, the bull. Onlookers in Canada and northern U.S. will even get to see the bull’s "eye" eclipsed by the moon.


Bull and Moon. After nightfall on Wednesday, November 25, the full moon pays a visit to the Taurus constellation.

All night, Earth’s lone natural satellite will appear nestled within the face of the bull that is marked by the bright Hyades star cluster. This loose association of hundreds of stars is distinctly V-shaped, with the bright orange-colored Aldebaran star marking the mythical beast’s angry eye.

Estimated to be about 152 light-years from Earth, the Hyades cluster is among the closest clusters to our solar system, making it also one of the most brilliant in our skies.

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This week, the moon will park itself within the Hyades star cluster, which marks the face of Taurus, the bull constellation.


Bull’s-Eye Eclipse. The next morning, on Thursday, for lucky skywatchers in Canada and the northern United States, the orange giant star Aldebaran will appear to be covered by the moon starting at 5:49 a.m. EST. The star reappears at 6:32 a.m. EST during the brightening dawn, about a half-hour before sunrise.

This stellar disappearing act is best seen with binoculars or a small telescope at a high magnification. Making the view dramatic, Aldebaran appears distinctly orange in color and is 68 light-years away, while our moon is a mere 1.23 light-seconds distant.

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Friday at dawn, look towards the east for a beautiful line-up of Jupiter, Mars and Venus. Venus, the goddess of love, and striking blue Spica appear to sit only 5 degrees apart—about the width of your three middle fingers held at arm’s length.


Venus and the Maiden. Look towards the east at dawn on Friday, November 27, and check out a bright duo. The brightest star-like object in the morning sky, the planet Venus, pairs up with brilliant blue Spica, which is the lead star in the constellation Virgo, the maiden.  

Planet Lineup. A few mornings later, early risers on Sunday, November 29, will notice that Venus is spaced equally in the sky with two other distinctly bright star-like objects, the planets Mars and Jupiter. The planetary trio form a perfect diagonal line.

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This skychart shows the constellation Cancer, where the moon will be located Sunday night.  To the moon’s lower left will be the Beehive star cluster, which is visible to the naked-eye and stunning through small backyard telescopes.

Beehive Cluster. Late evening on Sunday, skywatchers using binoculars and telescopes can spot the moon pointing the way to another bright open star cluster, dubbed the Beehive.

Also known as Messier 44, this 300-star-strong grouping is located in the constellation Cancer, the crab, and is 610 light-years away. At a magnitude of 3.9, it is one of the brightest clusters visible to the naked eye. You can spot it even from city suburbs when the sky is moonless. Sunday night, the moon will be only 8 degrees away from the Beehive—less than the width of your fist held at arm’s length.

Clear skies!

Follow Andrew Fazekas, the Night Sky Guy, on Twitter, Facebook, and his website.

 

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