— "No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member -
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds -
- Thomas Hood
November might not have flowers and butterflies but it does have three good meteor showers and it may be getting a new shower. This possible new November meteor shower comes from a comet currently passing close to the Earth. Comet Hartley is not visible to the naked eye but in small telescopes it appears as a green glowing cloud. On October 16 two very bright, slow meteors were imaged and both meteors seemed to be traceable back to Comet Hartley. This could just be a coincidence but if the Earth is moving into a debris trail left by Comet Hartley we might expect more meteors November 2–3. The meteors would appear early in the evening from the constellation Cygnus the swan, directly overhead and like the two previously seen, they should be slow. Early in November is a good time to look for meteors since the moon is at crescent phase.
Two modest meteor showers occur the first half of November. The North Taurids peak November 5 and the South Taurids peak about Nov. 12. The Taurid showers both have very broad peaks. Watch for Taurid meteors coming from the constellation Taurus, the Bull, high in the east just after midnight. Both Taurid showers are thought to be debris from comet Encke.
The Leonids meteor shower is the best shower of November and one of the best showers of the year. This year it is predicted to peak about 4:00 p.m., CST, November 17. That is during the day and unfortunately the waxing gibbous moon will brighten the night sky. If you really want to see Leonid meteors, try watching the sky a few hours before sunrise November 17 and 18. Leonid meteors are distinctive because they are very fast. The Leonid meteors are particles from the comet Tempel-Tuttle.
Hurrah! We return to standard time on Sunday, November 7. Officially, set your clock back one hour at 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning. Some digital clocks will reset themselves. Unfortunately some older digital clocks have the old daylight savings time scheme built in and they reset themselves on the last Sunday in October. Do you have one of these? I do.
In the evening Jupiter dominates the sky. It is high in the south just below the four stars that make the great square of Pegasus. But if you are up before sunrise bringing in the newspaper, check out the morning sky. Rising in the east just before the sun is Venus, even brighter than Jupiter. As the month progresses, Venus rises earlier and earlier. Also in the predawn sky to the southwest are the familiar stars of the constellation Orion. We will see Orion in the evening sky in January.
Keep your eyes on the sky in November. Chunks of rock and ice can fall into the Earth’s atmosphere and make a spectacular meteor anytime. On November 30, 1954 at 2:46 p.m. in the afternoon a grapefruit-sized meteorite crashed through the roof of a house, bounced off a radio and hit Elizabeth Hodges of Sylacauga, Alabama as she slept on a couch. She wasn’t seriously injured. This was the first recorded instance of a meteorite hitting a human.
Send comments and questions to Steve Kipp, at firstname.lastname@example.org