What’s in the night sky this week

Every Monday, I select the northern hemisphere celestial high points (mid-northern latitudes) for the coming week, but be sure to check my main feed for more in-depth articles on stargazing, astronomy, eclipses and more.

What to watch for in the night sky this week: October 31 to November 6, 2022

Next week, a spectacular “Blood Moon” total lunar eclipse will arrive in North America, but before that, settle in for what could be a rare “meteor swarm.” Although this week’s Southern Taurids meteor shower will be marred by strong moonlight – something that tends to dull the effect of seeing ‘shooting stars’ – it will be worth being outside after the dark (anytime) this week just in case there’s a repeat of the extravagant 2015 display. The price could be “fireballs” as Earth moves through dust and debris left in the solar system by Comet 2P/Enke. Dress warmly and look up!

Tuesday, November 1, 2022: first quarter Moon and Saturn

The Moon is always half-lit by the Sun, but from the Earth’s surface it is not. This is because the Moon is constantly in orbit, moving away from the Sun as it waxes until a Full Moon, then toward it as it wanes until a New Moon. Today, it reaches its first quarter phase when it rises at noon (to become an “Afternoon Moon”) and sets at midnight. As it becomes visible in the dark to the south, look 4º above the Moon for the “ringed planet” Saturn.

Friday, November 4, 2022: Moon and Jupiter

Look to the southeast as darkness falls for a waxing gibbous moon that is 87% illuminated. Just 3º above it will be the super bright planet Jupiter.

Saturday, November 5, 2022: Southern Taurida meteor “swarm”

Although active from September 28 to December 2, the Southern Taurids meteor shower is not particularly strong. In fact, you can expect to see a little over 5-10 slow “shooting stars” per hour most years. However, not only will many of them be brilliant “balls of fire”, but 2022 could bring an impressive display of them. Once every seven years there seems to be an explosion of fireballs during the peak of the Southern Taurids. It last happened in 2015.

However, nothing is guaranteed and, in addition, there is another problem. It is much easier to see “shooting stars” under dark skies. This not only means getting away from urban light pollution, but also from strong moonlight. Unfortunately, tonight sees a gibbous crescent moon 93% illuminated, making the hunt for dark skies pointless. It’s one for your garden, wherever you live.

In practice, the Southern Taurid peak is rather loose, so any dark and clear night this week is good for spotting fireballs.

Constellation of the week: Orion

This week’s possible fireballs will appear to come from the east, specifically from the constellation Taurus, “the bull.” However, if you come out around midnight, Taurus will be slightly below the horizon and about to rise. Before that happens, you will see the constellation just above Taurus, the much more recognizable Orion.

Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka – the three stars in Orion’s belt – are its most recognizable stars, with the red star Betelgeuse on the left and the blue star Rigel on the right.

The times and dates listed apply to mid-northern latitudes. For the most accurate location information, check out online planetariums such as Stellarium and The sky live. Check planet-rise/planet-set, Sunrise and moonrise/set times for where you are.

I wish you clear skies and big eyes.

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