Neptune, the eighth planet out from the sun and outermost of the major planets according to the International Astronomical Union, is the only major planet in our solar system that you absolutely can’t see with the unaided eye. It’s near the moon on the night of November 28, but because of the moonlit glare, you won’t see Neptune very well, even if you have a telescope. What will you see? Only the moon shining in all its splendor. You can gaze at it and imagine Neptune nearby.
Although the moon and Neptune are close together on the sky’s dome tonight, they’re nowhere close in space. The moon resides about 1.2 light-seconds from Earth, whereas Neptune looms way out there at over four light-hours away. In other words, Neptune is over 12,000 times farther away than the moon in tonight’s sky.
A Perseid meteor streaks between the two Magellanic Clouds. Photo by Colin Legg.
You’ll see the Small Magellanic Cloud from Earth’s Southern Hemisphere. It’s even farther to the south than its larger cousin, the the Large Magellanic Cloud . These two hazy patches in the southern sky are really separate galaxies from our Milky Way. They are satellite galaxies to the Milky Way, orbiting around it. Follow the links inside to learn more about the Small Magellanic Cloud.
Mira, as seen by NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer. Mira’s comet-like tail, discovered in 2007, stretches 13 light-years in space.
The star Omicron Ceti – aka Mira – in the constellation Cetus varies in brightness like clockwork over 11 months. That’s why, for centuries, stargazers have called it Mira the Wonderful.
Thursday night’s moon and Mars appear in the evening sky as soon as darkness falls.
For the second time this month, the moon today swings to perigee – nearest point to Earth in its orbit. A blue moon perigee? Just kidding! The moon is at 369,827 kilometers (229,800 miles) distance today, farthest perigee until September 13, 2017.
Tonight … November 26, 2014 … the waxing crescent moon and planet Mars still appear close together in the evening sky. On this date, the twosome will be found near the sunset point as darkness begins to fall.
The waxing crescent moon and the red planet Mars appear in the southwest sky at nightfall on Tuesday evening. Be sure to check out these worlds shortly after they sun goes down. They’ll follow the sun beneath the horizon by mid-evening.
Skywatcher, moon, planet from Predrag Agatonovic.
This month, Mars is lighting up early evening. Mars is near the moon November 24-26. Meanwhile, bright Jupiter is out from midnight until dawn. Mercury and Saturn in sun’s glare in late November. Have you seen Venus yet?
Look low in the southwest as darkness falls to catch the red planet Mars above the thin waxing crescent moon. The moon will be even closer to Mars at nightfall on November 25. Mars is the only planet that’s easily visible to the unaided eye as darkness falls on these November 2014 evenings.
The Geminid meteors radiate from near star Castor in Gemini.
Next up … the famous Geminid meteor shower in December. In 2014, the last quarter moon moon will interfere. You can try watching in the evening, before moonrise around midnight. And we encourage you to stick around and watch after midnight, too, despite the moon. These meteors are bright! Best night will likely be the evening of December 13 until dawn on December 14. Try the night before (December 12-13), too.
Meteor flying straight from Gemini’s two brightest stars, Castor and Pollux, during the 2012 shower. Photo by Mike O’Neal in Oklahoma.
The peak night of the 2014 Geminid meteor shower will probably occur on the night of December 13 (morning of December 14). The night before (December 12-13) may offer a decent sprinkling of meteors as well. And you could try watching on December 14-15, if all else fails. The meteors tend to be few and far between at early evening, but intensify in number as evening deepens into late night. Don’t let the late-night moonlight discourage you from watching after midnight, or during the peak viewing hours. Geminid meteors are bright!