MAINE SKIES

Asteroid to make near miss of Earth in November

Posted Oct. 30, 2011, at 9:34 p.m.

On Nov. 8, an asteroid named 2005 YU55 will pass within 0.85 lunar distances, about 203,000 miles, of the Earth. This is a near miss in astronomical terms. It was discovered in 2005 by Robert McMillan of the Spacewatch Program and is a dark and nearly spherical object about 1,300 feet in diameter. As the future orbits of asteroids can be calculated precisely, astronomers can reassure us that it poses no threat of hitting the Earth for at least another century. The next near miss of Earth by an asteroid takes place in 2028 when asteroid (153814) 2001 WNS passes within 0.6 lunar distances, or a bit over 143,00 miles from us.

Focus on the planets

Mercury is almost directly below Venus at dusk in the southwest about a half-hour after sunset. The two will remain about 2 degrees apart until Mercury fades into the sun’s glare at midmonth.

Venus is low in the southwest at dusk and sets about an hour after sunset as the month opens. Things improve as November progresses but Venus will prove a difficult target this month.

Mars rises in the east shortly after midnight and is highest at dawn. It continues to brighten, but its great distance from Earth will make surface features difficult to discern even by telescope.

Jupiter rises around 7 p.m. as November opens and by 5 p.m. by its end. This is an excellent time to view Jupiter with features such as its belts and four moons easily visible by telescope.

Saturn reappears in the predawn southeastern sky and will be well up on the horizon as November closes. The Saturn ring system continues to tilt and open promising great viewing in the coming months.

Uranus and Neptune are high in the south during the initial nighttime hours in Pisces and Aquarius. The finder charts at SkyandTelescope.com/uranusneptune will help locate them.

November Events

1. Sunrise, 7:13 a.m.; sunset, 5:24 p.m.

2. Moon in first quarter, 12:38 p.m.

6. Change your clocks back one hour as the nation goes from daylight saving time to standard time for the winter months.

8. The moon is at apogee or farthest distance from Earth today. Check the eastern horizon an hour after sunset for Jupiter to the lower left of the nearly full moon.

10. Mars is less than 2 degrees from Regulus well up in the southeast an hour before sunrise. Full moon, 3:17 p.m. The full moon of November is known as the Beaver Moon or Frost Moon.

11. Venus, Mercury and Antares form a tight group low in the southwest about a half-hour after sunset.

16. This is the peak night for the Leonid meteor shower, however, much of this often major shower will be obscured by the moon. Watch during the predawn hours for a few fast-moving, bright meteors that often leave a persistent trail.

18. Moon in last quarter, 10:09 a.m. The moon, Mars and Regulus are close together in the early morning hours.

22. The sun enters the astrological sign of Sagittarius but astronomically is still in Libra. Saturn, Spica and the moon form a left-to-right line in the southeast an hour before sunrise.

23. The sun enters Scorpius on the ecliptic. The moon is at perigee or nearest approach to Earth today.

25. New moon, 1:10 a.m.

30. The sun enters Ophiuchus on the ecliptic, however, this is not one of the standard houses of the zodiac. Sunrise, 6:51 a.m.; sunset, 3:57 p.m.

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