This is the Saint Louis Science Center’s NIGHT SKY UPDATE for the week of Friday, November 27, 2020.

Information updated weekly or as needed.

Times given as local St. Louis time which is Central Standard Time (CST). For definitions of terminology used in the night sky update, click the highlighted text. If relying on times posted in Universal Time (UT), St. Louis is now -6 Hours from UT.

Public Telescope Viewings

Star parties at the Saint Louis Science Center have temporarily been canceled due to recommendations from the CDC regarding COVID-19. All public telescope events are canceled until further notice. As conditions change, we will reevaluate and update this article once public observing events resume.

Observing Highlight of the Week

Moon Phase on November 30, 2020
Credit: NASA, SVS

The highlight for the week of November 27 is the Moon. On November 30, the Moon will reach full moon. We will also see a penumbral lunar eclipse as the Moon passes through part of Earth’s shadow. Unfortunately, these are not the best type of lunar eclipses for visual astronomy, but they are worth checking out. The Earth’s shadow has two parts. The inner core of the shadow is called the umbra. If the Moon fully enters this part of Earth’s shadow, we see a total lunar eclipse. If it partially enters the umbral shadow, we see a partial lunar eclipse. On November 30, the Moon will only enter what is called the penumbra. This is the lighter outer portion of Earth’s shadow that will only lead to subtle darken of the lunar surface. This go around, the Moon will almost entirely be inside the penumbral shadow so this month’s lunar eclipse will be better than the one we saw earlier this year.

The eclipse lasts from 1:32 a.m. – 5:53 a.m. with maximum eclipse occurring at 3:42 a.m. You will find the Moon high in the west during the eclipse, positioned between the Hyades and Pleiades star clusters in the constellation Taurus. More information can be found at www.eclipsewise.com

The Sun and Moon


The Moon as seen from the International Space Station, on July 31, 2011.
Credit: NASA

Sunrise is at 6:57 a.m. on Friday, November 27 and sunset is at 4:41 p.m. providing us with less than 10 hours of daylight. Even after sunset, the light from the Sun will dimly illuminate our sky for about 1 hour and 30 minutes. This period is called twilight, which ends around 6:15 p.m. this week. For those with a sundial, local noon occurs around 11:49 p.m. this week.

DaySunriseSunset
2020-11-27 6:57 a.m.4:41 p.m.
2020-11-28 6:58 a.m.4:41 p.m.
2020-11-29 6:59 a.m.4:40 p.m.
2020-11-30 7:00 a.m.4:40 p.m.
2020-12-01 7:01 a.m.4:40 p.m.
2020-12-02 7:02 a.m.4:40 p.m.
2020-12-03 7:02 a.m.4:40 p.m.
2020-12-04 7:03 a.m.4:40 p.m.
2020-12-05 7:04 a.m.4:40 p.m.

Moon 

Visible passes of ISS from St. Louis for the week of November 27 occur during evening hours. The best pass this week occurs on the evening of December 5. Use the table below for information about this and other visible passes this week.

International Space Station (ISS) Observing

Credit: NASA

Visible passes of ISS from St. Louis for the week of November 20 occur during evening hours. The best passes this week occur on the evenings of November 21 and 22. Use the table below for information about these and other visible passes this week.

Catch ISS from St. Louis starting Friday, November 27

Date Starts  Max. altitude  Ends  
TimeAlt.Az.TimeAlt.Az.TimeAlt.Az.
03 Dec-1.6 18:18:2810NNW 18:19:4416N 18:19:4416N
04 Dec-1.8 17:31:1210NNW 17:33:1415NNE 17:34:2113NE
05 Dec-2.8 18:19:4010NW 18:22:0534N 18:22:0534N

Magnitude (Mag): The Measure of brightness for a celestial object.  The lower the value is, the brighter the object will be.

Altitude (Alt):  The angle of a celestial object measured upwards from the observer’s horizon.

Azimuth (Az):  The direction of a celestial object, measured clockwise from an observer’s location with north being 0°, east being 90°, south being 180° and west being 270°.

For information about ISS flyovers and other visible satellites, visit www.heavens-above.com

Detailed information regarding all unmanned exploration of our universe, missions past, present, and planned, can be found at Jet Propulsion Laboratories:

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/

The Visible Planets


Looking South, at 6:00 pm, November 27, 2020
Credit: Stellarium, EG


Looking Southeast, 6:00 am, November 28, 2020
Credit: Stellarium, EG

This week, four naked eye planets are visible. Jupiter and Saturn are found in the southwest once it is dark. Mars is found high in the east after sunset. Venus can be found in the eastern sky before sunrise.

For those tracking Jupiter and Saturn as they approach their great conjunction later this year, the two gas giants currently appear about 2.38° apart in the sky. From now until December 21, Jupiter will appear closer to Saturn each night.

Venus

Venus rises at 4:35 a.m. and will be easily seen by 5:30 a.m. Venus remains a morning object until March 26, 2021 when it reaches superior conjunction. Since Venus has passed greatest western elongation, it is exhibiting a gibbous phase.

Mars

Currently Mars appears as a -1.2-magnitude object that will be visible in the east about 30 minutes after sunset. Mars sets by 2:53 a.m. We are still near enough to Mars that surface features are visible through telescopes. Earth is moving away from Mars which means Mars is getting fainter each night. The observing season for this apparition ends around March 10, 2021 and superior conjunction occurs on October 7, 2021.

Jupiter

Look for Jupiter in the south about 30 minutes after sunset. Jupiter will set at 8:07 p.m. Those with a telescope can enjoy views of Jupiter’s cloud features and the Great Red Spot when it is pointed towards Earth.

Saturn

Look for the ringed planet in the south about 30 minutes after sunset. Saturn sets at 8:20 p.m. For those with a telescope keep track of the orientation of Saturn’s rings. Since Saturn is tilted on its rotational axis, we cross the plane of Saturn’s ring every 13 to 15 years.  We are headed towards another ring plane crossing on March 23, 2025. Over the next five years you will notice Saturn’s rings will gradually incline towards an edge on appearance.

Uranus

Uranus is not a planet we normally include in this section. Even at its dimmest, the giant planet does hover within naked eye visibility. That said, it is so close to the visible limit of the human eye it just is not reality for most of us to see Uranus without binoculars or a telescope. Uranus is just past opposition and as such, it is still easy to spot. You can find Uranus in the constellation Aries the Ram. The current magnitude for Uranus is 5.7. A finder chart for Uranus can be found here.

2020 Great Conjunction

This year the planets Jupiter and Saturn will reach conjunction.  A conjunction is when two or more celestial bodies share the same right ascension.  For Jupiter and Saturn this astronomical event occurs every 20 years. The conjunction occurs on December 21, 2020.  You will find the two planets close together in the southwest just after sunset on this date.

Visit the James S. McDonnell Planetarium for more information on what’s up!

Night Sky Update: November 27-December 5, 2020