By Dr. Rolly Chiasson
Hi fellow sky folks; it's your Sky Guy.
What shall we talk about this month? Let's do one more about a star/s, and then we'll leave that for a few months - maybe there could be a surprise at Christmas.
For now let's explore a star called Aldebaron. On your next clear night, look in the east, perhaps 20 degrees up from the horizon and you will see a set of horns, just like on a bull, but lying on its side. Indeed, this is the horns of Taurus the Bull, in that constellation. The star at the end of the bottom horn is Aldebaron, that we mentioned above.
Incidentally, all the stars in the horns, and in and around the horns are part of a star cluster called the Hyades - in space terms, a cluster that is very close to us, but more on that in a future discussion.
Aldebaron is, however, not part of the Hyades. It just looks to be.
Aldebaron is a red/orange giant star - a very old star that was once like our sun, and what our sun will become in several billion years as it ages and uses up its hydrogen fuel. It is 65-light-years distant, and remember again, a light year is 6 trillion miles or 9.6 trillion kilometres, ouch! That's a big distance.
Its name means "The Follower", perhaps it follows the Pleiades, another star cluster - often called the Tiny Dipper - or the Seven Sisters - above the horns of Taurus.
Aldebaron has an orange/red tinge because it is a cooler star at its surface. But it is big. If we placed Aldebaron where our sun is, the earth would be engulfed, and it would reach out to the planet Mars - that's big. It has about 140 times the lumens or light output of our sun.
It was one of the four Royal stars of the ancients along with Antares, Regulus and Fomalhourt (which we discussed last month). So, enough of Aldebaron for now. It will come up again in another discussion.
What can we see in the sky this month. Well we're still waiting for comet ISON that I have mentioned before. It hasn't made its grand entrance yet, but if all goes well, it will do so in the southeast near the rising sun around the end of November. Always remember - don't look at the sun.
In the evening, Venus stands high in the south southwest most of the month and is quite bright. Venus actually goes through phases just like the moon, but you'll need a telescope or powerful binoculars to see this.
Jupiter is an evening planet now at the first of the month, it rises 4.5 hours after sunset but earlier as the month goes on. Binos will reveal usually two to four of the Galilean moons - tiny diamonds circling big Jupiter.
Mars is there in the morning now, halfway up in the southeast to south southeast, before sunrise. Also, in the morning, Mercury can be seen with careful viewing in the east southeast, by Nov. 8. Finally eight or nine days later, Saturn pulls into view to the lower left of Mercury.
That's if for now. See you in a month.
Dr. Rolly Chiasson of Summerside is "Your Night Sky Guy."