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Huestis: November Sky Events

Saturday, October 28, 2017


Each day the Sun is setting earlier and earlier as we approach the northern hemispheres Winter Solstice on December 21. Amateur astronomers can begin observing immediately following suppertime. The skies of November are usually clear and transparent, allowing stargazers at every interest level to explore the heavens to best advantage. Today I’ll highlight a few sky events that will lure you out into the cool fall air to experience some astronomical delights.

First, many folks were confused that October’s full moon on the 5th was called the Harvest Moon instead of the Hunter’s Moon. This anomaly occurred because the Harvest Moon is the only full moon that derives its title based on astronomical circumstances. It is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox—beginning of fall, which occurred back on September 22. Traditionally September is the full Harvest Moon.

However this year September’s full moon occurred on the 6th, 16 days before the equinox. Therefore, since the October 5 full moon was closer to the equinox, only 13 days after, it became the Harvest Moon…the first time since 2009. September became the full Corn Moon, another agricultural reference. So as best as I can determine, there was no Hunter’s Moon in 2017.

During the first couple weeks of November the Earth passes through a stream of debris left in orbit by Comet Encke. These often very bright yellow fireballs (meteors that explode and fragment into multiple pieces) comprise the Taurid meteor shower. The Taurids are fairly slow and enter our atmosphere at approximately 17 miles per second. You can expect no more than a half dozen shooting stars emanate from the sky in the constellation Taurus. To locate Taurus find the V-shaped pattern that defines the bull’s face, or locate the Pleiades — the Seven Sisters.

One very important “event” to note will occur on Sunday, November 5 at 2:00am. That’s when we set our clocks back one hour as we return to Eastern Standard Time (EST) from Eastern Daylight Time (EDT). Everyone knows the phrase, “Spring ahead and fall back/behind.” Use that hour to catch up on your sleep!

Later that same day you’ll be able to observe the waning gibbous Moon pass in front of (occult) Taurus’ bright star Aldebaran. As the moon slides eastward (left) through the sky it will cover Aldebaran at around 8:03pm along the Moon’s bright edge. While this event can be seen with the naked-eye, binoculars can provide a better view. However, a telescope with medium magnification will enhance the experience as the star slowly winks out behind the lunar profile. Aldebaran will reappear along the Moon’s dark limb at approximately 8:58pm.

On the mornings of November 12-14, early risers will see a conjunction (close pairing) of Venus and Jupiter only a few degrees above the eastern horizon during twilight. Venus will be the brighter of the two planets. They will be at their closest on the 13th, being well less than one full moon diameter apart. And on the 15th a very narrow waning crescent Moon may be visible about five degrees above the then separated Jupiter and Venus.

In addition, on the night of November 17-18, the peak of the annual Leonid meteor shower occurs. While this shower displays high numbers of meteors every 33 years, we are not close to one of those meteor storm years. Even though there will be a New Moon which won’t brighten up the sky, we  can expect about 10-15 green or blue shooting stars per hour between midnight and dawn on the 18th.

The Leonids blaze across the sky at around 44 miles per second as they hit the Earth’s atmosphere nearly head-on. The resulting display produces many fireballs, with about half of them leaving trains of dust that can persist for minutes. The area of sky where the meteors appear to radiate from is in the Sickle (backwards question mark) asterism in Leo. Best of luck in seeing a handful of shooting stars.

And finally, if you’d like to get a glimpse of our solar system’s innermost planet Mercury, then give it a try during evening twilight on the 24th. It will be only five to eight degrees above the southwest horizon, but it should be visible. Use Saturn, which will be about six and a half degrees above it, to locate Mercury.

Seagrave Memorial Observatory in North Scituate is open to the public every clear Saturday night. Ladd Observatory in Providence is open every clear Tuesday night. The Margaret M. Jacoby Observatory at the CCRI Knight Campus in Warwick is open every clear Thursday night. Frosty Drew Observatory in Charlestown is open every clear Friday night year-round.

Enjoy the crisp autumn weather as you explore the beauty of our universe.

Keep your eyes to the skies.


Related Slideshow: 20 Things to Look Forward to This Fall in New England - 2017

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The Changing of the Leaves

One of the cool things about the fall season is the leaves on the trees and the colors that they change too.

According to smokeymountain.com, prime foliage season in New England is late September into early October.

Look forward to an enjoyable walk around the neighborhood and see how many different colors you can pick out, or just enjoy the beauty.

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Pumpkin Picking

The fall season signifies the return of pumpkins. Pumpkin beer, pumpkin pie and most of all pumpkin picking.

Pumpkin picking is a timeless event for families, especially those with young kids who will love to just run around and grab whichever pumpkin looks good to them.

Jaswell's Farm or Barden Family Orchard are great places to get started.

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The Big E 

The Big E in West Springfield, Massachusetts features a circus spectacular, Mardi Gras parade, agricultural competitions, arts & crafts, food contests, live music, and midway. 

The Big runs from September 15 to October 1. 

Click here for more information

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Great Pumpkin Festival 

The Great Pumpkin Festival at the EcoTarium in Worcester is a must attend this fall in New England. 

The event features more than 1000 carved pumpkins, live entertainment, family fun with trick-or-treating, displays and more.

Click here for more information

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Sam Adams Octoberfest Beer

One of the fun things about the changing of seasons is the changing of beer flavors and with fall comes Sam Adams Octoberfest.

The Oktoberfest idea was born in 1810 when Munich celebrated the Crown Prince's wedding with a 16-day party with a special beer.

Sam Adams builds off of that idea with a beer that is perfect for the season.

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Phantom Gourmet Food Festival

The Phantom Gourmet Food Festival is an event to look forward too and it will be held on September 12 from 12- 4 p.m. on two streets next to Fenway Park.

Tickets are $40 in advance and online and will go up to $50 at the event.

The ticket includes sampling 100 of Phantom's foods from hot dogs and pizza to pulled pork and more. Beer and wine will be served on the street.

Get more information here.

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The New England Patriots Return

The NFL returns and that means the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots are back. 

The Patriots have won two of the last three Super Bowls and are heavily favored to win another this season. 

The Patriots kick off their season on Thursday, September 7 against the Kansas City Chiefs. 

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Apple Picking

A great fall family event, especially those with young kids, is apple picking.

Nothing more fun than grabbing the nicest looking apple that you can find, giving it a quick wash off and then biting into it. Delicious.

Farm Fresh Rhode Island and Phantom Farm are two great places to go and pick yourself some apples in Rhode Island.

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Columbus Day Festival on Federal Hill

Filled with great music and even better food, the Columbus Day Festival is a fall event to look forward to every season.

The feast will take place from October 7 through October 9. 

Click here for more information.

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Fall Boat Ride to Block Island

Though the summer weather is winding down, there is still great weather coming and great opportunities to get on the ferry and head over to Block Island for the day, or maybe even multiple days.

Fall trips to Block Island are something to look forward too.

Click here for more information.

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Wearing Fleece

For those nights, or days, where it's just a bit cooler out, there is nothing more comfortable than throwing on a fleece jacket and settling in for a fun day ahead.

The arrival of fall means it's time to start breaking those jackets out.

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Drinking Apple Cider

Can't you already taste it? The sweet taste of apple cider returns with the fall season.

Head over to your local market and buy some, or maybe you know how to make your own or have your own recipe. Either way, drinking apple cider is something to look forward too.

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Attend Waterfire in Providence

Summer may be nearing the end, but Waterfire 

Waterfire is the premiere event in Providence and if you haven't gotten to one yet during the summer or fall season, now is the time to plan.

Waterfire is a great night out with different vendors, music and other entertainment lining the city streets while the river is lit up by the fire. For a really romantic and fun night, hop on a gondola ride.

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The Return of Your Favorite TV Shows

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However, the return of the fall season means the return of all the popular TV shows like Gotham, Game of Thrones, Arrow and several others.

Look forward to having something to watch at night after a long day at work.

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Who's not looking forward to Halloween? Not looking forward to dressing up as your favorite character or as just a very spooky looking person and going out and collecting candy to last you days, months and longer.

Who isn't looking to forward to decorating their houses to make it the creepiest house on the block.

Halloween is great for kids and adults alike and is certainly something to look forward to.

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Great Golf Weather Remaining

The end of Summer does not mean the end of golf season.

The fall is a great time of year for golfing at Harbor Lights or any of the courses across the state.  

The fall offers some of the best golfing weather of the year, not too hot and not too cold. 

Golf season has not left.

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Harpoon Brewery Oktoberfest in Boston

Harpoon Brewery will hold their 27th annual Octoberfest from September 29 through September 30. 

The event will feature Harpoon brews, bratwursts, chicken dancing and German chocolate cake eating contests as well as Oompah music.

Harpoon Brewery is located at 306 Northern Ave in Boston.

Click here for more information or for tickets.

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Roger Waters at TD Garden 

One of the musical highlights of the fall season is rock n' roll legend Roger Waters coming to Boston's TD Garden. 

The former Pink Floyd star will play two shows in Boston, the first on Wednesday, September 27 and the second on Thursday, September 28. 

Click here for more information 

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King Richards Faire 

Dive into history at King Richard's Faire, New England's oldest and largest Renaissance Festival and most beloved annual fall event. Dress up, play games and learn a lot at a fair that is a great fall event for the entire family.

The Fair runs from September 2 through October 22. 

Click here for more information 

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Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at Roger Williams Park Zoo

What better way to spend a fall evening than strolling through Roger Williams Park Zoo and viewing some cool Jack-O-Lanterns. 

The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at Roger Williams Park is a Rhode Island and New England Fall staple featuring thousands of illuminated pumpkins from October 5 to November 5 with admission from 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. 

Click here for more information 


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