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Venus outshines Mars

Venus continues to shine brightly near the southwestern horizon at dusk. On Friday it will be at its greatest angular (elongation) distance from the sun. Look a day or two before this and it will be at half phase (dichotomy) in a telescope. Galileo was the first person to observe that Venus has phases like our moon.

The glare of Venus overwhelms Mars, to its right, because Venus is closer and larger. As Mars and Venus slowly move apart this month, they will be joined by the crescent moon.

Look to the southeast at dusk to find Saturn as the only bright object in this region of the sky. Around 9 p.m. it will be in the south. Upon nightfall Nov. 11, Saturn and the moon will be very close, with an occultation having occurred a little earlier. The rings are a magnificent sight in a telescope this month.

Jupiter's four largest moons, discovered by Galileo, can sometimes be seen about Jupiter's equator with a steady set of binoculars. Notice Jupiter is to the lower right of the moon Friday as the sky darkens.

Mercury is near the horizon in the southwest the last week of November, and it is at the greatest angular distance from the sun Nov. 28. Since it is the innermost planet, it is never far from the glare of the sun.

Uranus and Neptune can be found, using binoculars, to the lower right of Jupiter in the early evening. Thus all the planets except Pluto can be seen in the evening sky this month.

The Leonid meteor shower has a burst of activity. Unfortunately, moonlight is a problem this year in the morning hours of Nov. 17, but it will still be worth the effort to see the brighter meteors. Bring your binoculars to see smoke trails left by some of these bright, swift meteors. The Leonids occur when the Earth moves into the debris left by the comet Tempel-Tuttle.

At the planetariums

The planetarium at St. Petersburg Junior College (St. Petersburg campus) is open Friday nights at 7 and 8:15. The observatory is open afterward if the sky is clear. "Our Planetary Neighbors" shows through Nov. 21. The planetarium is closed Nov. 28. "Yuletide Skies" will be shown Dec. 5, 12 and 19. All shows are free.

Bishop Planetarium in Bradenton features "Destination Mars," with results from the recent Pathfinder mission. The shows are daily at 1 and 4 p.m. and Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30. The observatory will be open afterward Fridays and Saturdays.

The Saturday morning junior astronomers program is "The Little Star That Could" at 10:30 with a museum program, "Fishing! Calusa-Style," afterward.

The Saunders Planetarium at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa continues with "Voyager Encounter" and "Larry Cat in Space." "Tis' the Season" opens Nov. 27, and "The Mars Show" opens Dec. 20.

With the holidays around the corner, there is a class on how to purchase and use a telescope on Nov. 20 (and Jan. 8) at 7 p.m. If you own a telescope and need help, bring it to class. A small fee will be charged.

MOSIMAX is showing Ring of Fire and Africa: The Serengeti. Grand Canyon opens Dec. 19.

Celestial updates

Timesline keeps you in touch daily with a short astronomy feature. Use your push-button phone to call the number assigned to your area (found on today's TV page) and enter category code 7827 (STAR).

November sky calendar

TODAY: At dusk Venus and Mars form a duo in the southwest with the crescent moon above Venus.

THURSDAY: Venus is at greatest (elongation) angular distance from the sun at 47 degrees. Notice Mars to the right of Venus.

FRIDAY: First quarter moon.

NOV. 11: Saturn is very near the lower left of the moon in the evening sky.

NOV. 12: Moon is at a perigee (closest) of 225,793 miles.

NOV. 13: Mercury is near Antares.

NOV. 14: This full moon is called the Beaver Moon.

NOV. 15: The red giant star Aldebaran is to the upper right of the moon.

NOV. 17: Leonid meteor shower peaks in the morning sky with moonlight seriously interfering.

NOV. 20: "How to Purchase and Use a Telescope" class at MOSI, 7 p.m. $10-$15 fee.

NOV. 21: Last quarter moon.

NOV. 23: The moon is at apogee (greatest distance) of 251,470 miles.

NOV. 25: Mars is still to the right of Venus at dusk.

NOV. 28: Mercury is at a greatest elongation of 22 degrees.

NOV. 29: New moon.

Daryl L. Schrader is an astronomy and mathematics professor at St. Petersburg Junior College and teaches astronomy at the University of South Florida.

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