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Good viewing of Mercury this month

By Larry Mahon
   Agate Ridge Observatory
   Next Sunday morning, Nov. 4, we will change our lives back to the Standard Time. In this fast-changing world, it is one more biannual adjustment to get used to.
   It will still be dark when many of us tumble out in the morning. Sunrise will be at 6:41 a.m. and sunset will occur at 4:50 p.m., Pacific Standard Time.
   You will be able to turn off your lights an hour earlier in the morning and turn them on an hour earlier in the evening.
   On Nov. 1, the waning gibbous moon, four days past full, rises at 6:46 p.m. PDT in the east-southeast. Just 2 degrees above it is the planet Jupiter. They passed each other a few hours before during our daylight hours.
   Jupiter is the only planet that is visible for most of the hours of darkness this month. Because Jupiter is moving westward in relation to the stars, it will pass even closer to the Nov. 28 full moon an hour after sunset (4:22 p.m. PST) in the east-southeast.
   Venus rises about three hours ahead of the sun as the month begins, but only an hour before sunrise by the end of the month.
   The planet will still be bright, but it has shrunk to only 12 arc seconds in diameter -- almost the planet's minimum values.
   Fast-moving Venus has a surprise for us this month, however. It slips within 0.8 degrees of Saturn on the mornings of Nov. 26 and 27. You will have to look about 45 minutes before sunrise (7:15 a.m. PST) when Saturn is far enough ahead of the sun to view.
   Saturn's ring system has opened and appears to be tilted 18 degrees from edgewise, the most tilt we have viewed from Earth in six years.
   On the morning of Nov. 28, the moon will slide under the Earth's shadow, causing a penumbral eclipse. The faint shading will be at its greatest at 6:33 a.m. PST when the moon is only 6 1/2 degrees above the west-northwest horizon.
   On the morning of Nov. 30, there is an excellent chance to view Mercury an hour before sunrise, 7:20 a.m. PST.
   The planet has brightened to magnitude -0.3. It will be to the lower left of Venus that has passed Saturn four days earlier. Mercury is always close to the morning sun rising or evening setting, so look close to the horizon. Happy Thanksgiving to you all.