diamond geezer

 Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The London Night Sky in November

The London Night Sky in November

As the evenings draw in, November is the perfect month for the London astronomer to get outside and not see very much. Dark-ish skies are polluted by sodium glare, obscuring the mid-autumn spectacles enjoyed by observers in other parts of the country. But fear not Londoners, because there's always something to see up above if you know what to look for.

November diary
3rdLate Diwali fireworks
4thGuy Fawkes (premature)
5thGuy Fawkes (traditional)
6thGuy Fawkes (municipal)
9thlow level dirt-haze
11thdull orange glow
16thHeathrow manoeuvres
17thinvisible meteors
21stFull moon
23rdFuzzy moon
28thfreezing fog
The Moon is a semi-bright object in the evening sky, unless it's slipped behind a tower block (or you live in a basement).
Venus is that faint spot possibly visible above the rooftops, so long as you're not standing too close to the security lights on nextdoor's garage.
Mars and Mercury are clearly seen if you start walking in the general direction of the M25 and keep going.
The Milky Way? In London? Don't make me laugh.

Ordinary constellations such as Ursa Major and Orion the Hunter are not for London. Instead residents should watch out for clusters of airborne lights moving in close formation towards the west. Popular Heathrow-bound constellations include Virgo the Virgin Airbus, Boeing the Flying Horse, and EasyJet Minor.
Even a small telescope should be able to pick out the office lights left on overnight at Canary Wharf.

The highlights of London's November sky are the Firework Meteors, originating from a Catholic supernova in 1605, and repeating at the same time each year as the Earth passes through commemorative debris. Colourful flashes build to a peak around the evening of the 5th, although there are also separate peaks relating to eastern festivals in late October.
Festive Galaxies begin to burn more brightly as the month progresses, especially in the very centre of town. These usually take the form of tightly packed pinpoints of light draped across the street, and are often bedecked with cartoon stars from the Disney firmament.

Reassure yourself that astronomy in London's not dead so long as one star remains. The Sun's still visible, even at this time of year, for a few hours a day, while the weather's good. But until someone finally rids our city of skyglow and lightclutter, sorry, one daytime disc will have to suffice.

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