Without losing sleep, step out under pre-dawn skies to commune with planet Jupiter and the great star patterns normally seen in the evening skies of winter and early spring.
During the final weeks of Eastern Daylight Time (which ends on November 6th), the sun rises after 7 o’clock, making for dark mornings charged with starlight until about 6:15am on the 18th and 6:30 at month’s end. The brightest celestial objects can be seen later than these times, which are roughly an hour before sunrise.
Planet Jupiter rises earlier and appears higher above the eastern horizon each morning; look from a spot with an unobstructed view to the east. Where buildings block views to the east, look through cross streets.
Above the brilliant planet, notice Regulus, the brightest star of the springtime constellation, Leo the Lion. Regulus is at the base of the backward question mark, or sickle shape, of the Lion’s head.
Gaze to the south, to Jupiter’s right, to be surprised by the stand out, brightest true star in Earth’s sky, Sirius the Dog Star. Pivot slightly to the Dog Star’s right to meet the familiar figure of Orion the Hunter in the southwest. A waning gibbous moon is in the vicinity of Orion the Hunter from the 19th until the 21st.
The Orionid meteor shower, its radiant appearing to be at the upper left of the constellation for which it is named, is forecast to be active from about the 19th through the 22nd, peaking before dawn on the 21st. In dark sky locations, shooting stars might be seen late in the evening and especially during the hours before dawn.
Astronomical twilight is at 5:42am on the 21st, so visibility is prime before that time. The Orion meteor shower is modest under the best conditions. In the absence of moonlight and light pollution, 15 shooting stars an hour are to be expected. This year, the light of the gibbous moon in Orion will interfere with visibility, decreasing the number we might observe to perhaps half a dozen per hour.
The waning crescent moon highlights Regulus on the 25th and Jupiter on the 27th and 28th. New Moon occurs at 1:38pm on the 30th.
In the early evening, close above the southwest horizon, quickly changing patterns are created between Venus, Saturn and Scorpius’ heart star, Antares.
At dusk on the 17th, blazing Venus, the Evening Star, is positioned to the right of red star Antares, which is below Saturn. Venus appears closer to the pair each evening until, on the 27th, they are nearly lined up. Binoculars may help locate Antares in the sunset glow. Venus continues to travel eastward, beyond Saturn and Antares, the latter soon to disappear from view.