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Watching the Night Sky: November 11

Andrew Fazekas, reporting
November 11, 2011 — Skywatchers this week get a two for one planetary deal with both Mercury and Venus being visible side by side in the low western sky after sunset this week.

Aldebaran is one of the brightest stars in the entire night sky
Aldebaran is one of the brightest stars in the entire night sky

Starting November 11 through the 17 the two inner-most planets in the solar system will be visible to the nakedeye very low in the western horizon half hour to an hour after sunset.

Venus will be easy to spot first, being higher in the sky and the brighter of the two, while Mercury may require binoculars to huntdown through the sunset glare.

Throughout the week the two worlds will appear to be only 2 degrees apart - equal to the width of your thumb at arm's length. But this is an illusion as both worlds lie over 150 million km from Earth and nearly 75 million km of interplanetary space separate the the two bright points of light in the sky.

The planet pair will begin to go their own ways after 17th - Mercury will appear to sink to the horizon while Venus will slowly climb higher in the west, becoming the brightest star-like object in the entire evening sky.

Meanwhile on November 11 afer 10 pm local time watch for the near-full Moon to be sandwiched between two brilliant stellar objects. Above the lunar orb will be the Pleiades star cluster located more than 400 light years away. Binoculars will help reveal 40 or more of the young stellar members that make up this group.

Below the Moon will be a conspicuos bright orange star named Aldebaran. At 60 light years from Earth it is one of the brightest stars in the entire night sky and represents the eye of Taurus the Bull.

The Moon will stay within the borders of the constellation Taurus on both Nov.12 and 13 slowly increasing its distance from Aldebaran.

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