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Huestis: November Skies Have Something for Everyone

Sunday, October 30, 2016

 

“Looking at the stars always makes me dream, as simply as I dream over the black dots representing towns and villages on a map. Why, I ask myself, shouldn’t the shining dots of the sky be as accessible as the black dots on the map of France?” —Vincent Van Gogh, 1889.

While we still cannot physically reach the stars, our spacecraft have probed the distant regions of our solar system. Although marvelous instruments have imaged the universe in all wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum, you and I can experience the majesty of the heavens using our eyes, binoculars, and modest-sized optical telescopes. Fortunately the often clear and transparent skies of November will be host to a wide variety of objects and events to satisfy the exploratory nature of the casual and amateur stargazer alike.

Annually during the first two weeks of November the Earth passes through a stream of debris left in orbit by Comet Encke. These often very bright meteors comprise the Taurid (Northern and Southern) meteor showers. The Taurids are fairly slow and enter our atmosphere at approximately 17 miles per second, resulting in yellow fireballs that often explode and fragment into multiple meteors. Concentrate your gaze toward the constellation Taurus the Bull (find the V-shaped pattern that defines the bull’s face, or locate the Pleiades — the Seven Sisters), but scan around since the Taurids can appear anywhere in the sky. At best, one can expect no more than six meteors per hour.

On Sunday, November 6 at 2:00am, don’t forget to set your clocks and devices (older units don’t automatically accomplish this task) back one hour as we return to Eastern Standard Time (EST) from Eastern Daylight Time (EDT). Everyone knows the phrase, “Spring ahead and fall back/behind.” Failure to fulfill this ritual will result in your being one hour early until you remember to do so.

Furthermore, during the first week of November above the western horizon shortly after sunset, you can still catch a glimpse of Saturn, with brilliant Venus to its left. Higher in the sky to the left you can continue to see reddish Mars. You’ll need a good unobstructed horizon to view Venus and Saturn through a telescope, and Mars is so distant from the Earth at this time that little detail can be viewed on its surface. Throughout this period a waxing crescent Moon will glide above this planetary grouping. Saturn will soon be lost in the solar glare, while Venus will continue to rise higher into a darker sky as the year progresses.

Throughout November one can still observe the Milky Way as it stretches from the constellation Cygnus towards the western horizon. A dark sky will reveal the myriad of stars of our home galaxy, and even a pair of binoculars will show beautiful clusters of stars within its boundaries. And if you have a small telescope, just scan up and down its length with a wide-field eyepiece. You’ll be rewarded with many fine views of dense star fields.

For those of you who have a good view towards the northern sky, Ursa Major (Big  Dipper) sits above the horizon after sunset this month. Watch as the handle of the dipper sinks below the horizon as the constellation rotates counter-clockwise around Polaris, the Earth’s pole star.

Also after sunset you can find the constellation Taurus the bull rising above the eastern horizon. You can recognize this star pattern because it contains two beautiful star clusters. The Pleiades, or Seven Sisters, is easily recognizable, as is the V-shaped cluster called the Hyades. This open cluster contains Taurus’ bright red star Aldebaran, the bull’s eye. Orion rises soon thereafter. Unfortunately that early evening appearance signals that winter will not be too far behind.

On the 14th the closest Full Moon since January 26, 1948 occurs. In recent years the term supermoon has been used to describe a lunar close approach. But a supermoon is really nothing special. The Moon’s elliptical orbit about the Earth produces one perigee (close approach) and one apogee (farthest distance) each month. These extremes vary each time they occur. This upcoming perigee will be the closest (221,524 miles) until November 25, 2034 (221,486 miles). Tides will be high, so let’s hope there are no coastal storms.

Just three days later is the peak of the annual Leonid meteor shower during the early morning hours of the 17th. Unfortunately a waning gibbous Moon on the Gemini/Orion border will overshadow all but the brightest meteors of this display. This scenario is further compromised because the Leonid peak rate is down to its normal level of perhaps 10-15 green or blue shooting stars per hour. The Leonids blaze across the sky at around 44 miles per second as they hit the Earth’s atmosphere nearly head-on. The resulting display produces many fireballs, with about half of them leaving trains of dust that can persist for minutes. The area of sky where the meteors appear to radiate from is in the Sickle (backwards question mark) asterism in Leo. Best of luck in seeing a handful of shooting stars.

And finally, throughout the month, please visit one of the local observatories and ask the telescope operators to show you the two most distant planets of our solar system. Since the demotion of Pluto to dwarf planet status in 2006, those planets now are Uranus and Neptune. These gas giants look like little blue-green disks through a telescope. You won’t see any detail, but you can boast of catching a glimpse of these distant worlds.

Seagrave Memorial Observatory  in North Scituate is open to the public every clear Saturday night. Ladd Observatory in Providence is open every clear Tuesday night. The Margaret M. Jacoby Observatory at the CCRI Knight Campus in Warwick is open every clear Wednesday night. Frosty Drew Observatory in Charlestown is open every clear Friday night year-round. 

Be sure to check the websites of these facilities before venturing out for a visit.

Great American Total Solar Eclipse on August 21, 2017. Countdown: 292 days as of November 1, 2016.  

Keep your eyes to the skies.

 

Related Slideshow: 25 Things You Must do This Fall in New England - 2017

Prev Next

Walk/Jog/Hike Through the Bird Sanctuary

Worcester, MA 

There are some great walking and hiking paths behind the Audubon Society on Massasoit Road in Worcester to visit this fall.

Want to be at peace and escape the city without really leaving the city? Take a brisk walk through the Bird Sanctuary. If you don't feel better by the time you leave there...then turn around and go back in.

The bird sanctuary is located on 414 Massasoit Road in Worcester

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Pumpkin Picking at Jaswell's Farm

Smithfield, RI

The fall season is all about pumpkins. Pumpkin beer, pumpkin pie and most of all pumpkin picking.

Pumpkin picking is a timeless event for families, especially those with young kids who will love to just run around and grab whichever pumpkin looks good to them.

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Attend the Vermont International Film Festival 

Burlington, Vermont

The 2017 Vermont International Film Festival takes place from October 20 to October 29. 

The festival will feature more than 70 films from all over the world as well as panels and discussions. 

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Fall Exhibits at the Boston Children's Museum 

Boston, MA 

The Boston Children's Museum has two special exhibits to celebrate the fall season. 

The first is a dinosaur exhibit titled "Explor-a-saurus," and there is also a "Bubbles" exhibit and a "construction zone."

The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on a daily basis. 

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Leaf Peeping in The Berkshires

Berkshires, MA

Arguably the coolest thing about the fall season is the changing of the leaves. You will want to go up to the Berkshires and stroll through a park or just down a street and take note of all the colors, it's a must do fall activity.

How many colors can you see?

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Attend the Freeport Fall Festival 

Freeport, Maine

The festival will feature more than 130 artists showing off their work ranging from photography oil, watercolor, mixed media and much more.

The festival runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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Enjoy a Glass of Wine at Newport Vineyards

Newport, RI 

Hello grape season! 

It may be getting colder, but for wine lovers, this is the best time of year because it's grape season.

There are many great Vineyards around New England but Newport Vineyards is among the best. 

Enjoy the wine.

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Coppal House Farm

Lee, NH

Not one, not two, but three corn mazes all in one spot. 

The famous triple maze at Coppal House Farm in New Hampshire is fun for all ages!

This year's theme is honey bees for all three mazes.

Built in the mid-1700s, Coppal Farm has horse-drawn carriage rides, pumpkin picking, and tons of other activities on its 78-acre farm.

Prev Next

Drink a Glass or Two or Three of Apple Cider

Across New England

Nothing says fall like drinking nice warm glass of apple cider, or maybe multiple warm glasses of apple cider.

Head over to your local market and buy some, or maybe you know how to make your own or have your own recipe. Either way, drinking apple cider is something to look forward too.

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Last Golf Rounds of the Year at Harbor Lights 

Warwick, RI 

While it may not be summer anymore and you may need an extra shirt or light jacket, there is still time to get some end of season swings in at your local golf course.

The fall season presents some of the best golfing weather that we have all year in New England.

Hit them straight.

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Take a Trip up Mount Mansfield 

Stowe, Vermont

Visit Vermont and take a gondola up Mount Mansfield. Once you get to the top, look back at the spectacular view. There are not to many views like it. 

For travelers, be sure to bring a jacket.

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Coastal Wine Trail 

Across Southern New England

The Coastal Wine Trail is a nonprofit group of 14 wineries that are spread throughout Southeastern New England. 

Vineyards on the trail include Preston Ridge Vineyard in Preston Connecticut, Travessia Winery in New Bedford, Massachusetts, Westport Rivers Vineyard & Winery in Westport, Massachusetts and Coastal Vineyards in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts. 

The heart of the trail is less than three hours from New York City and 90 minutes from Bosto

Prev Next

Visit the Factory of Terror  

Worcester, MA

Check out five attractions at the super spooky Factory of Terror! Clown College, Zella's Hideaway, Zombie Alley, 3D Nightmare and the 13th Haunt all in one place.

This indoor haunted house offers a frightening and spooky experience with realistic, detailed rooms featuring cutting edge special effects and horror creatures at every turn!

Enter at your own risk!

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Last Chance for Al Fresco Dining at Boat House Restaurant 

Tiverton, RI

The views of Mount Hope Bay are unparalleled. Enjoy some wine with a snack or three while watching the sunset.  The chef is known for a well-balanced menu of seasonal treats that uses locally sourced seafood in creative ways.

Celebrate the fall season and eat outdoors one last time. 

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Drink a Fall Beer Before They Go Away 

Across New England

The fall selection of beers is unmatched. 

Whether it's Octoberfest from Sam Adams or a pumpkin pie beer from Newport Storm, it's time to get out to your local bar or store and pick up some of the great fall beers on tap or in stock.

Prev Next

Learning at Plimoth Plantation

Plymouth, MA

The fall season is Plimoth Plantation's busiest time of year and it is a great time to bring the family.

Visit the Wampanoag Homesite, the 17th-Century English Village, Nye Barn, Craft Center, Plimoth Bread Company, Mayflower II, and the Plimoth Grist Mill!

A great way to learn and have fun at the same time.

Prev Next

Visit the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at Roger Williams Park Zoo

Providence, RI 

The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular is a one of a kind fall event taking place at Roger Williams Park Zoo and runs from October 6 - November 6, 2016 and tickets are only sold online.

The display features more than 125 carved pumpkins, featuring designs such as the laughing tree and several others. 

New to this year’s spectacular, Friday – Sunday nights now feature timed ticket entry starting at 5:30 p.m. These tickets will only be sold online.

Prev Next

Last Chance for Outdoor Dining at Caffe Expresso Trattoria 

Worcester, MA

Caffe Espresso Trattoria has been open for more than 20 years as a family owned and operated restaurant. Trattoria offfers authentic Italian home cooking.

Prev Next

International Oktoberfest at Bold Point Park 

East Providence, RI 

International Oktoberfest will take place over Columbus Day weekend at Bold Point Park. 

The festival will include seasonal beer, German cuisine, and live music. 

Prev Next

Ride or Run the East Bay Bike Path 

Barrington, RI 

Put on a comfy sweater and take a fall run or bike ride down this 14.5 mile long path that stretches from India Point Park in Providence to Independence Park in Bristol.

The path connects many towns while providing waterside views nearly the entire way.

Prev Next

Attend King Richard's Faire 

Carver, Massachusetts

Dive into history at King Richard's Faire, New England's oldest and largest Renaissance Festival and most beloved annual fall event. Dress up, play games and learn alot at a faire that is a great fall event for the entire family.

The faire ends on October 23. 

Prev Next

Take a Fall Trip to Block Island

Block Island, RI

As the fall season rolls on, trips to Block Island are winding down.

But at the moment, there is still great weather ahead and great opportunities to get on the ferry and head over to Block Island for the day, or maybe even multiple days.

A fall trip to Block Island is something ou must do this fall.

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Westerly Fall Restaurant Week

Westerly, RI 

Restaurants will offer a three course price fixed meal at $15 for lunch and $25 for dinner. 

Participating restaurants include Venice Restaurant and Lounge, Pleasant View Inn, Amigos and more. 

Prev Next

Book a Weekend Getaway to Twin Farms

Bernard, Vermont 

Take a break, getaway from the daily grind of life and go on a weekend getaway to Twin Farms in Vermont. 

While you are there, there are great opportunities for hiking, biking and just relaxing. 

You will not regret this trip. 

Prev Next

Visit Connecticut's Glass House 

New Canaan, CT 

Construction began on the Glass House in 1949 by architect Philip Johnson and is now a National Trust Historic Site. 

The house is on 49 acres of land which holds 13 other structures and features a collection of 20th century painting and sculpture. 

The foliage surrounding the house makes the fall season a great time to go visit. 

 
 

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