As the evening sky wheels around in late autumn, a mythic drama plays out in the stars above. Taking center stage, almost directly overhead at nightfall, is Cassiopeia, the Queen.

Cassiopeia as rendered by Johannes Hevelius
In Greek mythology, Cassiopeia is a queen whose boasts about her beauty land her and her royal family in big trouble.
Source: Johannes Hevelius

During November, skygazers at mid-northern latitudes have front-row seats to one of the great dramas of Greek mythology. The royal family of boastful Cassiopeia and her husband Cepheus soar high overhead. Nearby is their daughter Andromeda, chained to a rock and seemingly doomed. But Perseus, the hero of this saga, swoops in to save her.

Follow these constellations throughout the night as they wheel around Polaris, the North Star. Also high up is Pegasus, the Winged Horse, easily recognized by the Great Square of stars that mark its upper body.

Meanwhile, the only planet visible immediately after sunset is Mars, lurking very low in the southwest. Venus and Saturn are both lost in the Sun's glare. If you are up around midnight, watch for Jupiter rising in the east.

Arriving around mid-month, right on schedule, is the Leonid meteor shower, so called because the streaks of these shooting stars appear to radiate from the constellation Leo. Normally it’s a pretty modest display best seen before dawn on the 17th and 18th.

You can get a personal tour of the stars and constellations overhead on November evenings by downloading the 6-minute-long stargazing podcast below.

Download the podcast here.

There's no better guide to what's going on in nighttime sky than the November issue of Sky & Telescope magazine.


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