■ Look low in the south-southwest at nightfall for the waxing crescent Moon. It forms a huge, nearly equilateral triangle with Saturn far to its upper left and Altair far to its upper right. Each side of the triangle is nearly four fists at arm's length long.

■ After it's fully dark, look high in the northeast for W-shaped Cassiopeia. The W is standing on end. Below it sprawls Perseus. To find the famous Double Cluster in Perseus, count down the segments of the W starting from the top. The third segment points almost straight down. Follow that direction down by twice its length, and there you are. Binoculars show the little gray cluster-pair fairly easily.

Cassiopeia and Perseus over an aurora-silhouetted forest. Cassiopeia's third segment, counting down from the top, points down to the Double Cluster, two little faint gray glows. The star-pattern of Perseus sprawls below them. 
Daniel Johnson photo.
Cassiopeia and Perseus over an aurora-silhouetted forest. Cassiopeia's third segment, counting down from the top, points down to the Double Cluster, two little faint gray glows. The star-pattern of Perseus is ascending below them. Daniel Johnson.

But Perseus has many other open clusters! One of the nicest is M34 between Algol and Gamma Andromedae (just off the right edge right of the photo above). Use the finder chart with Matt Wedel's Binocular Highlight column in the November Sky & Telescope, page 43. Using large binoculars or a small telescope, Matt writes, "Look for a compact, boxy core surrounded by a ragged outer loop of eight or so 8th- to 10th-magnitude stars. I envision [M34] as a medieval city, ringed by a strong defensive wall. The illusion of a dark moat between the core and the loop is most pronounced in 7x binos [in a black sky], whereas 15 x 70s may fill the gap with a dusting of faint suns, at least in very good conditions."

The Double Cluster itself is closely surrounded by an array of telescopic double stars, obscure clusters, and little asterisms. See Ken Hewett White's Suburban Stargazer column starting on page 54 of the November issue.

■ The Leonid meteor shower, very weak in recent years, should be at its most active late tonight. Your best chance of catching any Leonids at all is in the hour or two before the first light of dawn, when the shower's radiant is highest. There will be no Moon.


■ Orion now clears the east horizon around 8 p.m., depending on how far east or west you live in your time zone. Above Orion shines orange Aldebaran. Above Aldebaran is the little Pleiades cluster, the size of your fingertip at arm's length.

Far left of Aldebaran and the Pleiades is bright Capella.

Down below Orion, Sirius rises around 10 p.m. Sirius always follows along two hours behind Orion, no matter where in the sky they are.


■ This evening and tomorrow evening the Moon passes Saturn while going through first-quarter phase, as shown below. Here are the perhaps the two most popular telescopic objects in the sky, waiting for you just a few degrees apart.

First-quarter Moon passing Saturn, Nov. 19-20, 2023
Saturn is very close to quadrature (exactly so on November 22nd) — as you can tell by the first-quarter phase of the Moon passing it! That's because quadrature means 90° from the Sun, which is also where we see the Moon half lit.

Fomalhaut seems to watch the proceedings from below. But at its distance of 25 light-years, compared to Saturn's 80 light-minutes and the Moon's 1.3 light-seconds, Fomalhaut is actually quite uninterested in their goings-on.


■ First-quarter Moon (exact at 5:50 a.m. EST Monday morning). The Moon accompanies Saturn more closely than it did yesterday, as shown above.

■ The tiny black shadow of Io crosses Jupiter's face from 9:16 to 11:26 p.m. EST, moving across Jupiter from east to west. The side of Jupiter without the Great Red Spot will be facing us.


■ Algol should be at minimum light, magnitude 3.4 instead of its usual 2.1, for a couple hours centered on 10:55 p.m. EST; 7:55 p.m. PST. Algol takes several additional hours to fade and to rebrighten.


■ The east (left) side of the Great Square of Pegasus points down to the Moon this evening.

■ And the Moon itself forms a bigger, wide rectangle with (counting clockwise) Saturn three fists to its right, Fomalhaut below Saturn, and Beta Ceti left of Fomalhaut.


■ Does the Sun already seem to be setting about as early as it ever will? Correct. We're still a month from the winter solstice — but the Sun sets its earliest around December 7th if you're near latitude 40° north, and already the Sun sets within only about 2 minutes of that time.

A surprising result of this: The Sun actually sets a trace earlier on Thanksgiving than on Christmas — even though Christmas is famously close to solstice time!

This offset of earliest sunset from the solstice date is balanced out by the opposite happening at sunrise: The Sun doesn't rise its latest until January 4th. Blame the tilt of Earth's axis and the eccentricity of Earth's orbit.


■ The Moon has moved on to the next giant planet, shining near Jupiter this evening and tomorrow evening as shown below.

Bright Moon passing Jupiter, Nov. 24-25, 2023
The bright waxing gibbous Moon passes Jupiter. Will its light drown out even those brightest two stars of Aries?

■ Algol should be at minimum light for a couple hours centered on 7:44 p.m. EST Friday evening.


■ As the stars come out, the Cassiopeia W stands on end (its fainter end) high in the northeast. Watch Cas turn around to become a flattened M, even higher in the north, by late evening.


■ The Moon is full both this evening and tomorrow evening (because it's exactly full at 4:16 a.m. Monday morning EST). This evening, the glary Moon is just 1° or 2° from the Pleiades for North America. Bring binoculars.

This Week's Planet Roundup

Mercury is still hidden low in the afterglow of sunset.

Venus, a brilliant magnitude –4.3, shines as the "Morning Star" in the east-southeast before and during dawn. It rises a good 2 hours before dawn's first light, a weird late-night apparition coming up over the east horizon.

Mars is out of sight behind the glare of the Sun. It won't emerge into dawn view until around the end of January.

Jupiter (magnitude –2.8, in Aries) dominates the east during early evening and stands highest in the south around 10 or 11 p.m. It sets in the west before dawn begins. In a telescope Jupiter is still a big 48 or 47 arcseconds wide.

Jupiter with the Red Spot on the meridian, Nov. 8, 2023
Jupiter imaged on November 8th by Christopher Go. South is up. On this side of the planet both the South and North Equatorial Belts are turbulent. Note the three smaller white ovals upper left (south preceding) of the Great Red Spot. Between the largest of these and the Red Spot is grayer Oval BA, larger than the white ovals but barely visible here on its similarly gray background. Oval BA recently passed the Red Spot. Which continues to shrink; see Bob King's Jupiter's Great Red Spot Just Keeps Getting Smaller.

Go, an accomplished amateur, took this stacked-video image using a 14-inch scope, a state-of-the-art planetary videocam, and sophisticated processing — in support of NASA's Juno mission, which is imaging smaller parts of Jupiter from up close.

Saturn (magnitude +0.8, in dim Aquarius) glows yellowish high in the south at nightfall. It moves lower toward the southwest as evening grows late. Fomalhaut, similarly bright, twinkles almost two fists at arm's length to Saturn's lower left.

Saturn this week is at quadrature with the Sun (exactly so on November 22nd).

Saturn on Nov 1, 2023, with Rhea and Dione
Saturn on November 1st, imaged by Christopher Go. South is up. Two of Saturn's moons were nearly in conjunction with it: Dione directly above it here, and larger Rhea upper left. Saturn is nearing its November 22nd quadrature (90° from the Sun). So the globe's shadow on the rings behind it (lower right) is nearly at its widest and most prominent.

Uranus, magnitude 5.6 in Aries, hides 13° east of Jupiter. It's just past its November 13th opposition. In a telescope at high power Uranus is a tiny but distinctly nonstellar ball, 3.8 arcseconds in diameter. See the finder charts for Uranus in the November Sky & Telescope, pages 48-49.

Neptune, magnitude 7.8 at the Aquarius-Pisces border, is high in early evening 24° east of Saturn. Neptune is only 2.3 arcseconds wide: harder to resolve as a ball than Uranus, but definitely nonstellar at high power.

All descriptions that relate to your horizon — including the words up, down, right, and left — are written for the world's mid-northern latitudes. Descriptions and graphics that also depend on longitude (mainly Moon positions) are for North America.

Eastern Standard Time (EST) is Universal Time minus 5 hours. UT is also known as UTC, GMT, or Z time.

Want to become a better astronomer? Learn your way around the constellations. They're the key to locating everything fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope.

This is an outdoor nature hobby. For a more detailed constellation guide covering the whole evening sky, use the big monthly map in the center of each issue of Sky & Telescope, the essential magazine of astronomy.

Once you get a telescope, to put it to good use you'll need a much more detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of charts). The basic standard is the Pocket Sky Atlas (in either the original or Jumbo Edition), which shows all stars to magnitude 7.6.

Pocket Sky Atlas cover, Jumbo edition
The Pocket Sky Atlas plots 30,796 stars to magnitude 7.6, and hundreds of telescopic galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae among them. Shown here is the Jumbo Edition, which is in hard covers and enlarged for easier reading outdoors by red flashlight. Sample charts. More about the current editions.

Next up is the larger and deeper Sky Atlas 2000.0, plotting stars to magnitude 8.5; nearly three times as many. The next up, once you know your way around, are the even larger Interstellarum atlas (stars to magnitude 9.5) or Uranometria 2000.0 (stars to mag 9.75). And read How to Use a Star Chart with a Telescope. It applies just as much to charts on your phone or tablet as to charts on paper.

You'll also want a good deep-sky guidebook. A beloved old classic is the three-volume Burnham's Celestial Handbook. An impressive more modern one is the big Night Sky Observer's Guide set (2+ volumes) by Kepple and Sanner.

Can computerized telescopes replace charts? Not for beginners I don't think, especially not on mounts and tripods that are less than top-quality mechanically. Unless, that is, you prefer spending your time getting finicky technology to work rather than learning the sky. And as Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer say in their Backyard Astronomer's Guide, "A full appreciation of the universe cannot come without developing the skills to find things in the sky and understanding how the sky works. This knowledge comes only by spending time under the stars with star maps in hand."

But finding a faint telescopic object the old-fashioned way with charts isn't simple either. Learn the tricks at How to Use a Star Chart with a Telescope

Audio sky tour. Out under the evening sky with your
earbuds in place, listen to Kelly Beatty's monthly
podcast tour of the naked-eye heavens above. It's free.

"The dangers of not thinking clearly are much greater now than ever before. It's not that there's something new in our way of thinking, it's that credulous and confused thinking can be much more lethal in ways it was never before."
            — Carl Sagan, 1996

"Facts are stubborn things."
             John Adams, 1770


Image of BriXMark


November 17, 2023 at 3:08 pm

Can't wait for these!

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November 19, 2023 at 7:52 pm

I did some Jupiter viewing tonight using my 10-inch. Observed 1745-1900 EST. First Quarter Moon 20-Nov-2023 1050 UT. November Sky & Telescope, p. 51 shows Europa occultation behind Jupiter limb 19-Nov-2023 2356 UT/1856 EST. I watched this event tonight using my 10-inch from 86 to 133x views with #58 green filter. Many cloud bands visible on Jupiter and Europa slowly inched closer to Jupiter's limb while I observed. By 2355 UT or 1855 EST, Europa appeared like a bump along Jupiter's limb and then near 2356 UT or 1856 EST, disappeared from view (my cell phone time). I continued to watch until 1900 EST. Skies clear, temperature 5C. A lovely November evening under the stars. I recently cleaned my 10-inch primary mirror and collimated the system. This was a good viewing test tonight. I used TeleVue 14-mm Delos and TeleVue 9-mm Nagler eyepieces. Fun observing at Jupiter this evening 🙂

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mary beth

November 23, 2023 at 1:04 pm

Happy Thanksgiving Rod, to you and your family. Hope everything is going well. Sounds like you’ve had some pretty good weather for viewing. I’ve been enjoying Saturn and Jupiter and we have a great view of Fomalhaut. Seems early to be seeing Capella and Aldebaran, but they are up and bright and beautiful in the late evening!

Let me know if you hear anything from New Jersey Eclipse Fan, thinking of them every day.

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November 23, 2023 at 8:18 pm

Same to you mary beth. I am back now from a wonderful time at my oldest son and grandchildren place. Weather here is generally good, the other day 2 inches of rain but needed. Wet leaves are fun to blow away 🙂 I will be doing more leaf work over the weekend and early next week, blowing, and cutting up and getting rid of them in the pastures.

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