FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 4
■ The waxing gibbous Moon shines with Jupiter this evening, as shown below. They're only about 2° to 4° apart at the times of evening in the Americas.
They're both prime targets for small telescopes! Most scopes will usually show at least the tan North and South Equatorial Belts on Jupiter's dazzling whiteness, and of course its own four big moons on either side of it (except when one of them is hidden behind Jupiter, passing in front of it, or eclipsed in its shadow). Consider, as you look, that each of those four is roughly the size of our own Moon so much closer in the foreground.
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 5
■ Around 10 p.m., depending on where you live, zero-magnitude Capella rises exactly as high in the northeast as zero-magnitude Vega has sunk in the west-northwest. How accurately can you time this event? Sextant not required. . . but it would help.
■ Daylight-saving time ends at 2 a.m. Sunday morning for most of North America. Clocks fall back an hour to standard time.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 6
■ Jupiter lights the southeast after dark. Look below it by almost two fists for a 2nd-magnitude orange point. This is Diphda (Beta Ceti), the Frog Star. That's what the name means in Arabic. Almost halfway between them is fainter Iota Ceti, magnitude 3.5.
Look two or three fists right of Diphda and there's 1st-magnitude Fomalhaut, the Mouth of the Fish: the Alpha star of the Southern Fish, Piscis Austrinus. Jupiter and these three stars form a big right triangle.
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 7
■ Full Moon tonight and tomorrow evening. It's exactly full at 6:02 a.m. Tuesday morning EST, about halfway between these two evenings for the time zones of the Americas.
■ Total eclipse of the Moon before and/or during Tuesday dawn for most of North and Central America. The farther west you are, the higher the Moon will be and the longer the sky will remain fairly dark. From Asia through Australia, the eclipse will be seen on Tuesday evening local date.
Timetable: Partial eclipse begins at 4:09 a.m. Tuesday the 8th Eastern Standard Time (9:09 on the 8th UT); total eclipse begins 5:16 a.m. EST; mid-eclipse is at 5:59 a.m. EST; total eclipse ends 6:42 a.m. EST; partial eclipse ends 7:49 a.m. EST. The first and last penumbral shading on the Moon may be detectable for 30 or 40 minutes before and after the partial stages — if the Moon is up at your location and the sky is not too bright.
For more info, a map, and a detailed timetable see Bob King's Last Total Lunar Eclipse Till 2025. Watch Livestream coverage. Also, see Roger Sinnott's Useful Projects for a Lunar Eclipse: "Here’s all you need to know to help us measure the size of Earth’s shadow during the second lunar eclipse of 2022."
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 8
■ Jupiter's Great Red Spot transits the planet's central meridian around 8:18 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Then Jupiter's fastest big moon, Io, crosses Jupiter's face from 8:25 to 10:39 p.m. EST, followed by Io's tiny black shadow from 9:25 to 11:38 p.m. EST.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 9
■ The Moon, just past full, rises in bright twilight and shines in the east after dark. Once it's well up look for the Pleiades above it (binoculars help through the moonlight), Aldebaran is below it, and bright Capella two or three fists to its left, out of the frame below.
As the Moon gets higher, bright orange Mars comes into view about two fists to its lower left.
■ Two bright stars, same distance. Vega is the brightest star high in the west. Shining from 25 light-years away, Vega is a fast-rotating A star, larger and hotter than the Sun. We see it almost pole-on.
Now turn to the south. From bright Jupiter, look about three fists lower right. There's Fomalhaut. It too is a hot A star, but it looks only a third as bright as Vega. In this rare case, that's because it really is a third as luminous! Vega and Fomalhaut happen to be at the same distance from us: 25 light-years.
Lined up between them, counting left from Vega, are Altair and Saturn. Altair is 17 light-years away. Saturn, a totally different creature, is currently 81 light-minutes away.
■ Happy 88th birthday, Carl Sagan (November 9, 1934 – December 20, 1996). If only.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 10
■ The waning gibbous Moon shines over showy Mars tonight. Notice that they form a triangle with Beta Tauri to the Moon's left, as shown above. Watch this triangle change shape as the hours pass; the Moon creeps eastward (toward lower left) along its orbit by approximately its own diameter every hour. Note: In the illustrations here the Moon is always drawn about three times its actual apparent size.
■ The Summer Triangle Effect. Here it is November, but Deneb still shines near the zenith as the stars come out. And brighter Vega is still not too far west of the zenith. The third star of the "Summer" Triangle, Altair, remains high in the southwest. They seem to have stayed there for a couple of months! Why have they almost stalled out?
What you're seeing is the result of sunset and darkness coming earlier and earlier during autumn. Which means that if you go out and starwatch soon after dark, you're doing it earlier and earlier by the clock. Your earlier viewing time counteracts the seasonal westward turning of the constellations.
Of course this "Summer Triangle effect" applies to the entire celestial sphere, not just the Summer Triangle. But the apparent stalling of that bright landmark in the fall sky inspired Sky & Telescope to suggest that name for the effect many years ago, and it stuck.
Of course, as always in celestial mechanics, a deficit somewhere gets made up elsewhere. The opposite effect makes the seasonal advance of the constellations seem to speed up in early spring. The spring-sky landmarks of Virgo and Corvus seem to dash away westward from week to week almost before you know it, due to darkness falling later and later. Let's call this the "Corvus effect."
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 11
■ The waning gibbous Moon rises less than an hour after nightfall is complete, now with Mars shining to its upper right, as shown below.
■ Saturn is at eastern quadrature today, 90° east of the Sun. Therefore, for a week or two before and after, a telescope shows the black shadow that Saturn's globe casts on its rings as wide and prominent as the shadow ever gets.
Do you know why? The answer is at the bottom of this page.*
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 12
■ Spot bright Vega in the west in early evening. Its little constellation Lyra extends to its left.
Somewhat farther left, about a fist and a half at arm's length from Vega, is 3rd-magnitude Albireo, the beak of Cygnus. This is one of the finest colorful double stars for small telescopes: yellow and pale blue.
Farther on along roughly the same line you come to 3rd-magnitude Tarazed and, just past it, 1st-magnitude Altair.
This Week's Planet Roundup
Mercury and Venus are hidden in conjunction with the Sun.
Mars, magnitude –1.4 in eastern Taurus, clears the east-northeast horizon soon after dark, then gains altitude for most of the night. Once it's up in view in the east there's no missing it; Mars now outshines every star but Sirius (which only rises around 10 p.m.). Mars's fiery yellow-orange color helps give it away.
Mars will again pass slowly between the horntips of Taurus, Beta and Zeta Tauri, but moving westward this time. (It's just past the first stationary point of its retrograde loop against the background stars, on its way to opposition on the night of December 7-8.) Mars will shine exactly between Beta and fainter Zeta on November 13th.
Mars-colored Aldebaran, only an eighth as bright at magnitude +0.9, sparkles to Mars's upper right by 15°, about a fist and a half at arm's length. A similar distance to the planet's lower right is Mars-colored Betelgeuse. But color perception in astronomy can be tricky. Read "Seeing the True Colors of Mars," a lesson for astronomers from a chemist, in the November Sky & Telescope, page 52.
In a telescope Mars is now 16 arcseconds wide, almost the 17.2 arcseconds it will display around its closest approach to Earth on December 1st.
Jupiter blazes white high in the southeast at magnitude –2.8, in dim Pisces south of the Great Square of Pegasus. It's about three times brighter than Mars! Jupiter stands highest in the south around 8 or 9 p.m. standard time. In a telescope it's still a big 46 arcseconds wide.
Saturn, magnitude +0.7 in Capricornus, glows highest in the south at dusk. As night progresses, it moves lower toward the southwest and sets around 11 p.m. standard time.
Uranus, magnitude 5.6 in Aries, is at opposition on November 9th. It's up in the east in good binocular or telescope view by mid- to late evening, displaying a tiny, very slightly greenish-gray disk 3.8 arcseconds wide. It a telescope at high power, it's obviously non-stellar in all but the very worst seeing. See the Uranus finder charts in the November Sky & Telescope, page 49.
Neptune, magnitude 7.8 at the Aquarius-Pisces border, is high in the evening about 7° west of Jupiter. It's just 2.3 arcseconds wide, again non-stellar in a telescope but requiring a little more effort than Uranus. See the Neptune finder charts in the September Sky & Telescope, page 49.
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 Daylight Time, EDT, is Universal Time minus 4 hours. Eastern Standard Time, which begins Sunday morning November 6th, is UT minus 5 hours. (Universal Time is also called UT, 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 an easy-to-use 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 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 stars to magnitude 7.6.
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 magnitude 9.75). And be sure to 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 a computerized telescope replace charts? Not for beginners, I don't think, and not on mounts and tripods that are less than top-quality mechanically, meaning heavy and expensive. 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."
Audio sky tour. Out under the evening sky with your
earbuds in place, listen to Kelly Beatty's monthly
podcast tour of the 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
* Answer to why Saturn's shadow on the rings appears widest at quadrature: It's because when we see an outer planet 90° from our line of sight to the Sun (at quadrature), the angle between the sunlight illuminating the planet and our line of sight to the planet is the greatest it ever gets. So, we see as far around the edge of the planet's night side as we ever can.
For the same reason, quadrature is when Mars appears its most gibbous, when Jupiter's east and west limbs appear lit their most unequally, and when the eclipses of Jupiter's moons into and out of Jupiter's shadow occur farthest away from Jupiter's limb.
Extra bonus points: Can you prove why quadrature is when this happens? Calling geometry whizzes! If you come up with a proof, please post it or a link to it in the comments here. A shortcut: Although the planets' orbits are slightly elliptical, you can treat them as circles centered on the Sun for this purpose. Comparing the time of quadrature to the exact time of a planet's minimum phase angle (angle of illumination) in an almanac shows that the circular-orbit shortcut is definitely good enough for practical purposes.