Nova Cassiopeiae 2021 was still about magnitude 8.2 as of November 11th, almost 8 months after it erupted. Charts and comparison stars.


■ This evening the Moon shines left of Jupiter and Saturn, forming a gentle curving arc with them.

■ For binoculars: The largest asteroid, 1 Ceres, is currently passing just above the little tilted House asterism in the Hyades, located a finger-width at arm's length west of Aldebaran. At magnitude 7.3, Ceres is not too hard in binoculars. Its path is mapped in the November Sky & Telescope, page 50 (where the date ticks are for 0:00 Universal time, which falls on the evening of the previous date for North America.)

Aldebaran and the Hyades are well up in the east by 9 p.m. standard time, and better by 10. Robert C. Victor points out to us that tonight, "Ceres is passing north of the naked-eye pair Theta-1 and Theta-2 Tauri," the brightest stars of the House. "These stars are 5.5 arcminutes apart, magnitudes 3.8 and 3.4. The 5.0-mag. star 75 Tauri [the House's pointed roof] is 24 arcminutes north of Theta-1. On November 12, Ceres passes within 9 arcminutes north of 75 Tauri. This conjunction takes place in the afternoon for North America, with Ceres moving west by 12 arcminutes per day."

You'll need a low east-northeast horizon to try for Mercury departing and Mars emerging in the dawn. Bring those binoculars! Day by day, Mercury will sink lower and Mars will creep just a little higher. Spica points the way.

To find Spica? It's about three fists at arm's length lower right of brighter Arcturus.


■ Look very high above the Moon for the Great Square of Pegasus. When you face south, the Square is level like a box by about 7 p.m. It's somewhat larger than your fist at arm's length. Its stars are 2nd and 3rd magnitude.

A sky landmark to remember: The west (right-hand) side of the Great Square points far down almost to 1st-magnitude Fomalhaut. The east side of the Square points down toward Beta Ceti not as directly, and not as far.

■ Vega is the brightest star high in the west on November evenings. Its little constellation Lyra extends to its left, pointing as always to Altair, which is currently the brightest star in the southwest.

Three of Lyra's stars near Vega are interesting doubles. Barely above Vega is 4th-magnitude Epsilon Lyrae, the Double-Double. Epsilon forms one corner of a roughly equilateral triangle with Vega and Zeta Lyrae. The triangle is less than 2° on a side, hardly the width of your thumb at arm's length.

Binoculars easily resolve Epsilon. And a 4-inch telescope at 100× or more should, during good seeing, resolve each of Epsilon's wide components into a tight pair.

Zeta is also a double star for binoculars. It's much closer and tougher, but is plainly resolved in a small telescope.

And Delta Lyrae, upper left of Zeta by a similar distance, is a much wider and easier binocular pair. Its stars are reddish orange and blue.


■ In early evening Altair shines in the southwest about halfway up the sky, three or four fists left of brighter Vega. Altair is the only bright star in that area. It's the eye of Aquila, the Eagle.

Just upper right of Altair, by a finger's width at arm's length, is 3rd-magnitude Tarazed. Down from there runs Aquila's dim backbone, along the Milky Way when the sky is dark and moonless.

This arrangement reminds me of another Summer Triangle bird, Cygnus the Swan, whose long neck and backbone also run along the Milky Way. Cygnus currently flies high to Aquila's upper right.

■ Algol in Perseus should be at its minimum brightness, magnitude 3.4 instead of its usual 2.1, for a couple hours tonight centered on 12:36 a.m. EST (9:36 p.m. PST). Algol takes several additional hours to fade and to rebrighten.


■ By about 8 or 9 p.m. Orion is clearing the eastern horizon (depending on how far east or west you live in your time zone). High 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 shines bright Capella.

Down below Orion, Sirius rises around 10 or 11 p.m. No matter where they are, Sirius always follows two hours behind Orion. Or equivalently, one month behind Orion.


■ Around 8 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; the season is tipping to cold.

■ The Leonid meteor shower, typically weak to begin with, should peak very late tonight but will be largely washed out by the light of the waxing gibbous Moon. If you want to try, however, you do have about an hour of moonless darkness between moonset and the beginning of dawn (for the mid-latitudes of North America).


■ Fomalhaut is the 1st-magnitude star twinkling about two fists at arm's length lower left of Jupiter. Whenever Fomalhaut is "southing" (crossing the meridian due south, which it does around 7 p.m. this week), turn around: The Pointers of the Big Dipper stand upright low due north, straight below Polaris.

Also at this time, turn east: The first stars of Orion are soon to rise above the eastern true horizon (for the world's mid-northern latitudes). Starting with the rise of Betelgeuse, it takes Orion's main figure about an hour to completely clear the horizon.

■ Algol should be at minimum brightness for about two hours centered on 9:25 p.m. EST.


■ Full Moon. A weird, borderline partial-almost-total eclipse of the Moon awaits you in the early-morning hours of Friday the 19th if you're in North or Central America; in the middle of the night for parts of the Pacific Ocean; and on the evening of Friday the 19th local date for Australia and the Far East.

Mid-eclipse is at 9:03 November 19 UT (4:03 a.m. on the 19th EST; 1:03 a.m. on the 19th PST; 11:03 p.m. on the 18th Hawaii time). The partial phase of the eclipse begins 1 hour 15 minutes before that time and ends 1 hour 15 minutes after.

The Moon will be near the Pleiades, Hyades, and Aldebaran in Taurus. For more see the article, map, and timetable in the November Sky & Telescope starting on page 48. Or our online story, A Near-Miss Total Eclipse.

Cloudy where you are? Are you on the wrong side of Earth? The Virtual Telescope Project starts a livestream at 7:00 UT Nov. 19 (2 a.m. EST).

The full Moon on the 18th will shine all bright and innocent during the evening for North America, with no hint of what's to come in a few hours.

On the 19th, because the Moon is plotted for well after dark in the Central time zone, we see it here after it has already crossed the Pleiades-Aldebaran line. (As always in these scenes, the Moon is drawn about three times its actual apparent size.)


■ The Moon, just past full, shines in early evening almost exactly halfway between the Pleiades above it and Aldebaran below it, depending on your location. The Moon is precisely in line between them around nightfall for much of North America's East Coast. Holding up a ruler or a pencil to the sky, how accurately can you time the Moon's passage across this line? To mark the center of the Pleiades, pick Alcyone, the cluster's brightest star.

Watch the Moon move farther east of this line hour by hour through the night, as it creeps eternally eastward in its orbit around Earth.


■ Venus and Jupiter, the two brightest celestial objects after the Sun and the Moon, blaze during and after twilight a little less far apart every week. Venus is low in the southwest; Jupiter is high in the south. Saturn glows less than halfway from Jupiter to Venus.

Watch this line of three shorten for the next month.


This Week's Planet Roundup

Mercury, magnitude –1.0, is on the way out, dropping lower into the sunrise glow every morning. Have a last try for Mercury — and a very early try for Mars nearby using binoculars on the morning of the 13th. Start from Spica higher above, as shown at the top of this page.

To find Spica? It's about three fists at arm's length lower right of brighter Arcturus.

Venus, a very brilliant magnitude –4.7, shines in the southwest during and after twilight. This week it's crossing the vastly fainter Sagittarius Teapot. Venus doesn't set now until more than an hour after dark. It will continue to shine just a little higher and brighter through the end of November.

Mars, a mere magnitude +1.6, is emerging deep in the sunrise to begin its next apparition, which will last almost two years. (Mars's opposition, the near-midpoint of the apparition, will come on the night of December 7, 2022 when, by coincidence, the Moon, necessarily full, will occult it for much of North America!)

Mars begins this week in the vicinity of Mercury even lower in the dawn, as shown at the top of this page. Bring binoculars.

Jupiter and Saturn continue to shine in the south during evening, 16° apart in Capricornus. Jupiter is the bright one at magnitude –2.4. Saturn, to its lower right, is mag +0.6. Saturn is the first to set, around 9 or 10 p.m. Jupiter follows it down about an hour later.

Look 22° (two fists at arm's length) lower left of Jupiter for Fomalhaut, the Autumn Star, magnitude +1.2.

Uranus (magnitude 5.7, in southern Aries) is well up in the east by 7 p.m. See Bob King's Uranus Queues Up for Opposition.

Neptune (magnitude 7.9, at the Aquarius-Pisces border) is already high in the southeast at nightfall.

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 (also called UT, UTC, GMT, or Z time) minus 5 hours.

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 magazine of the American Astronomical Society.

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.

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 magnitude 9.75). And be sure to read How to Use a Star Chart with a Telescope.

You'll also want a good deep-sky guidebook, such as the big Night Sky Observer's Guide set 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



Image of Rod


November 12, 2021 at 7:53 pm

A lovely evening along the ecliptic tonight. I may go out later and view Ceres in Taurus but the moonlight is bright now. From this evening view. [Observed 1730-1830 EST/2230-2330 UT. Sunset 1656 EST/2156 UT. Moon phase waxing gibbous. Venus disk 41.4% illuminated, 29.78 arcsecond angular size. Some enjoyable views along the ecliptic early this evening. I used 25-mm plossl for 40x viewing with the 90-mm refractor telescope. Moon filter used on the Moon. Pasture and fields were lit up by bright moonlight this evening. Terminator line with many craters visible like Plato. Tau Aquarii star visible 9 arcminute or so from the lunar limb with earthshine visible and terminator line. Tau Aquarii is 318 LY distance according to Stellarium. Lunar distance about 382662 km according to Virtual Moon Atlas. Telescope true FOV ~ 78 arcminutes, Moon angular size tonight ~ 31.23 arcminute. At Saturn I could see the planet with rings and the moons Titan and Dione (faintly). 40x is okay but more magnification is needed for detailed views. Jupiter was lovely tonight at 40x with cloud bands visible. Ganymede very close to Jupiter’s limb tonight as Ganymede occulted by Jupiter at 2332 UT according to the November issue of Sky & Telescope, Action at Jupiter and Phenomena of Jupiter’s Moons, p. 50-51. Io was very close to Jupiter’s limb on the other side. Io transit begins at 2337 UT. I could see Io and Ganymede very close to Jupiter on opposite sides tonight. Starry Night shows both moons < 10 arcsecond from Jupiter’s limbs when I viewed near 2300 UT. The telescope resolution ~ 7.5 arcsecond. Observing Jupiter, the star 45 Cap close to 11 arcminute angular separation from Jupiter and looked almost like another moon of Jupiter due to its position in the sky relative to Jupiter. Stellarium shows some 176 LY distance. Clear skies this evening with temperature 9C. A fox was out hunting in the woods nearby and let me know by fox barks. A chicken coop some 200 yards away from my location ]

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Anthony Barreiro

November 13, 2021 at 3:53 pm

For the past three nights and mornings I've observed all seven major planets, plus Earth's Moon, Jupiter's moons, and the dwarf planet Ceres, through 10x42 image-stabilized binoculars. From west to east, sunset yesterday to dawn this morning: Venus, Saturn, Jupiter, the Moon, Neptune, Uranus, Ceres, Mars, and Mercury. I call this a solar system bingo.

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November 13, 2021 at 9:16 pm

Anthony Barreiro, *solar system bingo*, this is great! Tonight some grandparents came to my place with their grandson, 11 years old who wore a NASA shirt. We enjoyed views of the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, and Albireo. I used my 90-mm refractor telescope because WNW winds were blowing at times and could bounce the views. The lad said the views of the Moon, Jupiter, and Saturn were better than some pictures he has in textbooks. At Jupiter I used a green filter and also on the Moon. Indeed, we all could see the green cheese tonight 🙂

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mary beth

November 16, 2021 at 12:02 pm

Great to hear that everyone is enjoying the spectacular elliptic! Truly been a spectacular astronomical year! We’ve had wonderful weather here in Texas. It’s also very exciting to see Orion progress on his journey. I make sure I get outside to see Aldebaran and at least Rigel and Betelgeuse before I go to bed. Lots of trees so I have to wait until about 11 PM. The dogs are loving their late night venture; usually they’re tucked in at 9 or 10 pm.I think they’re on the look out for their friend Sirius. The I SS had a short but nice fly over last night and we have three more this week, along with the beautiful gibbous ‘green cheese’!! Rod I hope your friend’s grandson can come down to Texas and visit NASA if he has not already!

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November 18, 2021 at 11:02 am

Way overdue for a "Great" comet. Will 2022 be the year? Keep scanning......

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