■ The Moon shines near bright Jupiter this evening and tomorrow evening, as shown below. They are the two brightest things in the evening sky.

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

■ Algol in Perseus should be at its minimum brightness, magnitude 3.4 instead of its usual 2.1, for a couple hours centered on 7:44 p.m. EST Friday evening. Comparison-star chart.

At any random time you glance up at Algol, you have only a 1-in-30 chance of catching it at least 1 magnitude fainter than normal.


■ 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.


■ Full Moon, both this evening and tomorrow evening (because it's exactly full at 4:16 a.m. Monday morning EST, about halfway between).

This evening the glary Moon is just 1° or 2° from the delicate Pleiades (evening for North America). Bring binoculars.


■ Vega still shines brightly well up in the west-northwest after dark. The brightest star above it is Deneb, the head of the big Northern Cross formed by the brightest stars of Cygnus. At nightfall the shaft of the cross extends lower left from Deneb. By about 11 p.m., it plants itself more or less upright on the northwest horizon.


■ The Moon, just past full, rises in the northeast in mid-twilight. Bright Capella, magnitude 0, sparkles about two fists to the Moon's upper left. As night deepens, watch for Beta Tauri, magnitude 1.6, to come into view only about a fifth as far to the Moon's upper right.

Moonrise tonight is special. That's because the Moon is just about as far north on the celestial sphere as you can ever possibly see it.

Why is this? First, the Moon is at the northernmost part of the ecliptic (which is at the Gemini-Taurus border); the ecliptic is inclined 23.4° with respect to the celestial equator.

Second, this evening the Moon stands 4.3° north of the ecliptic itself. That's less than 1° from the Moon's greatest possible ecliptic divergence; its orbit is inclined to the ecliptic by 5.14°.

That farthest-north side of the Moon's orbit precesses westward around the entire ecliptic with a period of 18.6 years (the "precession of the lunar nodes"). Tonight everything lines up; this year the north edges of both tilts nearly coincide, and tonight that is where the bright almost-full Moon stands.

So as twilight fades, note carefully where the Moon comes up over your horizon. You've probably never seen it rise that far north over your landscape and you might never again, at least when it's this close to full.


■ As dawn begins to brighten Thursday morning, look east for Venus having a rather distant conjunction with Spica as shown below. They're 4¼° apart.

Venus and Spica in conjunction at dawn, Nov. 30, 2023
You can imagine Venus waving to Spica as they pass.


■ Now that the Pleiades and (below them) Aldebaran are shining due east after dark, can Orion be far behind? Orion's entire iconic figure, formed by its seven brightest stars, takes about 1 hour 20 minutes to clear the eastern horizon. By 9 or 10 p.m. it's up in fine pre-winter view.


Two faint fuzzies naked-eye: The Andromeda Galaxy (M31) and the Perseus Double Cluster are two of the most famous deep-sky objects. They're both cataloged as 4th magnitude, and in a fairly good sky you can see each with the unaided eye. Binoculars make them easier. They're located only 22° apart, very high toward the east early these evenings — to the right of Cassiopeia and closer below Cassiopeia, respectively.

But they look rather different, the more so the darker your sky. See for yourself. You can find them by carefully using the all-sky constellation map in the center of the November or December Sky & Telescope.

Saturn and Fomalhaut toward the end of evening twilight, early December 2023
Catch Saturn and Fomalhaut in the south as the stars come out. Once the sky is completely dark, look for the big, dim, boat-shaped pattern of Capricornus to their right. (The blue 10° scale is about the width of your fist held at arm's length.)

Alpha Capricorni at the pattern's west (right) end is a wide optical double. Binoculars will show that its two orange stars are currently aligned almost horizontally.


■ The Summer Triangle is still pretty high right after dark. Vega, its brightest star, shines in the west-southwest. Deneb is about two fists above it. Altair is farther to Vega's left.

Above Altair by hardly more than a fist is little Delphinus, the Dolphin. Closer to Altair's upper right is smaller, fainter Sagitta, the Arrow. Binoculars help! Both constellations are about 5° long, so they will just fit into the field of view of most binoculars.

■ Polaris is, as always, due north. This is the time of year when the Little Dipper extends lower left from it in early evening. The only moderately bright stars of the Little Dipper are Polaris and Kochab, the star marking the lip of its bowl. Both are 2nd magnitude. They're 17° apart. How much of the rest of the faint Little Dipper can you make out between them, if any, given the quality of your sky?

By about 11 p.m. Kochab has swung to be straight under Polaris.


■ M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, passes your zenith sometime around 8 p.m. (if you live in the mid-northern latitudes). The exact time depends on how far east or west you live in your time zone. Binoculars will reveal the dim little glow of M31 just off the knee of the Andromeda constellation's stick figure. See the big evening constellation chart in the center of the December Sky & Telescope.

■ The waning Moon, nearly last quarter, rises around 10 or 11 p.m. in the east-southeast. As it gains height, catch an early sighting of Regulus, usually thought of as a star of late winter and spring, 3° or 4° to the Moon's right.

Regulus is the brightest star of the Sickle of Leo, which extends upper left from Regulus (the bottom of the Sickle's handle) by a fist at arm's length or a little more.

This Week's Planet Roundup

Mercury, magnitude –0.4, glimmers very low in the southwest in early twilight. Look for it about 30 or 40 minutes after sunset. Binoculars help. Nothing else in that area is nearly as bright.

Venus, brilliant at magnitude –4.2, shines as the "Morning Star" in the southeast before and during dawn. It rises above the eastern horizon about 2 hours before dawn's first light.

This week Venus is passing Spica, which is only 1% as bright. On the morning of November 26th look for Spica 6° below Venus. They appear closest together on the morning of the 30th, with Spica now 4° to Venus's lower right.

Mars is out of sight behind the Sun.

Jupiter (magnitude –2.8, in Aries) is that bright white dot dominating the east in early evening. It stands highest in the south around 9 or 10 p.m. 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 took this stacked-video image using a 14-inch scope, a state-of-the-art planetary videocam, and sophisticated processing.

Saturn (magnitude +0.8, in dim Aquarius) glows yellowish high in the south at nightfall. Fomalhaut, similarly bright, twinkles almost two fists at arm's length to Saturn's lower left. Saturn declines toward the southwest as evening progresses and sets by about 11. So get your telescope on it early!

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 just past its November 22nd quadrature (90° from the Sun), so the globe's shadow on the rings (lower right) is still nearly its widest and most prominent.

Uranus, magnitude 5.6 in Aries, shyly beckons 13° east of Jupiter. In a telescope at high power Uranus is a tiny but distinctly nonstellar ball, 3.8 arcseconds in diameter. Use 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 mary beth

mary beth

November 24, 2023 at 1:27 pm

So interesting about the northern most moonrise! Thank you for this valuable information!

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November 28, 2023 at 9:36 pm

I would think the December Full Moon might be just as high since it occurs closer to the June Solstice point - where the Northern Hemisphere Summer Sun rises furthest north - and the exact time of opposition is just a couple of hours after moonrise. ... I just checked and tonight moonrise for Los Angeles occurred with the Moon's Right Ascension at 5hr 53min (the Solstice point is at 6hr 00min). The Moon will have an R.A. of 6hr 23mins when it rises as seen from Los Angeles on Dec 26th, just a tad further from the solstice point. For New York the RAs at moonrise are 5hr 41min for Nov 28th and 16hr 16min on December 26th

Also, the author pointed out that the Moon is almost as far north of the Ecliptic as it gets.

In early 2025 the Moon's ascending Node will lie at the March Equinox point, and orbit will be furthest north of the Ecliptic at the location in Gemini where the June Solstice point where the sun is furthest north of the Celestial Equator. The Full Moon for December 2024 is during the night of the 14th/15th and the Moon will be about 7 degrees away from the June Solstice point.

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November 25, 2023 at 2:35 am

In the November 29 note, you might want to delete "Regulus" and replace it with "Spica".

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November 27, 2023 at 1:43 am

■ ... This evening the glary Moon is just 1° or 2° from the delicate Pleiades (evening for North America). Bring binoculars.

■ The Moon, just past full, rises in the northeast in mid-twilight. ... As night deepens, watch for Beta Tauri, magnitude 1.6, to come into view only about a fifth as far to the Moon's upper right.


Besides the Antares occultation series that began in August, the Pleaides and Beta Tauri occultation series also both began that month.

Unlike Antares which lies well south of the Ecliptic, the Pleiades and Beta Tauri both lie well north of the Ecliptic so their occultations initially are only visible in the far Southern Hemisphere and will be visible further north by 2024. However, Beta Tauri is so far north of the Ecliptic that occultations cannot be seen further north than about the latitude of San Diego.

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