Some daily events in the changing sky for November 19 – 27

Twilight view

When the Moon is full in November, it always shines near the stars of Auriga and Taurus.

Sky & Telescope diagram

Friday, November 19

  • A twilight challenge: use binoculars to scan for Mercury very low in the southwest no more than a half hour after your local sunset time. Once you get Mercury, can you detect fainter Mars less than 2° to its upper right? That's about a third the width of a typical binocular's field of view.

    Jupiter on Nov. 10, 2010

    A new bright white spot (indicated) in the latitude of Jupiter 's South Equatorial Belt was the first sign of events that will probably lead to the whole belt's return. Discoverer Christopher Go took this image at 10:24 UT November 10th. Compare with the later images below. South is up.

    Christopher Go

  • Jupiter's Great Red Spot crosses the planet's central meridian around 11:12 p.m. EST. Jupiter's new South Equatorial Belt Outbreak spots cross the central meridian 3 hours and 40 minutes later.

    Saturday, November 20

  • By 9 p.m. sparkly Orion has risen in the east-southeast. Look for it far below this evening's high, bright Moon.
  • Jupiter's Great Red Spot crosses the planet's central meridian around 7:03 p.m. EST. And Jupiter's new South Equatorial Belt Outbreak spots cross the central meridian 3 hours 40 minutes after that, at 10:43 p.m. EST.

    Sunday, November 21

  • Full Moon (exact at 12:27 p.m. Eastern Standard Time). Tonight the Moon is not far from the Pleiades, as shown above. Binoculars will help pick them out of the lunar glare.

    Monday, November 22

  • The Moon this evening shines between Aldebaran to its right and Beta Tauri (El Nath) closer to its left, as shown above.

    Just above center, the tiny new white spot had already grown a striking border of dark material by November 12th. Methane-band images confirmed that the white spot was boiling up thunderhead-style to an unusually high altitude in Jupiter's atmosphere. See our article Jupiter's Lost Belt Reviving?, and keep watch for yourself!

    Christopher Go took this image at 11:17 UT November 12th, when the System II longitude on Jupiter's central meridian was 292°. South is up.

    Christopher Go

  • Jupiter's Great Red Spot crosses the planet's central meridian around 8:42 p.m. EST. Jupiter's new South Equatorial Belt Outbreak spots cross the central meridian 3 hours and 40 minutes later.

    Tuesday, November 23

  • Mira, the brightest long-period red variable star, is fading a bit but still obvious to the unaided eye. As of November 18th observers were reporting it at about magnitude 3.3. Its constellation Cetus is in the southeast early in the evening, and higher in the south later at night.

    Wednesday, November 24

  • For telescope users, Jupiter's moon Europa casts its tiny black shadow onto Jupiter's face from 8:22 to 11:03 p.m. EST. Seven minutes after the shadow transit begins, Io emerges out of eclipse from Jupiter's shadow just off the planet's eastern limb. For a complete listing of all such Jupiter satellite events in November, good worldwide, see the November Sky & Telescope, page 58.

    Jupiter on Nov. 17, 2010

    November 17th: Three outbreaks now, all in a row! Again, methane-band imagery confirms that the newest, smallest white spot is at a very high altitude, while the older two seem to be sinking back down. South is up.

    Christopher Go

  • On Jupiter itself, the Great Red Spot crosses the central meridian around 10:21 p.m. EST. And Jupiter's new South Equatorial Belt Outbreak spots cross the central meridian about 3 hours and 40 minutes after that.

    Thursday, November 25

  • Vega remains the brightest star in the west-northwest these evenings. The brightest star higher above it is Deneb. Look for Altair — the third star of the Summer Triangle — farther to Vega's left.

    Inside the Summer Triangle, can you spot the little constellation Sagitta, the Arrow, halfway from Altair to the Triangle's center?

    Friday, November 26

  • Bright Jupiter shines in the southern sky after dark. By about 8 or 8:30 p.m. this week, when Jupiter has moved a little to the right of due south, is stands directly above Fomalhaut, the Autumn Star, far below it.

    Jupiter on Nov. 24, 2010

    By November 24th, dark material was spreading far from the outbreak region.

    Christopher Go

    Saturday, November 27

  • Orion is well up in the east-southeast after about 8 p.m. now (depending on where you live in your time zone). Watch far below Orion for Sirius rising some time after 9 (again depending on your location).
  • Jupiter's Great Red Spot crosses the planet's central meridian around 7:51 p.m. EST. Jupiter's new South Equatorial Belt Outbreak spots cross the central meridian about 3 hours and 40 minutes later, 11:31 p.m. EST.

    Sky at a Glance is now an iPhone app! Put S&T SkyWeek on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch and get the above listings anytime, anywhere — with interactive sky maps! Tap a button to see the scene described, customized for your location worldwide. From there you can scroll the view all around the sky, zoom in or out, change to any time or date, and turn on animation. Go to Apple's iTunes store from your device and buy S&T SkyWeek — just 99 cents!

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

    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. Or download our free Getting Started in Astronomy booklet (which only has bimonthly maps).

    Sky Atlas 2000.0 (the color Deluxe Edition is shown here) plots 81,312 stars to magnitude 8.5. That includes most of the stars that you can see in a good finderscope, and typically one or two stars that will fall within a 50× telescope's field of view wherever you point. About 2,700 deep-sky objects to hunt are plotted among the stars.

    Alan MacRobert

    Once you get a telescope, to put it to good use you must have a detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of charts). The standards are the
    Pocket Sky Atlas, which shows stars to magnitude 7.6; the larger Sky Atlas 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 8.5); and the even larger and deeper Uranometria 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 9.75). And read how to use your charts effectively.

    You'll also want a good deep-sky guidebook, such as Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion by Strong and Sinnott, or the more detailed and descriptive Night Sky Observer's Guide by Kepple and Sanner, or the classic if dated Burnham's Celestial Handbook.

    Can a computerized telescope take their place? I don't think so — not for beginners, anyway, and especially not on mounts that are less than top-quality mechanically. 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."

    This Week's Planet Roundup

    Mercury (magnitude –0.4) is deep in the glow of sunset. Look for it above the southwest horizon in bright twilight; binoculars will help. They may also reveal much fainter Mars nearby.

    Early-dawn view

    Venus light the way to lesser objects low in the pre-sunrise sky.

    Sky & Telescope diagram

    Venus, magnitude –4.6, is rapidly gaining altitude as the bright "Morning Star" before and during dawn. Look east-southeast. To its upper right is much fainter Spica, and higher above them is Saturn.

    Mars, magnitude +1.4, is near brighter Mercury after sunset. Using binoculars, look for it 2° upper right of Mercury on Friday evening the 19th, and increasingly far to Mercury's right later in the week.

    Jupiter (magnitude –2.6, at the Pisces-Aquarius border) shines high in the south during evening, the brightest starlike point in the sky. In a telescope it's still 44 arcseconds wide. Jupiter's missing South Equatorial Belt may finally be about to re-form, heralded by a series of telltale bright spots that appeared more than a week ago. See our article Jupiter's Lost Belt Reviving?.

    As for Jupiter's Great Red Spot, it's near System II longitude 157°. Assuming it stays there, here's a list to print out of all the Great Red Spot's predicted transit times for the rest of this observing season.

    Saturn (magnitude +0.9, in Virgo) glows in the east-southeast before and during dawn, about 15° above bright Venus. The best time to observe Saturn with a telescope is perhaps an hour before your local sunrise time, when the planet will be less blurred by the low-altitude atmospheric mess. Saturn's rings have widened to 9° from edge-on.

    Uranus (magnitude 5.8) is 3° east of Jupiter.

    Neptune (magnitude 7.9, in Capricornus) is still high in the south-southwest right after dark. See our finder charts for Uranus and Neptune online or, with article, in the September Sky & Telescope, page 56. Can you see any color in Uranus and/or Neptune?

    Pluto (magnitude 14.0, in Sagittarius) is lost in the sunset.

    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 that also depend on longitude (mainly Moon positions) are for North America. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) equals Universal Time (also known as UT, UTC, or GMT) minus 4 hours.

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