Friday, Nov. 25
Saturday, Nov. 26
Sunday, Nov. 27
Monday, Nov. 28
Tuesday, Nov. 29
Wednesday, Nov. 30
Thursday, Dec. 1
Friday, Dec. 2
Saturday, Dec. 3
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).
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 little Pocket Sky Atlas, which shows stars to magnitude 7.6; the larger and deeper Sky Atlas 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 8.5); and the even larger Uranometria 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 9.75). And read how to use sky charts effectively.
You'll also want a good deep-sky guidebook, such as Sue French's new Deep-Sky Wonders collection (which includes its own charts), Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion by Strong and Sinnott, the bigger Night Sky Observer's Guide by Kepple and Sanner, or the classic if dated Burnham's Celestial Handbook.
Can a computerized telescope replace charts? 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 is dropping out of sight deep in the sunset.
Venus (magnitude –3.9) is becoming higher and easier to see in the southwest after sunset. As of this week it finally stays above the horizon until the end of twilight. Venus is on its way up for a grand, high apparition as the "Evening Star" all winter (for the Northern Hemisphere).
Mars (magnitude +0.8, in Leo) rises around 11 or midnight. It's highest in the south by the beginning of dawn. It's near Regulus, which is a little fainter at magnitude +1.3 and slightly blue-white. Mars and Regulus widen from 7° apart on the morning of November 26th to 10° on December 2nd — about a fist-width at arm's length.
In a telescope Mars is a tiny blob only 7 arcseconds wide. Mars is on its way to opposition next March, when it will reach a width of 13.9 arcseconds.
Jupiter (magnitude –2.8, at the Aries-Pisces border) blazes high in the east at dusk and highest in the south by late evening. In a telescope Jupiter still appears a big 48 arcseconds wide. See our guide to observing Jupiter with a telescope.
Saturn (magnitude +0.8) is fairly low in the east-southeast as dawn begins, a little higher every morning. Spica (magnitude +1.0) sparkles 4° to its right. Brighter Arcturus shines far to their left or upper left.
Uranus (magnitude 5.8, near the Circlet of Pisces) and Neptune (magnitude 7.9, at the Aquarius-Capricornus border) are well placed in the southern sky early in the evening. Use our printable finder chart for both, or see the September Sky & Telescope, page 53.
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 Standard Time (EST) equals Universal Time (also known as UT, UTC, or GMT) minus 5 hours.
NEW BOOK: Sue French's DEEP-SKY WONDERS! This big, long-awaited observing guide by Sky & Telescope's Sue French is now available from Shop at Sky. Hefty and lavishly illustrated, it contains Sue’s 100 favorite sky tours (25 per season, with finder charts) from her 11 years of writing the Celestial Sampler and Deep-Sky Wonders columns for S&T. You know you want it for the holidays....
To be sure to get the current Sky at a Glance, bookmark this URL:
If pictures fail to load, refresh the page. If they still fail to load, change the 1 at the end of the URL to any other character and try again.