Some daily events in the changing sky for November 20 – 28.
Friday, November 20
Saturday, November 21
Sunday, November 22
Monday, November 23
Tuesday, November 24
Wednesday, November 25
Thursday, November 26
Friday, November 27
Saturday, November 28
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'll need a detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of charts; the standards are Sky Atlas 2000.0 or the smaller Pocket Sky Atlas) and good deep-sky guidebooks (such as Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion by Strong and Sinnott, the more detailed and descriptive Night Sky Observer's Guide by Kepple and Sanner, or the classic Burnham's Celestial Handbook). Read how to use them effectively.
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 and a curious mind." Without these, "the sky never becomes a friendly place."
More beginners' tips: "How to Start Right in Astronomy".
This Week's Planet Roundup
Mercury is hiding deep in the sunset.
Venus (magnitude –3.9) is disappearing low in the dawn. Look for it just above the east-southeast horizon about 30 minutes before your local sunrise time.
Mars (magnitude +0.1, in Cancer) rises as early as 10 p.m. now, far below Castor and Pollux in the east. It's very high in the south before dawn. In a telescope Mars is 9 arcseconds wide and growing. Can you make out its north polar cap, bordered by a dark polar-cap collar? Any other surface features? Clouds? See the Mars map and observing guide in the December Sky & Telescope, page 57. Mars is on its way to opposition late next January, when it will be 14.1 arcseconds wide.
Jupiter (magnitude –2.3, in Capricornus) shines brightly in the south in twilight, and lower in the southwest later in the evening. It sets around 10 p.m.
Saturn (magnitude +1.0, in the head of Virgo) shines in the southeast before and during dawn. In a telescope, its rings are still tilted only 4° from edge-on.
Uranus (magnitude 5.8, below the Circlet of Pisces) is highest in the south during early evening.
Neptune (magnitude 7.9, in Capricornus) lurks 4° east of Jupiter. Use our finder charts for Uranus and Neptune.
Pluto is lost in the sunset.
All descriptions that relate to your horizon or zenith — 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.
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