Some daily events in the changing sky for November 6 – 14.
Friday, November 6
Saturday, November 7
Sunday, November 8
Monday, November 9
Tuesday, November 10
Wednesday, November 11
Thursday, November 12
Friday, November 13
Saturday, November 14
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 "combust": hidden in the glare of the Sun.
Venus (magnitude –3.9) is sinking lower in the dawn. Look for it low in the east about 45 to 30 minutes before your local sunrise time.
Use binoculars to look for twinkly little Spica to Venus's upper right. Also, look for Saturn much higher to their upper right.
Mars (magnitude +0.4, in Cancer) rises around 10 or 11 p.m. standard time, below Castor and Pollux in the east. It's very high in the southeast before dawn. In a telescope Mars is only 8 arcseconds wide: a tiny, fuzzy gibbous blob. Mars is on its way to an unremarkable opposition late next January, when it will be 14.1 arcseconds wide.
Jupiter (magnitude –2.4, in Capricornus) shines brightly in the south at dusk and lower in the southwest later in the evening. It sets around 11 or midnight. Jupiter is at eastern quadrature this week, 90° east of the Sun. So its celestial eastern side is as shaded compared to the western side as it ever gets — as seen in the images here.
Saturn (magnitude +1.1, in the head of Virgo) is getting higher the east-southeast before and during dawn.
Uranus (magnitude 5.8, below the Circlet of Pisces) is well up in the south during evening.
Neptune (magnitude 7.9, in Capricornus) lurks 5° or 6° east of Jupiter.
See our finder charts for Uranus and Neptune. For a guide to spotting the challenging satellites of Uranus and Neptune at any date and time (you'll need a big scope), see the October Sky & Telescope, page 59.
Pluto is disappearing into 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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