Some daily events in the changing sky for November 26 – December 4.
Friday, November 26
Saturday, November 27
Sunday, November 28
Monday, November 29
Tuesday, November 30
Wednesday, December 1
Thursday, December 2
Friday, December 3
Saturday, December 4
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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 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.
This Week's Planet Roundup
Mercury (magnitude –0.4) is now in the best week of its current evening apparition, but it's still quite low. Look for it in mid-twilight above the southwest horizon.
Venus is at its maximum brightness (magnitude –4.9!) as the "Morning Star" before and during dawn, in the southeast. Look for much fainter Spica to Venus's upper right, and for Saturn above Spica.
Mars (magnitude +1.3) is nearly lost in bright twilight. Use binoculars to look for it to the right or lower right of brighter Mercury. Good luck.
Jupiter (magnitude –2.6, at the Pisces-Aquarius border) shines high in the south to southwest during evening, the brightest starlike point in the sky. In a telescope it's still 43 arcseconds wide. Jupiter's missing South Equatorial Belt is finally starting to re-form, as dark material spreads from a series of telltale bright storm spots that appeared three weeks ago. See our article Jupiter's Lost Belt Reviving?. The outbreak zone transits Jupiter's central meridian about 3 hours and 40 minutes after the Great Red Spot.
As for the 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 16° upper right of bright Venus. The best time to observe Saturn with a telescope is during early dawn, when the planet will be less blurred by low-altitude atmospheric turbulence. Saturn's rings have widened to 9° or 10° 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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