Friday, November 2
• Look for Capella sparkling low in the northeast these evenings. About three fists at arm's length to Capella's right, look for the fingertip-sided Pleiades cluster. They're early markers of the cold months to come.
Above the space between them are the stars of Perseus, astride the Milky Way.
Saturday, November 3
• Mars shines in the south after dark. Look barely 1° east (left) of it for Delta Capricorni, only a twentieth as bright at magnitude 2.8. A similar distance lower right of Mars is Gamma Capricorni, magnitude 3.6.
• Daylight-saving time ends at 2 a.m. tonight in North America; clocks fall back an hour. Showerthought: The old saying that clocks "spring forward" and "fall back" in spring and fall used to be metaphorical; you had to change the clock. But now it's literally true; internet-controlled clocks jump back and forth themselves.
Sunday, November 4
• Tonight and tomorrow, Mars and Delta Capricorni are only 0.6° apart. The scene tonight is shown here.
• After dark this week, Capella is up in the northeast. Look for the Pleiades three fists to Capella's right. As evening grows later, you'll find orange Aldebaran climbing up below the Pleiades. By about 9:30 or 10 p.m. (depending on your location), Orion is clearing the horizon below Aldebaran.
• In Monday's dawn, spot the thin waning crescent Moon sitting cup-like low in the east-southeast. Way down under it is Venus. Using binoculars, can you see little Spica 4° above Venus?
Monday, November 5
• Draw a line from Altair, the brightest star very high in the southwest after dark, to the right through Vega, very high in the west and even brighter. Continue the line about half as far onward and you hit the Lozenge: the pointy-nosed head of Draco, the Dragon. Its brightest star is orange Eltanin, the tip of the Dragon's nose, which always points to Vega.
Tuesday, November 6
• Sometime between about 8 and 9:30 p.m., depending on where you are, zero-magnitude Capella rises exactly as high in the northeast as zero-magnitude Vega has sunk in the west-northwest. How accurately can you time this event? Astrolabe not required. . . but it might help.
Wednesday, November 7
• Spot bright Altair high in the southwest soon after dark. Two distinctive little constellations lurk above it: Delphinus the Dolphin, hardly more than a fist at arm's length to Altair's upper left, and smaller, fainter Sagitta the Arrow, slightly less far to Altair's upper right. Sky too bright? Use binoculars!
• New Moon (exact at 11:02 a.m. Eastern Standard Time).
Thursday, November 8
• A thin crescent Moon hangs very low over Jupiter during bright twilight, as shown here. Fainter Mercury is off to their left. Binoculars help.
Friday, November 9
• Now the crescent Moon directs you down to Mercury and Antares after sundown. Wait too late and they'll set! Again, bring those binoculars.
• Algol should be at its minimum brightness, magnitude 3.4 instead of its usual 2.1, for a couple hours centered on 11:21 p.m. EST (8:21 p.m. PST).
• Happy 84th birthday, Carl Sagan (November 9, 1934 – December 20, 1996). If only.
Saturday, November 10
• The "star" glowing upper left of the crescent Moon during and after dusk is Saturn, currently 4,075 times farther away.
Want to become a better astronomer? Learn your way around the constellations! They're the key to locating everything fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope.
This is an outdoor nature hobby. 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 guide to astronomy.
Once you get a telescope, to put it to good use you'll need a detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of charts). The basic standard is the Pocket Sky Atlas (in either the original or Jumbo Edition), which shows stars to magnitude 7.6.
Next up is the larger and deeper Sky Atlas 2000.0, plotting stars to magnitude 8.5; nearly three times as many. The next up, once you know your way around, are the even larger Interstellarum atlas (stars to magnitude 9.5) and Uranometria 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 9.75). And read how to use sky charts with a telescope.
You'll also want a good deep-sky guidebook, such as Sue French's Deep-Sky Wonders collection (which includes its own charts), Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion by Strong and Sinnott, or the bigger Night Sky Observer's Guide by Kepple and Sanner.
Can a computerized telescope replace charts? Not for beginners, I don't think, and not on mounts and tripods that are less than top-quality mechanically (meaning heavy and expensive). And 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 and Jupiter (magnitudes –0.3 and –1.7, respectively) are very low after sunset, just above the southwest horizon in bright twilight. Bring binoculars.
You'll spot brighter Jupiter first. Mercury is more or less to its left. Their separation widens from 6° on November 2nd to 10° on the 9th.
By then Mercury is passing closely over even fainter Antares, magnitude +1.0.
Venus (magnitude –4.3) is rapidly emerging from the glow of sunrise; it's a little higher and easier to spot every morning. Look for it just above the east-southeast horizon. In a telescope Venus is a dramatically thin crescent. Follow it up higher past sunrise and into the day for sharper telescopic views.
Mars (fading from magnitude –0.6 to –0.4 this week) shines highest in the south just after the end of twilight. It set around midnight standard time.
In a telescope Mars is 12 or 11 arcseconds wide, and it's still as gibbous as we ever see it: 86 percent sunlit. For a Mars map that displays which side is facing Earth at your time and date, use our Mars Profiler.
Saturn (magnitude +0.6, in Sagittarius) glows yellowly low in the southwest in late twilight, very far lower right of Mars.
Uranus, near the Aries-Pisces border, is easy in binoculars at magnitude 5.7 — with a good finder chart, if you know the constellations well enough to see where to start with the chart.
Neptune, in Aquarius, is harder at magnitude 7.9. They're well up in the southeastern sky after dark. Finder charts for Uranus and Neptune, or see the September Sky & Telescope, page 48.
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) is Universal Time (UT or GMT) minus 4 hours. Eastern Standard Time (EST) is UT minus 5 hours.
“This adventure is made possible by generations of searchers strictly adhering to a simple set of rules. Test ideas by experiments and observations. Build on those ideas that pass the test. Reject the ones that fail. Follow the evidence wherever it leads, and question everything. Accept these terms, and the cosmos is yours.”
— Neil deGrasse Tyson, 2014
"The dangers of not thinking clearly are much greater now than ever before. It's not that there's something new in our way of thinking, it's that credulous and confused thinking can be much more lethal in ways it was never before."
— Carl Sagan, 1996
"Objective reality exists. Facts are often determinable. Vaccines save lives. Carbon dioxide warms the globe. Bacteria evolve to thwart antibiotics, because evolution. Science and reason are not a liberal conspiracy. They are how we determine facts. Civilization's survival depends on our ability, and willingness, to do this."
— Alan MacRobert, your Sky at a Glance editor
"Facts are stubborn things."
— John Adams, 1770