Friday, November 23
• The Moon, just past full, shines near Aldebaran tonight: to the star's left, as shown here. Watch the Moon draw farther away from Aldebaran through the hours of the night.
Saturday, November 24
• The bright waning gibbous Moon rises around the end of twilight and climbs high through the evening. It's now below the horns of Taurus: Beta (β) and, much closer to the Moon, fainter Zeta (ζ) Tauri.
Sunday, November 25
• The bowl of the Little Dipper descends in the evening at this time of year, left or lower left of Polaris. By about 11 p.m. this week it hangs straight down from Polaris.
Monday, November 26
• The asteroid 3 Juno is just past opposition and still unusually close to Earth. It's about magnitude 7.5, visible in large binoculars but still not very bright for such a low-numbered asteroid. Juno is substantially smaller than 1 Ceres, 2 Pallas, and 4 Vesta; only by a stroke of luck was it the third asteroid discovered.
Juno is in northern Eridanus south of Taurus, in high view by late evening. See the article and finder chart in the November Sky & Telescope, page 49.
Tuesday, November 27
• Whenever Fomalhaut is "southing" (crossing the meridian due south, which it does around 6 or 7 p.m. this week), the first stars of Orion are just about to rise above the east horizon. And the Pointers of the Big Dipper stand upright low due north, straight under Polaris.
Wednesday, November 28
• On these moonless dark evenings, the faint asterism that marks the chained hand of Andromeda is near the zenith. Use its arc of three faint stars to arc your way to the site of NGC 7686, marked by a 6th-magnitude orange foreground star — as charted in Matt Wedel's Binocular Highlight column in the November Sky & Telescope, page 43. Behind this star and its fainter companion is a sparse, 1/4° scattering of much fainter specks requiring a dark sky.
Thursday, November 29
• Last-quarter Moon tonight (exact at 7:19 p.m. EST). The half-lit Moon, in Leo, doesn't rise until about midnight. Once it is up you'll see that it's lower left of Regulus and a trace farther below Gamma Leonis, Algieba, which is only a little fainter than Regulus. You can probably fit your fist at arm's length in this triangle of the Moon and two stars.
By the beginning of dawn on Friday the 30th, the triangle will be high in the south with the stars now to the Moon's right or upper right.
• Algol should be at its minimum brightness, magnitude 3.4 instead of its usual 2.1, for a couple hours tonight centered on 1:04 a.m. EST; 10:04 p.m. PST. Algol takes several additional hours to fade and to rebrighten.
Friday, November 30
• Two faint fuzzies naked-eye: The Andromeda Galaxy (M31) and the Perseus Double Cluster are two of the most famous deep-sky objects. They're both cataloged as 4th magnitude, and in a fairly good sky you can see each with the unaided eye. They're located only 22° apart, very high toward the east early these evenings — to the right of Cassiopeia and closer below Cassiopeia, respectively.
But they look rather different, the more so the darker your sky. See for yourself. Find them with the all-sky constellation map in the center of the November or December Sky & Telescope. If your sky is too bright, try binoculars.
Saturday, December 1
• Vega still shines brightly in the west-northwest after dark. The brightest star above it is Deneb, the head of the big Northern Cross, which is made of the brightest stars of Cygnus. At nightfall the shaft of the cross extends lower left from Deneb (by about two fists at arm's length). By about 11 or midnight, it plants itself more or less upright on the northwest horizon.
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 is hidden deep in the glow of sunrise.
Venus (magnitude –4.7, in Virgo near Spica) rises as an eerie "UFO" above the east-southeast horizon a good two hours before the first light of dawn. As dawn arrives, Venus is the brilliant "Morning Star" dominating the southeast.
In a telescope Venus is a shrinking but thickening crescent, waxing from 20% to 25% sunlit this week. For the sharpest telescopic views, follow it up higher all the way past sunrise and into the blue sky of day.
Mars (fading from magnitude –0.2 to –0.1 this week) still shines highest in the south at nightfall and sets around midnight.
In a telescope Mars shrinks from 10 to 9 arcseconds wide, and it remains 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.
Jupiter is hidden behind the glare of the Sun.
Saturn (magnitude +0.6, in Sagittarius) is very low in the southwest in twilight. You'll find it about 40° below Altair and 60° lower right of brighter Mars. It sets around the end of twilight.
Uranus, near the Aries-Pisces border, is pretty easy to see 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. After dinnertime they're high in the southeast and south, respectively. Finder charts for Uranus and Neptune.
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) is Universal Time (UT or GMT) minus 5 hours.
"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