Thursday, November 10, 2011

Astronomy: The November Night Sky

Here are some naked eye objects for the month of November. All of these objects, although small, should be visible without the help of binoculars or a telescope, so long as you have clear dark skies.

Light pollution is a killer for seeing these objects with your naked eye. To find out how dark your location is, use the Google Map Overlay of light pollution. If you are in a blue, gray or black area then you should have dark enough skies. You may still be able to see some of these objects in a green location. If you aren’t in a dark sky location you may still be able to see these objects with a pair of binoculars or telescope.

You can find help locating the night sky objects listed below by using one of the free sky charts at (scroll down to Northern Hemisphere Edition and click on the PDF for November 2011). The map shows what is in the sky in November at 8 pm for early November; 7 pm for late November.

If you are not familiar with what you see in the night sky, this is a great opportunity to step outside, look up, and begin learning the constellations. The sky is beautiful and filled with many treasures just waiting for you to discover them. Once you have looked for these objects go through the list again if you have a pair of binoculars handy, the views get better!

Meteor Showers
November 12th is the peak of the Northern Taurid’s Meteor Shower in the constellation Taurus. This meteor shower is leftover debris from the Comet Encke. The Moon will be in Tauris as the meteor shower peaks so expect to only see a few due to being washed out by the Moon’s light. The meteors from this shower that I have seen so far are quite bright and seemingly slow and look like a flare falling from the sky.

November 17th is the peak of the Leonid Meteor Shower in the constellation Leo rising around midnight. The Leonid Meteor Shower produces around 20 meteors per hour. Just like most meteor showers this year the Moon will be affecting it.

The Moon
November 10 is the full Moon, this months full Moon goes by the name of Beaver Moon, and also sometimes referred to as the Frosty Moon.

Last quarter Moon is on the 18th

New Moon is on the 25th. Best night time to go out and enjoy the darkest skies with no interruption from the Moon.

November 9th and 10th the Moon and Jupiter will be 9° below the Moon which is about a fists width apart held at arms length, and 6° to the right of the Moon respectively.

November 19th In the morning hours Mars will be about 8° to the left and a little bit up from the Crescent Moon in the.

November 22nd Moon and Saturn before sunrise about 7° to the left

November 26th just after sunset, very thin Crescent Moon Venus and Mercury can be seen close to horizon.

November 27th the Moon will move up and to the left of Venus.

Mercury will get as high in the sky as it will all month just after sunset by mid November and may not be visible due to the mountains of the Adirondacks. May be a difficult planet to spot.

Venus will be visible all month low on the horizon just after sunset in the West.

MarsAround 1 am in east Mars will be roughly 60° above the horizon by sunrise in the constellation of Leo.

Rises at sunset and sets as the sun rises for most of the month. Jupiter can be found to the left of Pegasus and Pisces and still remains the brightest object in the sky besides the Sun and the Moon.

Making a new appearance of about 15° above the horizon as the sun rises

Straight overhead will be the constellation Pegasus also known as The Great Square. This constellation is easy to spot due to the 4 stars that form the Great Square of Pegasus with a seemingly empty area inside of it.

To the South of Pegasus is the constellation Pisces. Easily found following the right side of the square of Pegasus south until you reach the keystone of Pisces.

To the East of the square of Pegasus, attached to it in most drawings of the constellations, is the constellation Andromeda. If you find the bright star Mirach and follow the chain of stars to the North it will bring you to the Andromeda galaxy in clear dark skies. The Andromeda Galaxy cataloged as M31 is visible to the naked eye in the northeast. The Andromeda Galaxy is the closest galaxy to the Milky Way lying about 2.5 million light-years away. If in a dark enough location the light produced by this galaxy is roughly the diameter of 5 moons in our sky.

The constellation Triangulum is to the South of Andromeda. Made up of only 3 stars forming a triangle shape.

A great grouping of stars in the constellation of Taurus the Bull. Looking at it has always reminded me of a smaller version of the little dipper. In dark locations you can see anywhere from 5-7 and possibly a few more stars in this grouping. It has also been called the seven sisters and is actually a Messier object, number 45. These are very hot blue and extremely luminous stars that have formed within the last 100 million years. This grouping of stars has quite a bit of history in mythology.

The Double Cluster, cataloged as NGC 869 and NGC 884 is a beautiful cluster that shows quite a group of stars with the naked eye. M34, which you may need to wait until around 11pm for it to be high enough to see is nearly a moon-diameter wide and is a fairly easy to see open cluster.
Look for a grouping of stars around the brightest star in Perseus, Mirphak.

The Great Rift is a non-luminous dust cloud that can be seen splitting the Milky Way in two separate streams. It stretches from Aquila to the constellation Cygnus although it is more prominent in the constellation Aquila.

Messier Object 13 (known as M13) is a globular cluster. It will have a small hazy glow to it. Hercules is getting lower in the sky so M13 may be difficult to spot through the haze of the atmosphere.

North America Nebula (NGC7000) – The unaided eye sees only a wedge-shaped star-cloud which may be quite dim, or not visible at all. In dark skies it should pop out a bit. Located near the star Deneb. M39 an open cluster patch of stars northeast of the star Deneb. The Northern Coalsack spans across the sky between the stars Deneb, Sadir, and Gienah in the northeastern portion of Cygnus. If you don’t know which stars of Sadir and Gienah just find Deneb with the map and look to the east northeast.

Photo: Above, a screen capture of the constellations straight overhead this month. Image from the freeware programStellarium. Below, a long exposure image taken by Michael Rector of the constellations Auriga, Taurus, Perseus and the open cluster of stars Pleiades. Upper left is Perseus, upper right cluster of stars is Pleiades, below Pleiades is Taurus, and near bottom center is Auriga. In the upper left corner there is a fuzzy grouping of stars, that’s the double cluster.

Michael Rector is an amateur astronomer with his own blog, Adirondack Astronomy

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Although he now lives in Clinton County, amateur astronomer Michael Rector has fond memories of spending time at Great Sacandaga and West Canada Lake where the skies are dark and the Milky Way is bright.

Michael writes about astronomy on his own blog Adirondack Astronomy and is interested in getting together with other star-gazers around the region. If you are interested in getting together for an occasional star party feel free to contact him at


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