220 Jewett Blvd, PO Box 218, White Salmon, WA 98672 | 509.493.2112
What's in the sky
Stargazing for November
CIRCUMPOLAR STAR — Another bright, easily recognized circumpolar constellation is Cassiopeia. The constellation has five bright stars that are arranged in the shape of a “W.” Cassiopeia is easy to find, if you can locate Ursa Major and the Big Dipper. From the Dipper, find Polaris, the North Star. Cassiopeia is on the opposite side of Polaris from Ursa Major.
October 30, 2012
By JIM WHITEOur months of short days and long nights are upon us. November begins with 10 hours of daylight, and loses 59 minutes during the month -- November 30 has only 9 hours and 1 minute of daylight. So there is plenty of time to check out the night skies -- on those rare nights when it is clear!
Daylight savings time ends at 2 a.m. on Nov. 4. Remember to set your clocks back one hour ("fall back").
There is plenty to see when the clouds do part. On Nov. 1, look for the waning gibbous Moon to be near Jupiter in the eastern sky. Both will be nestled in the constellation Taurus, the Bull.
Jupiter, making its first appearance in the evening sky for 2012, is a magnificent sight in a telescope, and even in binoculars. And this year the bright planet serves as a beacon to identify some of the winter constellations.
As with October, Jupiter will lie in Taurus, right between the bull's horns. Directly below Jupiter you'll find the bright constellation Orion, just above the horizon at 9 p.m.
In the west, the summer constellations are dropping below the horizon. Look for the "summer triangle" of Deneb, Altair, and Vega low in the west. See if you can pick out Cygnus the swan, also known as the Northern Cross, which stands vertical above the western horizon. Just a few months ago it was directly overhead.
Some stars in the northern sky are referred to as "circumpolar," meaning they never set at a particular latitude.
For our area (about 46 degrees latitude), stars in the constellations Ursa Major (the Great Bear, includes the Big Dipper); Ursa Minor (the Little Bear, includes the Little Dipper); Cassiopeia the Queen, Cepheus the King; and Draco, the Dragon, are all circumpolar.
In a 24-hour period, circumpolar stars and constellations rotate around the approximate location of Polaris, the North Star.
See if you can find Ursa Major on November evenings. You'll find it low in the northern sky, below Polaris. Last summer, it was high overhead, above Polaris.
In the early mornings of November, you'll find the Ursa Major in the northeast, with the handle pointing down. If you could see it during the day, you'd find it high overhead, as it appears on summer evenings.
Another bright, easily recognized circumpolar constellation is Cassiopeia. The constellation has five bright stars that are arranged in the shape of a "W." Cassiopeia is easy to find, if you can locate Ursa Major and the Big Dipper. From the Dipper, find Polaris, the North Star. Cassiopeia is on the opposite side of Polaris from Ursa Major.
Ursa Minor's brightest star is Polaris, the North Star. Find it by following a line made by the end stars on the bowl of the Big Dipper. They "point" to Polaris. Polaris is on the end of the handle of the Little Dipper.
Find the Little Dipper? Look directly below the bottom of the bowl, and you'll find the head of Draco. The dragon is a faint constellation that extends to the area between the Big and Little Dippers. The head is the most noticeable part of the constellation, with 4 bright stars.
See if you can locate these circumpolar constellations. They'll always be there when nights are clear!