Wednesday, November 1, 2006
By JIM WHITE
Stargazing becomes more problematic in November. Cloudy skies replace clear weather as the norm, and stellar viewing becomes something you do when opportunity arises. But when it does arise, early darkness and the coming of bright winter constellations can be worth the chill. Throw on a coat and enjoy the skies when you can!
Once the sky darkens, you can see the "Great Square" of Pegasus, in the southeastern sky. A couple of months ago, it was just rising in the east. Now, it figures prominently in the evening southeastern sky. Last month I mentioned the Pleiades star cluster and the Andromeda galaxy. Both will be higher in the evening eastern sky.
A bright moon will usher in the month. Full moon occurs on Nov. 5, with new moon coming on Nov. 19.
If you're up early in the morning, check out the planet Saturn, located now in the constellation Leo. A good time to see the ringed planet, weather permitting, is the morning of Nov. 12. That morning, the Moon will be located near Saturn and the bright star Regulus. Saturn will soon be in the evening sky; on Nov. 1, it rises about 12:30 a.m. By the end of November, it will rise at about 10:30 p.m.
If you have a pair of binoculars, there are several interesting things to see in the fall evening sky. First of all, check out the Pleiades, clearly visible low in the east. Next, try the Andromeda galaxy, higher in the eastern sky. If you have good, dark skies, challenge yourself and try to locate the Triangulum galaxy, located below Andromeda. This galaxy will be just visible as a diffuse glow of light (50mm binoculars will work the best). Check out the sky map with this article for the location of these three objects.
Finally, swing around to the western sky, and look up toward the base of Cygnus the swan. There you should be able to find a group of stars appearing as an upside-down coathanger. Again, use the picture with this article for reference.
If you can find all or any of these objects, welcome to binocular astronomy. There are a number of objects in the sky that are most impressive in the wide field of view that you get with binoculars.
I've been asked a couple of times about a bright star in the early morning. That is most likely Sirius, which is the brightest star in our sky. Sirius is located in the southwestern sky on November mornings. Look up and to the right of Sirius to see the bright constellation Orion. I'll have more to say about that winter constellation in future months.