Friday, November 1 Fomalhaut, the Autumn Star, shines at its highest in the south after dinner at this time of year. Fomalhaut is often called "lonely" because it's so far from any other 1st-magnitude star. It's near the bottom of the Great Water, the enormous expanse of autumn sky filled with dim water-themed constellations.
Saturday, November 2 A partial eclipse of the Sun will be in progress as the Sun rises on Sunday morning for the Eastern Seaboard of North America and points inland. The partial eclipse happens in the daytime on Sunday for Africa, the Middle East, southernmost Europe, and elsewhere. The eclipse is total for a narrow track crossing the Atlantic and Equatorial Africa. See our article Partial Solar Eclipse Sunday Morning, Nov. 3. It includes links for local predictions. Daylight-saving time ends at 2 a.m. Sunday morning for most of North America. Clocks fall back an hour. When planning for the sunrise eclipse, be sure that your expected sunrise time and your clocks are both in standard time!
Weather permitting, early risers along the Eastern Seaboard can see a partial solar eclipse at sunrise on November 3, 2013.
Sky & Telescope illustration / source: Stellarium
Sunday, November 3 See the item about today's solar eclipse above. Jupiter's moon Io casts its tiny shadow onto Jupiter tonight from 12:39 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time to 1:53 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. (A self-adjusting clock will make the switch at 2:00 a.m. your local daylight time.) Europa disappears into eclipse by Jupiter's shadow just west of the planet around 1:45 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. New Moon (exact at 7:50 a.m. Eastern Standard Time).
Monday, November 4 Look high in the northeast after dark for Cassiopeia standing on end. Before the Moon starts to brighten the evening sky in a few days, tour some of Cassiopeia's star clusters and nebulae; see Sue French's Deep-Sky Wonders column, chart, and photos in the November Sky & Telescope, page 54.
Tuesday, November 5 In twilight, look southwest for the waxing crescent Moon with Venus more than a fist-width at arm's length to its left, as shown here.
Fresh out of eclipsing the Sun when precisely new, the Moon waxes past Venus in twilight. (These scenes are drawn for the middle of North America. European observers: move each Moon symbol a quarter of the way toward the one for the previous date. The blue 10° scale is about the size of your fist held at arm's length. For clarity, the Moon is shown three times actual size.)
Wednesday, November 6 Venus and the crescent Moon are closest this evening. Look for them in the southwest as twilight fades.
Thursday, November 7 The bulge of the crescent Moon points sunward — but not quite down to Venus in evening twilight. The Moon is currently 5° north of the ecliptic, while Venus is 4° south of it. (In fact, Venus is at its farthest-south declination, –27° 10′, since 1930!)
Friday, November 8 Using binoculars shortly after dark, look a little to the upper left of the nearly first-quarter Moon (as seen from North America). There will be Alpha and Beta Capricorni, two wide binocular double stars. Alpha is easy to resolve and can even be split with the naked eye if you have sharp vision. Beta, with its closer, fainter secondary star (just west of the primary) is tougher in binoculars.
Saturday, November 9 First-quarter Moon (exact at 12:57 a.m. EST Sunday morning). The Moon shines at nightfall this evening about midway between Altair far to its upper right and Fomalhaut far to its lower left. It's just above the dim pattern of Capricornus.
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. Or download our free Getting Started in Astronomy booklet (which only has bimonthly maps).
Once you get a telescope, to put it to good use you'll need a detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of charts). The standards are the little Pocket Sky Atlas, which shows stars to magnitude 7.6; the larger and deeper Sky Atlas 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 8.5); and once you know your way around, the even larger Uranometria 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 9.75). And read how to use sky charts with a telescope.
The Pocket Sky Atlas
plots 30,796 stars to magnitude 7.6 which may sound like a lot, but that's less than one star in an entire telescopic field of view, on average. By comparison, Sky Atlas 2000.0
plots 81,312 stars to magnitude 8.5, typically one or two stars per telescopic field. Both atlases include many hundreds of deep-sky targets galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae to hunt among the stars.
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, the bigger Night Sky Observer's Guide by Kepple and Sanner, or the beloved if dated Burnham's Celestial Handbook.
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 (able to point with better than 0.2° repeatability, which means heavy and expensive). As Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer say in their invaluable 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 Saturn are hidden in the glare of the Sun.
Jupiter is nearly stationary all week with respect to the surrounding stars of Gemini. Jupiter and Gemini come up into good view about a half hour earlier each week as the season proceeds.
Venus (magnitude –4.5) shines brightly in the southwest during dusk. It sets nearly an hour after dark now. In a telescope, Venus has waned to appear a trace less than half-lit.
Mars (magnitude 1.5, in Leo) rises around 1 or 2 a.m. standard time. It's moving eastward against the background stars, pulling farther away down from Regulus. By dawn, Mars and Regulus are high in the south.
Comet ISON is below Mars, in the hind feet of Leo, before the first light of dawn. But it's still a faint telescopic target at about 9th magnitude. Use the finder chart for it in the November Sky & Telescope, page 50.
Jupiter (magnitude –2.4, in Gemini) rises in the east-northeast around 9 or 10 p.m. standard time and blazes high in the south before dawn. Left of it after it rises are Castor and Pollux. In a telescope Jupiter has grown to 41 arcseconds wide, as it heads toward its January 5th opposition.
Uranus (magnitude 5.7, in Pisces) and Neptune (magnitude 7.9, in Aquarius) are high in the southeast and south, respectively, in early evening. Finder charts for Uranus and Neptune. See also the October Sky & Telescope, page 50.
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) equals Universal Time (also known as UT, UTC, or GMT) minus 4 hours. Eastern Standard Time (EST) is UT minus 5 hours.
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