This Week's Sky at a Glance
Night sky sights for November 23 December 1.
Friday, November 23
Saturday, November 24
Sunday, November 25
Monday, November 26
The penumbral eclipse takes place high in the middle of the night for the longitudes of Australia and Japan, in late evening of the 28th local date for China and Southeast Asia, and early that evening for India with the Moon still low in the east. More details.
Wednesday, November 28
Thursday, November 29
Friday, November 30
Saturday, December 1
Want to become a better amateur astronomer? Learn your way around the constellations. They're the key to locating everything fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope.
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 the even larger Uranometria 2000.0 (220 charts, with stars to magnitude 9.75). And read how to use sky charts with a telescope effectively.
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 certainly not on mounts and tripods that are less than top-quality mechanically (able to point with better than 0.2° repeatability). 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 emerges into dawn view around November 24th or so, brightening from magnitude +1 to 0 this week. Look for it just above the east-southeast horizon in early dawn, far to the lower left of Venus and Saturn as shown here. Mercury is beginning its best apparition of the year for viewers at mid-northern latitudes.
Venus, brilliant at magnitude 3.9, and Saturn, much fainter at magnitude +0.6, shine together in the southeast during dawn. Saturn begins the week 3° to Venus's lower left (on Saturday morning the 24th). It passes about 0.8° by Venus on the 26th and 27th, and by November 30th it's 4° to Venus's upper right.
Mars (magnitude +1.2, in Sagittarius) remains low in the southwest in evening twilight. In a telescope it's just a tiny blob 4.4 arcseconds in diameter.
Ceres and Vesta, the two brightest minor planets (asteroids), are now magnitudes 7.2 and 6.6 respectively, and located not far from Jupiter. Find them with our chart in the December Sky & Telescope, page 50, or online.
Jupiter (magnitude 2.8, in Taurus) rises in the east-northeast in early twilight and climbs higher all evening. Orange Aldebaran is 5° to its right or lower right. Above them are the Pleiades. Jupiter is nearly at its December 2nd opposition; it appears a big 48 arcseconds wide, essentially as large as it will become this year. See "Turmoil on Jupiter" in the November Sky & Telescope, page 56.
Uranus (magnitude 5.8, in Pisces) and Neptune (7.9, in Aquarius) are conveniently placed in the south in early evening. 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) equals Universal Time (also known as UT, UTC, or GMT) minus 5 hours.
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