Some daily events in the changing sky for November 7 November 15.
Friday, November 7
Saturday, November 8
Sunday, November 9
Monday, November 10
Tuesday, November 11
Unlike many meteor showers, the Taurids are active in the evening as well as the morning hours. Compared to most meteors, Taurids move relatively slowly in the sky, and they often have a greenish tint. They're fragments of Periodic Comet 2P/Encke.
Wednesday, November 12
Thursday, November 13
Friday, November 14
Saturday, November 15
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 foldout map in each issue of Sky & Telescope, the essential magazine of 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 maps; the standards are Sky Atlas 2000.0 or the smaller Pocket Sky Atlas) and good deep-sky guidebooks (such as Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion by Strong and Sinnott, the even more detailed Night Sky Observer's Guide by Kepple and Sanner, or the classic Burnham's Celestial Handbook). Read how to use them effectively.
Can a computerized telescope take their place? As Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer say in their 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 and a curious mind." Without these, they wisely say, "the sky never becomes a friendly place."
More beginners' tips: "How to Start Right in Astronomy".
This Week's Planet Roundup
Mercury (magnitude 0.9) is disappearing down into the sunrise. You can scan for it, preferably with binoculars, just above the east-southeast horizon about 30 minutes before sunrise, the earlier in the week the better.
Venus and Jupiter (magnitudes 4.0 and 2.1, respectively) shine brightly in evening twilight, as shown in the sky scenes above. Jupiter is in the south-southwest; look for brighter Venus to Jupiter's lower right. Watch them close in on each other for the rest of November, by 1° per day. They're 24° apart on November 7th and 15° apart on the 15th. These two brightest planets are heading toward a spectacular conjunction, 2° apart, on November 30th and December 1st.
In a telescope Venus is still small (14 arcseconds wide) and gibbous (76% illuminated). Jupiter is 36″ wide but has a much lower surface brightness.
Mars is hidden in the glare of the Sun.
Saturn (magnitude +1.1, in the hind feet of Leo) rises around 2 a.m. standard time and shines high in the southeast by early dawn. Don't confuse it with Regulus 20° (two fist-widths at arm's length) to its upper right.
A telescope will show that Saturn's rings have turned nearly edge on; they're currently tilted 2° to our line of sight and closing. They'll reach a minimum of 0.8° at the end of the year, then start opening again before finally closing to edge-on next September.
Uranus and Neptune (magnitudes 5.8 and 7.9, respectively, in Aquarius and Capricornus) are in the south during early evening. Use our article and finder charts or the chart in the September Sky & Telescope, page 63.
Pluto is sinking away into the sunset.
All descriptions that relate to your horizon or zenith 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 (known as UT, UTC, or GMT) minus 5 hours.
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