Sky at a Glance | November 2nd, 2012

10 p.m. view
The waning gibbous Moon rises later and later below Jupiter and its starry companions.

Friday, November 2

  • Watch for the waning gibbous Moon to rise this evening below Jupiter and Beta Tauri. Once the Moon is high up late in the evening, look lower right of it for wintry Orion making his sparkly appearance, as shown at lower right. Betelgeuse marks Orion's lower shoulder.

    Saturday, November 3

  • Fomalhaut, the "Autumn Star," culminates (reaches its highest point due south) around 9 p.m. daylight saving time. The western side of the Great Square of Pegasus, high above, points almost down to it. The other side of the Great Square points down roughly to Beta Ceti (Diphda), not quite so far.

  • Standard time returns (for most of North America) at 2 a.m. tonight. Clocks "fall back" an hour.

    Sunday, November 4

  • This is the time of year when the W of Cassiopeia stands on end (its fainter end) high in the northeast in early evening. This is also when the Big Dipper lies level low in the north-northwest.

    Monday, November 5

  • By 8 p.m. Vega is shining in the west-northwest. It's the brightest star there. Look well left of it for Altair in the west-southwest. Above Altair, by a little more than a fist-width at arm's length, is the dim but distinctive little constellation Delphinus, the Dolphin.

    Tuesday, November 6

  • Last-quarter Moon tonight (exact at 7:36 p.m. EST). The half-lit Moon rises around 11 p.m. or midnight local time. Once it's well up, look left of it for the Sickle of Leo and right of it for the dimmer Head of Hydra.

    Wednesday, November 7

  • The tiny black shadow of Io crosses Jupiter's face tonight from 10:11 p.m. to 12:21 a.m. EST, with Io itself following behind from 10:49 p.m. to 12:58 a.m. EST.

    Thursday, November 8

  • Early riser's sky sights: Before and during dawn Friday morning, the waning Moon shines high in the southeast. Venus blazes far to its lower left. Look upper left of Venus by a similar distance for Arcturus. Down below Venus is fainter Spica.

    Dawn view
    Having waned to a crescent, the Moon will pass Venus and Spica in the dawn.

    Friday, November 9

  • The Moon has moved closer to Venus before and during dawn Saturday morning, as shown here.

  • Tonight, Jupiter's moon Europa disappears into eclipse by Jupiter's shadow around 1:11 a.m. Saturday morning EST (10:11 p.m. Friday evening PST). A small telescope will show it fading out of sight a little off the planet's western limb.

    Saturday, November 10

  • Jupiter's moon Ganymede reappears out of eclipse from the planet's shadow around 10:35 p.m. EST, only to disappear behind Jupiter's western limb 20 minutes later. A small telescope will show these proceedings.

  • Venus and the waning crescent Moon shine low in the east early Sunday morning, from pre-dawn to sunrise, as shown here. Can you follow them even past sunrise? Binoculars help — but be careful not to sweep up the Sun itself by accident!


    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).

    Pocket Sky Atlas
    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.
    Sky & Telescope

    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 (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 hides deep in the glare of sunset.

    Venus (magnitude –4.0, in Virgo) rises due east in darkness more than an hour before the first glimmer of dawn. By dawn it's shining brightly fairly high.

    Mars (magnitude +1.2, in Ophiuchus) remains low in the southwest in evening twilight.

    Jupiter on Nov. 5, 2012
    The Great Red Spot's side of Jupiter is busy indeed. On November 5th when Christopher Go shot this image from the Philippines, the orange ring of Oval BA and the little dark red dot following it had finished passing south of (above) the Great Red Spot. Huge turbulence roils the South Equatorial Belt behind the Great Red Spot.


    The South Temperate Belt is barely visible along some of its length but prominent elsewhere. Four white ovals dot the South South Temperate Belt. On the north (lower) side of the planet, the North Equatorial and North Temperate belts have become cleanly separated by the North Tropical Zone's return to whiteness. Blue festoons — apparently gaps between clouds — intrude into the bright Equatorial Zone north of the Great Red Spot.


    Jupiter (magnitude –2.8, in Taurus) rises in the east-northeast just after dark, with Aldebaran to its right and Elnath (Beta Tauri) a little farther to its left. Above Aldebaran are the Pleiades. The whole arrangement, shown at the top of this page, climbs into better view as the evening advances.

    Saturn is deep in the glow of sunrise.

    Uranus (magnitude 5.8, in Pisces) and Neptune (magnitude 7.9, in Aquarius) are in in good view in the south during evening. Finder charts for Uranus and Neptune.

    If you have a large scope, have you ever tried for the moons of Neptune and Uranus? The brightest are about magnitude 13.5. Read more, and print charts for your time and date, at SkyandTelescope.com/triton and SkyandTelescope.com/uranusmoons.


    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 is UT minus 5 hours.


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