This Week’s Sky at a Glance

Friday, November 9

  • For telescope users, Jupiter's moon Europa disappears into eclipse by Jupiter's shadow tonight around 1:11 a.m. EST; 10:11 p.m. PST. Even a small scope will show it fading out, just off the planet's western edge.

    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 the Jupiter's western limb 20 minutes later.

    Watch the thinning crescent Moon pass Venus and Spica in the dawn. (This scene is plotted for the middle of North America. European skywatchers: move each Moon a quarter of the way toward the one for the previous date. The visibility of faint objects in bright twilight is exaggerated here.)
  • Venus and the waning crescent Moon shine together low in the east early Sunday morning, from pre-dawn to sunrise, as shown here. Can you follow them right through sunrise into the day? Binoculars help!

    Sunday, November 11

  • On Monday morning before sunrise, look below bright Venus in the east for the thin waning Moon with Saturn to its left, as shown here. Binoculars will help. Saturn is just beginning its year-long 2012–13 apparition.

    Monday, November 12

  • Fomalhaut, the "Autumn Star," culminates (reaches its highest point due south) not long after dark now. 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 or Deneb Kaitos), not quite so far.

    Tuesday, November 13

  • Orion is up in the east by about 9 p.m. now, depending on where you live in your time zone. Orion's three-star Belt is nearly vertical. Orange Betelgeuse is to the Belt's left and white Rigel is to its right. Earlier in the evening, keep watch for Betelgeuse rising far below Jupiter.

  • A total eclipse of the Sun crosses parts of Australia and the South Pacific; details.

    Wednesday, November 14

  • Vega is the brightest star in the west in early evening. The brightest far left of it, in the southwest, is Altair. Altair's 3rd-magnitude companion Gamma Aquilae (Tarazed), a finger's width at arm's length from it, is now to Altair's right.

    Back in the evening sky, the waxing Moon passes Mars.

    Thursday, November 15

  • The thin waxing crescent Moon shines to the right of distant little Mars in evening twilight, as shown here.

    Friday, November 16

  • Spot the crescent Moon in the west as twilight fades, and use it to guide your way down to little Mars, as shown here.

  • The Leonid meteor shower, normally weak but occasionally surprising, should be at its best in the hours before dawn Saturday morning. Under a dark sky you may see about a dozen to 20 Leonids per hour. There is no Moon.

    Saturday, November 17

  • With a small telescope, watch Jupiter's moon Ganymede slowly disappear into eclipse by Jupiter's shadow around 11:30 p.m. EST; 8:30 p.m. PST. Ganymede is just off Jupiter's western side.

    At roughly the same time, Jupiter's Great Red Spot (actually pale orange-tan) appears nearest to the center of the planet's disk. For many more such Jupiter events all this month, see the November Sky & Telescope, pages 53-54.


    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).

    Sky Atlas 2000.0 (the color Deluxe Edition is shown here) plots 81,312 stars to magnitude 8.5. That includes most of the stars that you can see in a good finderscope, and typically one or two stars that will fall within a 50× telescope's field of view wherever you point. About 2,700 deep-sky objects to hunt are plotted among the stars.
    Alan MacRobert

    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

    The Great Red Spot's side of Jupiter is busy indeed. On November 5th, when Christopher Go shot this superb image from his low latitude in 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.


    Mercury is lost in the glare of the Sun.

    Venus (magnitude –3.9, in Virgo) rises in the east in darkness an hour before the first glimmer of dawn. By dawn it's shining brightly fairly high.

    Look for much-fainter Spica below Venus or, later in the week, to its lower right or right.

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

    Jupiter (magnitude –2.8, in Taurus) rises in the east-northeast in late twilight now, with Aldebaran to its right and dimmer El Nath (Beta Tauri) farther to its left. Above Aldebaran are the Pleiades. The whole arrangement climbs into fine view as the evening advances.

    Saturn (magnitude +0.6, in Virgo) is emerging into dawn view low in the east. Look for it below or lower left of bright Venus. They appear closer together every day.

    Uranus (magnitude 5.8, in Pisces) and Neptune (magnitude 7.9, in Aquarius) are conveniently placed in the south in early to mid-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 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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