Friday, Oct. 28
Saturday, Oct. 29
Sunday, Oct. 30
Monday, Oct. 31
Tuesday, Nov. 1
Wednesday, Nov. 2
Thursday, Nov. 3
Friday, Nov. 4
For timetables of all of Jupiter's Red Spot transits and satellite events this month, good worldwide, see the November Sky & Telescope, page 54.
Saturday, Nov. 5
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 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 must have a detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of charts). The standards are the 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 effectively.
You'll also want a good deep-sky guidebook, such as Sue French's new 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 classic if dated Burnham's Celestial Handbook.
Can a computerized telescope take their place? I don't think so — not for beginners, anyway, and especially not on mounts that are less than top-quality mechanically. 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."
This Week's Planet Roundup
Mercury and Venus (magnitudes
–0.3 and –3.8, respectively) are close together just above the southwest horizon in bright twilight all week. Venus is on top; much fainter Mercury is 2° below it. Binoculars help. Binoculars may also show fainter, twinkly Antares much farther to their left or upper left, as shown here.
Mars (magnitude +1.1, in Leo) rises around 1 or 2 a.m. daylight-saving time. By the beginning of dawn it's in good view high in the east-southeast. Mars is closing in on similarly bright Regulus below it. They're 7° apart on October 29nd and 4° apart by November 5th. About 10° to their left shines Gamma Leonis, not much fainter, making a nice triangle with them. In a telescope, Mars is a tiny blob only 6 arcseconds wide.
Jupiter (magnitude –2.9, in southern Aries) blazes brightly at opposition. It's low in the east-northeast in twilight, higher in the east to southeast all evening, and highest in the south around the middle of the night.
Moreover, this is an unusually close Jupiter opposition. Last year Jupiter came closer to Earth than it had since 1963, and this year it's only an insignificant 0.4% farther. It appears 49.6 arcseconds wide. See our guide to observing Jupiter with a telescope.
Saturn (magnitude +0.7) is very low in the east-southeast as dawn brightens, becoming a little easier to see above the horizon each morning. Look for sparkly Spica 5° to its lower right all week, as shown here.
Uranus (magnitude 5.7, in Pisces) and Neptune (magnitude 7.9, in Aquarius) are well placed in the south and southeast after dinnertime. Use our printable finder chart for both, or see the September Sky & Telescope, page 53.
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.
NEW BOOK: Sue French's DEEP-SKY WONDERS! This big, long-awaited observing guide by Sky & Telescope's Sue French is now available from Shop at Sky. Hefty and lavishly illustrated, it contains Sue’s 100 favorite sky tours (25 per season, with finder charts) from her 11 years of writing the Celestial Sampler and Deep-Sky Wonders columns for S&T. Don’t miss it!
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