Friday, November 1
Saturday, November 2
Sunday, November 3
Monday, November 4
Tuesday, November 5
Wednesday, November 6
Thursday, November 7
Friday, November 8
Saturday, November 9
Want to become a better astronomer? Learn your way around the constellations. They're the key to locating everything fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope.
This is an outdoor nature hobby. 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 once you know your way around, the even larger Uranometria 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 9.75). And read how to use sky charts with a telescope.
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 not on mounts and tripods that are less than top-quality mechanically (able to point with better than 0.2° repeatability, which means heavy and expensive). 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 and Saturn are hidden in the glare of the Sun.
Venus (magnitude –4.5) shines brightly in the southwest during dusk. It sets nearly an hour after dark now. In a telescope, Venus has waned to appear a trace less than half-lit.
Mars (magnitude 1.5, in Leo) rises around 1 or 2 a.m. standard time. It's moving eastward against the background stars, pulling farther away down from Regulus. By dawn, Mars and Regulus are high in the south.
Comet ISON is below Mars, in the hind feet of Leo, before the first light of dawn. But it's still a faint telescopic target at about 9th magnitude. Use the finder chart for it in the November Sky & Telescope, page 50.
Jupiter (magnitude –2.4, in Gemini) rises in the east-northeast around 9 or 10 p.m. standard time and blazes high in the south before dawn. Left of it after it rises are Castor and Pollux. In a telescope Jupiter has grown to 41 arcseconds wide, as it heads toward its January 5th opposition.
Uranus (magnitude 5.7, in Pisces) and Neptune (magnitude 7.9, in Aquarius) are high in the southeast and south, respectively, in early evening. Finder charts for Uranus and Neptune. See also the October Sky & Telescope, page 50.
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 (EST) is UT minus 5 hours.
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