We fall back to CST on Sunday, November 2nd. The moon is full, the Frosty Moon in tradition, on November 6th. The last quarter moon passes 5 degrees south of Jupiter, both rising about midnight on November 14th. The next new moon is on November 22nd, and the month ends with the first quarter moon overhead at sunset on November 29th.
While the naked eye, dark adapted by several minutes away from any bright lights, is a wonderful instrument to stare up into deep space, far beyond our own Milky Way, binoculars are better for spotting specific deep sky objects. For a detailed map of northern hemisphere skies visit the www.skymaps.com website and download the map for
November 2014; it will have a more extensive calendar, and list of best objects for the naked eyes, binoculars, and scopes on the back of the map.
It is not a good month to spot the planets. Mars is low in the SW just after sunset, moving eastward in Sagittarius and getting lost behind the Sun by December. Mercury, Venus, and Saturn are all too close to the Sun for good observing this month, but Jupiter is well placed in the morning sky in Cancer, rising about midnight.
Setting in the southwest is the teapot shape of Sagittarius, which marks the heart of our Milky Way Galaxy, but the best view of our Galaxy lies overhead now. The brightest star of the northern hemisphere, Vega dominates the sky in the northwest. To the northeast of Vega is Deneb, the brightest star of Cygnus the Swan. To the south is
Altair, the brightest star of Aquila the Eagle, the third member of the three bright stars that make the Summer Triangle so obvious in the NE these clear autumn evenings. Use binocs and your sky map to spot many clusters here, using the SkyMap download to locate some of the best ones plotted and described on the back.
Overhead the square of Pegasus is a beacon of fall. South of it is the only bright star of Fall, Fomalhaut. If the southern skies of Fall look sparse, it is because we are looking away from our Galaxy into the depths of intergalactic space.
The constellation Cassiopeia makes a striking W, rising in the NE as the Big Dipper sets in the NW. Polaris lies about midway between them. She contains many nice star clusters for binocular users in her outer arm of our Milky Way, extending to the NE now. Her daughter, Andromeda, starts with the NE corner star of Pegasus’’ Square, and goes
NE with two more bright stars in a row. It is from the middle star, beta Andromeda, that we proceed about a quarter the way to the top star in the W of Cassiopeia, and look for a faint blur with the naked eye. M-31, the Andromeda Galaxy, is the most distant object visible with the naked eye, lying about 2.5 million light years distant.
To the northeast, Andromeda’s hero, Perseus, rises. Between him and Cassiopeia is the fine Double Cluster, faintly visible with the naked eye and two fine binocular objects in the same field. Perseus contains the famed eclipsing binary star Algol, where the Arabs imagined the eye of the gorgon Medusa would lie. It fades to a third its
normal brightness for six out of every 70 hours, as a larger but cooler orange giant covers about 80% of the smaller but hotter and thus brighter companion as seen from Earth. Check it out on a clear November evening, and see it the gorgon is winking at you. If so, then instead of being as bright as Polaris, Algol fade to be only as bright as kappa Persei, the
star just to its south. Look at Perseus’ feet for the famed Pleiades cluster to rise, a sure sign of bright winter stars to come. In fact, yellow Capella, a giant star the same temperature and color as our much smaller Sun, rises at 7 PM as November begins along the northeastern horizon. It is the fifth brightest star in the sky, and a beacon of the colorful and
bright winter stars to come.