This Week’s Sky at a Glance, November 19 – 27


Venus and Nunki. As twilight deepens towards darkish this night, spot dazzling Venus low within the southwest. Just 0.2° to its left, in case you’re viewing from North America, is the brightest star of the Sagittarius Teapot deal with: 2nd-magnitude Nunki (Sigma Sagittarii). Bring binoculars; Nunki is only one/500 as vibrant as Venus. Nunki, 225 light-years away, is 30 million instances farther than Venus at 4 light-minutes.

Binoculars may present the opposite three stars of the Teapot deal with in the identical discipline of view. They’re 89, 120, and 230 light-years away, roughly typical for run-of-the-mill naked-eye stars.

■ The Moon, simply previous full, shines in early night virtually precisely midway between the Pleiades above it and Aldebaran under it, relying in your location. The Moon is exactly in line between them across the finish of twilight for a lot of North America’s East Coast. Holding up a ruler or a pencil to the sky, how precisely are you able to time the Moon’s passage throughout this line? To mark the middle of the Pleiades, choose Alcyone, the cluster’s brightest star.

Watch the Moon transfer farther east of this line hour by hour via the evening, because it creeps eternally eastward in its orbit round Earth.

Orion rising far below the Moon and Aldebaran, Nov. 18-21, 2021
The Moon is plotted right here for properly after darkish within the Central time zone, so on Friday the nineteenth it has already crossed the Pleiades-Aldebaran line. (And as at all times in these scenes, the Moon is drawn about thrice its precise obvious measurement.)


■ Venus and Jupiter, the 2 brightest celestial objects after the Sun and Moon, proceed to blaze this week throughout and after twilight. Venus is low within the southwest; Jupiter is excessive within the south. Saturn glows dimmer lower than midway from Jupiter to Venus.

Watch this line of three planets shorten for the subsequent three weeks.

■ We’re two thirds of the way via fall, so Capella is shining within the northeast as quickly because the stars come out. As evening grows darker, look to its proper by about three fists at arm’s size for the frosty little Pleiades cluster, the dimensions of your fingertip at arm’s size.


■ By about 8 p.m. Orion is clearing the japanese horizon as proven above, relying on how far east or west you reside in your time zone.

Orion’s tilt whereas rising is dependent upon your latitude. If you reside north of 33° N (Los Angeles, Atlanta, the Nile delta, Shanghai), Betelgeuse will likely be larger than Rigel. That’s the case within the illustration above, drawn for 40° N. If you are south of 33°, Rigel will likely be larger proper after they rise; Orion comes up foot first.

As the evening goes on, nevertheless, Betelgeuse at all times acquire the higher place as seen from wherever within the Northern Hemisphere.

■ Down under Orion, Sirius rises round 10 p.m. No matter the place they’re within the sky, Sirius at all times trots alongside two hours behind Orion. Or equivalently, one month behind Orion.


■ The bowl of the Little Dipper is swinging down after darkish at this time of year, decrease left of Polaris due north. The Little Dipper’s lip is Kochab, equal to Polaris in brightness; the remainder of it’s dim. By about 11 p.m. it hangs straight down from Polaris.


■ The waning Moon rises within the east-northeast round 8 tonight. Once it positive aspects a little bit of altitude, spot Pollux higher left of it by solely 3°. Castor is 4½° above or higher left of Pollux.

The Moon, Pollux, and Castor line up in a straight line after midnight within the Eastern time zone; in late night for the West Coast.

■ Around 7 or 8 p.m., relying on the place you reside, wintry, zero-magnitude Capella rises precisely as excessive within the northeast as zero-magnitude Vega, the Summer Star, has sunk within the west-northwest. Yes, the season tricks to chilly.


■ In early night Altair shines within the southwest about midway up the sky, three or 4 fists left of brighter Vega. Altair is the one vibrant star in that space. It’s the attention of Aquila, the Eagle.

Just higher proper of Altair, by a finger’s width at arm’s size, is Third-magnitude Tarazed. Down from there runs Aquila’s dim spine, alongside the Milky Way within the moonless darkish of early night tonight.

This association jogs my memory of one other Summer Triangle chicken, Cygnus the Swan, whose lengthy neck and spine additionally run alongside the Milky Way. Cygnus at the moment flies excessive to Aquila’s higher proper.

■ With the Moon gone from the early night sky, arrange your scope to discover the horizontal “Water Carrier Line Dance” of telescopic targets crossing the Water Jar of Aquarius, now at its highest within the south — utilizing Ken Hewitt-White’s “Suburban Stargazer” article and charts within the November Sky & Telescope beginning on web page 54.


■ Does the Sun already appear to be setting about as early because it ever will? You’re proper! We’re nonetheless virtually a month from the winter solstice — however the Sun units its earliest every year round December seventh, in case you’re close to latitude 40° north. And already the Sun units inside solely about 3 minutes of that point.

A shocking results of this: The Sun really units a hint earlier on Thanksgiving than on Christmas — though Christmas is round solstice time!

But in celestial mechanics, each seeming abnormality is balanced out by an equal abnormality some place else. This offset of the earliest sundown from the solstice date is balanced out by the alternative taking place at dawn: The Sun does not come up its newest till January 4th. Blame the tilt of Earth’s axis and the eccentricity of Earth’s orbit.

■ As daybreak begins on Friday morning the twenty sixth, the waning Moon shines at the Sickle of Leo, as proven under.

When the waning Moon goes via last-quarter part, it is passing via Leo excessive in early daybreak.


■ The last-quarter Moon rises in Leo round 11 p.m. tonight. By daybreak on Saturday the twenty seventh it is excessive within the south under Leo’s stomach, as proven above. The Moon is strictly last-quarter at 7:28 a.m. Saturday morning EST.


■ Around 7 or 8 p.m. this week, the Great Square of Pegasus rests in its degree place very excessive towards the south. (It’s straight overhead in case you’re as far south as Miami.) Its western (proper) facet factors very far down towards Fomalhaut. Its japanese facet factors down towards Beta Ceti, also called Deneb Kaitos or Diphda, much less far down and fewer instantly.

Now descending farther: If you might have a excellent view all the way down to a darkish south horizon — and in case you’re not a lot farther north than roughly New York, Denver, or Madrid — image an equilateral triangle with Fomalhaut and Beta Ceti as its high two corners. Near the place the third nook can be (simply a bit proper of that time) is Alpha Phoenicis, or Ankaa, within the constellation Phoenix. It’s magnitude 2.4, not very vibrant however the brightest factor in its space. It has a yellow-orange tint (binoculars assist test). Have you ever seen something of the constellation Phoenix earlier than?


This Week’s Planet Roundup

Mercury is hidden deep within the glow of dawn.

Venus, a dazzling magnitude –4.8, shines within the southwest throughout and after twilight. Venus has virtually reached its best top and best brilliancy for this apparition. This week it is on or above the vastly fainter deal with of the Sagittarius Teapot.

Mars, far and faint at magnitude +1.6, is rising low within the dawn. Try for it with binoculars simply above the east-southeast horizon about 45 minutes earlier than sunup. You’re catching Mars at the very begin of its new apparition, which is able to run for nearly two years. (Mars’s opposition, the near-midpoint of the apparition, will come on the evening of December 7, 2022 when, by coincidence, the Moon, essentially full, will occult it for a lot of North America!).

Jupiter and Saturn, each in Capricornus, shine within the south to southwest throughout night far to the higher left of Venus. Jupiter is the brilliant one at magnitude –2.4; Saturn, 16° to Jupiter’s decrease proper, is magazine +0.7, hardly greater than 1/20 as vibrant.

Look 22° (two fists at arm’s size) decrease left of Jupiter for Fomalhaut, the Autumn Star, magnitude +1.2.

Saturn units round 9 p.m. Jupiter follows it down about an hour later.

Uranus (magnitude 5.7, in southern Aries above the top of Cetus) is properly up within the east after darkish. See Bob King’s Uranus Queues Up for Opposition, with finder chart.

Neptune (magnitude 7.9, at the Aquarius-Pisces border) is already excessive within the southeast at dusk.

All descriptions that relate to your horizon — together with the phrases up, down, proper, and left — are written for the world’s mid-northern latitudes. Descriptions and graphics that additionally rely on longitude (primarily Moon positions) are for North America.

Eastern Standard Time, EST, is Universal Time (additionally known as UT, UTC, GMT, or Z time) minus 5 hours.

Want to grow to be a higher astronomer? Learn your way across the constellations. They’re the important thing to finding every thing fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope.

This is an out of doors nature interest. For an easy-to-use constellation information protecting the entire night sky, use the massive month-to-month map within the heart of every problem of Sky & Telescope, the journal of the American Astronomical Society.

Once you get a telescope, to place it to good use you may want a detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of charts). The fundamental normal is the Pocket Sky Atlas (in both the (*19*)or Jumbo Edition), which exhibits stars to magnitude 7.6.

Pocket Sky Atlas cover, Jumbo edition
The Pocket Sky Atlas plots 30,796 stars to magnitude 7.6, and tons of of telescopic galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae amongst them. Shown right here is the Jumbo Edition, which is in exhausting covers and enlarged for simpler studying outside by red flashlight. (*27*). More about the current editions.

Next up is the bigger and deeper Sky Atlas 2000.0, plotting stars to magnitude 8.5; almost thrice as many. The subsequent up, as soon as you understand your way round, are the even bigger Interstellarum atlas (stars to magnitude 9.5) or Uranometria 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 9.75). And you’ll want to learn How to Use a Star Chart with a Telescope.

You’ll additionally need a good deep-sky guidebook, equivalent to the massive Night Sky Observer’s Guide set by Kepple and Sanner.

Can a computerized telescope substitute charts? Not for newcomers, I do not assume, and never on mounts and tripods which are lower than top-quality mechanically, which means heavy and costly. And as Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer say of 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.”

Audio sky tour. Out below the night sky along with your
earbuds in place, take heed to Kelly Beatty’s month-to-month
podcast tour of the heavens above. It’s free.

“The dangers of not thinking clearly are much greater now than ever before. It’s not that there’s something new in our way of thinking, it’s that credulous and confused thinking can be much more lethal in ways it was never before.”
            — Carl Sagan, 1996

“Facts are stubborn things.”
            — John Adams, 1770

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