2017-11-01 / Stargazing

Stop ‘saving daylight’ and just enjoy the skies

The full moon, the “frosty” moon in the days before global warming, happens on Nov. 4. Daylight saving time ends at 2 a.m. on the Sunday following, Nov. 5, so fall back to CST. The last quarter moon rises at midnight on Nov. 10.

On the morning of Nov. 13, the waning crescent moon sits above a spectacular conjunction of the two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, which are less than a moon diameter (only 0.3 degrees) apart. Both rise about 5 a.m. locally.

The crescent moon will pass three degrees north of Mars on Nov. 14, and then by Jupiter on Nov. 16. It is a new moon on Nov. 18, which is also the peak for the Leonid meteor shower, peaking in the dawn that morning with no moonlight to interfere.

The waxing crescent moon passes by Mercury and Saturn in the southwest twilight about 5:30 p.m. Nov. 20.

The moon is first quarter on Nov. 26.

Mercury passes three degrees south of Saturn low in the southwest twilight on Nov. 28. This will be your last shot at the ringed wonder, which will be lost in the sun’s glare in December.


Perseus contains the famed eclipsing binary star Algol, where the Arabs imagined the eye of the gorgon Medusa would lie. This is probably the best sight in the sky with binoculars, with hundreds of fainter stars joining the famed “Seven Sisters” with 10x50 binocs. The cluster lies about 440 light years distant, according to the latest work by the Gaia astrometric satellite early in 2017. The cloud of gas and dust may be left over from the formation of this young cluster only 100 million years ago, but more likely is just “intergalactic cirrus” dust scattering the blue light of the hot young stars moving through the reflection nebulae very beautifully in this portrait by EAAA member Ed Magowan. Perseus contains the famed eclipsing binary star Algol, where the Arabs imagined the eye of the gorgon Medusa would lie. This is probably the best sight in the sky with binoculars, with hundreds of fainter stars joining the famed “Seven Sisters” with 10x50 binocs. The cluster lies about 440 light years distant, according to the latest work by the Gaia astrometric satellite early in 2017. The cloud of gas and dust may be left over from the formation of this young cluster only 100 million years ago, but more likely is just “intergalactic cirrus” dust scattering the blue light of the hot young stars moving through the reflection nebulae very beautifully in this portrait by EAAA member Ed Magowan. It is not a good month to spot the planets in the evening sky. Catch Saturn and Mercury right after sunset, low in the southwest. Saturn is lost in the sun’s glare by midmonth.

Venus is heading behind the sun, as well, but does have a nice conjunction with Jupiter on the morning of Nov. 13.

Mars is moving eastward in Virgo, passing north of Spica in the dawn at month’s end. Jupiter is rising about 5 a.m. as November begins in Libra, and it dominates the dawn skies for the next several months.

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 notheast 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 northeast as the Big Dipper sets in the northwest.

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 northeast now. Her daughter, Andromeda, starts with the northeast corner star of Pegasus’ Square, and goes northeast 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.

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 more information on the Escambia Amateur Astronomers, visit us on Facebook at “Escambia Amateur Astronomer’s Association”. You can also call our PSC sponsor, Lauren Rogers at Pensacola State College at (850) 484-1155, or e-mail her at lrogers@pensacolastate.edu.

Download the November Evening Sky Map at skymaps.com for a list of the best objects to view with the naked eye, binoculars & scopes

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