November Nights: Monthly Star Gazing Guide (Month 1)
It may be getting cold out, but this November why not warm up your soul by sampling some of the delights of the cosmos? From mythical hunters and heroes, to incredibly distant galaxies, or some of the brightest stars in our own home galaxy of the Milky Way – November is a great time for stargazers. Whether you’re a complete noob, or a passionate enthusiast with great equipment, there’s a number of awesome sights to see every night this month.
So, get yourself to a dark sky site on a clear night, look up and enjoy.
In the early evening, you’ll be able to see Saturn low on the Western horizon. Only an orangey dot to the naked eye, a small telescope (2 inches or more) will reveal the rings in all their glory. Above 4 inches, you might even spot a few of the Saturnian moons including Titan and Rhea. The most interesting of Saturn’s moons, Enceladus, may even be out of range of a 10-inch telescope – which can be quite expensive as well.
The Andromeda Galaxy will also be clearly visible throughout November, even to the naked eye, although maybe not in cities with high light pollution. This galaxy is estimated to have nearly a trillion stars in it and is actually 2.5 million light years away. That is unfathomably far, about ten quintillion miles away. So being able to see it all with your naked eye is pretty cool, but its even better when you realise the light your seeing left Andromeda 2.5 million years ago. How’s about that for time travel? The best time to see this amazing galaxy is around 10PM, when it will be directly overhead – looking South. You can try looking just to the right of the distinctive triangular pattern of the constellation Triangulum, where it should appear as fuzzy smudge.
Speaking of constellations, the famous trio of stars that make up Orion’s belt is also visible when facing South throughout November. Just above them, on the far-right tip of the patterns is the faintly red Betelgeuse – one of the biggest stars in our galaxy and likely candidate to explode in a supernova in the next few million years.
For a closer planetary encounter, early risers can catch Mars and Venus rising not long before Sun in the South East. Venus is unmistakably bright and pale yellowy in colour, with the reddy hue of Mars just above it in the sky. When looked at through a telescope from Earth, Venus also goes through phases. This means it may look crescent shaped in the sky. During the day it can actually be observed fully, but this is a difficult process that should only be attempted by very experienced astronomers with the right equipment.
Lastly, November marks the yearly occurrence of the Leonid meteor shower. Often overshadowed by its reliably more spectacular cousin, The Perseid shower which occurs in August, the Leonid is occasionally truly special. Although astronomers don’t expect anything extraordinary this year, it may still be worth checking out from a dark sky site.