If you can see the Big Dipper tonight, use the top two bowl stars to find the bright star Capella. But can you see the Dipper? Maybe yes, and maybe no. The Big Dipper sits low in the northern sky on November evenings from northerly U.S. latitudes. From southerly U.S. latitudes, and farther south, you can’t see the Dipper at all. It is hidden below the horizon in the evening.
In our Northern Hemisphere, the Big Dipper is probably the sky’s best known asterism. In other words, it’s a recognizable pattern of stars — not an official constellation. The Big Dipper is part of the constellation Ursa Major, otherwise known as the Great Bear.
Every year, the Big Dipper (Great Bear) descends to its lowest point in the sky on November evenings. In fact, people in the southern part of the United States can’t see the Big Dipper in the evening right now, because it swings beneath their northern horizon.
November is the month of the Pleiades star cluster. Yearly, on or near November 20, the Pleiades cluster culminates – reaches its highest point in the sky – at midnight.
Tonight … at nightfall and early evening, the bowl-shaped constellation Corona Borealis — the Northern Crown — shines to the lower right of the star Vega, close to your western horizon. Can you spot brilliant Vega shining rather high in the western sky at nightfall? It can guide you to the Northern Crown.
The constellation Andromeda the Princess is renowned for the Andromeda galaxy, but anyone with even a modest telescope would be remiss to overlook Andromeda’s star Almach (Gamma Andromedae), which appears in a telescope as one of the finest double stars in all the heavens. One component of this telescopic double appears golden, and the other component appears indigo blue. What’s more, further research has shown that Almach is really four stars. Follow the links inside to learn more about this beautiful star.
Tonight … November 18, 2014. The Andromeda galaxy is out all night long at this time of year, and last week we told you how to use the constellation Cassiopeia to find it. There’s another way to find the Andromeda galaxy, though; you can also locate it using the Great Square of Pegasus. This post is about how to do that. Plus we wanted to point to a close pairing of the moon and star Spica in the predawn sky on Wednesday, November 19.
The 2014 Leonid meteor shower is expected to be at its best on the night of November 17-18. The predawn hours on November 18 are the optimum time, no matter where you live on the globe. Will you see what’s shown on the image at the top of this post? Thousands of meteors per hour? No. That image is from 1998, when the Leonids parent comet – Comet Temple-Tuttle – was nearby. The Leonids are famous for producing meteor storms when the comet is in our neighborhood, but no meteor storm is expected this year, only a modest 10 to 15 Leonid meteors per hour. There’s good news about this year’s shower, though …
Before dawn on November 17, look for meteors in the famous Leonid meteor shower! The peak night will probably be tomorrow (morning of November 18), but tonight should offer a decent sprinkling of meteors as well. The moon is in a waning crescent phase and mostly out of the way. And the cool news this year is that Jupiter – currently the brightest starlike object in the sky – is near the Leonid’s radiant point. So, for fun, use Jupiter as your guide “star” to the radiant of the Leonid meteor shower tonight!
November’s wonderful Leonid meteor shower happens every year at this time, as our world moves through space. It occurs when Earth crosses the orbital path of Comet Tempel-Tuttle, which, like all comets, litters its orbit with dusty debris. In 2014, you’ll see the most meteors on Monday morning, November 17 and Tuesday morning, November 18. It’ll be fun to look for the planet Jupiter, near the Leonid’s radiant point in 2014. Follow the links inside to learn more about this shower.
What is the easiest way to find the Andromeda galaxy at this time of year? On a dark night, this galaxy looks like a faint smudge of light. Once you’ve found it, try again with binoculars or your telescope. The Andromeda galaxy is the nearest large spiral galaxy to our Milky Way. It’s about 2.5 million light-years away, teeming with hundreds of billions of stars. Here’s more, plus a sky chart …