At this time of year, if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, try looking northeast this evening for two prominent constellations, Cassiopeia and Perseus.
The easier to see will be Cassiopeia, which has a distinctive M or W shape, depending on what time of night you see it. This constellation represents a queen in ancient mythology. Cassiopeia is easy to identify and so it is one of the most famous constellations in the sky. You’ll see it in the northeast this evening, and higher up in the evening sky in late autumn and winter.
Perseus the Hero follows Cassiopeia the Queen across the night sky. As night passes, you’ll see them both ascending in the northeast – then arcing high in the north – then descending in the northwest – with Perseus following Cassiopeia all the while. Perseus is fainter than Cassiopeia and its stars are not so easy to identify. But if you have a dark sky – like in the wee hours before dawn tomorrow – you’ll spot its graceful shape. The evening sky will be free of the moon, starting the second week of November 2012.
Both Perseus and Cassiopeia are considered to be circumpolar from northerly latitudes. In other words, as seen from northern parts of the U.S. and Canada, they never set below the horizon, but instead circle endlessly around Polaris, the North Star. Look for Cassiopeia and Perseus in the northern evening sky during the upcoming winter months.
Tonight for binoculars:
Uranus, the seventh planet outward from the sun, comes nearest to Earth for the year on October 2, 2013. Moreover, it’s getting close to new moon right now, meaning dark skies for observing Uranus for at least another week. With binoculars and a detailed sky chart, you may be able to star-hop to Uranus tonight!