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Pleiades out all night. Moon and Jupiter up by late evening


Tonight for November 22, 2013

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November is the month of the Pleiades star cluster. On these November nights, the Pleiades cluster shines from nightfall until dawn. Locate it to above the bright star Aldebaran this evening, or any evening soon. Or, if you live at middle latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere, look for the Pleiades to Aldebaran’s left or upperleft.

Later this evening – November 22, 2013 – look for the moon and the bright planet Jupiter to follow the Pleiades star cluster into the nighttime sky by mid-to-late evening, perhaps around your bedtime. Or if you’re up before sunrise on November 23, try catching Comet Ison with the planets Mercury and Saturn near the southeast horizon. Be sure to bring along binoculars, if you have them.

It may be difficult to see Comet Ison in the glow of morning twilight, but it's worth a try!

It may be difficult to see Comet Ison in the glow of morning twilight, but it’s worth a try!

Rising time for the moon and planets into your sky

But the first thing you’ll catch at nightfall is the bejeweled cluster of stars known as the Pleiades. The Pleiades cluster is one of the most recognizable star patterns in the night sky. Its six brightest stars look like a little dipper. In fact, people in the Northern Hemisphere often mistake the Pleiades for the real Little Dipper asterism, which is located farther north on the sky’s dome. The misty-looking dipper of the Pleiades hovers over the northeastern horizon as darkness falls. It moves across the sky more or less along the same path traveled by the sun and moon. So look along the sun and moon’s path across the sky for the Pleiades: a tiny, misty dipper in the sky.

Pleiades by s58y

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By the way, another name for the Pleiades is the Seven Sisters. But if you look with your eye alone, it’s likely you’ll only see six stars in the Pleiades. Some old Greek legends explore what might have happened to the missing sister, sometimes called the Lost Pleiad.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the Pleiades’ all night appearance coincides with late autumn. As this part of the world moves toward winter, it’s easy to imagine the Pleiades as a frosty patch on the dome of night. But in the Southern Hemisphere now, where spring flowers are blooming, this cluster of nocturnal suns watches over the season of awakening and agriculture. In South Africa, for example, the Pleiades are called the hoeing-stars.

Yearly, on or near November 20, the Pleiades cluster culminates – reaches its highest point in the sky – at midnight. (In this instance, midnight means midway between sunset and sunrise.) Historically, the midnight culmination of the Pleiades was very significant to many ancient and primitive peoples. Some of these Pleiades midnight celebrations still linger into the present, such as the old Druid rite of Halloween. Although the midnight culmination date for the Pleiades advances over the long course of time, the date of Halloween has remained fixed by tradition.

Halloween derived from ancient Celtic cross-quarter day

Bottom line: Watch for the sky’s most celebrated star cluster – the Pleiades – a tiny, misty dipper-shaped star cluster adorning the sky all night long on these November nights. On the night of November 22, 2013, also watch for two very bright objects: the moon and Jupiter.

More about the Pleiades: Famous Seven Sisters