Astronomy Guide to the Night Sky – November

With the Newbury Astronomical Society

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The chart above shows the night sky looking south at about 21:0 GMT on 15th November.  West is to the right and east to the left.  The point in the sky directly overhead is known as the Zenith and is shown at the upper centre of the chart.  The curved brown line across the sky at the bottom is the Ecliptic or Zodiac.  This is the imaginary line along which the Sun, Moon and planets appear to move across the sky.  The constellations through which the ecliptic passes are known as the constellations of the ‘Zodiac’.

Constellations through which the ecliptic passes this month are: Capricornus (the Goat), Aquarius (the Water Carrier), Pisces (the Fishes), Aries (the Ram), Taurus (the Bull), Gemini (the Twins), Cancer (the Crab) and just off the chart to the east and soon to rise is Leo (the Lion).

The Milky Way (our Galaxy) appears to rise up from the south eastern horizon.  It continues up through the constellations of Monoceros, Orion, Gemini, Auriga, Perseus and into Cassiopeia at the top of the chart.  Perseus is the constellation of the month, see page 7.

The outermost planet Neptune is in the constellation of Aquarius but looks small and faint and will need a telescope to see.  A beginner’s telescope will show Neptune as a rather fuzzy looking star with a blue tinge but a larger telescope will show it as a small blue disc.  Uranus is located in the constellation of Pisces and is slightly easier to see than Neptune as is only half as far away as Neptune.  It appears twice the diameter of Neptune and four times as bright so it can be seen as a small disc using a beginner’s telescope with a magnification of 100x or more.

The planets Venus, Mars and Jupiter rise just before the Sun in the early morning in the east with Mercury and Saturn setting just after the Sun in the west in the evening.  None of these planets are well positioned for observing.

Sitting astride the ecliptic in the south east is the constellation of Taurus (the Bull).  The Taurus asterism (shape) looks like a squashed cross ‘X’.  At the centre of the cross is a large, faint Open Cluster called the Hyades.  It has the bright Red Giant star Aldebaran in the centre.  The real beauty of Taurus is the naked eye Open Cluster M45 the Pleiades.

To the north of M45 (the Pleiades cluster in Taurus) is a line of stars defining the constellation of Perseus.  The whole asterism (shape) of Perseus looks like a horse rider’s stirrup.  At the top of the line of stars is the beautiful object ‘the Double Cluster’ best seen using binoculars.

Following Taurus along the ecliptic is Gemini (the Twins).  The twin stars Pollux and Castor are easy to find.  There is a lovely Messier Open Cluster M35 in Gemini just off the end of the line of stars emanating from the bright star Castor.  Castor is a double star when seen in a telescope.

Close behind Taurus is the faint and elusive stars of Cancer (the Crab).  Although Cancer itself is quite difficult to identify it is worth seeking out because at its centre is the lovely open cluster Messier 44 (M44) also known as Pleiades.  It is faint but lovely to see using binoculars.

The last constellation worth mentioning is Leo (the Lion).  Leo is one of the few constellations that do (with a little imagination) look like what they are supposed to depict.  Leo resembles a sitting lion or the Sphinx in Egypt.  It has a ‘hook’ shape or backward ‘?’ for the head and long pentagon lying on its side for the body.  Leo is of interest this month because the radiant point for a meteor shower is located in the ‘?’.  The peak of the shower will be on 17th and 18th of November and as the radiant of the shower is located in Leo, it is called the Leonid shower.  Every 33 years we expect a very active shower but not this year.

Follow this link to see the full ‘Monthly What’s Up’ guide to the night sky:

To see a full version of this article and a guide to the night sky with charts, read the Newbury Astronomical Society (NAS) – Monthly Magazine for Beginners on the NAS website or come along to the next Beginners meeting on 18th October 2017.

For details visit the NAS website at:

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