Click on the image to enlarge, ‘right click’ to copy the image or ‘close window’ to return
The chart above shows the night sky looking south at about 22:00 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 or Nadir and is shown at the 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 brightest stars often appear to form a group or recognisable pattern; we call these ‘Constellations’.
Constellations through which the ecliptic passes this month are Capricornus (the Goat), Aquarius (the Water Carrier), Piscis (the Fishes), Aries (the Ram) Taurus (the Bull) and Gemini (the Twins).
The summer constellations are still prominent in the western night sky. We still have the familiar Summer Triangle with its three corners marked by the bright stars: Deneb in the constellation of Cygnus, Vega in Lyra, and Altair in Aquila. The Summer Triangle is very prominent and can be used as the starting point to find our way around the night sky.
The Milky Way (our Galaxy) flows down through the Summer Triangle passing through Cygnus and Aquila to the western horizon. From Cygnus the Milky Way loops up through Cassiopea which is overhead see the Zenith (point in the sky directly overhead) marked on the chart above. It continues on through Perseus, Auriga and down to the eastern horizon as it passes through Orion and Gemini.
Mars is still in a good position for observing for the next couple of months.
At the top, centre of the chart above is the fairly faint constellation of Ursa Minor (the Little Bear) also called the Little Dipper by the Americans. Although Ursa Minor may be a little difficult to find in a light polluted sky it is one of the most important constellations. This is because Polaris (the ‘Pole’ or ‘North Star’) is located in Ursa Minor.
Polaris is the star that is located at the approximate position in the sky where an imaginary line projected from Earth’s North Pole would point to. As the Earth rotates on its axis, the sky appears to rotate around Polaris once every 24 hours. This means Polaris is the only ‘bright’ star that appears to remain stationary in the night sky as Earth rotates every 24 hours.
To the East of the Summer Triangle is the constellation of Pegasus (the Winged Horse). The main feature of Pegasus is the square formed by the four brightest stars. This asterism (shape) is known as the Great Square of Pegasus. The square is larger than might be expected but once found is easier to find again.
Along the Ecliptic is the constellation of Taurus (the Bull). The stick figure representation of Taurus resembles a squashed ‘X’ with the bright orange coloured Red Giant star Aldebaran at its centre. This is a lovely star to look at especially using binoculars or a telescope and does look noticeably orange in colour.
Following the western (right), Northern (upper) arm of the ‘X’ shape of Taurus guides is to the beautiful Pleiades Open Star Cluster. This is a cluster of seven bright ‘naked eye’ stars known as the ‘Seven Sisters’.
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 Wednesday 21st November 2018, for details click on the link below.
For details visit the NAS website at: www.naasbeginners.co.uk