ASTRONOMY GUIDE TO THE NIGHT SKY – NOVEMBER 2023
With the Newbury Astronomical Society
The chart above shows the night sky at 21:00 on 15th November 2023
Click on the chart to enlarge and click to the side of the chart to close
The chart above shows the night sky looking south at about 21:00 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 and is shown (in red) 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 brightest stars often appear to form a group or recognisable pattern; we call these ‘Constellations’.
Constellations through which the ecliptic passes this month are: Sagittarius (the Archer), Capricornus (the Goat), Aquarius (the Water Carrier), Pisces (the Fishes), Aires (the Ram) and Taurus (the Bull).
Prominent in the southern sky is the Summer Triangle that dominates the Summer Sky and was described in detail on the previous pages. The term Summer Triangle was first suggested by Sir Patrick Moore and is defined by three obvious bright stars: Deneb in the constellation of Cygnus, Vega in Lyra, and Altair in Aquila. The Milky Way (our Galaxy) flows through the Summer Triangle and passes through Aquila and Cygnus. As the Summer Triangle is so easy to find it is very useful to use as a starting place for finding our way around the night sky.
To the west (right) of the Summer Triangle and almost overhead is the constellation of Hercules (the Strong Man). Hercules has a distinctive distorted square shape, at its centre, called the ‘Keystone’. This is due to its resemblance to the centre stone of an arch or bridge. The jewel of Hercules is without doubt the Great Globular Cluster, Messier 13 (M13) that can be found in the western vertical imaginary line forming the ‘Keystone’.
It is just visible using a good pair of 9 x 50 binoculars. The spherical cluster, of about a million stars can be seen using a 90mm f10 telescope but will look even more impressive when using a larger telescope.
To the East (left) 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.
The square can be used to judge the seeing condition of the night sky. Under perfect conditions about ten stars can be seen inside the square this would indicate a very good night for observing. If three to five stars can be seen then conditions will still be good. If fewer or none can be seen then stick to looking at the Moon or planets. There is a very nice Globular cluster in Pegasus that is known as Messier 15 (M15) and is a lovely sight to see in a medium to large telescope.
Coming into view later, in the south east, is the constellation of Taurus (the Bull). The most obvious star in Taurus is the lovely Red Giant Star called Aldebaran. It appears slightly orange to the ‘naked eye’ but it is very obviously orange when seen using binoculars or a telescope. Aldebaran is located at the centre of the ‘flattened’ X shape formed by the brightest stars in Taurus. At the end of the top right (upper west) arm of the ‘X’ is the beautiful ‘naked eye’ Open Star Cluster Messier 45 (M45) known as the Pleiades (or the Seven Sisters). It really does look magnificent using binoculars.
Following Taurus is the constellation of Gemini (the Twins). The two brightest stars in Gemini are Castor and Pollux and they are named after mythological twins.
The Ecliptic is low in the sky during the summer months so the Moon and planets appear close to the southern horizon. Saturn is well placed in the south and Jupiter will be well placed later in the night but due to their low altitude will not be at their best for observation this year. The thick, murky and turbulent air above the horizon will cause the planets to appear quite unsteady.
WHERE TO FIND THE PLANETS THIS MONTH
Mercury is the smallest planet and closest to the Sun. It will be difficult to observe this month as it was in Superior Conjunction (in front of the Sun) on 20th October. Mercury will be very difficult to see all through this month.
Venus is shinning very brightly in the early morning eastern sky. It rises at 03:00, about four hours before sunrise. Venus was at its Greatest Westerly Elongation 23rd October (this means it appeared at it furthest distance to the west away from the Sun).
Mars is currently in conjunction with the Sun (passing behind the Sun) on 18th November so cannot be seen.
Jupiter is observable for most of the night from about an hour after it rises over the eastern horizon at about 15:30. Jupiter will be at its best position for observing at about 23:00 when will be due south and a little higher in the sky. The cloud markings and the four brightest (Galilean) moons will be visible, even using a smaller telescope, and with the turbulent air just above the horizon. Jupiter is probably the best planet to observe because its cloud bands are quite easy to see and the four brightest moons especially the inner two can have their movement tracked even during one observing period (one hour).
Saturn is the first planet to rise over the eastern horizon at about 13:30 so it will be is daylight. It can be seen as soon as it gets dark but is best at 18:30. Saturn will look small in a small telescope and not much bigger in a medium sized telescope but the ring will be visible even using a small beginner’s telescope. The best time to observe Saturn this month will be 23:00.
Uranus is just observable this month using a small telescope but a larger telescope will produce a better view. It now rises in the east just as the sky darkens. Uranus will be best seen later in the night as it rises higher in the sky. It will be best at about 23:30 when it will be in the south.
Neptune rises at about 14:20 so can be in the sky as the Sun sets and will be at its best in the south at 20:00. Neptune will need a telescope to see it looking like a small blue ‘fuzzy’ star. It will be a little difficult to see, even when using a telescope in the late summer sky.
The Newbury Astronomical Society is currently commissioning a new website.
Link to Newbury Astronomical Society website: Home – Newbury Astronomical Society
Direct link to full What’s Up (observing guide) What’s Up November 2023: Whats_Up_November_2023.pdf – Google Drive
To read our monthly magazine click on: November Magazine
Our next meeting will be at Stockcross Village Hall on Wednesday 15th November 2023 starting at 19:00 until 21:00.