THE THRILLING 30
New to stargazing and not sure where to point your scope? Will Gater reveals 30 captivating celestial sights for November
November is one of the year’s best months for stargazing in the northern hemisphere and here are 30 good reasons why…
With the chilly nights really beginning to bite this month, you’d be forgiven for preferring the warmth of the sofa to an evening spent leaning against the cold metal of a telescope. But shun the eyepiece in November and you’ll miss out on one of the standout months for stargazing in 2018. With planets on show, a meteor shower, a comet and an asteroid at opposition – all on top of a night-time sky that boasts some of the best late summer to early winter targets – there’s a wonderful array of sights overhead that’ll eclipse anything on telly. Here we’ve selected 30 phenomena that will appeal specifically to anyone new to astronomy, and more experienced stargazers should find the list an enjoyable appetiser for their own observations throughout the month. So fire up your favourite planetarium software or grab a star atlas and get ready to hunt down the thrilling 30.
It might be past its best for the year, but, if you can, look for Saturn at the start of the month when it will be hugging the horizon in the southwest after evening twilight has faded. In all our years of stargazing we’ve never come away from a view of Saturn at the eyepiece with anything like a sense of regret, so that’s why we’re kicking off this guide with the mesmerising ringed planet.
From Saturn we turn to an object that is higher in the west at the beginning of the month. Messier 13, in Hercules, is a ‘globular cluster’, a spherical mass of stars sitting outside the disc of our Galaxy. In a small telescope it looks like a blurred ball of light while in larger scopes it has a sparkling ‘granular’ appearance.
Epsilon (¡) Lyrae – which is less than 2° from the bright star Vega, in the constellation of Lyra – is a star with a secret… or rather four. A low magnification eyepiece will show it as two close points of light, but increase the magnification and each of those points is revealed to be a pair of stars orbiting each other.
The Coathanger Cluster
A good pair of binoculars is all you’ll need to catch the beautiful Coathanger Cluster among the dark dust lanes
and star fields of the Milky Way. It lies just over a third of the way between the bright stars Altair and Vega.
While Saturn and Mars can be seen clearly with the naked eye in November’s skies, the fainter ice giant Neptune will require binoculars or a telescope. It’s currently about 2° to the east, roughly, of the star Lamda
(h) Aquarii. Through a medium-aperture telescope at high magnification you should be able to see it as a small, bluish disc.
As Cygnus soars high in November’s early-evening skies look to its ‘head’ where you’ll find the star Albireo (Beta (`) Cygni). Turning a telescope on it will reveal an exquisite pairing of stars – one gold, one bluish. Data from the Gaia mission recently revealed that this close stellar duplet results from a chance alignment, as the stars are not physically near to one another.
The Pleiades is the easiest open cluster to spot with the naked eye
The Coathanger Cluster isn’t actually a cluster at all but a chance alignment of stars
Messier 13, or, as it’s otherwise known, the Great Globular Cluster in Hercules
Albireo is one of the bestcontrasting double stars because of their vividly different colours