Saturn a sight to see in November
We have had some good viewing nights in October and November will also have some good viewing, but it will be colder and probably there will be more rain than in October. Who knows… perhaps we might even have a bit of snow!
What this means for amateur sky watchers is that we must be ready to use the nights we have to full advantage. There are some great things to see in the November night sky, but we need to be ready to go on short notice. Since I primarily do astrophotography, I have my equipment nearly all set up in my backyard so that within about 20 minutes, I am ready to shoot my first image.
This month the best planet to observe is Saturn. The rings of Saturn are about as open as these can be and by about 8 p.m., it is almost directly south in the night sky. With good binoculars of about 15 power, it might be possible to see that Saturn looks a bit egg-shaped because of the rings. One would need to prop the binoculars against something steady for the best view. Some binoculars can be attached to a tripod and this would be best. If you happen to have a telescope of at least four inches in diameter, use about 100 power and you can clearly see the planet, some of its subtle banding and the spectacular rings. Add magnification if you have it and do this until the image begins to deteriorate due to atmosphere turbulence. If you can do this, you will see one of the most spectacular astronomical sights to be seen!
If you have heard others talking about how they have seen Mars but you could not find it, the First Quarter Moon [the Moon looks half Moon] passes 1 degree south [about two Moon widths] of Mars on Nov. 15. It will be ‘orangish’ and it will not twinkle, as the surrounding stars do. Here again, if you have a telescope, look at this planet through it. It may be rather plain to see if the long-lingering dust storm still obscures this planet. On the other hand, you might see some variation in coloring — not easy to see. With about 100 power, you can also see one of the polar caps.
If you are inclined to be up before sunrise, look for Mercury and Jupiter in the direction of where the Sun will rise. Jupiter is bright enough to see after dawn begins, but Mercury will have faded by then. Jupiter will be big enough to appear as a dot, Mercury will look star-like and close to the Sun. If you see Mercury, count yourself one of the lucky few!
Here is a challenge! Go out well after dark and lie on your back looking straight up. Don’t forget the warm clothing and put something waterproof under you to lay on. Using just your eyes, see if you can find the so-called Great Square. It should be directly overhead by about 9 p.m. Now — the Great Square is BIG! It is part of the constellation Pegasus and the four stars that make it up are only about third magnitude which means not especially bright. The Great Square is always visible in the fall, just overhead, and a sign that we are moving to the end of the year. It would be a good idea to go out on your favorite browser and type in ‘The Great Square in Pegasus.’ You should get one or more sky maps that should help you find it. Good luck on this challenge!
As ever, each month shows its own wonders. Soon, Orion the Hunter will be the harbinger of winter and even if it is cold and clear, it is worth a look. To me, Orion is like an old friend. When I was 7 years old, I got a little astronomy book for Christmas. The book showed me how to find Orion and it is easy to see in December of any year. I found it and I have been hooked on amateur astronomy ever since!
Get out there and take a good look at a starry night and let yourself be awed by the wonder!