The clocks have gone back again so there should be more opportunities to enjoy the winter sky in the darker evenings. It has been good watching Jupiter and Saturn in the evening sky, especially the former as it shines so brightly. Unfortunately my attempts to see their close approaches to the Moon have been thwarted by clouds. Still there will be another chance this month.
The following chart represents the night sky at 11.00pm GMT on the 8th of November and at 10.00pm GMT on the 23rd November. To use the chart, face south at the appropriate time with the bottom of the chart towards the southern horizon and you will see the stars in the chart. If you are observing a little earlier in the evening then the view is shifted 15 degrees eastwards for every hour before the specified time.
On the right hand side of the chart there is part of the constellation Andromeda and the two smaller constellations Triangulum and Aries which we mentioned last month. But we will use our old favourite Cassiopeia as our guide because you cannot fail to see it. Remember you don’t have to wait till late in the evening to observe these, make use of the earlier dark skies and look more towards your eastern horizon.
Look to the south east of Cassiopeia and you find, lying in the Milky Way, the constellation Perseus- named after the hero in Greek mythology. Again it is difficult to recognise a human shape but the lines above the star Mirphak represent his right arm and sword while the bright star Algol represents his left hand holding the head of his victim. That is enough of the gory details. Mirphak is a 1.8 magnitude yellow supergiant while Algol is an eclipsing binary varying in magnitude between 2.1 to 3.4. There are another five stars around magnitude three or brighter making Perseus a prominent northern constellation.
To the left of Perseus is the constellation Auriga- The Charioteer. It is easily identified because it contains the star Capella, the 4th brightest star in the northern hemisphere, at magnitude 0.1, and ‘only’ 42 light years from Earth. Again it is a binary system composed of two yellow giants. Auriga is in the rough shape of a pentagon although the bottom star Alnath is actually in the constellation Taurus.
In fact the constellation Taurus- The Bull, is our final constellation this month, lying directly below Auriga. It is one of the oldest constellations having been recognised as early as Babylonian times. It is also one of the constellations of the zodiac. Its brightest star is Aldebaran a red giant of magnitude 1 and readily recognisable because of its colour, supposedly representing the red eye of the angry bull. The two lines with Alnath at the top of the upper one represent the bull’s horns. The ‘V’ shape to the right of Aldebaran represents the face of the bull and is an open star cluster called the Hyades. The more famous open cluster, the Pleiades or Seven Sisters, lies to the north west of Aldebaran in the direction of Algol. The Pleiades is one of my favourite objects to view with the unaided eye and I recall watching Venus pass close to the Pleiades during the spring of 2020.
Something to look out for
Saturn and Jupiter are the gifts that keep on giving as they both make another close approach to the Moon on the 10th and 11th of November respectively. There will also be a partial eclipse of the full Moon on the 19th November but we are not well located for viewing it as the Moon will be close to the horizon and will set partway through the eclipse which takes place between 7.00am and 9.00am.