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Star Gazing - November 19 - 25, 2017
Sunday, November 19
• A mere 20 or 30 minutes after sunset, scan with binoculars just above the southwest horizon for the crescent Moon
and Mercury, as shown in the middle panel here. They're about 8° or 9° apart (for North America). Saturn is to
Mercury's upper left.
• Orion is clearing the eastern horizon by 8 p.m. this week (depending on how far east or west you live in your time
zone). His three-star belt is nearly vertical. High above Orion shines orange Aldebaran. Above Aldebaran is the little
Pleiades cluster, the size of your fingertip at arm's length. Far left of Aldebaran and the Pleiades shines bright Capella.
Monday, November 20
• While twilight is still bright, look low in the southwest for the waxing crescent Moon. Left of it by about 3° (for North
America) is Saturn. No more than 20 or 30 minutes after sunset, use binoculars to hunt for Mercury 7° or 8° below
them, as shown in the middle panel above.
Tuesday, November 21
• The crescent Moon, now thicker and higher in twilight, points lower right toward Saturn. Mercury again glimmers
lower right of Saturn before setting, as shown in the middle panel above.
Wednesday, November 22
• Two faint fuzzies naked-eye: The Andromeda Galaxy (M31) and the Perseus Double Cluster are two of the most
famous deep-sky objects. They're both cataloged as 4th magnitude, and in a fairly good sky you can see both with the
unaided eye. They're located only 22° apart, very high toward the east early these evenings — to the right of Cassiopeia
and closer below Cassiopeia, respectively. But they look rather different, the more so the darker your sky. See for
yourself; they're plotted on the all-sky constellation map in the center of the November Sky & Telescope.
Thursday, November 23
• Does the Sun already seem to be setting about as early as it ever will? You're right! We're still a month away from the
winter solstice — but the Sun sets its earliest around December 7th if you're near latitude 40° north. And right now it
already sets within about 3 minutes of that time.
A surprising result of this: The Sun sets just about as early on Thanksgiving as on Christmas — even though Christmas
is much closer to solstice time!
This offset is made up for by the opposite happening at sunrise: the Sun doesn't rise its latest until January 4th. Blame
the tilt of Earth's axis and the eccentricity of Earth's orbit.
Friday, November 24
• Whenever Fomalhaut "souths" — crosses the meridian due south, which it does around 7 p.m. this week — the first
stars of Orion are just about to rise above the east horizon. And, the Pointers of the Big Dipper stand upright due
north, straight below Polaris.
Saturday, November 25
• The bowl of the Little Dipper is descending the northern sky in the evening at this time of year, left or lower left of
Polaris. By about 11 p.m. now, it hangs straight down below Polaris.
Starry, Starry Night . . .
"I know nothing of any certainty, but the sight of the stars
makes me dream." -Vincent Van Gogh