Saturn can be found low in the southwest sky in early November, bright and easy to see. If you are adventurous there are two other planets gracing our evening skies; Uranus and Neptune! They can’t be seen with just the eye, like Saturn, they are too faint and would require at least binoculars or a small telescope. These Ice Giant planets are on the observing list at The Observatory. A keen eye can detect the green (Uranus) and blue (Neptune) colors.
Towards the northeast, you may have noticed a column of bright stars rising at sunset. Use the included chart to start your observing adventure! Rotate it so the northeast is at the bottom and stand facing towards the northeast, those bright stars are three interesting constellations historically and observationally. Half-way from the horizon to the zenith you may notice a ‘W’ (or ‘M’) shape, this is Cassiopeia, The Queen, and below her in the sky, closer to the horizon, is Perseus, The Hero. Above Cassiopeia is Cepheus, The King. This region is the northern Winter Milky Way region, filled with star clusters and nebulae (plural of nebula). On the chart, any object with a symbol will be stunning in binoculars.
Also this time of year, and on this chart, is an impressive star cluster clearing the trees in the east. The Pleiades, aka The Seven Sisters, is a very bright and very close star cluster to Earth, just under 450 light years. In mythology, it represents the head of Medusa that Perseus removed successfully without turning to stone. Equally appealing is the Double Cluster, two star clusters separated by a few hundred light years, both at about 7500 light years. This line of sight pairing is rare for clusters of somewhat equal brightness and fun to track down and show your neighbors.
You are likely to see ‘faint fuzzies’, as they are called, that aren’t on this chart. If you see those, call The Observatory and talk to me about what star charts you should have that shows them to continue your exploration of the Universe. With many to choose from you can make an informed choice. The same goes for binoculars or telescopes, call me with your questions. We introduce astronomy and the wonders of the Universe to everyone who is interested.
Steven Aggas is the Director at Apache-Sitgreaves Observatory, in Overgaard, AZ, using the largest public viewing telescope in Arizona. Visit Apache-Sitgreaves.org for information on events and tickets.