If you fancy taking your mind far away from everything happening here on Earth just now, then how about momentarily losing yourself in other parts of our solar system?
NASA’s latest monthly update tells you everything you need to know on what to look out for in the night sky during the month of November. Best of all, you can view these visual delights with the naked eye, though binoculars or a telescope will of course offer an even better view.
Highlights for this month include spotting the Pleiades (also known as the Seven Sisters, M45, and Subaru), viewing Jupiter and Saturn with the moon, and a look at the so-called Earthshine.
The Pleiades is a bright cluster of several thousand stars (known as an “open star cluster”) about 400 light-years from Earth and estimated to be about 100 million years old.
Ideal viewing conditions in the northern hemisphere are in the cooler months of the fall, including this month. Look out for the Pleiades in the east a couple of hours after dark. The cluster climbs to its highest point in the sky at around midnight. For more detailed information on how to spot it, check out the video at the top.
Jupiter, Saturn, and the moon
On November 18 and 19 you can enjoy a beautiful crescent moon appearing close to Jupiter and Saturn. The two planets have been a regular fixture of the night sky for most of this year, and next month will appear at their closest. Between now and then, watch as Jupiter and Saturn continue to move closer together. Speaking of Jupiter, do take a moment to enjoy this cinematic “flyover” of the planet in what is a stunning piece of work by amateur citizen scientist Kevin M. Gill.
“You may have marveled at how brightly a full moon can light up a nighttime landscape, but have you noticed how Earth can illuminate the night side of the moon?” NASA asks.
“This eerily beautiful glow is called Earthshine. It is sunlight that’s been reflected off of Earth, then bounced off the moon and back to our eyes.”
The best time to look for Earthshine is in the days before and after a new moon when the section of the moon that’s directly lit by the sun shows as a slim crescent.
This month you can most easily see Earthshine after sunset from November 17 through November 20, as well as before dawn from November 9 through November 12. “For an added treat, on the 12th, the moon, illuminated by both sunshine and Earthshine, will appear just above the ‘Morning Star,’ Venus,” NASA says.
- Check out the night sky for a special planetary parade
- Check out NASA’s skywatching tips for February
- Observe a comet, and other skywatching tips for January
- See how the night sky changes over a decade with this NASA time lapse
- Look out, space billboards could be coming to a sky near you