Think you can’t find planets, identify bright stars, or find constellations you may want to give this a try. No star maps, you just need to find the Moon. The best times to look are 30 minutes after sunset or when the Moon in is the morning sky about an hour before sunrise. Later this month we also have a possibility of a bright comet.
This month (2013) the Moon will pass by the planets Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Mercury and Saturn. The bright stars to see are Aldebaran, Castor, Pollux, Betelgeuse, Rigel, Procyon, Regulus, Fomalhaut, Arcturus, Deneb, Altair and Sirius. This month we say good bye to constellation Libra in the evening sky and welcome Virgo in the morning sky.
This is set up for Aurora, Colorado. Things will be slightly different depending on your location, but will still work for finding the planets and bright stars. Although times are listed for the Mountain Time Zone the times listed will be close for other time zones.
Start observing 60 minutes before sunrise
On November 1 a very thin crescent moon sits above the bright star Spica, Virgo’s brightest star before sunrise.
On November 2 the Moon will be very very thin and to close to the rising Sun to be easily seen.
On November 3 the phase of the Moon is new, rising and setting with the Sun. The Moon moves to the evening side of the Sun and will be difficult to see in the glare of the setting Sun for the next few days.
Observe 30 to 60 minutes after sunset
On November 5-7 a thin crescent moon can be seen shortly after sunset. To the left of the Moon is Venus. On November 6 Moon moves above Venus in the constellation Sagittarius the archer. Sagittarius points the way to the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way. Most amateur astronomers call Sagittarius the teapot. The pattern of stars, albeit somewhat faint, looks more like a teapot than an archer. On November 7 the Moon passes Venus and will be to the left of Venus.
On November 8 above the Moon nearly overhead there are three bright stars that form a large triangle called the Summer Triangle. The three stars are Altair (lowest) in the constellation Aqulia the eagle and Vega (high and right) in Lyra the harp and Deneb (pass overhead and to the left of Vega) in Cygnus the swan. Deneb is the dimmest of the three, but also the farthest away at 1700 light years. It burns around 196,000 times brighter than the Sun.
On November 9-11 the Moon is in the constellation Aquarius the water bearer. There are no bright stars in Aquarius. On November 9 the Moon is at first quarter or a half moon. When the Moon is at first quarter it is approximately in same place in space as the Earth and you were 3.5 hours ago. The star below the Moon above the horizon is Formalhaut in the constellation Piscis Austrinus, the southern fish.
On November 12-14 the Moon is in the constellation Pisces the fishes. There are no noticeably bright stars are in Pisces.
On November 15-16 the Moon moves to the constellation Aries the ram. There are no noticeably bright stars in Aries.
On November 17 the Moon is in constellation Taurus the bull, and is full. When the Moon is full it moves to the morning side of the Sun. For more detailed information about this month’s full moon including names go here.
Start observing 60 minutes before sunrise
On November 18-20 the Moon is still in Taurus. On November 18 the Moon is next to Aldebaran, the brightest star in Taurus. On November 19 the Moon is above Aldebaran and to the right of the bright star Betelgeuse, a red giant in the constellation of Orion. Below and a little left of Betelgeuse through the “three belt stars” is Rigel a blue giant. If you draw a line from the Moon through Betelgeuse it will point to Sirius, the Dog Star, in Canis Major the large dog. Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky. To the upper right of the Moon at some distance in the bright star Capella the goat star in the constellation Auriga, the charioteer. On November 20 above the Moon and Betelgeuse is bright Jupiter. Look for Comet ISON in the east which many become visible between now and the November 27.
On November 21-22 the Moon moves to the constellation Gemini the twins. On November 21 the Moon is below Jupiter. The two somewhat bright stars above of the Moon and Jupiter are Pollux (left) and Castor (right) the Gemini twins. To the left of the Moon is the bright star Procyon in Canis Minor the small dog. On November 21 the Moon moves to the left of Jupiter.
On November 23-24 the Moon is in the Cancer, the crab. There are no noticeably bright stars in Cancer.
On November 25-27 the Moon is in Leo the lion with its bright star Regulus. On November 25 the Moon is below Regulus. Mars is left of the Moon. The Moon is at third (or last) quarter or half moon. At this phase the Moon is approximately in the same place in space the Earth and you will be in 3.5 hours. Note how the Moon will thin and plunge toward the rising Sun in the next six days. On November 27 the Moon is below Mars. The bright star off to the left of the Moon is Arcturus in Bootes the herdsman.
On November 28-30 the Moon returns to Virgo where we started at the beginning of the month. On November 29 the Moon is very close to Spica. On November 30 the Moon is between Spica (upper) and a pair of “stars” just above the horizon, Mercury (upper) and Saturn (lower).
Wishing you clear skies