October offers some of the best skywatching conditions of the year. The nights are getting longer, while the weather is cooler but not yet bitter. The evening sky offers such treats as Andromeda and several other constellations associated with her story, and the Pleiades and Hyades star clusters in Taurus. Jupiter is climbing higher into the morning sky, while Mars is getting ready to exit the evening sky.
This Week's Stargazing Tips
November 21: Mira
Mira, the “miraculous” star, in the constellation Cetus, is high in the south during mid to late evening. Mira got its name because it periodically disappears then reappears, the result of a rhythmic expansion and contraction.
November 22: Cassiopeia
Beautiful Cassiopeia circles high across the northern sky on autumn evenings. Its brightest stars form a letter M or W. In western culture, it represented the mythological queen of Ethiopia.
November 23: Auriga
Auriga, the charioteer, is low in the northeast early this evening and crowns the sky in the wee hours of the morning. Its leading light is brilliant Capella, one of the brightest stars in the night sky.
November 24: Orion Returns
Orion, the hunter, is returning to prime viewing time. Tonight, it climbs into good view in the east by around 9 or 9:30. Look for its “belt” of three stars, which points almost straight up from the horizon as the hunter rises.
November 25: Moon and Mars
The little planet Mars is in good view this evening. It looks like an orange star close to the left of the Moon. They are low in the southwest at nightfall, and set a couple of hours later.
November 26: Galaxy Mergers
The stars of winter are working their way into the evening sky. Look for them in the east beginning around 10 or 11 p.m.: Orion, the hunter; Gemini, the twins; and Canis Major, the big dog, with its “dog star” Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky.
November 27: The Dragon
A dragon slithers low across the northern sky this evening, curling around the North Star. It is the long but faint constellation Draco. You need dark skies to make out its sinuous body.
Check last week's tips if you missed a day.