One of the most popular stories from ancient myth- ology is told in a group of constellations that highlight November’s sky. Cassiopeia, the vain queen of Ethiopia, claimed that she was the most beautiful woman of all, angering the sea nymphs. They convinced the sea god Neptune to send Cetus, a nasty sea monster, to destroy the kingdom. To appease the gods, King Cepheus ordered his daughter, the princess Andromeda, chained at the edge of the sea as a sacrifice. But she was rescued by Perseus, who flashed the monstrous head of Medusa at Cetus, turning him to stone. Five of these characters stretch from north to southeast in the evening sky.
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In the Sky This Month
November 16: Perseus Clusters
Perseus, the celestial hero, stands well up in the east by mid-evening. When we gaze that way, we’re looking toward the outskirts of the Milky Way Galaxy. Perseus’s borders contain a massive galaxy cluster, about 250 million light-years away.
November 17: Triangulum
The constellation Triangulum suffers from a lack of imagination. As the name suggests, it consists of three main stars that form a triangle -- an accurate if dull description for one of the smallest constellations. It is well up in the east at nightfall.
November 18: Southern Fish
Piscis Austrinus, the southern fish, is in the south this evening. It contains only one bright star, Fomalhaut, which marks the fish’s mouth. The white star is just 25 light-years from Earth.
November 19: Moon and Saturn
The crescent Moon has a bright companion early this evening -- the planet Saturn. It looks like a fairly bright star to the lower left of the Moon. They are quite low in the sky, so any buildings or trees along the horizon will block them from view.
November 20: Moon at Apogee
The Moon is farthest from Earth for its current orbit today. The Moon’s distance from Earth varies by almost 30,000 miles. At its closest it produces stronger tides; at its farthest, the tides are weaker than average.
November 21: Rho Cassiopeia
Cassiopeia, the queen, whose brightest stars form a letter W, is high in the north-northeast at nightfall. One of its stars, Rho Cassiopeia, is one of the biggest in the galaxy. If it took the Sun’s place, it would extend past the orbit of Mars.
November 22: Pleiades
The Pleiades star cluster marks the shoulder of Taurus, the bull. It is low in the east as darkness falls, above the star Aldebaran, the bull’s orange eye. The cluster’s brightest stars form a tiny dipper. It crosses high overhead around midnight.