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November Milky Way

November 19, 2016

November evenings are good times to watch the Milky Way — the combined glow of millions of stars in the disk of our home galaxy. It arches from east to west, with a definite dip toward the northern horizon. But you need a dark sky to see it — far from the pesky glow of city lights.

The autumn Milky Way is different from that of spring and summer. During those warmer months, Earth’s nightside faces the heart of the galaxy, so we see vast clouds of stars.

Now, though, the nightside faces the galaxy’s less-populated rim. That makes the Milky Way look thinner and fainter.

Even so, several of its most famous members are prominent in the evening sky now, so it’s well worth a look.

Cygnus, the swan, is dropping toward the western horizon. Cygnus is also known as the Northern Cross, because its brightest stars form the shape of a crucifix. At Christmastime, the cross stands almost straight up from the western horizon around dark.

Cassiopeia the queen stands atop the arch of the Milky Way a few hours after night falls. It looks like a letter M or W.

And one of the brightest stars in the night sky is Capella — a yellow-orange star in Auriga the charioteer. It’s fairly high in the northeast in mid-evening, and shines brightly through the subtle glow of the Milky Way.

Look for the Milky Way after nightfall, and continuing until moonrise, which comes by around midnight tonight, but later on each succeeding night through the end of the month.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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