These free, printable Sky Maps (star charts) by astrononer Jeff DeTray will help find your way around the night sky!
Each month, Jeff's Sky Maps highlight a wonderful event in the evening sky—including beautiful stars, constellations, planets, conjuntions with the Moon, meteor showers, and other amazing celestial objects.
Sky Map November 2014
By Jeff DeTray, Almanac astronomer writer
Visit Jeff's site at AstronomyBoy.com
This month's highlights: Prominent Constellations, Bright Stars, and Magnificent Meteors.
Just click, print, and bring outside!
On November evenings, the eastern sky is a busy place—a stargazers delight. At mid-month, there is a meteor shower to enjoy!
Of the constellations on November’s sky map, the easiest to identify is Orion, the Hunter. Orion is the brightest of all constellations, with no fewer than seven bright stars. Two of these, Betelgeuse and Rigel, are among the ten brightest stars in the sky. Orion appears to be reclining on his back at this hour. Betelgeuse is to the left, and Rigel is on the right, with the three bright stars of Orion’s Belt standing vertically between them. Compare the colors of Betelgeuse and Rigel; the former has an orangish tint while the latter is bright white.
Below Orion, just rising from the horizon is Sirius, the brightest star of all. (Not counting the Sun, of course!) Sirius is part of the constellation Canis Major, the Greater Dog, and one of two canines that assist Orion in his eternal quest to catch Lepus, the Hare. As part of Canis Major, Sirius became known as the Dog Star and gave rise to the term “the dog days of summer.” To learn more, WATCH: http://www.almanac.com/video/weather-wisdom-august-dog-days-summer Or READ here: http://www.almanac.com/calendar/date/2013-07-3
Sky map produced using Chris Marriott's Skymap Pro
When Sirius is near the horizon, it appears to twinkle more than any other star. There are two reasons for this.
First, the light from any star so near the horizon passes through more of Earth’s atmosphere than a star that is higher in the sky. This is why the Sun appears reddened when rising or setting; we’re seeing it through lots of churning atmosphere at those times.
The second reason Sirius twinkles so much is that its brightness exaggerates the effects of atmospheric turbulence. In fact, as Sirius twinkles, it sometimes appears to change color, flashing green or red—even purple! All stars twinkle, but Sirius near the horizon out-twinkles them all.
To the left of Sirius shines Procyon, the eighth brightest star, part of Canis Minor, the Lessor Dog and Orion's second canine companion. Procyon’s name derives from a Greek word that means “before the dog.” You see, Procyon always rises before Sirius the Dog Star and precedes Sirius across the sky. Thus Procyon is forever “before the dog.”
To the left of Orion, you’ll find Gemini, the Twins, featuring the bright stars Castor and Pollux. In one version of their mythological tale, Pollux was divine and therefore immortal, but his brother Castor was human and was killed in battle. Pollux wished to share his immortality with his beloved brother and Zeus agreed, transforming the two into the constellation Gemini and placing them in the sky, together forever.
Above Gemini is the lopsided pentagon of Auriga, the Charioteer. The bright star Capella anchors Auriga’s upper left corner. Exactly which mythological charioteer Auriga represents is up for debate. It might be Erichthonius, who invented the first chariot to be drawn by four horses. Or it could be the god Neptune emerging from the sea riding a chariot.
Auriga shares the star Elnath with the constellation Taurus, the Bull. Taurus has been recognized as a bull since prehistoric times. Its brightest star is the orangish Aldebaran whose name means “follower” in Arabic, so called because the star appears to follow the distinctive Pleiades star cluster through the night sky.
Finally, make plans to observe the excellent Leonid meteor shower starting late on November 16 and continuing through the wee hours of the 17th. The Leonids are one of the year’s most reliable meteor shows and usually produce about 15 “shooting stars” per hour when viewed from a dark location. The meteors may appear anywhere in the sky, so lie down or recline and cast your eyes toward the largest open area of sky you can see. Good hunting!
See our Sky Watch page for more highlights of the monthly sky, courtesy of The Old Farmer's Almanac.