Stargazing (or Rather, Moongazing) for the November Night Sky
Let’s show some appreciation for the Moon this month. Watch it as it moves across the night sky between November 10 and 17!
Just click here or on the image below to open the printable map—then bring outside!
Moon on the Move
The Moon is unique among the wonders of the night sky. Most obviously, it’s extremely bright, far outshining any star or planet. The Moon is also big. It’s the only astronomical object large enough to reveal its surface markings to our unaided eyes; we can see its dark and light regions at a glance. In pre-telescope times, the dark areas were thought to be large bodies of water and were given the name mare, Latin for “seas.” The lighter areas were assumed to be dry land.
The Moon is also speedy; its position relative to the stars changes dramatically from night to night. In comparison, most of the planets take anywhere from weeks to years before their positions appear to change. And the stars? Forget it! Their positions relative to other stars barely change over the course of a human lifetime.
This November, from the 10th to the 17th, presents a superb opportunity to watch the Moon race across the eastern sky. As a bonus, it passes near several interesting stars and constellations during its 8-day sprint.
- Our Moon Race begins on November 10 and 11 in a rather nondescript field of stars comprising the head of Cetus, the Whale. The nearly full Moon skims from right to left above the whale’s head on these two nights.
- One night later, on November 12, our satellite forms a distinctive triangle with two famous star clusters, the Pleiades and the Hyades. In Greek mythology, the seven Pleiades and five Hyades were half-sisters whose father was Atlas, the titan who is fated to forever hold up the heavens. If you have keen eyesight and wait for a dark night when no Moon is present, you might be able to see seven or more stars of the Pleiades cluster and five or more members of the Hyades.
- By the November 13, the Moon will have passed the Hyades to then sit close to the bright star Aldebaran, the Eye of the Bull in the constellation Taurus. Occasionally, when the Moon moves through this region of the sky, it passes right in front of Aldebaran, temporarily blocking it from view. This is known as an occultation. The next occultation of Aldebaran by the Moon won’t occur until 2033.
- The Moon—obviously shrinking from full—reaches the tip of one of Taurus’s horns on November 14, when it also comes fairly close to Orion, the Hunter. Orion’s Belt and the bright stars Betelgeuse and Rigel are easy to spot.
- By November 15, the Moon is spending the first of two nights with Gemini, the Twins. It enters the constellation at the feet of Castor, who in Greek mythology was the mortal half-brother of immortal Pollux. When Castor died, Pollux begged their father Zeus to grant his half-brother immortality. Zeus agreed, placing them together in the heavens, hand-in-hand, for all eternity. On its second night in Gemini, the Moon is located near Pollux’s waist.
- The Moon ends its 8-day journey low in the sky on November 17. It shares the area with two horizon-hugging stars, bright Procyon and even brighter Sirius, the brightest of all stars. Take a good look at Sirius. When it’s this low in the sky, it twinkles like crazy and may even flash colors, such as green, red, and blue!
November 2019 Sky Map
Click here or on map below to enlarge (PDF).
Sky map produced using Chris Marriott’s Skymap Pro
Note: How to Read the Sky Map
Our sky map does not show the entire sky which would be almost impossible. Instead, the monthly map focuses on a particular region of the sky where something interesting is happening that month. The legend on the map always tells you which direction you should facing, based on midnight viewing. For example, if the map legend says “Looking Southeast,” you should face southeast when using the map.
The map is accurate for any location at a so-called “mid northern” latitude. That includes anywhere in the 48 U.S. states, southern Canada, central and southern Europe, central Asia, and Japan. If you are located substantially north of these areas, objects on our map will appear lower in your sky, and some objects near the horizon will not be visible at all. If you are substantially south of these areas, everything on our map will appear higher in your sky.
The items labeled in green on the sky map are known as asterisms. These are distinctive star patterns that lie within constellations. When getting your bearings under the stars, it’s often easiest to spot an asterism and use it as a guide to finding the parent constellation.
The numbers along the white “Your Horizon” curve at the bottom of the map are compass points, shown on degrees. As you turn your head from side to side, you will be looking in the compass direction indicated by those numbers. The horizon line is curved in order to preserve the geometry of objects in the sky. If we made the horizon line straight, the geometry of objects in the sky would be distorted.