Winter Stars on the Rise…Summer Stars Say Bye Bye!
In November we go back to Central Standard Time, and that's just fine with me. First off, we get an extra hour of sleep, but more importantly for stargazers it's dark enough for stargazing long before 7:00. Without a doubt, we're entering the best stargazing season of the year, if you don't mind a shivering a bit. It's worth it though, because there's a lot of great celestial gems waiting for you in the November night sky. Just bundle up!
Over in the western sky there are still a few summer constellations hanging in there. Cygnus the Swan, Lyra the Harp, Aquila the Eagle, Delphinus the Dolphin and a few others are slowly migrating to the west a little more each night, making their slow exit from our celestial stage.
In the high southern sky is the primo autumn constellation Pegasus the Winged Horse, with Andromeda the Princess tagging along. Turn around and face north and you'll see old friends like the Big Dipper, barely above the horizon, with the Little Dipper hanging by its handle higher in the northern sky. Cassiopeia the Queen, the constellation that looks like a giant sideways W, is proudly showing off her stuff in the high northeast sky. The W outlines the throne of the Queen, and Cassiopeia is tied up in that throne. She really ticked off Hera, the queen of the gods, by proclaiming that she was even more beautiful than Hera's godly self. So Hera threw Cassiopeia up into the sky, eternally bound to her throne for all to see.
In the eastern sky you'll really notice a lot of bright stars on the rise especially after 8pm. The later you stay up, the more of these wonderful winter constellations you'll see. I call this part of the sky "Orion and his Gang" because the majestic constellation Orion the Hunter is the centerpiece. Orion is up by 10pm, but before then you'll see the Pleiades, the best star cluster in the sky, which looks like a miniature Big Dipper.
Unfortunately we don't have any bright planets in the evening sky this month, but if you're up after 2am Jupiter and Mars are up above the eastern horizon. After 4am the bright planet Venus dazzles in the low eastern sky.
The Leonid Meteor shower could put on quite a show. It will peak out for us in the early morning pre-twilight skies around November 17th. You may see over 40 meteors an hour in the dark countryside.