November’s Stars and Planets

The night sky puts on some neat shows this month.  And for those of you in the Land Down Under, you can look forward to an eclipse of the sun!

Shortly before dawn on November 26, Venus and Saturn appear very close together:

Chart showing planets and stars
Saturn and Venus appear to kiss shortly before sunrise on November 26. Go out about 45 minutes before sunrise that morning and face East-Southeast to see these two, bright planets.  If you’re lucky, you might also see the planet Mercury hugging the horizon.  You’ll also see the bright, binary star Spica, located in the Name A Star Live constellation Virgo.

The evening of November 27 also presents a wonderful show:

Star Chart for November 27
Look for the Moon and the planet Jupiter toward the East-Northeast the evening of November 27. Both of these solar system objects will be in the Name A Star Live constellation Taurus. Jupiter will be near the V-shaped group of stars (called “The Hyades”), marked by the star Aldebaran. Look above the Moon for the beautiful group of stars known as “The Pleiades,” which are often confused with The Little Dipper, which is a different group of stars altogether.

Those of you in Australia are in for a real treat this month: An eclipse of the sun!  The sun will be totally eclipsed by the moon along a narrow path across the Northern Territory and Queensland.  But those of you in the rest of Australia will see a partial eclipse (local weather permitting).

Australian map showing eclipse path
Australians will be able to see a solar eclipse the morning of November 14, 2012, weather permitting. A total eclipse of the sun will be visible along the path highlighted in red. A partial eclipse will be visible throughout the remainder of Australia, as well as all of New Zealand.

Never look at the sun directly, even during an eclipse!  For more information about the eclipse, including how to observe it safely, read “Australia counts down to solar eclipse” appearing in Australia’s Cosmos magazine.  Those of you in New Zealand might want to check out the Stardome Observatory’s webpage about the eclipse.  Also, no matter where you live, you can watch the eclipse live, online.

Finding your star in the night sky

Stars are located within constellations, which are just areas of the night sky. Scorpius, Aries and Taurus are examples of constellations. Your Name A Star Live Star Certificate displays the name of your constellation. You can use our online World Constellation Guide to determine if you can see your constellation during the evening hours (between sunset and midnight). Of course, you’ll need a telescope to see your star. But you can see your constellation without the use of a telescope. You can also find your constellation by using our Virtual Planetarium™ astronomy software. A planisphere is another useful device.

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