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The night sky for November 2014

Northern Hemisphere

Ian Morison tells us what we can see in the northern hemisphere night sky during November 2014.

The four stars of the Square of Pegasus are in the south after dark, with the Horse's head and mane to their lower right. Just beyond the head is the globular cluster M15, visible in binoculars or a telescope. Starting at Alpheratz, the top-left star of the Square, you can find M13, the Andromeda Galaxy. The W-shaped constellation of Cassiopeia is almost overhead, and the V of the upper-right stars also points towards M31. Pisces is to the lower-left of Pegasus, with Aries further left still. Orion and Taurus rise higher in the sky as the night wears on, with the Pleiades Cluster climbing in the south-east and the Hyades Cluster to its lower-left. The red-orange star Aldebaran appears to be part of the Hyades, but is actually around halfway between us and the cluster. Orion is below Taurus, the three stars of his Belt pointing up towards Aldebaran and the brightest night-time star, Sirius. The lower-right star of Orion is the blue giant Rigel, while the upper-left is the red giant Betelgeuse. Coming down from Cassiopeia, along the plane of the Milky Way, you reach Perseus. It contains the Perseus Double Cluster, between Cassiopeia and the star Mirfak, and also hosts Algol, known as the Demon Star due to a periodic dip in brightness that results from the eclipse of one star by another in a binary system. Descending from Perseus, you get to the yellow star Capella in Auriga, with the three open star clusters of M38, M36 and M37 nearby. Further down is Gemini, rising in the east after nightfall, with the stars of Castor and Pollux representing the Twins and the open cluster M35 near to the feet of the figure of Castor.

The Planets


Southern Hemisphere

Claire Bretherton from the Carter Observatory in New Zealand speaks about the southern hemisphere night sky during November 2014.

As Scorpius sets in the west after dark, Orion, Taurus and Canis Major rise in the east. The red star Antares, in Scorpius, is just above the south-western horizon at 23:00 NZDT. Known to Maori as Rehua, it marks one of the four Pou, or pillars, holding up the Sky Father, Ranginui. The other Pou are Matariki (the Pleiades), Tautoru (Orion's Belt) and Takurua (Sirius), and line the eastern horizon in the late evening. Their rising positions are close to those of the Sun at the winter solstice, the equinoctes and the summer solstice respectively. Stretching between Orion and Scorpius is Te Waka o Tama-rereti, a canoe represented by the tail of Scorpius (also known as Te Waka o Mairerangi) at its front and Orion's Belt (Tautoru) at its stern, with Crux (Te Punga) and the Pointer Stars (Te Taura) as its anchor and anchor line. Tama-rereti was said to have been a man who sailed across the sky in his canoe, placing the stars from his Kete (basket) into the heavens to allow navigation on Earth. He then capsized the canoe and spilled the remaining stars to form the Milky Way, or Te Ikaroa. The Maori new year is celebrated at the summer solstice, when the bright star Atutahi (Canopus), the Ariki (high chief) of the heavens, pulls up the anchor and sets the canoe in motion across the sky. Canopus is midway up the south-eastern sky in the evening in November.

A little higher and further south are two fuzzy patches of light called the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds (LMC and SMC), a pair of dwarf galaxies neighbouring the Milky Way and each containing several billion stars. The LMC is the lower of the two, and young star clusters within it may be seen as small patches of light through binoculars or a telescope. Prominent among these is the Tarantula Nebula (also called 30 Doradus or NGC 2070), an active starburst region containing over 800,000 stars and protostars. It was here that the most recent supernova visible to the naked eye on Earth, SN 1987A, occurred. The SMC appears close to the globular cluster 47 Tucanae, but is actually over ten times further away from the Earth than is the cluster. 47 Tucanae is the second-brightest globular cluster in our sky at magnitude +4.9, and is visible to the naked eye when the sky is dark. A telescope reveals a dense core of over a million stars, surrounded by a sparser sprinkling of many more.

The Planets


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