Downloadable Star Charts for November 2013
The Spring constellations are now displayed with the winged horse, Pegasus, dominating the northern sky. The Milky Way is spread around the horizon so our view overhead takes us deeply into the realm of the galaxies.
The moon passes next to several planets and stars this month and these conjunctions are worth watching out for. In particular, the moon passes by the brilliant planet Venus on 6/7 November and the bright star Spica from 5am on 30 November.
This month is a good time to pick out the bright stars of Pegasus (the winged horse) – making an asterism known as the “Square of Pegasus”. To the east of Pegasus, the constellation of Aries is easy to locate.
Trailing off the northern (lower) edge of the Square is a line of stars forming the constellation of Andromeda. On a dark night it is possible to spot the famous Andromeda galaxy (M31) with the naked eye although it is much easier using binoculars. While one of the treasures of the Northern Hemisphere, M31 only rises 20 degrees above the northern horizon in Auckland and is more challenging from the South Island.
High overhead are the bright southern stars, Achernar and Fomalhaut, which together with the constellation Grus are the most prominent feature of our late spring night sky.
Along the ecliptic plane, the relatively inconspicuous zodiac constellations of Capricornus, Aquarius, Pisces and Aries can be picked out using some bright stars like Fomalhaut and Achernar as guides. These constellations span an area of sky away from the plane of the Milky Way which has few bright stars.
Rising in the east, Cetus (the Whale) almost grazes the line of the ecliptic but is not a sign of the zodiac. It represents a giant sea monster or whale of Greek myth.
In the south, two naked-eye galaxies – the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds (LMC and SMC) – are rising during the early part of the night and lie roughly between Achernar and Canopus. This is a good time of year to seek them out, aided with binoculars.