Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of November 2020
M74 (NGC 628), a perfectly shaped spiral galaxy, is one of the most photogenic galaxies in the night sky. An island universe of about 100 billion stars, 30 million light-years away toward the constellation Pisces, M74 presents a gorgeous face-on view to earthbound astronomers. Classified as an Sc galaxy, the grand design of M74's graceful spiral arms traced by bright blue star clusters and dark cosmic dust lanes, is similar in many respects to our own home galaxy, the Milky Way. Recorded with a 28 million pixel detector array, this impressive image celebrates first light for the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS), a state-of-the-art instrument at the 8-meter Gemini North telescope. The Gemini North Observatory gazes into the skies above Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA, while its twin observatory, Gemini South, operates in central Chile. [Video Credits: NASA, JPL – Caltech, and the Office of Public Outreach – STScI] [Image Credit: Gemini Observatory, GMOS Team]
Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of November 2020
Welcome to the night sky report for November 2020 -- Your guide to the constellations, deep sky objects, planets, and celestial events that are observable during the month. In November, hunt for the fainter constellations of fall, including Pisces, Aries, and Triangulum. They will guide you to find several galaxies and a pair of white stars. The night sky is truly a celestial showcase. Get outside and explore its wonders from your own backyard.
The dark, cold nights of November are a good time to start looking for the Pleiades. This bright cluster of stars is a well-known sight to most stargazers, and is best enjoyed in the cooler fall and winter months in the Northern Hemisphere.
The Pleiades is what's known as an open star cluster – it's a loosely bound grouping of a couple thousand stars that formed together and are slowly drifting apart over time. A handful of the brightest stars in the cluster are visible with the unaided eye, and with binoculars or a telescope, you can see hundreds.
Astronomers estimate the age of the cluster is only about 100 million years. It's located a bit more than 400 light years away. The brightest stars in the Pleiades are many times brighter than our own star, the Sun. In fact, if you were to visit the Pleiades and look homeward, you wouldn't even be able to see the Sun without a small telescope.
On cool November evenings, look for the Pleiades in the east in the couple of hours after dark. The cluster rises to its highest point around midnight. You can also enjoy an early morning view of the Pleiades near the Moon, before dawn on November 2nd.
Pegasus flies high in the southeast after nightfall and is a good guidepost for some of autumn’s dimmer patterns. Look south and east of the Great Square of Pegasus for Pisces, the fish. In Greek legend, the two fish, tied together with a rope, represent Aphrodite and Eros, who transformed themselves to escape a monster.
The sprawling star pattern includes the Circlet, marking the western fish. Located below the pattern of the eastern fish is the spiral galaxy M74 (NGC 628). NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has rendered it in exquisite detail. M74 is known as a grand design spiral and has two prominent bluish spiral arms wound neatly around the redder galactic nucleus. The nucleus appears redder because there is little new star formation there and many of the hot blue stars have evolved to become red giant stars or have exhausted their fuel altogether. NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope provides a dramatic view of the infrared light of the galaxy. The pink hues depict dust lanes that punctuate the spiral arms, showing dense cloud regions where new stars can form.
To the east of the Great Square and Pisces lies the small pattern of Aries the ram. The third-brightest star in the pattern, named Mesarthim, is a lovely pair of white stars, easy to distinguish in a small telescope.
Above Aries is the constellation of Triangulum. The constellation contains the third-largest galaxy of our Local Group, after the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies: M33, the Triangulum Galaxy. From our perspective, this galaxy is relatively large and diffuse and can be spotted with binoculars. NASA’s space telescopes have imaged the galaxy’s spiral features in great detail. Spitzer’s infrared view shows the distribution of dust in its ragged spiral arms. An ultraviolet image from NASA’s GALEX mission shows emissions from hot stars in its disk. Look for the bright blue and white areas to see where star formation has been extremely active over the past few million years. Patches of yellow and gold are regions where star formation was more active 100 million years ago.
On November 18th and 19th, enjoy a lovely crescent moon near Jupiter and Saturn after sunset. The two planets have been brilliant highlights of the night sky for much of this year, and are now getting closer together in advance of their super close pairing in mid-December. More about that next month, but for now, be sure to watch as they draw a little nearer to each other each week.
You may have marveled at how brightly a full moon can light up a nighttime landscape, but have you noticed how Earth can illuminate the night side of the Moon? This eerily beautiful glow is called Earthshine. It's sunlight that's been reflected off of Earth, then bounced off the Moon and back to our eyes.
Earthshine is easiest to observe in the few days before and after the new moon, when the part of the Moon that's directly lit by the Sun appears as a slim crescent. This is partly because there's less of the bright, sunlit surface to compete with the dimmer Earthshine-lit portion, and partly because the phases of Earth and the Moon are complimentary: when the Moon is a slim crescent in our sky, Earth seen from the Moon looks nearly full.
Occasionally, NASA spacecraft use this phenomenon to make the night side of other planets and moons visible – for example Saturn-shine on Saturn's moons and ring-shine lighting up Saturn itself, as seen by NASA's Cassini spacecraft.
The best times to observe Earthshine in November are on the 17th through the 20th, following sunset, and before dawn on the 9th through the 12th. And for an added treat, on the 12th, the Moon, illuminated by both sunshine and Earthshine, will appear just above the "Morning Star," Venus.
Make an effort to brave the chilly nights and enjoy the constellations, stars, and galaxies of the November sky.
The night sky is always a celestial showcase. Explore its wonders from your own backyard.
The following Deep Sky Objects are found in constellations that peak during the month. Some can be viewed with a small telescope, but the majority will require a moderate to large telescope. The following is adapted from my personal viewing list: "The Guy Pirro 777 Best and Brightest Deep Sky Objects."
NGC 772 Galaxy Herschel 400 H112-1
- NGC 770 Galaxy - Paired with H112-1
NGC 821 Galaxy P234
IC 1613 Galaxy C51
NGC 157 Galaxy Herschel 400 H3-2
NGC 246 Planetary Nebula C56, Herschel 400 H25-5
NGC 247 Galaxy C62, Herschel 400 H20-5
NGC 584 Galaxy Herschel 400 H100-1
NGC 596 Galaxy Herschel 400 H4-2
NGC 615 Galaxy Herschel 400 H282-8
NGC 720 Galaxy Herschel 400 H105-1
NGC 779 Galaxy Herschel 400 H101-1
NGC 908 Galaxy Herschel 400 H153-1
NGC 936 Galaxy Herschel 400 H23-4
- NGC 941 Galaxy - Paired with H23-4
NGC 1022 Galaxy Herschel 400 H102-1
NGC 1042 Galaxy P221
NGC 1052 Galaxy Herschel 400 H63-1
NGC 1055 Galaxy Herschel 400 H1-1
NGC 1068 Galaxy M77 Cetus A Seyfert Galaxy
NGC 1097 Galaxy C67
NGC 1201 Galaxy P153
NGC 1316 Galaxy P30 Fornax A Galaxy
NGC 1326 Galaxy P154
NGC 1340 Galaxy P83
NGC 1350 Galaxy P155
NGC 1360 Planetary Nebula P84
NGC 1365 Galaxy P51
NGC 1380 Galaxy P85
NGC 1399 Galaxy P32
NGC 1398 Galaxy P33
NGC 1404 Galaxy P86
NGC 2903 Galaxy Herschel 400 H56-1
NGC 2964 Galaxy Herschel 400 H114-1
- NGC 2968 Galaxy - Paired with H114-1
NGC 3190 Galaxy Herschel 400 H44-2
- NGC 3187 Galaxy - Paired with H44-2
NGC 3193 Galaxy Herschel 400 H45-2
NGC 3226 Galaxy Herschel 400 H28-2 Paired with H29-2
NGC 3227 Galaxy Herschel 400 H29-2 Leo Seyfert Galaxy Paired with H28-2
NGC 3351 Galaxy M95
NGC 3368 Galaxy M96
NGC 3377 Galaxy Herschel 400 H99-2
NGC 3379 Galaxy M105, Herschel 400 H17-1
NGC 3384 Galaxy Herschel 400 H18-1
NGC 3412 Galaxy Herschel 400 H27-1
NGC 3489 Galaxy Herschel 400 H101-2
NGC 3521 Galaxy Herschel 400 H13-1
NGC 3593 Galaxy Herschel 400 H29-1
NGC 3607 Galaxy Herschel 400 H50-2 Paired with H51-2
NGC 3608 Galaxy Herschel 400 H51-2 Paired with H50-2
NGC 3623 Galaxy M65
NGC 3626 Galaxy C40, Herschel 400 H52-2
NGC 3627 Galaxy M66
NGC 3628 Galaxy Herschel 400 H8-5
NGC 3640 Galaxy Herschel 400 H33-2
- NGC 3641 Galaxy - Paired with H33-2
NGC 3655 Galaxy Herschel 400 H5-1
NGC 3686 Galaxy Herschel 400 H160-2
NGC 3810 Galaxy Herschel 400 H21-1
NGC 3900 Galaxy Herschel 400 H82-1
NGC 3912 Galaxy Herschel 400 H342-2
IC 348 Open Cluster P95
IC 2003 Planetary Nebula P237
NGC 650 Planetary Nebula M76 Little Dumbell Nebula
NGC 651 Planetary Nebula Herschel 400 H193-1 Part of M76
NGC 744 Open Cluster P96
NGC 869 Open Cluster C14a, Herschel 400 H33-6 Double Cluster (West)
NGC 884 Open Cluster C14b, Herschel 400 H34-6 Double Cluster (East)
NGC 957 Open Cluster P97
NGC 1023 Galaxy Herschel 400 H156-1
NGC 1039 Open Cluster M34 Spiral Cluster
NGC 1220 Open Cluster P238
NGC 1245 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H25-6
NGC 1275 Galaxy C24 Perseus A Seyfert Galaxy
NGC 1342 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H88-8
NGC 1444 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H80-8
NGC 1496 Open Cluster P174
NGC 1499 Diffuse Nebula P44 - California Nebula
NGC 1513 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H60-7
NGC 1528 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H61-7
NGC 1545 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H85-8
NGC 1582 Open Cluster P45
NGC 1605 Open Cluster P239
NGC 1624 Open Cluster P240
NGC 7078 Globular Cluster M15
NGC 7217 Galaxy Herschel 400 H207-2
NGC 7331 Galaxy C30, Herschel 400 H53-1
NGC 7448 Galaxy Herschel 400 H251-2
NGC 7457 Galaxy P173
NGC 7479 Galaxy C44, Herschel 400 H55-1
NGC 7814 Galaxy C43
NGC 488 Galaxy Herschel 400 H252-3
NGC 524 Galaxy Herschel 400 H151-1
NGC 628 Galaxy M74
NGC 676 Galaxy P175
Messier 45 Open Cluster M45 Pleiades
Caldwell 41 Open Cluster C41 Hyades
IC 1995 Diffuse Nebula P64
NGC 1514 Planetary Nebula P120
NGC 1554 Diffuse Nebula P200 Von Struve’s Lost Nebula
NGC 1555 Diffuse Nebula P201 Hind’s Variable Nebula
NGC 1647 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H8-8
NGC 1750 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H43-8
NGC 1807 Open Cluster P65
NGC 1817 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H4-7
NGC 1952 Diffuse Nebula M1 Crab Nebula
NGC 598 Galaxy M33 Herschel 400 H17-5 Triangulum Galaxy
NGC 925 Galaxy P66
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