Discover the night sky

In November

Also find out how
you can be a
citizen scientist


... What's in the sky at a glance

In November, the night is getting very short. The Sun is setting at 8pm and rises at 6am. The Galactic centre sets at sunset. Orion and the edge of the galaxy rise after sunset. The Magellanic Clouds are finally in a very good position to observe.

Table of Contents

What is remarkable about November is that the Pleiades are back in the evening sky – which is why Halloween is celebrated around this time of the year. Here in Aotearoa, we have one of the most beautiful asterisms of the night sky, stretching about 270 degrees around the horizon: the canoe of Tama Rereti. The constellation of Scorpius is the bow of the asterism of Te Waka O Tama Rereti. It lies on the western horizon. The galactic centre is now only half-visible and, after the sunset, is sinking beyond the horizon. The Southern Cross (also in the Milky Way) is the canoe’s anchor and is positioned due south, and Orion (at the edge of the Galaxy) is the sternpost of the canoe, laying on the eastern horizon. The Hyades and the Pleiades are the canoe’s feathers and water ripples. 

If you wish to become a serious stargazer, first, you need a pair of binoculars. We recommend getting binoculars before buying a telescope. We love using them. Plus, when stargazing with binoculars, you use both eyes. There’s nothing like using both your eyes to see faint objects. The Moon, The Planets, and Double Stars (Alpha Centauri, Gamma Velorum, Beta Muscae and Upsilon Carinae, are all great binocular targets. Then, of course, the Magellanic Clouds and the Milky Way in general, but in November, the Milky Way lays low, so the Magellanic Clouds are the next best thing. Browse them, and you will discover hidden gems.

Helix Nebula and the Grus Quartet are fantastic deep-sky objects (for telescope viewing). The Helix Nebula is excellent to observe as it’s the largest planetary Nebula in the night sky. It’s pretty faint, but if you’ve got an OIII filter, you will see a lot more. The Grus Quartet is a stunning group of four galaxies in the constellation of Grus, and throughout November, they are in a great viewing position in the evening. Three galaxies are close, and the four are a small distance away. Those with a long focal length eyepiece may get all four in the field of view at once!

As you learn more about the night sky, why don’t you

Join a Globe at Night survey this month as a citizen scientist

A study conducted by researchers from the GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences, the Ruhr-Universität Bochum and the US National Science Foundation’s NOIRLab, dubbed the “Globe at Night” Citizen Science Project, included 50,000 naked eye night sky observations made by volunteers between 2011 and 2022.

It revealed that satellite measurements misreported the amount of existing light pollution: (1) by missing the horizontal light  – such as light from advertising or billboards. (2) because current satellites measuring it are less sensitive to blue light.

Just like the 50,000 citizen scientists participating in the study, you can help for the 2023 round. This is also a great opportunity to know your night sky. 

All you need to do is count the number of stars on your street (or any place you like really) and report it anonymously to Globe at Night.

Also check out

Globe at night

Globe at Night features:

The measurements taken for the Globe at Night must be done on a moonless night. This is why Globe at Night recommends they are done around the New Moon.

How to plan your stargazing

It might sound silly because everyone knows that stargazing is done at night, but you would be surprised how much planning goes into it.

First, the sky is genuinely dark when the Sun is 12 degrees under the horizon. This is what is called night.

Twilight is the period between sunset and night. During that time, we indirectly see scattered light from the Sun after it sets.

So for a successful stargazing night, you must know your sunset and sunrise times and the phase of the Moon and of course, your targets for the night. 

Is a good idea for any stargazing party to know your sunset /sunrise and moonset/moonrise times. It’s always great to keep informed if anything special will happen while you’re out stargazing – for instance, if certain Planets are in the sky, if there is a meteor shower, a conjunction or even if the International Space Station is passing overhead.

Some people have alerts on their phones about these things and auroras. Most stargazing apps have all of these details and also allow you to make observation lists – which are very handy. 

Some astronomy / space apps we checked and use

SkySafari 7 Pro
A Review of SkySafari 7 Pro

The app we use to navigate around the night sky is SkySafari 7 Pro. Developed by Simulation Curriculum Corp, this app is a great way to learn about stars, planets and deep sky objects.

Read More »

Plan your observing around the Sun

The Sun is transiting the star sign of Libra from the 1st of November to the 23rd of November and the star sign of Scorpius from the 24th of November until the end of the month.

Sunrise: 6:05 AM on the first day of November and earlier and earlier every day so that on the 30th of November, it will rise at 5:40 AM. Sunset: 7:58 PM on the 1st of November and later and later 8:32 PM on the 30th of November. This makes the night 6.5 hours long at the beginning of the month and 5 hours at the end of November. As you can see, this month, we don’t have too many hours to explore the skies. Of course, we start seeing stars as soon as the civil twilight occurs and then it gets darker and darker with the nautical twilight and the astronomical twilight; these amount to about four hours in total (after sunset and before sunrise), but the best time for deep sky observations is when the sky is dark.

Also remember to check out the Moon

For stargazing, you must know what phase of the Moon it is. This is because the Moon makes light pollution which washes out most deep sky objects, so what you can see through a telescope when the Moon is in the sky is different than when the Moon is not.

Moon Myth

The full Moon is up; let’s go stargazing!

No. Stargazing is worst at full Moon. Even when looking at the Moon through a telescope, we must use filters to lower its brightness in the eyepiece, otherwise is way too bright. Yet, for some mysterious reason, observatories are most visited at full Moon.
Come stargazing with us in Wairarapa

An overview of the night sky this month

In Aotearoa, in November, just after sunset, the Milky Way lies on the horizon, just like the ocean surrounding us from all directions. It is a very beautiful metaphor, but this means the Milky Way is also harder to see. We look at it through a layer of atmosphere and quite often through light pollution.

After Winter and Spring have spoiled us with all the fantastic objects in Scorpius and Sagittarius, it is hard to match that richness of deep sky objects that lay at the centre of our galaxy. This is simply because when we look towards the galactic centre, we see more stars, clusters and nebulae than anywhere else in the sky. If there are no planets in the night sky and you don’t have a good telescope handy, we are not even going to mention “the joy” of having the Moon spilling light pollution over your deep sky objects at night. The suitable deep sky objects in November can hide in plain sight. You have put some work into learning how to find them. 

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The Magellanic Clouds are in an excellent position to observe the Sculptor Galaxy — almost at zenith and the Great Square of Pegasus, which are fun things to look at. 

Three Royal Stars are in the sky in November, and here in Wellington, New Zealand, we are looking at a Māori asterism called Te Waka O Tama Rereti (or Tamarereti), which is the great canoe that placed the stars in the sky. Fomalhaut is our favourite star this month, the loneliest star in the sky – as it’s called and the Pleiades are back in the east just in time for Halloween. 

In 2022, a lunar eclipse occurs in the evening of Tuesday, the 8th of November. Starting at 9PM, the eclipse is at its peak just before midnight. Here’s a cool article by Sky at Night Magazine on how to photograph it.

The Grus Quartet is one of our all times favourite and in a very good position to observe this time of the year.

Stargaze with us from Wairarapa

If you are in Wairarapa, come stargazing with us.

Wairarapa is now an official Dark Sky Reserve – find out more in our Look after our night sky exhibition here.

We have the best telescope equipment for public viewing on the North Island, with the most extensive range of powerful telescopes for stargazing. And, of course, we have hot chocolate.

Experience astronomy and space in virtual reality VR when the sky is cloudy.

When we are not doing stargazing with the public or with our own telescopes, we turn to SLOOH to explore the Universe. If you are really passionate about astronomy, want to learn more or just expand your knowledge, SLOOH is the next level. See you there, make sure you join the Star Safari club and say hi. 

Learn astronomy online

What is SLOOH?

Patented technology to explore space.  Robotic, mountaintop, online telescopes, live 18+ hours per day.

Curated journey of discovery. Space is a vast wilderness and Slooh is like a national park, with trails and guides. 

Communal exploration of the Universe. Learn from fellow members using the telescopes.

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