The partially eclipsed Moon rising
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reDiscover the night sky

November

Stargazing

... 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.

What is cool 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 in the night sky that stretches 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 lays 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 anchor of the canoe 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 feathers and the ripples in the water. Check out the posts below about this very beautiful legend.

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, 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.  

Some fantastic deep sky objects (for telescope viewing) are Helix Nebula and the Grus Quartet. The Helix Nebula is a great object to observe as it’s the largest planetary Nebula in the night sky. It’s quite faint but if you’ve got an OIII filter you will definitely 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 of the galaxies are quite close together and the four is a small distance away. Those with a long focal length eyepiece may get all four in the field of view at once!

When it's dark and when it is not

Plan for your stargazing in advance!

Know your sunset /sunrise and moonset / moonrise times and if something cool happens while you’re out stargazing. 

The Sun

From 6AM to 8PM

The Sun is is transiting the star sign of Libra from 1st of November to 23rd 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 and 5 hours long 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 are amounting for about four hours in total (after sunset and before sunrise), but the best time for deep sky observations is when the sky is dark.

The Moon

For stargazing, you must know what phase of the Moon is. 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.

Myth

Stargazing is best at full Moon. 

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.

Cool stuff to see this month

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

After Winter and Spring have spoiled us with all the amazing objects in Scorpius and Sagittarius, 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 then anywhere else in the sky. In fact, if there are no planets in the night sky and you don’t have a good telescope handy — and we are not even going to mention “the joy” of having the Moon spilling light pollution over your deep sky objects at night, then the good deep sky objects in November can hide in plain sight. You have put some work into learning how to find them. 

The Magellanic Clouds, are in a good 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 of 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. 

Grus – the Grus Quartet of galaxies is in a very good position to observe and the constellation is spectacular in itself due to the line up of naked-eye double stars that makes a beautiful row in the sky.

Read about Grus on wikipedia.

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

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. 

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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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