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For the month of November

Fall Sky Map © Wil Tirion

November Constellations

At nine pm on November evenings, the Summer Triangle, now low in the northwestern quadrant of the sky, is the last remnant of the warmer months as the nights turn colder. Its three corners -- Deneb, the alpha (or brightest) star in the constellation Cygnus, the Swan; Vega, the bright, blue-white alpha star in Lyra, the Harp; and Altair, the alpha star in Aquila, the Eagle -- are the most noticeable stars in the northwest. The Little Dipper, or Ursa Minor (the Little Bear), hangs down from its alpha star Polaris. Cepheus, the King, shaped like a peak-roofed house, is about halfway up the northern sky.

Orion, the Hunter, is rising above the eastern horizon as darkness falls. The three conspicuous stars of his belt point just north of the red star Aldebaran (the alpha star in Taurus, the Bull), about a third of the way up the eastern sky. The Pleiades, or Seven Sisters, star cluster lies just above Aldebaran. A third of the way up in the northeast is Capella, the alpha star in Auriga, the Charioteer. Near the horizon, the twin stars Castor and Pollux, in the constellation Gemini, are just rising. The Great Bear, Ursa Major, familiarly known as the Big Dipper, is very close to the horizon in the north. There are no bright stars in the southeastern portion of the sky. Cetus, the Sea Monster, and part of Pisces, the Fish, Aries, the Ram, and Eridanus, the River, all faint constellations, run thought this part of the sky. Look low toward the southwest to see Fomalhaut, the bright alpha star in Piscis Austrinus, the Southern Fish. Between Pegasus and Fomalhaut are the stars of Aquarius and Pisces. Aquila and Capricornus are low in the west.

Three stars in the constellation Pegasus and one star in Andromeda, called Alpheratz, form an asterism, or star shape, called the Great Square, which dominates the southwestern part of the sky. The two lines that form the narrow A shape of Andromeda run from that corner of the square. Trace the two lines, marked by pairs of stars, from Alpheratz to the second pair of stars. Using your finger as a guide, measure the distance between those two stars. Now train your eye the same distance northwest (upward) of the upper (dimmer) star of that pair, and find what looks like a fuzzy oval of light. This is the Great Andromeda Galaxy, 2 million light-years away and the most distant object the eye (unaided by binoculars or a telescope) can see. It is a spiral galaxy and is the nearest galaxy to our own Milky Way.