Backyard Stargazer for November

By Francis Parnell

It won’t be long until we’re carving the Big Bird at Thanksgiving Dinner with our family and friends. And speaking of birds, did you know that in the night sky there are a number of constellations that are named after birds? The list includes CYGNUS, the Swan, AQUILA, the Eagle, COLUMBA, the Dove, PAVO, the Peacock, GRUS, the Crane, APUS, the Bird of Paradise, and even the mythological PHOENIX. But what about the Turkey?

Benjamin Franklin lobbied for our national bird to be the Turkey but congress said no-no and rightly chose the majestic Eagle. So it just wouldn’t be right to name a constellation after a bird that has been reported to stand in the rain, look up with its mouth open, and drown. Alas, the poor Turkey never made it into the night sky, but it’s certainly the brightest *Star* at our holiday feasts.

Let’s see what’s in the sky for November.

45 minutes before sunrise on the 4th, look for sparkling white Venus low in the east-southeast.
Just before dawn on the 16th, the very thin crescent Moon is about 6-degrees above yellow Jupiter, which is about 3-degrees to the upper right of Venus.

At dusk on the 20th, spot the waxing crescent Moon 3-degrees to the right of the ringed planet Saturn. Using binoculars, you might be able to locate Mercury about 8-degrees below the pair no more than 30 minutes after sunset.

Looking southwest, Mercury reaches greatest elongation, 22-degrees east of the Sun on the 23rd, and over the last week of the month, moves a little higher in the evening twilight.
On the 28th, use binoculars and look low in the southwest to find Saturn and Mercury just 3-degrees apart. They’ll get closer together for the next nine days.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Author: mrollins

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