Autumn’s evening sky holds many delights as the Earth in its course takes us to new vistas of the starry realm. The constellations of the west slowly shift out of sight from night to night; in another month’s time you’ll see a big difference if you look at the same hour. It is like staring out the rear window in your car (assuming you‘re NOT the driver!) as you move down the highway. The scenery keeps falling away as you move along.

Autumn’s evening sky holds many delights as the Earth in its course takes us to new vistas of the starry realm.

The constellations of the west slowly shift out of sight from night to night; in another month’s time you’ll see a big difference if you look at the same hour. It is like staring out the rear window in your car (assuming you‘re NOT the driver!) as you move down the highway. The scenery keeps falling away as you move along.

Looking out your car’s windshield, you see scenery coming at you as you drive ahead. In the same way, looking east at night shows an oncoming parade of constellations, as the Earth hurtles around in its orbit.

Our rear-window view on November evenings shows what’s left of summer’s glorious skies. Reminisce about those warm, lazy days of summer as you take a look at the departing stars of Cygnus the Swan and its brightest star Deneb; Lyra the Harp and its brilliant star Vega and Aquilia the Eagle, with its bright star Altair marking its eye.

Cygnus the Swan is also known as the Northern Cross, and when positioned in the west, you will note how it is descending to an upright position, as you would expect the cross to look. In mid-November, if you wait till about 11:30 p.m. or so, the Northern Cross will be most upright, and about to set below the horizon. If you’d rather see this in early evening, you’ll have to wait till about Christmas.

When the Northern Cross is nearly upright low in the west, our planet’s oncoming view in the east will show us the brilliant stars of winter heralding their season is on its way. The brightest star of the night sky, blue-white Sirius, just clears the east-southeast horizon in mid-November, close to 11 p.m. If you wait up till after midnight, Sirius will be much higher and easier to see. Above Sirius is the grand constellation Orion, with its famous “belt” of three stars in a row, and its brilliant red star Betelgeuse and blue-white Rigel.

Looking north is like looking out your driver’s side window of the car, as our planet moves in its orbit. Yet we see that the starry scenery doesn’t just move past us, looking north, but is tightly curving around a common pointing the sky by the North Star. This common point around which all the stars seem t revolve once a day is known as the North Celestial Pole and is where the axis of the Earth’s rotation is pointing. If you stood on the ice at the North Pole, looking for that barber pole to lean on, you’d see the North Star practically straight overhead.

Back to our analogy of the Earth as a car moving on its grand highway around the sun, our view out the driver’s side in early mid-November shows the Big Dipper scraping the low northern horizon and the M-shaped figure of Cassiopeia high up in the north. The North Star is right between. As the months progress, looking at the same hour, note how Cassiopeia moves to the left and down in the northwest and the Big Dipper moves right and up in the northeast.

The North Star seems to have not moved at all. Actually, the North Star moves around the North Celestial Pole as well, in a tight circle, only about 7/10th of a degree from that point.

Looking south, or in our analogy out the passenger windows of our Earth-car, we see the stars that came up in the east now moving across and heading west. In mid-November this includes the four stars of the huge Great Square of Pegasus. This year, you also see the brilliant and unmistakable planet Jupiter.

First-quarter moon is on Saturday, Nov. 13, and it reaches full phase on Nov. 21. Note how the moon, as the week goes by and at the same time each night, moves west to east in relation to the stars, opposite the stellar revolution.

So fasten your seat belt, dress warm, find a star map in an astronomy guide book at your local library and enjoy the ride! Even better than a car trip - there’s no gas to buy, and you’ll ALWAYS be riding in a convertible!

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Keep looking up!