Clear November night skies offer incredible celestial sights for stargazers, so bundle up and get outside for stargazing fun!
Best Galaxy — M31, The Andromeda Galaxy. In early November, the Andromeda Galaxy will be just north of the constellation Andromeda and positioned high in the eastern sky for great views. Use a 6" or larger telescope for the best views of this spiral galaxy. Massive M31 is the nearest galaxy to our home galaxy, the Milky Way.
Best Star Cluster — M45, the Pleiades. November is sometimes called "the month of the Pleiades," since the famous open star cluster is visible all night long for observers in the Northern hemisphere. From a dark sky site, M45 is easy to see with unaided eyes and resembles a small "teaspoon" pattern in the sky, but this open star cluster is best appreciated in a good pair of 50mm or larger astronomy binoculars.
Supermoon Rises — The second "Supermoon" of 2016 occurs on November 14th, when the perigee Full Moon rises in the sky. The Moon will be just 221,525 miles from Earth, making its closest approach of the year. On this night, the Moon will be directly opposite the Sun in the sky and will appear slightly brighter and larger than usual.
Leonids Meteor Shower — Go outside around midnight on Tuesday, November 16th into the early morning hours of the 17th to see the peak of the annual Leonids Meteor Shower. The best viewing will be after midnight, when the waning gibbous Moon sinks low in the sky. Look for meteors as they appear to radiate out from the constellation Leo. The Leonids meteors are left-over debris of comet Temple-Tuttle, a comet that orbits the Sun every 33 years. Grab a warm blanket or coat and enjoy the show!
Our Favorite Nebula — Our namesake constellation Orion will be in a great viewing position in late November, placed nice and high in the southeastern sky around midnight. Use 50mm or larger binoculars or a telescope and look in the area below the three recognizable stars of Orion's belt for a great view of M42, the Orion Nebula. Any telescope will reveal this nebula, but we recommend a 6-inch or larger telescope with a wide-angle, low-power eyepiece for the best views. If you'll be observing from the city or near a lot of streetlights, use an Orion Oxygen-III Nebula Filter to boost contrast for more pleasing views
Pre-Dawn Pairing — Before the Sun rises on November 24th, the Moon and Jupiter will be close together in the sky. Look above the eastern horizon before dawn to see this pretty pair as the Moon and the largest planet in our solar system appear to pass within 2° of each other.
Two Clusters Side by Side — High in the northern sky around 10 PM is a bright knot in the Milky Way, located between the constellations of Perseus and Cassiopeia. With astronomy binoculars you can tell this bright patch is really two open star clusters side by side, the famous Double Cluster in Perseus. Also called NGC 884 & NGC 869, these star clusters are relatively very close to Earth, about 7-8,000 light years away. Astronomers believe these open clusters are about 3-5 million years old, just youngsters on the cosmic timescale!
A Dark Sky Test — On the opposite side of Andromeda from M31 is another nearby galaxy, M33, also known as the Triangulum Galaxy. Use a star chart to look for it in 50mm or larger astronomy binoculars. If you have a dark sky site to observe from, you may be able to detect this galaxy with the naked eye. In fact, M33 is used as a test of sorts by experienced observers to judge the darkness and transparency of a potential observing site.
Catch a Dying Star — High in the western skies of November, early in the evening, the constellation Cygnus is still prominently visible and topped off by the bright star Deneb at the top of the "Northern Cross." Use a star chart to track down the Veil Nebula on the eastern side of Cygnus near the star 52 Cygni. Use an Oxygen-III filter and low power while you scan for this object. The Veil is a remnant of a supernova explosion, where a star has died! We recommend a 4" or larger telescope to catch it (but it has been seen in smaller scopes from good dark sky locations with excellent seeing conditions).
November's Challenge Object — Low in the southern sky, in the constellation Grus, lies a BIG planetary nebula called IC5148. You'll need at least a 6" telescope to see it, and an Oxygen-III filter really helps. This 13th magnitude planetary is 120" x 120" of arc across, so it's nice and big, but it's tough for most observers to catch since it is so low in the south and the surface brightness is low. IC 5148 is about 3000 light years away and is sometimes called the "Spare Tire" Nebula.
Double Cluster in Perseus by Ken Griggs
All objects described above can easily be seen with the suggested equipment from a dark sky site, a viewing location some distance away from city lights where light pollution and when bright moonlight does not overpower the stars.