The bright winter shiners are on the rise

Most people love daylight saving time, but deep down most amateur astronomers and stargazers can live without it. Daylight saving time is tough on stargazers, especially folks who have to wake up at 3:30 a.m. for their job, like me for instance! As of this Sunday we’re back on standard time, and I couldn’t be happier! I hope you all enjoyed that extra hour of sleep this weekend! It gets dark right after supper now, so you can be out enjoying the stars by 6:30 to 7 p.m.

Not only can we begin stargazing a lot earlier we’re entering the best stargazing season of the year as far as I’m concerned. Bundle up and take in the best show in the universe right over your heads if you don’t get photo bombed by clouds! The only problem we have for most of this first full week of November is the full moon that will wash out all but the brighter stars.

Beginning later this coming week you can’t help but notice that there are a lot of bright stars on the rise in the eastern Marshall sky by around 9 p.m., and the later you stay up, the more of these wonderful winter constellations you’ll see. I call this part of the sky “Orion and his Gang.” The majestic constellation Orion the Hunter is the centerpiece. Orion is up by 10 p.m., but before then you’ll see the Pleiades, the best star cluster in the sky, which looks like a miniature Big Dipper.

Over in the western sky there are still a few summer constellations hanging in there. Cygnus the Swan, Lyra the Harp, Aquila the Eagle, Delphinus the Dolphin and a few others are slowly migrating to the west a little more each night, making their slow exit from our celestial stage.

In the high southern sky is one of the prime autumn constellations, Pegasus the Winged Horse, with Andromeda the Princess tagging along. Turn around and face north and you’ll see old friends like the Big Dipper, barely above the horizon, with the Little Dipper hanging by its handle higher in the northern sky. Cassiopeia the queen, the constellation that looks like a giant sideways W, is proudly showing off her stuff in the high northeast sky. The W outlines the throne of the queen, and Cassiopeia is tied up in that throne. She really ticked off Hera, the queen of the gods, by proclaiming that she was even more beautiful than Hera’s godly self. So Hera tossed Cassiopeia up into the sky, eternally bound to her throne for all to see.

Unfortunately we don’t have any planets that you can get a really good look at in the evening although in the very early morning twilight look for Jupiter and Venus close to each other in the very low eastern sky. On Nov. 13 they’ll be practically kissing. I’ll have more about that next week in Starwatch along with the Leonid meteor shower peaking on Nov. 17. It’s one of the best meteor showers of the year!

Mike Lynch is an amateur astronomer and professional broadcast meteorologist for WCCO Radio in Minneapolis/St. Paul and is author of the book, “Stars, a Month by Month Tour of the Constellations,” published by Adventure Publications available at bookstores at “http://www.adventurepublications.net” http://www.adventurepublications.net.

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