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October 15: Andromeda Galaxy
The Andromeda galaxy is in good view right now. Tonight, it’s in the east-northeast as darkness falls, and overhead later on. It looks like a faint, fuzzy star. Small telescopes reveal its true nature: a family of hundreds of billions of stars.

October 16: Moon and Mars
The planet Mars is in good view at dawn tomorrow. It stands to the right of the crescent Moon, and looks like a moderately bright star. The much brighter planet Venus stands below them.

October 17: Moon and Venus
The beautiful “morning star” shines above the crescent Moon at dawn tomorrow. It’s not a star at all, though. Instead, it’s Venus, our nearest planetary neighbor. It shines so brightly in part because its surface is completely covered by clouds.

October 18: Uranus at Opposition
The planet Uranus is putting in its best appearance of the year this week. It rises at sunset and remains in the sky all night. It’s also closest to us for the year. It’s still so faint, though, that you need binoculars to find it.

October 19: New Moon
The new Moon will accompany the Sun as it climbs across the sky today. We can’t see the Moon because it is immersed in the Sun’s glare. The exact moment of new Moon is 2:12 p.m. CDT. The Moon will return to view after sunset tomorrow or Saturday.

October 20: Orionid Meteor Shower
The Orionid meteor shower should be at its best late tonight, and there will be no Moon in the sky then to spoil the show. The shower is known as the Orionids because its meteors “rain” from Orion, although they can streak across any part of the sky.

October 21: Little Dipper
The Little Dipper stands high above the Big Dipper, which is low in the northwest at nightfall. The Little Dipper’s bowl hangs upside down, like it’s pouring its water into the other dipper.

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October 22: Pherkad
The star Pherkad, which forms the lower outer corner of the Little Dipper’s bowl, is much bigger, brighter, and heavier than the Sun. Over a period of a few hours, though, its brightness varies by a few percent, and astronomers aren’t sure why.

October 23: Moon and Saturn
Look for the planet Saturn near the crescent Moon early this evening. It looks like a bright star to the left of the Moon as twilight fades away. They set about three hours after the Sun.

October 24: More Moon and Saturn
Saturn, the solar system’s second-largest planet, huddles to the lower right of the Moon at nightfall this evening. Saturn has the largest ring system of any of the Sun’s planets, and the second-largest known retinue of moons.

October 25: Drawing Stars
Andromeda, the princess, is in the east and northeast at nightfall. It’s faint, though, so you need dark skies to see it. Andromeda is associated with several other constellations that share a common story.

October 26: Blue Snowball
One of the treasures of the constellation Andromeda, which is low in the east and northeast at nightfall, is the Blue Snowball Nebula, a bubble of gas expelled by a dying star. The nebula is at the right edge of the constellation, above the Great Square of Pegasus.

October 27: First-Quarter Moon
The Moon is at first quarter today. It rises in early afternoon and sets around midnight. At first quarter, sunlight illuminates exactly half of the lunar hemisphere that faces Earth, so it looks as though someone sliced the Moon down the middle.

October 28: Moon Watching
A beautiful Moon slides across the southwestern sky this evening, in Capricornus. It is a day past first quarter, so the Sun illuminates more than half of the lunar hemisphere that faces our way. The Moon sets about 1 or 2 a.m.

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October 29: Sailing Along
The Moon is sailing across the “celestial sea,” a group of constellations related to water. By about 11 p.m. the sea will span the entire southern sky. It incorporates a sea-goat, the water bearer, the fishes, the southern fish, a sea monster, and a river.

October 30: Mirfak
The brightest star of the constellation Perseus befits the celestial hero. Mirfak is seven or eight times heavier than the Sun, about 60 times wider, and 5,000 times brighter. That makes it easy to see even though it is more than 500 light-years away.

October 31: Demon Star
A “spooky” star system in Perseus is one of the highlights of the Halloween sky. Two of its stars eclipse each other, causing the system to get fainter every three days. Early skywatchers found this frightening, so they named it Algol, the Demon Star.

November 1: Taurus Rising
Taurus, the bull, is climbing higher into the evening sky this month. It is in view in the east by about 9 p.m., but is well up in the sky a couple of hours later. Look for its V-shaped head and its bright orange “eye,” the star Aldebaran.

November 2: The Queen
Look high in the north and east during the evening hours this month for a flattened “W” or “M” floating through the Milky Way. The letter is outlined by five bright stars that mark the constellation Cassiopeia, the queen.

November 3: Full Moon
The Moon is full tonight, lining up opposite the Sun in our sky. The full Moon of November is known as the Frost Moon or Snow Moon. This year it also comes a month after the Harvest Moon, so it’s the Hunter’s Moon.

November 4: Bright Sky
The Moon is just past full this evening, so it’s a big spotlight that is in the sky all night. Even from locations far from city lights, the brilliant Moon can still overpower much of the view of the Milky Way, meteors, and other subtle lights.

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In the Sky This Month
One of the most popular stories from ancient myth- ology is told in a group of constellations that highlight November’s sky. Cassiopeia, the vain queen of Ethiopia, claimed that she was the most beautiful woman of all, angering the sea nymphs. They convinced the sea god Neptune to send Cetus, a nasty sea monster, to destroy the kingdom. To appease the gods, King Cepheus ordered his daughter, the princess Andromeda, chained at the edge of the sea as a sacrifice. But she was rescued by Perseus, who flashed the monstrous head of Medusa at Cetus, turning him to stone. Five of these characters stretch from north to southeast in the evening sky.

November 18: Southern Fish
Piscis Austrinus, the southern fish, is in the south this evening. It contains only one bright star, Fomalhaut, which marks the fish’s mouth. The white star is just 25 light-years from Earth.

November 19: Moon and Saturn
The crescent Moon has a bright companion early this evening -- the planet Saturn. It looks like a fairly bright star to the lower left of the Moon. They are quite low in the sky, so any buildings or trees along the horizon will block them from view.

November 20: Moon at Apogee
The Moon is farthest from Earth for its current orbit today. The Moon’s distance from Earth varies by almost 30,000 miles. At its closest it produces stronger tides; at its farthest, the tides are weaker than average.

November 21: Rho Cassiopeia
Cassiopeia, the queen, whose brightest stars form a letter W, is high in the north-northeast at nightfall. One of its stars, Rho Cassiopeia, is one of the biggest in the galaxy. If it took the Sun’s place, it would extend past the orbit of Mars.

November 22: Pleiades
The Pleiades star cluster marks the shoulder of Taurus, the bull. It is low in the east as darkness falls, above the star Aldebaran, the bull’s orange eye. The cluster’s brightest stars form a tiny dipper. It crosses high overhead around midnight.

November 23: Aurorae
Fall and winter are the best times for viewing the shimmering curtains of light known as aurorae or northern lights. They form when charged particles from the Sun strike atoms of nitrogen and oxygen far above the surface, causing them to glow.

November 24: Capella
Capella, the brightest star of Auriga, the charioteer, is low in the northeast at nightfall. The yellow star arcs high overhead after midnight and is in the northwest at first light. It consists of two stars that are gravitationally bound together.

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In the Sky This Month
Although July offers warm, dry conditions for skywatching, it also provides some of the shortest nights of the year in the northern hemisphere, limiting the hours under the stars. Fortunately, some of the best skywatching sights are visible in the early evening, not long after sunset. Venus reigns as the Evening Star all month, slowly climbing the western sky. Mercury peeks into view below Venus for much of the month, with the star Regulus close to both of them.

July 24: Mars and Company
The planet Saturn is the bright star-like point of light just below the Moon at nightfall. Its broad, bright rings are tilted into good view, so they reflect a lot of sunlight, enhancing the giant planet’s luster.

July 25: Martian Opposition
Mars is at opposition this week, passing closer to Earth than it will for many years. It is in the southeast as night falls. It looks like a brilliant orange star, outshining all but the Moon and the planet Venus.

July 26: Lunar Eclipse
The Moon will pass through Earth’s shadow tomorrow, creating an eclipse, although it won’t be visible from the U.S. Our consolation is that the Moon will be close to Mars. It looks like a brilliant orange star, to the lower left of the Moon at nightfall.

July 27: Moon and Mars
Mars and the full Moon stick close together tonight. Mars looks like a brilliant orange star, outshining all but the Moon and the planet Venus. It perches close to the lower right of the Moon at nightfall.

July 28: Albireo
Albireo represents the beak of Cygnus, the swan, which is in good view on summer nights. The constellation is high in the east at nightfall, with its body parallel to the horizon. Bright Deneb is at the left end of the body, with Albireo at the right.

July 29: Vindemiatrix
Vindemiatrix, the third-brightest star of Virgo, is in the southwest at nightfall. It is far to the upper right of Spica, Virgo’s brightest star. Vindemiatrix is a bloated star that has completed the “normal” portion of its life.

July 30: Future North Star
About 2,000 years from now, Earth’s north pole will aim toward the star Gamma Cephei instead of Polaris, the current North Star. Gamma Cephei is one of the brightest stars of Cepheus, which is in the northeast this evening.

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July 31: Alkaid
The Big Dipper hangs by its handle on summer evenings, as though about to scoop up a dipperful of stars. The handle is anchored by Alkaid, a star that is much bigger, heavier, brighter, and hotter than the Sun.

August 1: Lammas
August 1 is the date of an ancient English festival, Lammas. It is a cross-quarter day, which falls roughly half way between a solstice and an equinox. Lammas was a day for celebrating the harvest. Priests blessed the bread made from the first grain.

August 2: M4
The globular star cluster M4 stands close to the right of Antares, the bright orange star in the south as darkness falls. The cluster contains tens of thousands of stars, but you need binoculars to pick it out.

August 3: Pegasus
Pegasus, the flying horse, is in view in the east and northeast shortly after the sky gets completely dark. Look for the four stars forming the Great Square of Pegasus. The square is tilted as Pegasus rises, so it resembles a diamond.

August 4: 61 Cygni
61 Cygni, the first star to have its distance accurately measured, is in Cygnus, the swan, which is high in the east at nightfall. 61 Cygni is to the lower right of Deneb, the swan’s tail. Under dark skies, it’s just visible to the eye alone.

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In the Sky This Month
The smallest and largest of the Sun’s major planets will stage a relatively rare encounter this month as they pass each other in the dawn twilight. Jupiter should be easy to see, but Mercury could take some work. The great Winter Circle climbs higher each night, and is in good view by 8 p.m. by month’s end. It consists of seven bright stars encircling orange Betelgeuse, the shoulder of Orion.

December 2: Moon and Companions
A bright triangle will greet early risers tomorrow: the Moon, the planet Venus, and the star Spica. Venus, the “morning star,” will stand almost directly below the Moon, while fainter Spica, the leading light of Virgo, will be to the lower right of the Moon.

December 3: More Moon and Companions
Venus lines up to the upper right of the Moon at first light tomorrow, with Spica farther along the same line. Venus is the brilliant “morning star,” so it’s impossible to miss.

December 4: Earliest Sunsets
Although the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice, is more than two weeks away, most of the United States is seeing the earliest sunsets of the year about now. The date of earliest sunset varies with latitude, with the date getting later as you go north.

December 5: Mars and Neptune
Bright orange Mars is in the south at nightfall. Tonight, Neptune is to its upper left by less than the width of a finger held at arm’s length. Through a telescope, it looks like a small star. The planets will move past each other over the next few nights.

December 6: The Little Dog
Canis Major, the big dog, will trot across the southern sky tonight. It’s marked by Sirius, the Dog Star — the brightest star in the night sky. Sirius is preceded by Procyon, the Little Dog Star, which is to the upper left of the big dog in late evening.

December 7: Disappearing Saturn
Saturn is disappearing from view. The giant planet perches quite low in the southwest not long after sunset, so even though it is fairly bright, you need a clear horizon to spot it.

December 8: Moon and Saturn
The planet Saturn is near the Moon tonight. They are quite low in the southwest at sunset, so there’s little time to look for them. Saturn looks like a bright star close to the upper left of the Moon. It will stand to the lower right of the Moon tomorrow night.

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December 9: Milky Way
The Milky Way arches high overhead on December evenings. It outlines the disk of our home galaxy. At nightfall, it passes from the Northern Cross, in the west, to W-shaped Cassiopeia high in the northeast, to near the face of Taurus, the bull, in the east.

December 10: Stretching Out
Eridanus, the river, meanders across the southern sky at this time of year. It is one of the largest constellations, stretching almost 60 degrees. Its northern end is northwest of Rigel, the brightest star in Orion.

December 11: Gemini
The constellation Gemini is in good view by about 8 p.m. It is best known for Castor and Pollux, the two bright stars that represent the heads of the twins. They are low in the east-northeast at that hour, with Castor above Pollux.

December 12: Dusty Display
The Geminid meteor shower is expected to be at its best over the next couple of nights. And the Moon sets early enough that it will allow the meteors to shine through. The shower is spawned by an asteroid, which sheds dust grains as it orbits the Sun.

December 13: Comet Wirtanen
Comet Wirtanen is streaking across Taurus, which is in the east at nightfall. It will pass between the bull’s “eye” — the star Aldebaran — and shoulder — the Pleiades star cluster. Under dark skies, the comet may be bright enough to see with the eye alone.

December 14: Moon and Mars
Mars is in great view tonight. The Red Planet looks like a bright orange star just above the Moon as night falls. It will stand farther to the right of the Moon tomorrow evening.

December 15: Auriga
Auriga is low in the east-northeast as night falls and climbs high across the sky later. It is marked by a pentagon of stars. It’s easy to pick out thanks to the brightest member of that figure, Capella, which is one of the brightest stars in the night sky.

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January 13: Cursa
Orion is in the east in early evening, with its “belt” of three bright stars pointing up from the horizon. Orion’s brightest star, blue-white Rigel, is to the right of the Belt. The bright star above Rigel is Cursa, which represents a footstool for the hunter.

January 14: First-Quarter Moon
The Moon is at first quarter today, as sunlight illuminates half of the lunar hemisphere that faces Earth. It will rise in early evening and stand high in the southeast at nightfall.

January 15: Morning Triangle
The brilliant planets Venus and Jupiter team up with the star Antares in the southeast the next few days to form a beautiful triangle at dawn. Venus is the brightest of the three. Jupiter stands to its lower left, with Antares to the right of Jupiter.

January 16: Moon and Aldebaran
The Moon has a bright companion tonight. Aldebaran, the brightest star of Taurus, is to the lower left of the Moon at nightfall. The star’s orange color may be a bit difficult to perceive through the moonlight.

January 17: More Moon and Aldebaran
Aldebaran, the star that represents the eye of Taurus, the bull, stands close to the upper right of the Moon this evening. Aldebaran is nearing the end of its life, so it has puffed up to several dozen times the diameter of the Sun.

January 18: Supermoon
A supermoon is coming on Sunday night. The Moon will be full only half a day before it reaches its closest point to Earth, so it will look a bit bigger and brighter than average. It coincides with a total lunar eclipse, as the Moon passes through Earth’s shadow.

January 19: Lambda Draconis
Lambda Draconis, the star at the end of the tail of Draco, the dragon, is puffing up. It is about 70 times wider than the Sun and almost 900 times brighter. The star is low in the north at nightfall, with the rest of the dragon stretching to its left.

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