The skies they are a'changing

Sunday November 18, 2012

Autumn’s Southern Fish and great Whale anticipate the appearance of winter’s quintessential constellations in the evening sky. As darkness falls, Fomalhaut, one of the 15 brightest stars visible in the Northern Hemisphere, is low in the south-southeast.

From tonight’s crescent moon, sketch a diagonal line to the left and down to locate Fomalhaut, which, translated from the Arabic, means "the mouth of the fish".

Deneb Kaitos is the only bright star to the left of Fomalhaut. It is the mouth of the Whale as depicted in H.A. Rey’s "Find the Constella tions."

In other renderings the constellation is portrayed as Cetus the Sea-Monster with Deneb Kaitos at its tail, truer to the Arabic translation, which is, loosely, "sea monster’s tail".

The other stars that compose these constellations are dim, requiring dark skies and quiet contemplation to see.

Fomalhaut and Deneb Kaitos trace a shallow arc from southeast to southwest, where they may be seen setting shortly after the moon tonight. Moonset is at 9:48 p.m. if you command a clear view of the southwestern

Two of the brilliant stars of the Summer Triangle, Altair and Vega, set in the west and northwest, respectively, close to the same time.

As the night lights of summer and autumn slip under the covers in the west, winter stars stretch out into the darkness in the east, to travel the heavens until morning.

Tonight, brilliant Jupiter rises in the east at 5:20 p.m., guiding us to Taurus the Bull’s triangular head, which is below the Pleiades star cluster. The Gemini Twins and Orion will clear the horizon at about 8:30 p.m. Then, around 10 p.m., the Dog Star, stunning Sirius.

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