Look for Saturn and Jupiter in November sky

David Cater/Special to Herald-Leader Pictured is the partial eclipse of the Sun on Oct. 14 from Siloam Springs.

In November, the bugs go away, but the cold comes on -- dress accordingly if you go outside to do some stargazing.

My brother and I did get a pretty good shot of the partial eclipse of the sun. He is an avid amateur astronomer, too, and he was visiting me at the time of the eclipse. We used his equipment and skills to get an image I have included in this article. We thought we might get clouded out, but during the eclipse, there were several moments when there was a bit of clearing, and we shot through the haze. Some clouds still surrounded the image -- I think it looks more dramatic that way. Remember, this was not a total eclipse; this was a partial eclipse, so just part of the sun was covered.

In November, Saturn in the south of the night sky and Jupiter in the east will be the prominent features for observers. These are two gas giants, well outside Earth's orbit but still members of our solar system.

Saturn is just plain beautiful! It is a golden brown color, and its rings are wonderful! And ... sometimes, you can see, even in relatively small telescopes, Saturn's large moon, Titan. I have scopes of sufficient aperture to see about four of Saturn's moons, but they are challenging. If you get a chance to see Saturn, concentrate on the rings. Assuming you are using a telescope big enough to capture the rings, look for divisions in the rings -- at least between the A and B rings, the outermost two. You have sharp eyesight if you spot this division -- or good glasses!

Jupiter will be seen as bigger and brighter than Saturn. It will have stripes; you can see at least four moons, even in a small telescope. You can't necessarily see all four moons every time you look for them. On a given night, one or two of them might be behind Jupiter as they orbit around the great planet. If the next night is good for observing, look to see that the position of the moons has changed from the previous night. You might even have made a drawing of where the rings were on the previous night, and now you can make a new drawing and notice the change in position. These phenomena are one of the reasons Jupiter is always fascinating. You never see the same thing from night to night. Sometimes, you can even see a moon passing in front of Jupiter! Sometimes, you can see the sun shadow of that moon cast upon the upper atmosphere of Jupiter as a tiny black dot --what a thrilling sight!

There are always multiform wonders in the night sky. Learn the night sky. You might even take an astronomy class. If you learn as much as you can, a certain rule of observing will kick in at some point. The more you know about the night sky, the more you will see because you will know more about what you are seeing.

David Cater is a former faculty member of JBU. Email him at s[email protected]. Opinions expressed are those of the author.