Spring Night Sky (Southern Hemisphere)

The sky has made another quarter turn in the three months since August as the Earth moves around the Sun.  The Southern Cross is just barely above the southern horizon now, and the splendid band of the Milky Way, along with the teapot-shaped constellation Sagittarius has moved towards the western horizon.  Scorpius has already set by mid-evening.

The sky at 9 p.m. on November 15 from 35 degrees S latitude. Click to open in a new window.

The sky at 9 p.m. on November 15 from 35 degrees S latitude. Click to open in a new window.

Because you’re looking out of the flat, starry plane of the Milky Way into deep intergalactic space at this time of year, the sky of the southern hemisphere has relatively few bright foreground stars.  The eastern and northeastern sky is nearly deserted of bright stars.  The bright star Fomalhaut sits almost at the zenith, with Achernar just southeast.  And the bright star Canopus in the constellation Carina returns to the sky in the southeast.  The Magellanic Clouds linger also well above the southeastern horizon.

Start at the star Achernar and follow the star Eridanus east, north, and east again down to the horizon where it meets the bright rising star Rigel.

Start at the star Achernar and follow the star Eridanus east, north, and east again down to the horizon where it meets the bright rising star Rigel.

In the east, look for the star Achernar at the tip of the long constellation Eridanus, the River.  If you can, follow the winding trail of this long constellation from Achernar to the east, then to the north, and back towards the eastern horizon where it leads to the bright blue-white star Rigel rising low.  Rigel marks one of the feet of the constellation Orion which will rise much later in the evening.  More about Orion in the next short tour.

In the north, you’ll see the Great Square of Pegasus and the attached constellation Andromeda.  Cygnus and little Delphinus and Sagitta lie off to the northwest.  Pisces and its pentagonal head lies just above Pegasus.  Cetus, the sea monster, looms in the east between Pisces and Eridanus.