What Can You See in the Night Sky This Week?

15 November 2011 by Ryan Houghton

What can you see in the night sky this week? Among other things: the giant of the solar system - famously observed by a giant from the history of astronomy.

Here at Oxford, we’re lucky enough to have Charlie Barclay as a regular visitor. Charlie is an expert observer, and runs the Blackett Observatory as well as teaching Physics and Astronomy full time at Marlborough College. At the start of each week, he posts a few things that will be visible in the evenings - or as astronomers say, “what’s up” that week. It’s a great resource, and one we’ll be adding some astrophysical flavour to in a weekly re-post.

So this week, we’re starting out nice and easy. Here’s a map of the night sky which you can download and we’ve highlighted the rough position of Jupiter as it can be seen on Wednesday at 8pm. North is to the top, South to the bottom, East to the left and West to the right. So if you stand facing South, and hold up the map to the sky, you should should be able to align the stars and constellations. (Now you see why East and West are the opposite way around to normal maps!)

Jupiter is a nice easy planet to see with the naked eye. But with good binoculars or a small telescope, you might be able to see the four Galilean Moons. Historically, these were really important. Before Galileo’s observations in 1610, most people believed that everything revolved around Earth. But Galileo saw - with his new telescope - that over the course of a few days, some of these moons perform a complete orbit of Jupiter! So gradually people came around to the “heliocentric” idea, put forward by Copernicus, that planets go around the Sun, and not the Earth - and that moons revolve around planets, and not around us!

Categories: what's up | night sky | Jupiter | stargazing