Best Deep Sky Objects by Month: November 2023

~7 min

If you’ve ever wanted to get more advanced with your astronomical observations and dive into the fascinating world of deep-sky objects, right now is a great time to start. For today’s article, we’ve picked the most spectacular deep-sky objects that you can see in November. All the objects can be easily found in the sky with the help of our stargazing apps.

Contents

What is a deep-sky object?

The term “deep-sky object” (DSO) is mostly used by amateur astronomers to denote astronomical objects outside the Solar System that are not individual stars. DSOs include galaxies, planetary nebulae, and star clusters.

How to find deep-sky objects in the sky?

The most convenient way to quickly locate a deep-sky target in the sky is to use the Sky Tonight astronomy app. To find the object you’re interested in, tap the magnifier icon on the main screen, write the object’s name or catalog designation (for instance, “Pleiades”, or “M45”) in the search field, and tap the blue target icon. The app will get you back to the main screen and show the object’s current position on the sky map. Point your device up and follow the white arrow to see where the object is in the sky above you. You can also activate the AR mode by tapping the big blue button at the bottom right corner of the screen.

How to observe deep-sky objects?

Here are some tips to improve your observing experience:

  • Plan your observing session beforehand. It’s good to pick a night when the sky will be dark for a long time. This is especially important for astrophotographers – the shooting process can take up to several hours. The “Sky” tab in the Sky Tonight’s calendar is helpful for planning (watch this video and learn all the features of the calendar).

  • Make a list of deep-sky objects that are visible from your location. Include details like their location, brightness, and the best time to observe them. Use star charts, astronomy books, online resources, and astronomical apps. With the help of Sky Tonight, you can get the list of objects you can observe from your location in a few seconds. Tap the telescope icon at the bottom of the screen to get to the Visible Tonight section. You can adjust the filter so that only deep-sky objects are displayed, and then sort them by type, in alphabetical order, by date, or by magnitude.

  • To observe deep-sky objects, it's best to be in a location with minimal light pollution. The darker the sky, the more you will be able to see. Deep-sky objects are often faint and can take time to locate and observe. Be patient and allow your eyes to adjust to the darkness. Also, use averted vision – a special technique that is helpful while observing some faint targets.

  • Use a red flashlight while adjusting your equipment. This will help preserve your night vision.

  • Make sure to dress warmly and bring hot drinks: it can get cold at night, especially if you're standing still for long periods.

Best deep-sky objects in November

Now that you’ve learned the theory, let’s move on to the list of best deep-sky targets in November. Notice that objects are sorted by brightness, from the most prominent to the dimmest.

Hyades star cluster

Hyades star cluster
The Hyades lie close to Aldebaran, the brightest star in Taurus. However, the star doesn’t belong to the star cluster.
  • Alternative names: Caldwell 41, Cr 50, Mel 25
  • Apparent size: 5°30′
  • Apparent magnitude: 0.5
  • Where to observe: Northern Hemisphere

The first on our list is the Hyades. It is an open star cluster named after the five half-sisters of the Pleiades; together, the star clusters form an asterism known as the Golden Gate of the Ecliptic. It is one of the best-studied star clusters, which is also the nearest to the Solar System (150 light-years away). It’s a naked-eye object (mag 0.5), and its brightest stars are a part of the V-shaped star pattern that outlines the face of Taurus the Bull.

Pleiades star cluster

Pleiades
In the Pleiades star cluster, you can easily see the six brightest stars, but some believe there were seven of them visible in former times.
  • Alternative names: Seven Sisters, M45, Cr 42, Mel 22
  • Apparent size: 1°50'
  • Apparent magnitude: 1.2
  • Where to observe: Northern Hemisphere

The next must-see deep-sky target in November is the Pleiades open star cluster located in the constellation Taurus. The Pleiades are about 444 light-years away from our planet, which makes them one of the nearest star clusters to the Earth. With an apparent magnitude of 1.2, they are also bright enough to be seen with the naked eye: under dark skies, you can see at least six stars forming a recognizable pattern. The most patient and eagle-eyed stargazers can see up to 14 stars. Binoculars or a telescope will provide a better view of the fainter stars and the nebulosity surrounding them.

Orion Nebula

Orion Nebula
As the name suggests, the Orion Nebula is located in the constellation Orion, near the well-known Orion’s Belt.
  • Alternative names: NGC 1976, M42, LBN 974, Sharpless 281
  • Apparent size: 1°30' × 1°00'
  • Apparent magnitude: 4.0
  • Where to observe: Northern Hemisphere

Next up is the Orion Nebula, which is also referred to as the Great Orion Nebula. It is a stellar nursery, which means it is a region where new stars are being born. This makes it a great place for astronomers to study star formation. Also, it is one of the most popular astrophotography targets. Its apparent magnitude is 4.0. To the naked eye, it looks like a hazy star. Binoculars will reveal the nebulosity. Through a telescope, you’ll be able to see the four brightest stars in the Orion Nebula, known as the Trapezium cluster.

Triangulum galaxy

Triangulum Galaxy
The Triangulum Galaxy looks nothing like a triangle.
©ESO
  • Alternative names: M33, NGC 0598, UGC 1117, PGC 5818
  • Apparent size: 1°08' × 41'35″
  • Apparent magnitude: 5.7
  • Where to observe: Northern Hemisphere

Despite the name, the Triangulum galaxy is spiral-shaped; its name derives from the constellation Triangulum, where it can be spotted. It’s the third-largest member of the Local Group of galaxies, following the Andromeda Galaxy and the Milky Way. The Triangulum galaxy is about half the size of our Milky Way and contains about 40 billion stars, compared to 400 billion for the Milky Way and 1 trillion stars for the Andromeda Galaxy.

At magnitude 5.7, the Triangulum galaxy is one of the most distant objects that can be seen with the naked eye. However, you’ll need ideal observation conditions and sharp eyes to spot it. It’s much easier to view the galaxy through binoculars or a small telescope.

M92 star cluster

M92
M92 star cluster – one of the oldest and brightest globular clusters in our galaxy.
  • Alternative names: NGC 6341, Mel 168
  • Apparent size: 14'00″
  • Apparent magnitude: 6.4
  • Where to observe: Northern Hemisphere

Next up is Messier 92 star cluster, which is situated in the constellation Hercules. It belongs to the category of globular clusters – spherical collections of stars that are much older and have many more stars than open clusters. M92 is one of the oldest and brightest globular clusters in the Milky Way and contains about 330,000 stars. With a magnitude of 6.3, M92 can be easily spotted with binoculars or a small telescope. You can even see it with your naked eye under good observing conditions.

Heart Nebula

Heart Nebula
Does IC1805 look more like a heart or a dog to you?
  • Alternative names: IC1805, Sh2-190
  • Apparent size: 1°00'
  • Apparent magnitude: 6.5
  • Where to observe: Northern Hemisphere

The Heart Nebula (IC1805, Sh2-190) is an emission nebula located in the constellation Cassiopeia, 7500 light-years away from the Earth (mag 6.5). Because of its distinctive shape, the Heart Nebula is a popular deep-sky target. However, the Heart Nebula is relatively faint, which makes it a challenge to observe without the aid of long-exposure photography or a telescope with a large aperture. Astrophotographers prefer to capture the Heart Nebula along with its companion known as the Soul Nebula (IC 1848). Together, they are often referred to as the “Heart and Soul”.

Fun fact: the Heart Nebula is also referred to as the Running Dog Nebula, even though the resemblance of the nebula's outline to a dog is not quite obvious. Look through the images of the other stunning deep-sky objects and try to guess their names based on their shape!

Dumbbell Nebula

Dumbbell Nebula
The Dumbbell Nebula – the first planetary nebula ever discovered.
  • Alternative names: M27, NGC 6853
  • Apparent size: 8'00″ × 5'36″
  • Apparent magnitude: 7.4
  • Where to observe: Northern Hemisphere

Next up is the first planetary nebula ever discovered – the Dumbbell Nebula, also known as M27 or NGC 6853. It is located in the constellation Vulpecula. The nebula is shaped as an irregular sphere whose brighter area looks like a half-eaten apple. For this reason, it’s sometimes called the Apple Core Nebula. The Dumbbell Nebula suits very well for amateur astronomical observations: it has a magnitude of 7.4 and an apparent diameter of 8 arcminutes which means you can spot it even with binoculars on a perfectly dark sky.

NGC 891 galaxy

NGC 891
NGC 891 looks as the Milky Way would look when viewed edge-on.
  • Alternative names: C 23, PGC 9031, UGC 1831
  • Apparent size: 13'29″ × 2'30″
  • Apparent magnitude: 10.0
  • Where to observe: Northern Hemisphere

If you have a chance to see the NGC 891 galaxy, located in the constellation Andromeda, you might notice that it looks oddly familiar: its elongated shape strongly resembles the Milky Way as seen from Earth! NGC 891 looks so similar because we view it edge-on and not from above or below. Our view of the Milky Way is approximately the same, as we live inside the galaxy’s disk. NGC 891 is also a spiral galaxy like ours and has a similar size and luminosity. Given its magnitude of 10.0, this galaxy is visible through small or medium-sized telescopes.

Skull Nebula

Skull Nebula
The Skull Nebula is also known as the Pac-Man Nebula (not to be confused with the Pacman Nebula (NGC 281) from Cassiopeia).
  • Alternative names: NGC 246, Caldwell 56
  • Apparent size: 3'43″
  • Apparent magnitude: 11.2
  • Where to observe: Southern Hemisphere

Even though Halloween has already passed, the November night sky still brings us some spooky vibes, as it’s a good time to see the Skull Nebula – a planetary nebula located in the constellation Cetus. The nebula gets its name from its skull-like appearance, making it unique and easily identifiable among other nebulae. Due to its distinctive shape, the Skull Nebula is a popular target for astrophotographers. With a magnitude of 11.2, it is faint and requires a good telescope to observe.

Bottom line

November is good for observing some of the most famous and brightest star clusters – the Pleiades and Hyades. Along with M92, the Orion Nebula and Triangulum galaxy, they can be spotted with the naked eye, though the optical devices will resolve more details. To see the Heart Nebula and Dumbbell Nebula, you’ll need at least a pair of binoculars. The Skull Nebula and NGC 891 galaxy are only visible through a telescope. Use the Star Walk 2 and Sky Tonight to locate the objects in the night sky.

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