By Terence Dickinson, SkyNews Editor
Jupiter is the brightest starlike object in the autumn night sky this year. You can identify the bright planet just above the eastern horizon at the times shown on our photo chart. Apart from Jupiter itself, there are interesting targets in the same sector of the sky and Jupiter points the way.
This year, Jupiter is located in the middle of the zodiac constellation Taurus, the bull. The bull’s face is formed by the Hyades star cluster, a distinctive V-shaped grouping that beautifully fits in the average binocular’s field of view. At a distance of 153 light-years, The Hyades is the nearest open cluster to our solar system. The bright star Aldebaran appears to be within the cluster, but this is a chance alignment as it is much closer at 65 light-years.
Above the Hyades is the Pleiades star cluster, more distant at 430 light-years, but in binoculars its compact configuration and brilliant blue stars makes it the most impressive star cluster in the heavens. To the unaided eye, the Pleiades stars have a miniature dipper shape and many novice stargazers mistake it for the Little Dipper (which is much less impressive).
With binoculars, try tracking the ragged chain of stars known as Orion’s shield and you can spot W Orionis, one of the few distinctly red star stars in the night sky. Known as a carbon star, W is a true giant at least 100 times the diameter of our Sun. It is 700 light-years from Earth.
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