The Stars: November

The barren skies of late autumn are with us again.

Centre-stage of this month's constellations is Pegasus. How the ancients configured a square of four stars into a flying horse is almost beyond comprehension. But there was method in their madness. Our ancestors "mapped" treasured stories and legends on to the heavens as an aide-memoire for farmers and sailors to recognise the stars. And the autumn skies are a celestial storybook.

The straggly line of stars to the left of Pegasus could hardly look less like a princess chained to a rock on the shore, about to suffer death at the hands of a sea monster. But that's how the ancients saw Andromeda. She was the daughter of Cassiopeia, the queen of Ethiopia, and her drippy husband, Cepheus. Cassiopeia is a striking W-shaped pattern, while nearby Cepheus is a dim, nondescript shape.

Cassiopeia claimed to Poseidon – the god of the sea – that her daughter was more beautiful than all the sea nymphs. An enraged Poseidon sent a sea monster, Cetus, to ravage her lands. You can see Cetus below Pegasus in the sky: a dim straggle of stars but – to our ancestors – a monster rearing above the horizon. Desperate, Cassiopeia and Cepheus consulted the oracle, whose advice was to sacrifice Andromeda to the monster. Which is how Andromeda happened to be chained to a rock. But everyone reckoned without Perseus, a bright constellation, next to Cassiopeia. Perseus was flying back from killing the gorgon Medusa, a glance at whose face, ringed with writhing serpents, would turn any onlooker to stone.

You can see the gorgon's head in the constellation of Perseus as the variable star Algol. Perseus soared over Ethiopian airspace when he spotted the damsel in distress. Andromeda was seconds from being devoured by Cetus. Swooping down, Perseus whipped Medusa's head out of its bag. In a trice, the beast was turned to stone, and Perseus unleashed the hapless maiden from her bonds. The pair married and lived happily ever after.

What's up

In the first week of November, it's your last chance to spot Comet Hartley 2, which is fading as it moves away from us. If you'd rather not brave the cold, look out for media coverage of pictures from Nasa's Epoxi spacecraft. On 4 November, it will fly past the icy nucleus of Comet Hartley 2, and should send back great close-up views. Debris from another comet, Tempel-Tuttle, will rain into our atmosphere on 17 and 18 November and burn up as the annual Leonid meteor shower. Jupiter is putting on a great show in the south-western sky. During the evening, you'll find the "winter constellations" rising in the east: the hunter Orion, with his adversary Taurus (the bull) and the twins, Castor and Pollux, in the constellation Gemini. Saturn rises in the east around 3am. From mid-month onwards, you'll find Venus in the morning sky before sunrise.

Diary

6: 4.52am New Moon

13: 4.38pm Moon at First Quarter

17/18: Maximum of Leonid meteor shower

21: 5.27 pm Full Moon

28: 8.36 pm Moon at Last Quarter

Sport
Mourinho lost his temper as well as the match
sportLiverpool handed title boost as Sunderland smash manager’s 77-game home league run
Voices
Sweet tweet: Victoria Beckham’s selfie, taken on her 40th birthday on Thursday
voices... and her career-long attack on the absurd criteria by which we define our 'betters', by Ellen E Jones
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
VIDEO
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Voices
Clock off: France has had a 35‑hour working week since 1999
voicesThere's no truth to a law banning work emails after 6pm, but that didn’t stop media hysteria
Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Life & Style
Lana Del Rey, Alexa Chung and Cara Delevingne each carry their signature bag
fashionMulberry's decision to go for the super-rich backfired dramatically
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Life & Style
Sampling wine in Turin
food + drink...and abstaining may be worse than drinking too much, says scientist
Arts & Entertainment
Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin has been working on the novels since the mid-Nineties
books
News
Easter a dangerous time for dogs
these are the new ones. Old ones are below them... news
News
Brand said he
people
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Sport
Roger Federer celebrates his victory over Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters
sport
Arts & Entertainment
The monster rears its head as it roars into the sky
film
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit