As we enter the season with more darkness, it is easy to bemoan the loss of sunlight, but there is a new opportunity to see brightness in the sky at night. Late fall and winter offer some of the clearest night skies, and you don’t have to stay up too late to see them. Maine is home to one of the few International Dark Sky Sanctuaries — one of only 13 in the whole world. The Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument is the only Dark Sky Sanctuary in the eastern half of the United States. While it is amazing to have this sanctuary right here in Maine, it’s a bit of a haul from our part of the coast. One alternative that offers open stretches of sky is to view the night sky from along the shore. You don’t have to be out on the water to see the stars but can quite a lot as you look out in the darkness.

In a seeming celebration of the new, longer stretch of darkness at the end of the day, last weekend, just after the time change, there were meteor showers visible in the Maine sky. There are two streams from this meteor, the Taurid meteor shower: the southern stream, which was visible last weekend, and the northern stream, which you can see this coming weekend. There’s also a particularly tiny moon this weekend, so the chances of seeing these meteors is better. And the Taurid showers are on the slower side as meteors go, so they can be especially bright. If you’re looking up in the winter sky, you can find these showers by looking for Orion, a pretty easily identifiable constellation by its three bright stars that make up the hunter’s belt. If you can find Orion, trace the belt up and to the right and you can find a red star that is the eye of Taurus, the bull. Taurus rises around sunset and stays visible throughout the night. You can also see a little cluster of stars nearby known as the Seven Sisters, or the Pleiades, which you can also see all night long.

If you miss these, there’s another shower the following weekend — the Leonids. These meteors are speedier, with more meteors falling quickly, so there are more to see, but they can be less bright. This shower occurs every year and starts from Leo, the Lion constellation. Leo isn’t the easiest to find; it’s actually often better to see the meteors as they travel across the sky beyond their origin.

And, if you’re looking for meteors in the sky, you might also see something a little more static that seems out of place. The SpaceX Starlink satellites are also visible on clear nights and look like a short string of Christmas lights in the sky. There are more than 4,000 of these internet-providing satellites in orbit currently.

Aside from meteors, there are some bright planets to see, too. Jupiter is perhaps the superstar of November, as Earth passes between it and the sun, making it look extra big. The closest moment happened at the beginning of the month, with Jupiter rising at sunset. If you find the Pleiades, you can find Jupiter nearby. Or if you’re looking at the sky in the early morning, you can see Venus, which is actually three times brighter than Jupiter.

So, take advantage of the darkness of the increased night and the remaining weeks before our next full moon. That one will be on Nov. 27 and is sometimes called the frosty moon. This year, it will also be the last full moon before the official start of winter. And if you’re looking for a comprehensive run-down of the events occurring each month, the University of Maine has a great website for that:

Susan Olcott is the director of operations at Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association.

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