|Events during November
· The Taurids meteor shower lasts throughout November with slow meteors, some bright, from below Pleiades.
· The Leonids meteor shower is at its height from the 15th to 20th November with the radiant just above Regulus.
· The Moon: Full - 13th, New – 27th.
|Mercury passes through superior conjunction on 25th November and is not suitably placed for observaton this month.
The best times to observe Mercury are when it is an evening star in the spring and a morning star in the autumn. In midsummer
the lighter skies make visibility difficult near the horizon.
|At magnitude -4.1, Venus remains a brilliant object, visible shining brightly, in the western sky after sunset.
In more northern latitudes the planet can only be seen for a short while after sunset, whereas further south it is visible for up to several hours.
On the 8th June 2004, Venus was at inferior conjunction
and transited the sun. Transits of Venus are rare, taking place at greater
than 100 year intervals and usually in pairs. The last two transits of Venus were in 1874 and 1882. June's transit
began at 7.20h and lasted 6 hours until 13.20h, the total event visible from Europe as a small black disc crossing
the lower part of the Sun from left to right. The next transit will be in late June 2012. After that, transits of Venus
won't occur again until 2117 and 2125.
Before and after inferior conjuction, when Venus is
the closest it comes to the Earth, are the times at which the planet is most brilliant and can be seen setting or rising
4 hours after or before the Sun. The dates of the next two inferior conjunctions are October 28th 2010 and October 26th 2018.
|Mars is moving closer to the Sun as it approaches conjunction in December. The planet is not suitably placed
for observation during November.
At opposition on the 28th August 2003, Mars was only 56 million kilometres from the Earth. It showed a
disc of 25.1 seconds of arc across which is almost as large as it can ever appear. Mars started 2003 at 310 million kilometres from
the earth at 4.5 seconds of arc and 1.6 magnitude. By opposition it brightened 50 times to reach -2.9 magnitude but faded to 0
magnitude by December. Even to the naked eye Mars was a striking object in the summer and autumn sky, easily identifiable by its
reddish hue in an area of sky poor in bright stars. Mars will not be as close again until 2018.
These favourable oppositions occur every 15 or 17 years but other oppositions occur at average intervals of 2 years 2 months during
which time the planet makes a complete circle of the Earth. In general Mars is observable every other year, being too close to the sun for favourable conditions
during other times. Brightness at opposition varies from -1.0 to -2.9 magnitude, and when furthest from the earth it fades to 1.7 magnitude. The planet can be
identified by its orange-red colour.
As in 2003, Mars comes nearest to the Earth at oppositions at the end of August. At these times it can be brighter than Jupiter,
although low in the sky in Aquarius for northern observors. In the northern hemisphere, the planet may be better seen at oppostions during autumn and winter months
when it is higher in the sky.
|Jupiter, at magnitude -2.1, continues to be visible low in the western sky during early evening. By the end of November it will
set just a couple of hours after the Sun. Jupiterīs moons are easily observed through a small telescope or good pair of binoculars. At the end of the month
Venus, moving rapidly away from the Sun, will pass within 2š south of Jupiter.
Being 770 million kilometres from the sun, the difference in brightness between opposition and conjunction varies less than with Mars, from
about -2.8 to -1.8 magnitude. Always a bright planet, Jupiter comes to opposition a month later each year, moving approximately from one zodiacal constellation to the next.
The 4 largest moons of Jupiter are easily visible through a small telescope, ranging from 4.6 to 5.6 in magnitude. The innermost, Io, takes 1.8 days
to orbit the planet making its motion easily detectable within a few minutes.
|Saturn, remaining at magnitude +1.0 in Leo, continues to be visible as a morning object in the eastern sky before sunrise.
Saturnīs rings continue to close with the south pole presented towards Earth and the far side of the rings no longer appearing clear of the planetīs body. Next year the
Earth will pass through the ring plane making the rings invisible for a short while.
Saturn moves more slowly than Jupiter and can remain in the same constellation for several years. The brightness of the planet depends on the
aspect of its rings, as well as its distance from Earth and the Sun.
The planet crossed the equator into the northern hemisphere in 1996 where it will remain until 2010 with the southern side of the ring system
facing the earth. Because of its distance, its brightness varies little between opposition and conjunction but is affected by the huge ring system. Seen edge on the
rings contribute little or no light.
Every 15 years the plane of Saturn's rings passes through the sun, illuminating first the north and then the south side. For a few days the
rings are edge on to the sun. About the same time the Earth passes through the ring plane and, depending on the Earth's position, this may happen just once or 3 times.
During 1995/96 there was a triple crossing and the next will be 2038/39. The next single crossings will be in 2009 and 2025.
Saturn's largest moon, Titan, is visible in small telescopes orbiting outside of the ring system.
|Brightness varies slightly reaching 5.6 magnitude at opposition. This is bright enough to see with the naked eye but identifying it against the stars is difficult.
|Neptune has an average magnitude of 7.9 which varies little with changing distance.
|No longer an offical planet and never brighter than +13 magnitude, Pluto is only visible through powerful
First quarter: 6th
Full moon: 13th
Last quarter: 19th
New moon: 27th