|Events during November
2nd-7th: TAURIDS METEOR SHOWER peaks (duration 20th October to 30th November)
13th: TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE, visible in Queensland, Australia and across the South Pacific
16th-18th: LEONIDS METEOR SHOWER peaks (duration 15th to 20th November)
27th: VENUS & SATURN, just a degree apart in the morning sky
28th: PENUMBRAL LUNAR ECLIPSE, not spectacular but visible from most of Earthīs surface
1st: Apogee at 406,050km + close to Jupiter
11th: close to Venus in the morning sky
14th: Perigee at 357,360km
16th: the crescent Moon above Mars in the evening sky
28th: Full + Apogee at 406,365km + Penumbral Eclipse + close to Jupiter with Aldebaran below
is shown dominating the constellation of Taurus throughout the night. The planets four largest Galilean moons, visible
to the naked eye, are a treat through a pair of binoculars.
The TAURIDS Meteor Shower lasts from late October to the end of November, peaking between the 2nd and 7th November. Our diagram shows the radiant point
close to the Pleiades in the constellation of Taurus. Expect slow moving meteors, some quite bright.
The LEONIDS Meteor Shower, peaks between the 16th an 18th November, with meteors appearing to stream from a point (the radiant) in Leo the Lion. With its
characteristic question mark, the constellation is easy to spot. Look for it rising above your eastern horizon between local midnight and 1:00 a.m.
The best way to observe meteors is to lie outdoors in a reclining chair or sun-lounger. Try to take in as much of the sky as possible. When you see a meteor,
mentally trace it backwards until you arrive at the radiant point. Staring directly toward the radiant is not the best way to enjoy a meteor shower. As a result
of foreshortening, meteors appearing nearby will seem shorter. A good region to check instead is any dark region of the sky 45 to 60 degrees away from the radiant.
You'll see just as many meteors but they will seem longer and more dramatic.
Finally Earthgrazers. If you begin observing a meteor shower before the radiant has risen above the horizon you may spot a flurry of shooting stars called
Earthgrazers. These disintegrating meteors fly over the horizon nearly parallel to the atmosphere, often producing long tails. Earthgrazers are usually remarkably
slow-moving but the Leonid meteors are the fastest observed. They strike Earth's atmosphere traveling 72 km/s (161,000 mph) appearing to streak very quickly across
Happy meteor hunting!
MERCURY passes through inferior conjunction
on 17th November and
moves out west of the Sun towards greatest western elongation
in early December. Consequently the planet is visible
in the east-south-eastern sky, as an early morning object, from northern latitudes in late November until the third week in December. During the last week of November,
Mercury brightens from magnitude +1.2 to -0.1.
The best times to observe Mercury in the northen hemisphere 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.
VENUS, at magnitude -4.0, is a brilliant early morning object rising three and a half hours before
the Sun at the beginning of November, decreasing to less than three hours by the end of the month. Venus phase
increases from 81% to 88% during the month as the planet moves from Virgo into Libra.
The waning crescent Moon appears close to Venus in the morning sky of 11th November and Venus passes just south of a much fainter Saturn on the morning
of 27th November.
On the 8th June 2004 and 5th/6th June 2012, 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. Prior to that, the last two transits of Venus were in 1874 and 1882. Transits of Venus won't occur again until 2117
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.
MARS, at magnitude +1.2, remains inconveniently low in the south-western sky at dusk and sets
less than two hours after the Sun from northern latitudes. Mars moves from Ophiuchus into
Sagittarius during the month.
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 is moving retrograde in
Taurus with brightness increasing slightly from magnitude -2.7 to -2.8 during the month. The planet is approaching
opposition in early December and, for most of November, is therefore visible all night long.
After spending the past six years in the southern skies, Jupiter moved north of the celestial equator on February 5th 2011 to spend the next six years
in northern skies.
Varying from 603 (at its closest) to 770 million kilometres from the sun, the difference in brightness between opposition and conjunction varies less than
with Mars, from about -2.9 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 of Jupiterīs 60+ moons are easily visible through binoculars or 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, in Virgo at magnitude +0.6, passed through
conjunction in late October, becoming visible low in the south-eastern sky before dawn towards the end of November.
Saturn appears very close to the much brighter Venus on the morning of 27th November.
The planet crossed the equator into the northern hemisphere in 1996 where it remained until 2010 with the southern side of the ring system
facing 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 last single crossing was in 2009 and the next will be in 2025.
Saturn's largest moon, Titan, is visible in small telescopes orbiting outside of the ring system.
Brightness varies only slightly, reaching a maximum of +5.6 magnitude at opposition. Although this is
bright enough to see with the naked eye, identifying it against the stars can be difficult. At closest approach, Uranus is 2,856 million kilometres (1,775 million miles)
Neptune has an average magnitude of 7.9 which varies little with changing distance. At its closest,
Neptune is 4,341 million kilometres (2,697 million miles) from Earth.
No longer an offical planet and never brighter than +13 magnitude, Pluto is only visible through powerful telescopes.
Last quarter: 7th
New moon: 13th
First quarter: 20th
Full moon: 28th