November Skies

November Skies

The Moon this Month

The Full Moon occurred on the 1st in all states except WA. Last quarter will be on the 8th with the New Moon on the 15th and First Quarter on the 22nd with a second Full Moon on the 30th (unless you are in WA). This means that this second moon is popularly known as a ‘blue moon’.

Planets in November

November sees all five bright planets visible. All except for Mercury are starting to gradually dim as they slowly move further from us. Never fear, though, they are all still easily visible and not too hard to find. Jupiter, Saturn and Mars are in the evening sky while Mercury and Venus grace the early mornings.

Mercury has finished its brief visit to the evening sky and is low in the morning sky. It never rises very high above the horizon. To find it go outside 30 minutes before sunrise on November 14. Look to the east and find the thin crescent Moon only 4 finger-widths away from this speedy planet. After this time it becomes lost in the twilight.

Venus shines brightly still in the early morning although as the month passes it sinks lower in the sky. If you look at the start of the month it can be found just under a hand span above the eastern horizon just an hour before sunrise. You can get a great photo opportunity on the 13th when the thin crescent Moon is nearby. By the end of the month Venus is only about 3 finger-widths above the horizon about an hour prior to sunrise.

Mars is still nice and bright even though it passed opposition back on October 14. This time was not as good as that of 2018, or not as good as the Great Opposition of Mars in 2003. However this is the best chance we have to see Mars until 2033. It is visible all night.

Opposition refers to when a planet is opposite the Sun in the sky. This can only happen to outer planets, as Earth must pass between the Sun and the planet. The Earth passes Mars in its orbit every 26 months, and when this happens we get our best views. When planets are their opposition they appear to be at their biggest and brightest.

Jupiter is in the early evening western sky throughout November. It was at opposition back in July but remains an excellent sight in the evening sky through to the end of December. It appears close to Saturn in the North-Western sky early in the evening. As the month progresses Jupiter and Saturn appearing to be closer. They start the month off approximately a handspan apart and the distance will decrease to only about 3 finger-widths by month’s end.

Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars from a easy to follow line in the evening sky. On the 19th Jupiter, the crescent Moon and Saturn form an interesting triangle in the evening sky, with Jupiter being just a degree from the Moon. On the 20th the lineup becomes Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon. Jupiter is an great object to look at in a telescope or even with a decent pair of binoculars. Watching the 4 Galilean moon change position is a lot of fun. Check them out if you get a chance and the 18th should be a good night to watch.

Finding Jupiter and Saturn in the North Western Sky mid November

Saturn is also moderately high in the western evening sky appearing above and behind Jupiter. Saturn was also opposition in July, when it was biggest and brightest as seen from Earth.

Saturn starts the month about 9 hand-spans above the north-western horizon an hour and a half after sunset. By November 15, it will be only 6 hand-spans above horizon an hour and a half after sunset. By November 30, it will be just over 3 hand-spans above the western horizon an hour and a half after sunset.

Meteor Showers

Watching the sky at night, a casual observer may see from 3 to 5 sporadic meteors per hour. However, on some nights this number may increase markedly, and on projecting the paths of the meteors back we find that many appear to radiate from a very small area in the sky. This point or area is termed the radiant of the meteor shower.

Watching the sky at night, a casual observer may see from 3 to 5 sporadic meteors per hour. However, on some nights this number may increase markedly, and on projecting the paths of the meteors back we find that many appear to radiate from a very small area in the sky. This point or area is termed the radiant of the meteor shower.

Early in the month is the Northern and Southern Taurids. Which are actually two separate annual showers, with a Southern and a Northern component. The Southern Taurids originated from Comet Encke, while the Northern Taurids originated from the asteroid 2004 TG₁₀.

You want to look out on the night of November 4-5, 2020,. The night before, or after, is also good to watch for meteors, too. Unfortunately, the light of the bright waning gibbous moon will accompany the peak of the South Taurids, which rarely produces more than five meteors per hour, even at maximum.

Taurid Meteor Shower Finder Chart

Leonids

The Leonid meteor shower occurs from about 14 to 20 November as the Earth passes through an old debris stream left by past passages of the comet Temple-Tuttle.

The maximum rate occurs within a day or so of November 17 and is usually less than 10 per hour. The meteors appear to come from a radiant that lies within the “sickle” of the constellation of Leo (hence the name).

An unusual feature of this stream is that it is often associated with some fairly bright meteors that may leave a trail (called a train) behind that is visible for many seconds, and sometimes even minutes. The meteors travel very fast and the brighter meteors may show a golden colour. In fact these meteors are the fastest of any meteor stream so far observed.

The good thing this year is that the Moon won’t be much of a problem – so head out early in the morning around 4:00 am and look towards the north east early on Nov 17.

Finder chart looking Northeast Nov 17 Leonid Meteor Shower

Enjoy your skies this month and let me know any questions I can answer for you!

Donna the Astronomer

I am a keen astronomer lucky enough to live and work in Coonabarabran the Astronomy Capital of Australia! I am a ‘Drover’s Brat’ and discoverer of a couple of comets and asteroids. I operate Milroy Observatory and can show you how to best integrate dark sky experiences into your tourism, farm stay or AirBnB business.

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