Brilliant Jupiter steals the show this month and it will be at its closest to the Earth. The Milky Way rises overhead on these dark November nights, providing a stunning inside perspective on the huge Galaxy that is our home in the cosmos. After your eyes have adjusted to the dark you should be able to see that it’s spangled with fuzzy glowing diadems. Better still, sweep the band of the Milky Way with binoculars or a small telescope, and these blurry jewels appear in their true light as distant clusters of stars.
November is the first month of long nights and we are starting to see the familiar winter constellations. Orion the Hunter appears in the sky just before midnight. Just to the right of Orion is Taurus the Bull with the bright red star Aldebaran and the star cluster the Pleiades or ‘Seven Sisters. They too are now becoming more conspicuous. This is the best time to look for the autumn constellations during the evening; the Plough is low in the north and the ‘W’ of Cassiopeia overhead. The summer triangle stars Altair, Deneb and Vega are now becoming low in the west.
If you look to the south the Square of Pegasus is very prominent; a line drawn from the top left hand star of the square shows a line of stars that form the constellation of Andromeda.
Take advantage of the moonless nights this month to observe the most distant objects visible with the unaided eye. Anywhere away from the glare of streetlights, you will see the misty blur of the great Andromeda Galaxy, the nearest large galaxy to us at 2.5 million light years away. Another challenge is to try and find the fainter Triangulum Galaxy, located below Andromeda. This is one of the few constellations that look like the figure they are supposed to describe Triangulum the Triangle. The light we see from this galaxy left it almost three million years ago.
Using the two right hand stars of the Square of Pegasus draw a line down for some distance to find Fomalhaut, the brightest star in the constellation of Piscis Austrinus (the Southern Fish).
The innermost planet is lost in the glare of the Sun this month and is unfavourable for observation.
Brilliant Venus rises above the horizon around 3am, resplendent at magnitude –4.3. The crescent Moon is extremely close before dawn on 9th November and occults Venus later that morning. The morning star passes above the star Spica on the mornings of 29th and 30th November.
The red planet is too close to the sun for observation this month.
The gas giant planet is closet to the Earth on the 1st night of the month and two days later it is at opposition (in line with the Sun and the Earth). As a result Jupiter is at it’s brightest this month, at a magnificent magnitude of –2.9. Jupiter lies in the constellation of Aires, and is visible all night long. The Moon passes near to it on the 25th November. Using binoculars you can sport Jupiter’s four biggest moons, shifting in position night after night; while a small telescope reveals its rolling clouds and the large storm known as the ’Great Red Spot’.
This month Saturn will be amongst the faint stars of Aquarius. With a magnitude of +0.8, the ring world falls below the horizon around 11.30pm. On the 20th of the month Saturn will be just above the first quarter Moon.
Located in the constellation of Aries between Jupiter and the Pleiades star cluster. Uranus is closest to the Earth and at opposition on 13th November. Shinning at magnitude +5.6, it is just visible with the naked eye; if you know exactly where to look. Using binoculars it resembles a slightly greenish coloured star. If you have a moderate power telescope you can make out its disc and the largest moons.
If you like a challenge check out another of the evening planets this month. You will need good binoculars or a telescope to track down Neptune. Shinning with a measly magnitude of +7.8 Neptune lies on the borders of Aquarius and Pisces, and will fall below the horizon around 2am.
This distant planet can be observed in a ten-inch or larger telescope. It can be found in the constellation of Sagittarius. With a magnitude of +14.5, it falls below the horizon around 9.10pm.
This dwarf planet in the asteroid belt planet can also be observed using
a ten-inch or larger telescope. It can be found in the constellation of Libra at magnitude +8.6. It sets around 5.30pm.
There are two meteor showers this month. The Taurid meteor shower consists of slow moving meteors that often produce spectacular fireballs and is visible from November 6th to 13th. On November 17th to the 18th the Leonid meteors will be on display. Catch the display before the half Moon rises around midnight.
Other special events:-
9th November – There will be a dazzling duo in the morning twilight, as the crescent Moon pairs up with glorious Venus. If you have a telescope and be careful not to look at the Sun; as the day dawns you will see the Moon move right in front of the Morning Star between 9.45am and 1045am.
20th November – The first quarter Moon lies just below the planet Saturn.
25th November – The bright star near the Moon is the gas giant Jupiter.
26th November – The almost full Moon passes under the Pleiades star cluster.
Phases of the Moon:-
Last quarter 5th November
New Moon 13th November
First quarter 20th November
Full Moon 27th November