Ballet in the sky in November.
As November begins, the moon will be several days past its full moon. The last quarter he is November 5th. A “quarter” is his quarter of a lunar month (“month”) starting from the new moon. Each quarter is about 7.4 days, and his quadruple from one full moon to the next is about 29.5 days. On November 3, Pollux, one of the twins in Gemini, will be 1.4 degrees north of the Moon. On November 9th, Venus will be 1 degree south of the Moon and will be eclipsed in the far north of Canada. On November 20, Saturn will be 3 degrees north of the waxing moon, and on November 22, Neptune will be 1.5 degrees north. On November 25th and 26th, Jupiter and Uranus will each be 3 degrees south of Luna. Also on November 26th, a nearly full moon will glide among the stars of the Pleiades cluster.
Mercury appears in the western evening sky around mid-month, but it poses a big challenge for observers in the Northern Hemisphere because it sticks close to the horizon and sets just after sunset.
Venus reigns in the eastern sky as the morning star. The brightest planet rises around 4 a.m., well before sunrise. Because the ecliptic soars on winter mornings and is just opposite Mercury’s evening appearance, Venus rises high as November begins and remains there throughout the month. The moon will be very close on November 9th.
Mars is too close to the sun to be seen.
Jupiter will be at opposition on November 3rd. So at midnight, the Sun is behind the Earth and Jupiter is due south. Now is the perfect time to observe the gas giant and its Galilean moon. These four moons perform a daily dance around Jupiter, which was first noticed by Italian astronomer Galileo. Hence the name. Sometimes he can see all four moons. Also, one or more may be behind the planet. November 6th is one of his days when Callisto, Io, and Europa are each hit by the occult in a row. On November 25th, the Moon will be 3 degrees north of Jupiter.
Saturn is retrograde and will appear stationary against the starry sky on November 4th. The ringed planet then begins its prograde motion to the east. Saturn rises in the late afternoon and becomes visible against the stars of Aquarius in the southeast after sunset. It sets in the southwest around midnight. On the evening of November 20th, a waxing crescent moon can be seen nearby.
Uranus is at opposition on November 13th, a small bluish dot among the stars in Aries. An “astronomical unit” or “au” is the average distance from the Earth to the sun. To give you an idea of the size of our solar system, Uranus is 18.6 astronomical units from Earth, which is 2.079 billion kilometers away. Sunlight reflected from the Earth travels approximately 300 million meters per second and takes 2.6 hours to reach us.
Neptune remains among the stars of Pisces through most of the month, slowly moving into Aquarius during the second half of the month. It is in a good location for night observation, but it is quite difficult without optical aids. It is 29.4 astronomical units further away than Uranus.
The Southern Taurus meteor peaks on November 5th. Daylight saving time also ends on the same day.
The North Taurus meteor shower peaks on November 11th.
James Edgar had a lifelong interest in the night sky. He joined the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada in 2000, served two terms as its national president, and is currently editor of the Observer’s Handbook and production manager of the bimonthly RASC Journal. The IAU named asteroid 1995 XC5 “(22421) James Dogger” in his honor, and in 2021 he was awarded his RASC Fellowship.