With November, we take steps closer to the solstice. In the northern hemisphere, winter approaches in earnest; in the southern, the sun is welcomed back and temperatures continue to rise. November is also a time of astronomical activity, with two active meteor showers to get out and enjoy. Hopefully, the skies will be clear and dark for you to enjoy at least one, or to get out for one of these other astronomical events happening in the night sky in November.
November 4: Taurids Meteor Shower
Photo credit: Mike Lewinski via Flickr
To start, head outside during the first week of November to see the Taurids meteor shower. This shower runs from approximately October 20 to November 30 and is expected to peak on the night of November 4. On the night of peak activity, you can spot up to 10 meteors per hour.
Look for the Taurids radiant point in the constellation of Taurus. For most people, it will be in the eastern or southern sky depending on your location. Keep your eyes peeled in the general direction of Taurus, but look around that area of the night sky to spot meteors with longer tails.
November 11: Close Approach of Saturn & the Moon
Photo credit: makelessnoise via Flickr
In November, Saturn is the first visible planet to approach the moon. On the night of November 11, Saturn and the moon will appear within 1.5° of each other in the night sky. This is a bit too far to view in a telescope, but you’ll be able to spot them with your eyes or a pair of binoculars.
Saturn and the moon will be in the southern sky during this evening of closest approach. Mercury and Jupiter will also be in the same part of the sky; you may be able to spot Mercury near the southwestern horizon once the sun has set.
The moon will be a young crescent (about 15%), so it’s a great opportunity to spot Saturn with a sliver of the moon!
November 15: Close Approach of Mars & the Moon
Photo credit: Eric Kilby via Flickr
Mars may not be as bright as it was in July, but it’s eye-catching! On the night of November 15, Mars and the moon will appear 0°57′ from each other in the night sky. The moon is just after its first quarter, but shouldn’t create too much light to see Mars. At their closest approach, the moon and Mars will be in the southwestern sky.
With a wide-angle telescope, you may be able to see both Mars and the moon in the same field of vision. A good pair of binoculars will definitely give you a close-up view of our next destinations for human exploration.
November 17: Leonids Meteor Shower
Photo credit: Perry McKenna via Flickr
As the end of the calendar year gets closer, there are more meteor showers to enjoy! Why? That’s just how our orbit works, as we cross the debris paths of comets and asteroids during our celestial dance.
The Leonids meteor shower is occurring through most of November, but the night of peak activity is November 17th. If you’re out this night, look for up to 20 meteors per hour depending on your location. It’s also possible to see Leonids each night between November 15th and 20th.
The Leonids appear from a radiant point in the constellation Leo, which will be in the northeastern sky for most people. If you can spot the Big Dipper/Plough, you’re in the right part of the sky to spot some shooting stars.
November 26: NASA Insight Lands on Mars
InSight Launch in May – Photo credit: Glenn Beltz via Flickr
Okay, so you technically won’t be able to see this one in the night sky… but the NASA InSight Mars lander is expected to touch down on Mars on November 26th. NASA is hosting a #NASAsocial event at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, CA, and you’ll be able to follow along on social media with that hashtag.
InSight is headed to Mars to study the planet’s crust, mantle, and core with a variety of tools. It will help us learn more about what Mars is literally made of. Learn more about InSight and how you can follow along with the mission on the NASA website.
November 29: Venus at Greatest Brightness
Photo credit: Art Ivakin via Flickr
November ends with Venus putting on a show. We often take for granted that Venus is one of the most constant fixtures in our night sky, shining brightly in the mornings and evenings. Venus occasionally becomes the third brightest object in the sky after the sun and moon, and one of these times will be on the morning of November 29th.
Venus will be at its point of greatest elongation from the sun, meaning it will be brightly lit by the sun, but far from it in the sky. In the pre-dawn hours, Venus will rise brightly before the sun, earning its nickname as the ‘morning star.’
Featured photo by Lukas Schlagenhauf via Flickr