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.
If you need a telescope to help enjoy this month’s night sky events, we have a guide to the best stargazing telescopes. From the Meade Polaris 130 (under $200) to the Orion Atlas 8 EQ-G GoTo ($2000), you can find one for your astronomy interest and budget.
November 2: Close Approach of the Moon, Saturn & Pluto
In November, Saturn is the first visible planet to approach the moon. In the early evening of November 2nd, Saturn and the moon will appear within 0°35′ of each other in the 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.
If you do have a telescope, pull it out anyway to try and find Pluto which will also make a close encounter with the moon on the night of November 2nd. They’ll pass within 0°23′ of each other just after sunset.
The moon will five days old, so depending on your time of observation you may encounter a bit of light pollution. Nevertheless, it’s a great opportunity to spot Saturn and Pluto!
November 12: Peak of the Taurids Meteor Shower
On the night of November 12th, it’s another astronomical double-header. First, head outside to try and spot some Taurids meteors as this shower peaks in activity on the 12th. The Taurids run from approximately October 20th to November 30th. 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 12: Vesta at Opposition
While you’re out spotting meteors, pull out your telescope to try and see the asteroid Vesta. This large asteroid which will be at opposition on the night of November 12th. It will be a little tricky due to a nearly full moon, but if you’re willing to stay up late, you can try to get a good view.
November 18: Peak of the Leonids Meteor Shower
If you haven’t gotten out to see any night sky events in November so far, mark your calendar: there are three astronomical events on this night! 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 18th. 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 18: Close Approach of the Moon & M44
For the second event to look for in the night sky in November, the Beehive Cluster (Messier 44) will make a close approach with the moon for the whole evening.
The closest that the Moon and M44 will appear is 1°10′ of one another, too far apart to see in the view of a telescope. However, you can spot Messier 44 with your eyes or a pair of binoculars – or use the moon to ‘star-hop’ for a closer view.
November 18: M45 is Well-Placed
The Pleiades are one of the most familiar Messier objects in the winter sky for northern hemisphere stargazers. If you want to reacquaint yourself with them, the night of November 18th is an ideal chance to see them up close. M45 will reach its highest point in the sky around midnight local time.
November 24: Close Approach of Venus & Jupiter
After what feels like a very long summer without Venus in the sky, our solar system neighbor has begun making her way back into the sky. November 24th is a good first night to try and spot her as well as the largest planet! Jupiter and Venus will pass within 1°24′ of each other after dusk.
The moon will be 27 days old and just 5% illuminated on the 24th – an ideal opportunity!
November 28: Close Approach of the Moon, Venus & Jupiter
If you had cloudy skies on the 24th, plan to make up for it on the 28th. With a two-day old (4%) illuminated moon passing close to both Venus and Jupiter after dusk, the night of November 28th is yet another good evening for viewing the November night sky.
The moon will pass within 0°43′ of Jupiter – and a few minutes later, within 1°10′ of Venus. Look for them in the southwestern sky from wherever you’re viewing.
November 29: Close Approach of the Moon & Saturn
In a repeat of the event at the beginning of the month, November 29th is a second chance to spot Saturn as it makes a close approach with the Moon. The two will pass within 0°55′ of each other in your southwestern sky as dusk ends. The Moon will be just 3 days old and only 11% illuminated, making it an ideal guide to help you spot picturesque Saturn.
Have other questions about the night sky in November? Let us know in the comments.
This post was originally published in October 2018, and updated in October 2019. Featured photo by Lukas Schlagenhauf via Flickr