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. The November night sky this month is also a time of astronomical activity, with active meteor showers, planetary close approaches, and even a few extra astronomical events we don’t get every month.
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 November night sky.
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.
This post was originally published in October 2018, and updated in October 2019 and October 2020.
November 1: Asteroid 8 Flora at Opposition
The series of events in the November night sky kicks off with an asteroid-spotting opportunity (and a comet one week later). First up: Asteroid 8 Flora, the bright, large main-belt asteroid. On the night of November 1st, 8 Flora will reach opposition and be most brightly lit by the sun from our perspective. Look for Flora in the constellation Cetus around midnight local time for the best viewing prospects.
November 8: C/2020 M3 (ATLAS) Reaches its Brightest
After the excitement of NEOWISE earlier this year, everyone is eager for the next big comet-spotting opportunity. Unlike NEOWISE which was visible to the unaided eye, you’ll need a telescope or binoculars to see C/2020 M3 (ATLAS) as it approaches its brightest on the night of November 8th. (Viewing prospects will still be good on the surrounding nights if clouds interfere.)
At this point, C/2020 M3 (ATLAS) will be very near to “Orion’s Belt” and the Orion nebula in the same constellation. For those attempting to view, Orion reaches its highest point in the sky between midnight and 2:00am local time during this time of the year.
November 10: Mercury Reaches its Highest Point in the Morning Sky
Ah little Mercury… so hard to spot! Mercury has several points throughout the year where it appears high enough above the horizon before or after the sun to be seen; the next opportunity is around November 10th, when Mercury will reach its highest point in the morning sky.
To try and spot Mercury, you’ll need a clear, unobstructed view of the eastern horizon. Mercury will only reach a peak of 17° above the horizon on this morning, and the sun will be close behind. You don’t need a telescope to spot Mercury, but remember to protect your eyes; the sun can do damage within a few seconds if you look directly at it even during sunrise.
November 12: Peak of the Northern Taurids Meteor Shower
On the night of November 12th, head outside to try and spot the Northern 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, and the moon will provide little interference at just 15% illuminated.
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 13: Close Approach of the Moon & Venus
In the morning hours of November 13th, look for a sliver of the crescent moon as it makes its close approach with bright Venus. The two will reach their closest once the sun is already in the sky, but you can still see them easily with the unaided eye in the pre-dawn sky.
November 17: Peak of the Leonids Meteor Shower
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 occurs in the November night sky for most of the month, 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 19: Close Approach of the Moon, Jupiter & Saturn
They’ve been getting closer and closer – Jupiter and Saturn are set to make a Great Conjuction in December! And as usual, the Moon is moving along the same line in the sky – the ecliptic – and makes a close approach with these two gas giants in close succession on the evening of November 19th.
First up is Jupiter. At their closest, the Moon will be 2°28′ from Jupiter, though this moment is in the afternoon/early evening depending on your time zone. Saturn follows a few minutes later, and will appear 2°50′ from the Moon. Since these exact moments occur while the sun is up, you can still enjoy the four-day old moon in the sky near Jupiter and Saturn once the sun goes down.
November 21: Peak of the α-Monocerotids Meteor Shower
For southern hemisphere stargazers, here’s another meteor shower for you! For the whole night of November 21st, look for meteors from the radiant point in Monoceros. The best meteor-spotting prospects will be between 1:00am and 3:00am local time.
November 25: Close Approach of the Moon & Mars
The Moon and Mars haven’t been having many close approaches visible to us in the night sky lately; they’re getting back into the swing of it on the night of November 25th. While the moment of closest approach (when they appear just 4°27′ apart) will occur during daylight hours for most viewers, the Moon and Mars will stay in the same part of the sky as the sun goes down.
November 28: Peak of the November Orionids Meteor Shower
Everyone gets excited about the October Orionids – did you know there’s another Orionids shower in November? While it runs from November 13th to December 6th, the shower is expected to have peak activity on the night of November 28th. This isn’t a particularly active shower (like the Orionids or any others this month) and the maximum ZHR is expected to be 3 per hour.
To spot these meteors, look in the general area of the constellation Orion. You don’t need to look right at the radiant point to spot them; instead sweep your eyes through that area of the sky.
November 29: Penumbral Lunar Eclipse
November’s night sky events close out with a penumbral lunar eclipse – and you know what that means! (There’s a solar eclipse coming up in mid-December!)
This month’s penumbral lunar eclipse will begin in the middle of the night (around 11:33pm Pacific time) and end before sunrise (around 3:54am Pacific time on November 30). It will be visible for parts of East Asia, Southeast Asia, and Australia, all of North America, and parts of South America. While the Moon won’t be red this night like during a total or partial, you should notice a dimming as the Moon passes through the earth’s penumbra shadow.
Have other questions about these astronomical events in the November night sky? Let us know in the comments.