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 and binoculars. On that page you’ll find resources on how to find a good piece of astronomical equipment that fits your budget and helps unlock the wonders of the November night sky.
This post was originally published in October 2018, and updated in October 2019, 2020, and 2021.
November 4: Uranus at Opposition
Giant, icy Uranus is technically the furthest planet that you can see with the unaided eye, and if there were ever a time to try and spot it in 2021 then November 4th is it.
On this night, Uranus will be at opposition relative to earth, which means that it will be brightly lit by the sun and appear its brightest in the sky for the year. However, Uranus is incredibly hard to spot even in pristine dark sky conditions, so it’s best to grab your telescope or a pair of astronomical binoculars if you want to see this methane-blue planet. Look for Uranus in the constellation Aires between midnight and 6am local time.
November 7: 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko at its Brightest
Love spotting comets? After NEOWISE back in 2020 – me too! While comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (quite a mouthful!) won’t be as impressive as that, you can try and spot it when it reaches its brightest as it passes earth on its 6.45-year orbit through the solar system.
On November 7th, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko will be just 0.42 AU from earth and brightly lit by the sun (which it will have just passed in perihelion on November 3rd). Due to daylight savings overnight, you’ll have an extra hour to try and spot this comet, which will reach its highest point in the predawn hours and southern sky.
It’s a bit hard to predict the best time and location to try and spot it based on your location, so use a tool like In-The-Sky.org to input your exact location to guide your comet-gazing efforts.
November 7: Lunar Occultation of Venus
Will you be in eastern Asia on November 7th? This one’s for you! On this night, the Moon will pass in front of Venus from our perspective – what astronomers call an occultation. This will be a particularly interesting occultation to observe as the moon will be a waxing crescent and only 20% illuminated. Watching bright Venus slip behind the “dark side” of the moon will be quite the sight!
November 10: Close Approach of the Moon & Saturn
While the Moon hasn’t had many close approaches with Venus or Mars lately (unlike 2020), it continues its celestial dance with the gas giants. First on the floor is Saturn! On the morning of November 10th, the moon will pass 4°06′ south of Saturn in the constellation Capricornus. Jupiter will be nearby in the predawn sky, though – as a reminder – not as close as the Great Conjunction last year.
November 11: Close Approach of the Moon & Jupiter
Jupiter gets its chance to appear close to the Moon on the next night, November 11th. This evening, the Moon will pass 4°21′ south of bright Jupiter on the edge of the constellation Capricornus. Given the timing (closer to midnight and darker skies than the Saturn close approach the day before), this is a better night to view these three solar system objects if you’re pulling out your telescope or planning to try any astrophotography.
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 16(-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 16th this year. If you’re out this night, look for up to 15 meteors per hour depending on your location. It’s also possible to see Leonids each night between November 15th and 20th, though a bright nearly-Full moon will obscure viewing prospects throughout the week.
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.
Here’s my complete guide to seeing the Leonids in 2021.
November 19: Partial Lunar Eclipse
Just like last November, there’s a lunar eclipse this month! Unlike last year though, this lunar eclipse will be one worth heading outside to see; last year’s grey penumbral eclipse will be replaced by a partly-red blood moon. In fact, most people won’t be able to tell that this isn’t a total lunar eclipse, since up to 97% of the moon will be covered by the earth’s penumbra at maximum.
This lunar eclipse will be visible across all of North and South America, as well as Western Europe, western Africa, and all of East Asia and Oceania. It will begin at 07:18 UTC and end at 10:47 UTC, giving everyone a nice long opportunity to see our celestial neighbor turn a vibrant color. Depending on your location, this may mean you’ll rise early or stay up late to see the lunar eclipse.
I have a complete guide to seeing the partial lunar eclipse coming soon!
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 27: Ceres at Opposition
There’s time for one more dwarf planet viewing opportunity before year’s end: Ceres is at opposition on November 26th. Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt, and the only one rounded by its own gravity; astronomers call it a protoplanet that was unable to form due to the amount of debris in this part of the solar system and Jupiter’s powerful gravitational pull.
On the night of the 26th, Ceres will appear at its brightest for the year. It will also appear high in the sky around midnight local time. Look for Ceres in the constellation Taurus.
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 October 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.
Have other questions about these astronomical events in the November night sky? Let us know in the comments.