November is one of the best months for stargazing in my opinion. It’s not so freezing your fingers fall off but the air is cold enough for good seeing conditions, it’s dark already when you get home from work so you can get your gear set up nice and early, and there’s usually quite a bit happening in the always familiar but ever changing night sky over our heads.
We had some mixed weather for October (mostly bad but the good nights we had were ruined by inconsiderate neighbours leaving their halogen garden lights on…) but as ever we hold out hope for November.
So with that in mind, for your delectation below we have itemised some astronomical awesomeness for you to ogle. So get out there and keep watching the skies!
Orbiting closest to the Sun, Mercury is in Inferior Conjunction today and therefore isn’t visible
And comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) will be below and to the left of Mars early this morning, almost forming a direct line to Regulus in the constellation Leo. If it’s developed a tail you may be able to see it with the naked eye under dark skies
Sunday 3rd November - The New Moon rises with (and sets just after) the Sun today, so now is a good time to observe deep sky objects when the skies are unaffected by moonlight
Today also sees the Annular Solar Eclipse which occurs when the Sun and Moon are exactly in line, but the apparent size of the Moon is smaller than that of the Sun. Hence the Sun appears as a very bright ring, or annulus, surrounding the dark disk of the Moon
Unfortunately it won’t be visible from the UK, but if it’s clear we’ll still break out the solar filters for a look see!
Wednesday 6th November - The waxing crescent Moon is at Perigee today at a distance of 365,360 km (227,024 miles), the closest point of its orbit to the Earth, and appears as a near neighbour to Venus after sunset too
We imaged a similar close liaison in January 2012, so can give you some idea of how it will look to the naked eye (although this time the sky will be brighter)!
Ringed planet Saturn is also in Conjunction with the Sun today, making it unobservable until much later in the month
Sunday 10th November - This morning the Moon is seen at First Quarter phase
Tuesday 12th November – Tonight is the peak of the Northern Taurid meteor shower, with the radiant being to the south after midnight
The Moon sets soon after 02:00 on the 13th so this could be the best time to spot them!
Sunday 17th November - The Full Moon in the sky this evening is also sometimes known as the Beaver Moon, White Moon or Snow Moon
Monday 18th November - Mercury is at Greatest Western Elongation today, and should be visible low down to the east before sunrise
Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) is also very close to Spica in the constellation Virgo, so should be easy to find in the hours before dawn
Friday 22nd November - Today the Moon is at Apogee at a distance of 405,445 km (251,932 miles), the farthest point out in its orbit around the Earth
Monday 25th November - The Moon appears at Last Quarter phase this evening
They’ll appear over the horizon shortly before 06:00 UTC (shown above at 06:30) but the sky will be darker the earlier you can catch them. If you get any photos we’d love you to tweet them to us! Mercury is one of the planets we’ve yet to get a photo of!
Planets visible this month:
Remember, it can take your eyes up to 20 minutes to become properly dark adapted, and anything up to an hour for a telescope to reach ambient temperature outside (to ensure the best image), so give yourself plenty of time to get set up!
To make it easier to find this list of astronomical happenings you can also locate it in the “Monthly Guide” section in the menu bar to the right. Handy! :)
Guide images created with Stellarium