The Sky This Month – November 2016

Taurids

Taurid fireball imaged on October 28, 2005 by Hiroyuki Iida.

The sky this month brings a splendid array of planets, all of which are attended by the Moon at one time or other.  November also brings two meteor showers and the grand and starry constellations Taurus, Auriga, and Orion rising one after the other in the eastern sky. Here’s what to see in the sky this month…

1-3 November. That bright star near the Moon in the southwestern sky after sunset? That’s no star, it’s the planet Venus. The beautiful planet grows in brightness from magnitude -4.0 to -4.2 this month and gets a little bigger in a telescope. At the beginning of November, the planet sets about 2 hours after the Sun and presents a wonderful opportunity for you to pause and contemplate the cosmos after a busy day.

3 Nov. The planet Saturn also joins the show with the crescent Moon and Venus in the southwestern sky after sunset. The ringed planet is fading for the year and too low to allow for a good view in a telescope for northern-hemisphere observers.

The waxing crescent Moon and the planets Venus and Saturn in the southwestern sky after sunset on Nov. 3, 2016. The planet Mars lies to the east (at the upper left in this image). Created with SkyX Serious Astronomer.

The waxing crescent Moon and the planets Venus and Saturn in the southwestern sky after sunset on Nov. 3, 2016. The planet Mars lies to the east (at the upper left in this image). Created with SkyX Serious Astronomer.

5 Nov. Peak of the South Taurid meteor shower. This modest shower runs for several weeks in late October through late November. The meteors are caused by bits of the short period Comet 2/P Encke. This shower has one peak today and a second on November 12. The Moon this month favors the peak today. Look anywhere in the sky this month for the Taurids, especially after midnight, to see meteors that trace their paths back to the constellation Taurus.

6 Nov. Daylight savings time ends in North America. Move your clocks back and enjoy an extra hour of sleep (or stargazing).

9 Nov. Look for the planet Neptune about 1º south of the Moon in the early evening hours.

7 Nov. The waxing crescent Moon is just three-finger widths away from the planet Mars in the southwestern sky after sunset. Mars had a fine apparition this year in the starry constellations Scorpius and Sagittarius, but this month it sets and moves too far away to reveal any detail for another two years.

7 Nov. First Quarter Moon, 19:51 UT.

12 Nov. Peak of the North Taurid meteor shower.

14 Nov. Full Moon, 13:52 UT (the ‘Beaver Moon’). This month’s full Moon occurs at perigee, when the Moon is closest to Earth. This makes it a so-called “Supermoon” when the apparent diameter of the Moon is about 7% greater than average. There is nothing “super” about it, but it is an impressive sight.

17 Nov. The Leonid meteor shower peaks in the hours after midnight. This occasionally spectacular shower is all but washed out by a waning gibbous Moon this year. But there have been astonishing outbursts in the past, especially the great Leonid meteor storm of 1833.

21 Nov. Last Quarter Moon, 08:33 UT.

The waning crescent Moon and the planet Jupiter along with the bright star Spica in the eastern sky before sunrise on Nov. 25, 2016. Created with SkyX Serious Astronomer.

The waning crescent Moon and the planet Jupiter along with the bright star Spica in the eastern sky before sunrise on Nov. 25, 2016. Created with SkyX Serious Astronomer.

25 Nov. Early risers will see the waning crescent Moon, the planet Jupiter, and the bright white star Spica form a big triangle in the pre-dawn eastern sky. Jupiter is still quite far away, but it’s big enough to present some detail in a small telescope. The planet shines at about magnitude -1.8 this month, brighter than any star, and it will continue to brighten over the next many months.

29 Nov. Last Quarter Moon, 12:18 UT.

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