The Night Sky This Month – November 2023
(Looking for last month’s ‘Night Sky’? Find it at this link…)
November offers deep-sky observers lots of open star clusters in Cassiopeia and Perseus, and plenty more galaxies in Pegasus, Sculptor, and Andromeda. Orion rises late in the evening and dominates the southern sky after midnight, while the stars of northern spring rise before dawn. The bright planets Jupiter and Saturn lie in the evening sky while Venus enlightens the morning sky in the east. And two meteor showers (or three depending on how you count them) liven up the November skies. Here’s what to see in the night sky this month.
2 November 2023. Jupiter reaches opposition, rising in the east as the sun sets in the west. The planet lies at a distance of about 596 million kilometres today. Jupiter shines at a dazzling magnitude -2.9 tonight, brighter than anything else in the night sky except for the Moon and Venus. Its disk spans nearly 50″. The big planet lies 13.5° north of celestial equator, ideal for northern observers but still reasonably placed for those in the southern hemisphere. Jupiter’s four largest moons – the Galilean moons – are also at their brightest and largest near opposition, and all four resolve into tiny disks in a telescope at moderate magnification. Jupiter stays well positioned for viewing for the rest of the year as it moves into the evening sky. Learn more about how to observe Jupiter here…
2 Nov. Look east-northeast just before midnight to see a waning gibbous Moon rising in a triangle with Castor and Pollux in Gemini.
4 Nov. Saturn reaches its second stationary point in Aquarius and resumes its prograde (west to east) motion against the stars from night to night.
5 Nov. Last Quarter Moon, 08:37 UT
5 Nov. Most of North America sets the clocks back to Standard Time – which means you get to enjoy an extra hour of stargazing!
6 Nov. As dawn arrives, look for a slender crescent Moon about 5° from the star Regulus. Brilliant Venus (magnitude -4.3) lies nearby. In a telescope, the 21” wide disk of Venus appears in a gibbous phase and it shows a much higher surface brightness than our Moon. (The Moon, while it appears bright, is a dark object, about as dark as asphalt while the cloud tops of Venus are much more reflective.)
6-12 Nov. The Taurid meteor showers peak this week with not much Moon around to obscure the view. There are two, the Northern and Southern Taurids, and they both peak in late October through mid-November. They’re sometimes called the Halloween Fireballs. You can see these bright, slow-moving fireballs in the northern and southern hemispheres at essentially any time of night. This event usually shows 5-10 meteors an hour, although some predictions suggest more plentiful meteors this year.
9 Nov. Much of the world sees Venus make a very close approach – less than a degree – from a waning crescent Moon in the early-morning sky. But observers in much of Europe can enjoy – with a telescope – a daytime lunar occultation of the planet. The timing of the event for dozens of cities are found at this link.
11 Nov. A thinning crescent Moon lies near Spica low in the eastern sky before sunrise.
13 Nov. New Moon, 09:27 UT
13 Nov. Uranus reaches opposition as it rises in the east as the Sun sets in the west. This distant ice giant lies just at the edge of naked-eye visibility at magnitude +5.7 with a disk that spans about 3.7″. You can see it in Aries about halfway between Jupiter and the Pleiades. Uranus remains visible through the end of 2023 and into the new year in this part of the sky. If you have dark sky, try to see the planet without optics. Although the planet was plainly, though not easily, visible to pre-telescopic stargazers, it wasn’t ‘discovered’ until William Herschel found it with a 6” telescope on March 13, 1781. For an even bigger challenge – try to find some or all of the bright Moons of Uranus with the help of this handy-dandy moon finder at Sky&Telescope.
18 Nov. Mars finally reaches conjunction with the Sun. It will slowly reappear west of the Sun in the morning sky in the coming weeks.
18-21 Nov. The Leonid meteor shower has been quiet these past many years and it remains a modest shower despite some historical outbursts. The shower occurs as the Earth passes through the path of the periodic Comet 55/P Tempel-Tuttle. A peak of 15 meteors per hour is typical for the Leonids. But nothing’s assured and a few extras may arrive. Leonids can appear anywhere in the sky but appear to trace their paths back to a radiant in the ‘Sickle’ of Leo.
20 Nov. First Quarter Moon, 10:50 UT
20 Nov. The Moon lies about 5° from Saturn in the southwestern sky after sunset. The ringed planet is slowly shrinking and its ring plane is closing, but the planet is always worth a look in a telescope. Saturn shines today at magnitude +0.8 and its disk spans about 17”.
22 Nov. Neptune lies about 1.5° north of the Moon.
27 Nov. Full Moon, 09:16 UT