As darkness falls on the first of November, brilliant Venus shines above the southwestern horizon, while Saturn and Jupiter, higher in the sky, straddle due south. Venus and Saturn bracket the Summer Milky Way, which begins setting as twilight turns to night.

The Summer Milky Way sets as darkness falls over Mission Chapel of Our Lady of Light, in Lamy.

 

The summer constellations Sagittarius and Capricornus are beginning to set in the WSW, while the three faint autumn zodiacal constellations, Aquarius, Pisces, and Aries, cover the eastern half of the sky.

But, the winter constellations are already starting to make their presence felt as the Pleiades star cluster in Taurus peeks over the ENE horizon, following Aries into the sky. In the northeast, Taurus’ companion, Auriga, has partially risen, its zero magnitude star, yellow Capella, shining just above the mountains.

By month’s end, Sagittarius will be half submerged below the horizon at the end of evening twilight, the autumn constellations will be high in the sky, and Taurus and Auriga will be fully risen.

November Planets:

Mercury begins the month as a dawn object in the constellation Virgo. It forms a nice pair with the waning crescent moon on the morning of the 3rd. The solar system’s innermost planet heads back toward the Sun and is not visible later in the month.

Early November finds Venus beginning its passage across the Summer Milky Way, which stands vertical in the southwest, as night falls.

By month’s end, Venus will have crossed the Milky Way and will form a line, with Saturn in the middle and Jupiter on the left.

Having passed behind the Sun, Mars is now a faint and distant dawn object in Libra. See how early in the month you can find the Red Planet, as it slowly escapes from the Sun’s glare.

Jupiter continues to shine brightly in the south as darkness falls. In the latter part of November, Venus will begin to approach Jupiter, the two brilliant planets dominating the early evening, with fainter Saturn sandwiched between them. Unfortunately, Jupiter and Venus won’t get real close until April 2022, when they form a tight pair in the early morning sky, with faint Neptune close by.

Saturn, in Capricornus, is just past due south as darkness falls in early November. Easily seen at magnitude 0.6, the ringed planet’s brightness is dwarfed by nearby Venus and Jupiter.

Uranus is at opposition to the Sun on November 4th. At magnitude 5.7, it’s barely visible to the naked eye in the constellation Aries. While Uranus is at its closest to Earth at this time, it’s still a distant object, a mere 1.7 billion miles away.

 

November Spotlight:

On the night of November 18-19, we’ll be privy to a partial lunar eclipse. A partial lunar eclipse occurs when a portion of the Moon’s face is covered by the Earth’s shadow.

During partial lunar eclipses, the portion of the Moon that’s within the Earth’s shadow often appears dark gray. But, since 97% of the Moon will be within the Earth’s shadow at maximum eclipse, at 2:02am MST on the 19th, there should be some reddening of the Moon’s image.

At maximum eclipse, the Moon might look like the planet Mars, with a brilliant white ‘polar cap’ contrasting with a dimmer reddish or pinkish disk. The actual color of an eclipsed Moon is determined by a number of factors, including clouds and dust in the Earth’s atmosphere, since some sunlight passes through our atmosphere and is refracted onto the surface of the eclipsed Moon. Without this refracted light, the eclipsed portion of the Moon would be invisible.

Photo of a lunar eclipse in 2014, reminiscent of the planet Mars. At maximum eclipse, major lunar features remain visible.

 

The eclipse will be visible to the naked eye, but binoculars or a telescope will increase the size of the image and show greater detail.

 

November Night Sky Events:

November 4: New moon.

November 4: The little observed planet Uranus reaches opposition on the 4th when it will be visible from approximately sunset to sunrise. Despite being closest to Earth at this time, the far away Uranus is barely visible to the unaided eye in Aries, at magnitude 5.7.

November 11-12: The Northern Taurid meteor shower peaks on the night of the 11th and pre-dawn of the 12th. The estimated peak is 4:36am MST on November 12th. This is not a very active shower with only about five meteors per hour seen under optimal conditions. However, what the shower lacks in volume, it makes up for in quality, with a number of Taurids appearing as fireballs (meteors as bright or brighter than Venus). These meteors are sometimes called ‘Halloween fireballs.’ The shower is long in duration, lasting from October 20th to December 10th.

A Taurid fireball flashed across the constellation Orion.

 

November 17-18: The Leonid meteor shower peaks on the night of the 17th and pre-dawn of the 18th. Approximately 15 meteors per hour can be seen under ideal conditions. The waxing gibbous moon will interfere with the viewing of this shower.

November 19: The full Beaver Moon occurs at 1:59am MST.

October’s Hunters’ Moon rose just as the Sun was setting.

 

November 18-19: A partial lunar eclipse will be visible, beginning at 11:02pm MST on the 18th. 97% of the Moon’s face will be eclipsed during maximum eclipse (2:02am MST).

November 30: Venus will form a short line with Jupiter (left) and Saturn (middle) in the southwest, as darkness falls.