November comes with new bright astronomical events! The Moon will shift into the post-midnight sky by week’s end, leaving evenings darker worldwide. Mars continues its splendid all-night showing, while Jupiter and Saturn only shine during the early evening, and Mercury joins Venus before dawn. Read on to learn what to see in the sky on November 3–8, 2020.
Southern Taurids meteor shower peak
The Southern Taurids shower, which occurs worldwide from September 23 to November 19 every year, will reach its peak of about 10 meteors per hour on Thursday, November 5. The long-lasting, weak shower is derived from debris dropped by the passage of periodic Comet 2P/Encke. The larger-than-average grain sizes of that comet’s particles often produce colorful fireballs.
The Moon this week
Following Saturday night’s full Halloween Moon, Earth’s celestial side-kick will shine brightly in the evening sky for observers all around the world for most of this week. But with the Moon waning in phase and rising much later every night, darker evening skies will arrive with the coming weekend.
On Monday night, the Moon’s orbital motion carried it close to the Hyades star cluster in the constellation of Taurus. The bright, orange star Aldebaran, which marks the Bull’s southern eye, is shining nearby. On Wednesday night, the Moon will rise among the stars of Gemini. It will be positioned below the large open star cluster designated Messier 35 (or the Shoe-Buckle). On Friday and Saturday night, the much less illuminated Moon will spend time among the dim stars of Cancer.
The Moon will end this week exhibiting its last quarter phase, which will occur at 6:46 p.m. EST (13:46 GMT) on Sunday. At last quarter, the Moon always rises at around midnight and remains visible in the southern daytime sky all morning — leaving our evenings deliciously dark!
The bright planets
Well before 18:00 local time this week, very bright, white Jupiter will become visible in the lower part of the southern sky. A short time after that, dimmer, yellowish Saturn will appear to Jupiter’s upper left. Our season of clear views of those two planets is almost over. After 20:30 in your local time zone, they will be getting low in the southwestern sky and shining through a much thicker blanket of Earth’s atmosphere.
This week, very bright, reddish-tinted Mars will already be climbing the lower part of the eastern sky once it’s dark out. Mars will climb to its highest point — and best viewing position — at about 22:30 local time.
Blue-green Uranus reached opposition and best visibility for 2020 on Saturday. On that night, it was closest to the Earth for this year — at a distance of 2.81 billion km. Its minimal distance from the Earth will cause it to shine at a peak brightness of magnitude 5.7 and to appear slightly larger in telescopes during the weeks surrounding opposition. Try for Uranus after mid-evening, when it will be higher in the sky. The blue-green planet is shining between the stars of the constellation Aries.
Neptune, which rises in mid-afternoon, is located among the stars of northeastern Aquarius, to the left of the medium-bright star Phi (φ) Aquarii. This week, Neptune will already be in the lower part of the sky after dusk. Then it will climb higher until 20:45 local time when you’ll get your clearest view of it while it’s almost halfway up the southern sky.
Venus has been gleaming in the eastern pre-dawn sky for some time now. It will rise at about 4:00 local time this week and remain visible in the eastern sky until sunrise. This week, the planet will be traversing the stars of Virgo. Venus will sit to the right of that constellation’s bright double star Porrima on Thursday morning.
For Northern Hemisphere observers, November will offer an excellent opportunity to view Mercury in the eastern pre-dawn sky; but it will be a poor apparition for those located near the Equator and farther south. You can look for the speedy planet sitting very low over the east-southeastern horizon, a bit to the left of Venus, starting on Monday morning after 6:45 local time. Next Tuesday, Mercury will reach a maximum angle from the Sun and peak visibility.
Keep looking up and enjoy the sky!
Adapted from Chris Vaughan