November 2019

Welcome to SkyEye, your guide to this month's celestial events.

The Calendar

Mercury usually passes either north or south of the Sun's disk at inferior conjunction but not this time! Watch (with the appropriate safety equipment) the transit of this tiny planet across the face of our star on 11 November.

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Date Body Event
1 Moon descending node
2 Moon, Saturn occultation of Saturn — visible from New Zealand
4 Moon first quarter
7 Moon apogee
11 Mercury ascending node
Mercury inferior conjunction: transit
12 4 Vesta opposition
Moon full
16 Mercury perihelion
Moon ascending node
18 Earth Leonid meteor shower
Moon 0.9° north of the open star cluster M44 (known as Praesepe or the Beehive Cluster)
19 Moon last quarter
20 Mercury stationary point: retrograde → direct
22 Earth α Monocerotid meteor shower
23 Moon perigee
24 Venus, Jupiter conjunction: 1.4° apart
25 Neptune maximum declination south
Moon, Mercury 1.9° apart
26 Moon new
27 Neptune stationary point: retrograde → direct
28 Mercury greatest elongation west: 20.1°
Moon, Jupiter occultation of Jupiter — visible southern and central Asia
Venus aphelion
Moon, Venus 1.9° apart
Venus maxiumum declination south
29 Moon descending node
Moon, Saturn occultation of Saturn — visible from the southern Atlantic

The Solar System

The word planet is derived from the Greek word for 'wanderer'. Unlike the background stars, planets seem to move around the sky, keeping mostly to a narrow track called the ecliptic, the path of the Sun across the stars. Dwarf planets and small solar-system bodies, including comets, are not so constrained, often moving far above or below the ecliptic.

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Sun LibraScorpiusOphiuchus

Although Ophiuchus is not a member of the zodiac, the ecliptic passes through it.

Mercury Libra

This month's headline event is the transit of Mercury on 11 November. Mercury reaches its ascending node and inferior conjunction within two hours of each other, resulting in a rare alignment which causes Mercury to cross the face of the Sun as seen from Earth. The next such transit occurs in 2032. Mercury reaches its final perihelion of the year on 16 November and finishes 21 days of retrograde motion on 20 November. After the transit, Mercury is a morning sky object, attaining greatest elongation west on 28 November.

Venus LibraScorpiusOphiuchusSagittarius

The western sky lights up on 24 November when Venus and Jupiter come together in their closest appulse of the year. Venus, at magnitude −3.9, outshines Jupiter by two magnitudes. Four days later, the waxing crescent Moon passes both objects, just missing Venus and actually occulting Jupiter. Venus is at aphelion on the same day. The evening star is best viewed from the southern hemisphere but it is beginning to gain some useful altitude above the western horizon when spotted from northern temperate latitudes. A telescope reveals that the disk of Venus is less than 90% illuminated by the end of November.

Earth and Moon

The Leonid meteor shower on 18 November is washed out by the waning gibbous Moon. However, the α Monocerotids should fare a little better four days later.

Mars Virgo

Mars is slowly brightening, up to magnitude +1.7, as it draws away from the Sun in the morning sky. Look for it in the east before sunrise.

Jupiter OphiuchusSagittarius

Two bright planets, Venus and Jupiter, put on a show on 24 November when they make their closest approach of the year, just 1.4° apart. Four days later, the waxing crescent Moon finally occults Jupiter in an event beginning around 09:00 UT. The largest planet in the solar system is approaching conjunction next month and is getting difficult to observe in the west during evening twilight.

Saturn Sagittarius

The series of lunar occultations of Saturn ends this month with two such events. The waxing crescent Moon obscures the ringed planet on 2 November (beginning about 05:15 UT) and again on 29 November. As has been the case all year, southern latitudes have the best views of Saturn, now at magnitude +0.6 in the evening sky.

Uranus Aries

With opposition occurring late last month, Uranus is aloft most of the night, not setting until dawn.

Neptune Aquarius

A small telescope is necessary to view the most distant planet in the solar system. Neptune is an evening sky object and it returns to direct motion on 27 November after five months in retrograde.

The Celestial Sphere

Constellations are patterns of stars in the sky. The International Astronomical Union recognises 88 different constellations. The brightest stars as seen from the Earth are easy to spot but do you know their proper names? With a set of binoculars you can look for fainter objects such as nebulae and galaxies and star clusters or some of the closest stars to the Sun.

Descriptions of the sky for observers in both the northern and southern hemispheres are available for the following times this month. Subtract one hour from your local time if summer (daylight savings) time is in effect.

Local Time Mid-month Northern Hemisphere Equator Southern Hemisphere
1730 hours (1830 hours summer time) 60° N 50° N 40° N 30° N 20° N 10° N 10° S 20° S 30° S 40° S
1930 hours (2030 hours summer time) 60° N 50° N 40° N 30° N 20° N 10° N 10° S 20° S 30° S 40° S
2130 hours (2230 hours summer time) 60° N 50° N 40° N 30° N 20° N 10° N 10° S 20° S 30° S 40° S
2330 hours (0030 hours summer time) 60° N 50° N 40° N 30° N 20° N 10° N 10° S 20° S 30° S 40° S
0130 hours (0230 hours summer time) 60° N 50° N 40° N 30° N 20° N 10° N 10° S 20° S 30° S 40° S
0330 hours (0430 hours summer time) 60° N 50° N 40° N 30° N 20° N 10° N 10° S 20° S 30° S 40° S
0530 hours (0630 hours summer time) 60° N 50° N 40° N 30° N 20° N 10° N 10° S 20° S 30° S 40° S