November 2020

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

The Calendar

Dark skies invite observations of the Leonid meteor shower mid-month. Jupiter, Saturn and the waxing crescent Moon are in close proximity on 19 November. The fourth and final penumbral lunar eclipse takes place at the end of the month.

The phases of the Moon in November 2020

Date Body Event
2 Mercury perihelion
3 Mercury stationary point: retrograde → direct
4 Moon ascending node
8 3 Juno conjunction
Moon last quarter
10 Mercury greatest elongation west: 19.1°
13 Moon, Mercury 1.7° apart
14 Moon perigee
15 Moon new
Mars stationary point: retrograde → direct
17 Earth Leonid meteor shower
Moon descending node
21 Earth α Monocerotid meteor shower
22 Moon first quarter
27 Moon apogee
29 Neptune stationary point: retrograde → direct
30 Earth, Moon penumbral lunar eclipse
Moon full

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.

The position of the Sun and planets at mid-month

Sun LibraScorpiusOphiuchus

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

Mercury VirgoLibra

Mercury reaches its fourth and final perihelion this year on 2 November and reaches a stationary point the next day when it completes retrograde motion. Greatest elongation west (19.1°) occurs on 10 November and three days later the waning crescent Moon passes 1.7° north of the tiny planet. Mercury is a morning sky object and is putting on its best dawn appearance of 2020 for planet chasers in northern temperate latitudes. Conversely, this is the worst morning apparition of the year for observers in the southern hemisphere. The closest planet to the Sun is brightening throughout the month, beginning November at magnitude +1.5 and ending at −0.8.

Venus VirgoLibra

In the northern hemisphere, the morning star continues to decline in altitude from dawn to dawn but is still around 30° or more above the horizon this month. The morning apparition is not so favourable for southern latitudes although Venus does not drop appreciably in altitude over the course of the month. When viewed through a telescope, Venus appears as a waxing gibbous globe, slowing diminishing in diameter as the planet gets farther from Earth. It remains at magnitude −4.0 for the rest of the year.

Earth and Moon

The last penumbral lunar eclipse of the year occurs on the last day of the month. This means that the Leonid meteor shower occurs during the waxing crescent phase of the Moon and the α Monocerotids around the time of First Quarter Moon. The result is very little lunar interference in the early morning observations of these two showers.

Mars Pisces

At opposition in mid-October, Mars is now receding from Earth, growing fainter and smaller in a telecopic eyepiece. It loses an entire magnitude this month, dimming from −2.1 to −1.1. On 15 November it finishes retrograde motion. The red planet is already aloft during evening twilight and sets in the early morning hours.

Jupiter Sagittarius

Jupiter is an evening sky object and sets before midnight. It is best viewed from southern latitudes where it is higher in the sky. The gas giant dims slightly this month, from magnitude −2.2 to −2.0, and has a close encounter with the waxing crescent Moon on 19 November.

Saturn Sagittarius

Saturn is not far from the position of Jupiter in the evening sky although the ringed planet is considerably fainter at magnitude +0.5. On 19 November, the waxing crescent Moon pairs up with the two gas giants, providing a picturesque view.

Uranus Aries

Now just past opposition, the sixth-magnitude planet is visible for most of the night, setting just ahead of the rising Sun. Although technically a naked-eye object, you will need a dark moonless night to attempt to see it without optical aids.

Neptune Aquarius

Neptune completes its retrograde motion for the year (it began in June). A small telescope is necessary to view the most distant planet in the solar system, visible in the evening sky and setting after midnight.

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