Monday, November 1 – Asteroid Pallas Pauses (evening)
On Monday, November 1, the main belt asteroid designated (2) Pallas will complete a retrograde loop that began in July – causing it to temporarily stop moving through the background stars. On this night, the magnitude 9.5 asteroid will be located less than halfway up the southern evening sky in central Aquarius – a few finger widths to the lower right (or 3 degrees to the celestial southwest) of the medium-bright star Lambda Aquarii (aka λ Aqr and Hydor). After tonight, Pallas will resume its regular eastward motion (red path with dates:time).
Tuesday, November 2 – GRS and Two Shadows Cross Jupiter (from 11:00 to 14:20 UT)
On Tuesday evening, November 5, observers with telescopes in locations from northern Asia to Australia can watch the Great Red Spot and the small black shadows of two of Jupiter’s moons cross the planet’s disk at the same time. At 8 p.m. Japan Standard Time or 11:00 UT, the Great Red Spot and Ganymede’s large shadow will join Io’s smaller shadow already in transit. The two shadows will dot Jupiter’s disk for 75 minutes, and then Io’s shadow will move off the planet. Ganymede’s shadow and the Great Red Spot will depart Jupiter at 11:20 p.m. JST, or 14:20 UT – around the same time that Jupiter will be setting.
Wednesday, November 3 – Crescent Moon above Mercury (pre-dawn)
Low in the east-southeastern sky before sunrise on Wednesday, November 3, the old crescent moon will shine prettily several finger widths above (or 4 degrees to the celestial northwest of) Mercury’s bright dot. Virgo’s brightest star Spica will be positioned a few finger widths to their right. The three objects will share the field of view in binoculars (green circle), but be sure to turn your optics away from the eastern horizon before the sun appears.
Wednesday, November 3 – Old Moon Occults Mercury (afternoon)
During the day on Wednesday, November 3, the moon’s orbital motion will draw it closer to Mercury, culminating in a daytime lunar occultation of the planet observable in amateur telescopes (green circle) from the eastern USA and Canada, and the Caribbean. For New York City, the lit limb of the moon will cover Mercury at 3:47 p.m. EDT (or 07:47 GMT). The planet will pop into view from behind the dark limb at 4:40 p.m. EDT (or 08:40 GMT). Those times will vary by location, so begin to watch several minutes early, or use an astronomy app like Starry Night to determine the timing where you live. An experienced observer and/or a GoTo telescope will help you find the pale moon in daytime. (Caution: Never point an unfiltered telescope anywhere near the sun.)
Thursday, November 4 – New Moon and Large Tides (at 21:14 GMT)
The moon will reach its new phase on Thursday, November 4 at 5:14 p.m. EDT or 21:14 GMT. While new, the moon is travelling between Earth and the sun. Since sunlight can only reach the far side of the moon, and the moon is in the same region of the sky as the sun, the moon becomes unobservable from anywhere on Earth for about a day (except during a solar eclipse). On the evenings following the new moon phase, Earth’s planetary partner will return to shine in the western sky after sunset. This new phase will occur one day before the moon’s perigee, resulting in larger tides worldwide.
Friday, November 5 – Uranus at Opposition (all night)
Uranus will reach opposition on Friday, November 5. On that night it will be closest to Earth for this year – a distance of 1.74 billion miles, 2.80 billion km, or 156 light-minutes. Uranus’ minimal distance from Earth will cause it to shine at a peak brightness of magnitude 5.65 and to appear slightly larger in telescopes for a week or so centered on opposition night. At opposition, planets are above the horizon from sunset to sunrise. During autumn this year, look for the planet’s small, blue-green dot moving slowly retrograde westwards in southern Aries, a fist’s width below (or 11.5 degrees southeast of) that constellation’s brightest stars, Hamal and Sheratan. Or use binoculars (green circle) to locate Uranus using the nearby star Mu Ceti.
Friday, November 5 – Southern Taurids Meteor Shower Peak (wee hours)
Meteors from the Southern Taurids shower, which appear worldwide from September 28 to December 2 annually, will reach a maximum rate of about 5 per hour on Thursday, November 5. The long-lasting, weak shower is the first of two consecutive showers derived from debris dropped by the passage of periodic Comet 2P/Encke. The larger-than-average grain sizes of the comet’s debris often produce colorful fireballs. Although Earth will be traversing the densest part of the comet’s debris train during Thursday in the Americas, the best viewing time will occur hours later, at around 2 a.m. local time on Friday, when the shower’s radiant, located near the Taurus-Aries boundary, will be high in the southern sky. This year’s peak will be moonless, favoring more meteors. Keep an eye out for meteors on Thursday evening, too.
Saturday, November 6 – Ceres Crosses the Bull (all night)
From November 2 to 20, the orbital motion of the dwarf planet Ceres (red path with labelled dates:time) will carry it directly through the Hyades, the large open star cluster that forms the V-shaped face of Taurus, the bull. Magnitude 6.9 Ceres is bright enough to see in binoculars (green circle) and backyard telescopes. On November 2, Ceres, will be positioned only 7 arc-minutes (a quarter of the moon’s diameter) to the lower right of the bright star Antares. During the following weeks, Ceres will travel westward every night, eventually crossing the bull’s face obliquely.
Sunday, November 7 – Crescent Moon near Venus (after sunset)
In the southwestern sky after sunset on Sunday, November 7, the young crescent moon will shine several finger widths to the lower right (or 5 degrees to the celestial west) of the very bright planet Venus – close enough for them to share the field of view in binoculars (green circle). The duo will set at about 7 p.m. local time. Hours later, in midday on November 8, observers in parts of northeastern Asia and the western Aleutian Islands can see the moon occult Venus – while surrounding regions will see the moon pass very close to the planet.
Wednesday, November 10 – Mercury Mars Conjunction (before sunrise)
Look just above the east-southeastern horizon before sunrise on Wednesday morning, November 10 to see Mercury situated less than a finger’s width to the upper left (or 57 arc-minutes to the celestial north) of Mars. For this conjunction Mars will appear one-tenth as bright as Mercury. In mid-northern latitudes, the best viewing time will be after about 6 a.m. local time. Tropical latitude observers will see the two planets higher and in a darker sky. The duo will be close enough to appear together in the field of view of a low-magnification backyard telescope from Tuesday to Thursday, and will be binoculars-close (green circle) from November 5 to 15 – but be sure to turn your optical aids away from the eastern horizon well before the sun rises.
Wednesday, November 10 – Half-moon below Saturn (early evening)
The moon’s monthly visit with the bright gas giant planets Saturn and Jupiter will kick off after dusk in the southern sky on Wednesday, November 10. Before the sky has fully darkened, try using binoculars (green circle) to find the yellowish dot of Saturn positioned a palm’s width to the upper left (or 6 degrees to the celestial northwest) of the nearly-half-illuminated moon. Or wait until Saturn is visible with your unaided eyes, after about 5:30 p.m. local time. Much brighter and whiter Jupiter will be shining off to their upper left all evening.
Thursday, November 11 – First Quarter Moon (at 12:46 GMT)
When the moon completes the first quarter of its journey around Earth on Thursday, November 11 at 7:46 a.m. EST or 12:46 GMT, its 90 degree angle from the sun will cause us to see the moon exactly half-illuminated – on its eastern side. At first quarter, the moon always rises around mid-day and sets around midnight, so it is also visible in the afternoon daytime sky. The evenings around first quarter are the best ones for viewing the lunar terrain while it is dramatically lit by low-angled sunlight, especially along the terminator, the pole-to-pole boundary separating its lit and dark hemispheres.
Thursday, November 11 – Moon Joins Jupiter (evening)
After sunset on Thursday, November 11, look in the lower third of the southern sky for the bright, white dot of Jupiter poised a slim palm’s width above (or 5 degrees to the celestial northwest) of the bright, first quarter moon. Somewhat fainter and creamy-colored Saturn will become visible off to their right once the sky darkens more. The moon will bid adieu to the bright planets after tonight, until it visits them again on December 7-9.
Thursday, November 11 – Lunar X in Early Evening (peaks at 7 p.m. EST)
Several times a year, for a few hours near its first quarter phase, features on the moon called the Lunar X and Lunar V become visible in strong binoculars and backyard telescopes. The Lunar X is located on the terminator south of the crater La Caille, about one third of the way up from the southern pole of the Moon (at 2° East, 24° South). The “V” is located near the crater Ukert (at 1° East, 14° North). On Thursday, November 11 the lunar letters are predicted to start developing at around 5 p.m. EST (or 22:00 GMT), peak in intensity around 7 p.m. EST (or 00:00 GMT on Friday), and then disappear within two hours. The Lunar X and V will be observable anywhere on Earth where the moon is visible, especially in a dark sky, between about 22:00 GMT on November 11 and 02:00 GMT on November 12.
Friday, November 12 – Northern Taurids Meteor Shower Peak (wee hours)
Meteors from the Northern Taurids shower, which appear worldwide from October 13 to December 2 annually, will reach a maximum rate of about 5 per hour on Friday, November 12. The long-lasting, weak shower is the second of two consecutive showers derived from debris dropped by the passage of periodic Comet 2P/Encke. The larger-than-average grain sizes of the comet’s debris often produce colorful fireballs. The best viewing time will occur at around 1 a.m. local time on Friday, when the shower’s radiant, located in northwestern Taurus, will be highest in the southern sky. At this year’s peak, a first quarter moon will set by midnight, favoring more meteors. Keep an eye out for Northern Taurids on Thursday evening, too.
Monday, November 15 – Mare Imbrium’s Golden Handle (all night)
On Monday night, November 15, the terminator on the waxing gibbous moon will fall west of Sinus Iridum, the Bay of Rainbows. The circular 155 mile (249 km) diameter feature is a large impact crater that was flooded by the same basalts that filled the much larger Mare Imbrium to its east – forming a rounded “handle” on the western edge of that mare. The “Golden Handle” effect is produced when sunlight strikes the prominent Montes Jura mountain range surrounding Sinus Iridum on the north and west. Sinus Iridum is almost craterless, but hosts a set of northeast-oriented wrinkle ridges that are revealed at this phase.
Wednesday, November 17 – Bright Moon near Uranus (all night)
In the eastern sky after dusk on Wednesday night, November 17, the very bright, nearly-full moon will shine two thumb widths to the lower left (or 2.6 degrees to the celestial south) of the magnitude 5.7 planet Uranus. By dawn on Thursday morning, the moon’s orbital motion will carry it farther from Uranus in the western sky, and the diurnal rotation of the sky will move it to the upper left of the planet. While Uranus’ blue-green dot can normally be seen in binoculars (green circle), I recommend noting its location between the brighter stars of Aries and Cetus, or the nearby star Mu Ceti, and seeking it out a few nights later, when the bright moon will have moved away.
Thursday, November 18 – Leonids Meteor Shower Peaks (all night)
The Leonids Meteor shower, derived from material left by repeated passages of periodic Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle, runs from November 3 to December 2, annually. The peak of the shower, when up to 15 meteors per hour are predicted – many with persistent trains – will occur on Thursday, November 18, when Earth will be traversing the densest part of the comet’s debris train. The best viewing time for Leonids will be Thursday morning before dawn, when the radiant in Leo will be high in the eastern sky – but you can watch for occasional Leonids on Wednesday evening, too. Unfortunately, a full moon on the peak night will severely reduce the number of meteors seen.
Friday, November 19 – Full Beaver Moon and Partial Lunar Eclipse (09:03 GMT)
The November Full Moon, traditionally known as the Beaver Moon or Frost Moon, always shines in or near the stars of Taurus and Aries. The moon will reach its full phase, directly opposite the sun in the western pre-dawn sky, at 3:57 a.m. EST or 8:57 GMT on Friday, November 19. At that time it will be passing through Earth’s round shadow, or umbra, producing the second lunar eclipse of 2021. At maximum eclipse, at 4:02:56 a.m. EST or 09:02:56 GMT, a thin sliver of the moon’s southern rim will remain outside of the shadow, making this a partial lunar eclipse. The rest of the moon will darken to a ruddy red color – especially the moon’s northern half. The moon will first contact the umbra at 2:18:41 a.m. EST or 7:18:41 GMT and will last touch it 3hours 28minutes later, at 5:47:04 a.m. EST or 10:47:04 GMT. You should notice a slight darkening of the moon while it traverses the zone encircling the umbra, both after 1:02 a.m. and before 7:04 a.m. EST. The entire eclipse will be visible from North America and nearly all of the Pacific Ocean. Eastern Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan will miss the early stages, while South America and western Europe will miss the final stages.
Saturday, November 20 – Watch Algol Brighten (at 6:14 p.m. EST)
In the constellation of Perseus, the star Algol, also designated Beta Persei, represents the glowing eye of Medusa from Greek mythology. It is among the most accessible variable stars for skywatchers. During a ten-hour period that repeats every 2 days, 20 hours, and 49 minutes, Algol dims and re-brightens noticeably while a companion star orbiting nearly edge-on to Earth crosses in front of the much brighter main star, reducing the total light output we perceive. Algol normally shines at magnitude 2.1, similar to the nearby star Almach in Andromeda. But when fully dimmed, Algol’s magnitude 3.4 is almost the same as the star Rho Persei (ρ Per), which sits just two finger widths to Algol’s lower right (or 2.25 degrees to the celestial south). On Saturday, November 20 at 6:14 p.m. EST or 23:14 GMT, fully dimmed Algol will sit a third of the way up the east-northeastern sky. Five hours later the star will shine at full intensity from a perch overhead in the western sky.
Sunday, November 21 – Bright Moon near Messier 35 (all night)
When the waning gibbous moon rises among the stars of eastern Taurus after 6 p.m. local time on Sunday, November 21, it will be positioned several finger widths above (or 3 degrees to the celestial west of) the large open star cluster named the Shoe-Buckle Cluster or Messier 35. The moon and the cluster will share the view in binoculars (green circle) all night long, with the moon’s orbital motion (green line) halving their separation by dawn. To better see the cluster, which is nearly as wide as the moon itself, try hiding the moon just outside the top edge of your binoculars’ field of view.
Monday, November 22 – Mars meets Zubenelgenubi (predawn)
On Monday, November 22, the eastward orbital motion of the planet Mars will carry it only 8 arc-minutes (or a quarter of the moon’s diameter) below the bright and widely separated double star Zubenelgenubi in Libra – close enough to share the view in a backyard telescope (green circle). Look for the trio sitting low in the east-southeastern sky before sunrise, particularly around 6 a.m. local time. They’ll be somewhat higher for observers in the tropics. Mars and the two stars will be telescope-close on Sunday and Tuesday, too – with the small, 3.7 arc-seconds-wide disk of Mars perched above the stars on Sunday and well below them on Tuesday. Mars will shine at twice the brightness of Zubenelgenubi’s primary star. (Note that your telescope may flip and/or invert the view, and that optics must be turned away from the east before the sun rises.)
Tuesday, November 23 – Twin Shadows and the GRS Transit Jupiter (00:00 to 02:30 GMT on Nov 24)
On Tuesday evening November, 23, observers in the Americas with telescopes can view a rare treat when the round, black shadows of two of Jupiter’s Galilean moons traverse Jupiter, accompanied by the Great Red Spot! The show will begin when the spot and Ganymede’s shadow both appear near Jupiter’s limb at 6:15 p.m. EST (23:15 GMT). A few minutes before 7 p.m. EST (or 00:00 GMT on Wednesday), Callisto’s shadow will join them. The trio will cross for 2.5 hours, until the GRS rotates out of view and Ganymede’s shadow moves off Jupiter at 9:30 p.m. EST (02:30 GMT). Callisto’s shadow will complete its crossing at 10:45 p.m. EST (03:45 GMT). This event will begin during evening twilight on the west coast.
Friday, November 26 – The Andromeda Galaxy (all night)
In late November, the Andromeda Galaxy is positioned very high in the southeastern sky during evening. This large spiral galaxy, also designated Messier 31 and NGC 224, is 2.5 million light years from us, and covers an area of sky measuring 3 by 1 degrees (or six by two full moon diameters)! Under dark skies, M31 can be seen with unaided eyes as a faint smudge located 1.4 fist diameters to the left (or 14 degrees to the celestial northeast) of Alpheratz, the star that occupies the left-hand (northwestern) corner of the Great Square of Pegasus. The three westernmost stars of Cassiopeia, Caph, Shedar, and Navi (Gamma Cas), also conveniently form an arrow that points towards M31. Binoculars (green circle) will reveal the galaxy very well. In a telescope, use your lowest magnification eyepiece and look for M31’s two smaller companion galaxies, the foreground, brighter Messier 32 and the more distant, fainter Messier 110.
Saturday, November 27 – Third Quarter Moon (at 12:27 GMT)
The moon will officially reach its third quarter phase at 7:27 a.m. EST, or 12:27 GMT, on Saturday, November 27. At third quarter our natural satellite always appears half-illuminated, on its western side – towards the pre-dawn sun. It rises in the middle of the night and remains visible in the southern sky all morning. The name for this phase reflects the fact that the moon has completed three quarters of its orbit around Earth, measuring from the previous new moon. The ensuing week of moonless evening skies will be ideal for observing deep sky targets.
Saturday, November 27 – Ceres at Opposition (all night)
On Saturday, November 27, the dwarf planet Ceres will reach opposition, its closest approach to Earth for the year – a distance of 163.5 million miles or 263 million km or 14.6 light-minutes. On the nights around opposition, Ceres will shine with a peak visual magnitude of 7, well within reach of binoculars and backyard telescopes. As a bonus, Ceres will be situated only a thumb’s width above (or 1.4 degrees to the north of) the bright star that marks the chin of the bull, Gamma Tauri. Both objects, and the rest of Taurus’ triangular face, will easily fit within the field of view of binoculars (green circle). Ceres will already be climbing the eastern sky after dusk. It will reach its highest elevation, and peak visibility, over the southern horizon at about midnight local time.
Sunday, November 28 – Io’s shadow and the Red Spot Cross Jupiter (from 23:20 to 01:30 GMT)
On Sunday evening, November 28, observers in the Americas with telescopes can watch the small, black shadow of Jupiter’s moon Io move across Jupiter’s disk, accompanied by the Great Red Spot. The pair will begin to cross at 6:20 p.m. EST, which converts to 5:20 p.m. CST, 4:20 p.m. MST, 3:20 p.m. PST, and 23:20 GMT. The transit will last for approximately 2 hours. For observers in the western USA and Canada, only the later stages of the event will be occurring in a dark sky.