The November night sky affords chilly nights and the onset of the Fall Constellations rising at sunset. The Summer Constellations are now setting well to the west, although the Summer Triangle asterism is still high in the western sky at twilight. In the morning sky, the Winter Constellations are well placed by early dawn. November evenings offer great opportunities to get outside with cool temperatures and crisp Autumn skies. Warm apparel is a must. For prolonged viewing, a thermos of a hot beverage can turn the night into a snug and cozy event.
In other mentionable news, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft is planned to release the Philae lander this November. Philae will attempt to land on the surface of a comet known as 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. The lander is named after Philae island in the Nile river. This is where an obelisk was found that was used to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics along with the famous Rosetta Stone. ESA launched the Rosetta spacecraft and Philae into space in 2004. The probes traveled for 10 years, crossing 4 billion miles of deep space before finally reaching the comet. The Philae lander is scheduled to spend about a week studying the comet and it’s composition. The Philae comet lander on the European Rosetta spacecraft will land on Target J on the Comet this Nov. 12, 2014. Target C is the alternative landing spot. The European Space Agency unveiled the landing sites on Sept. 15. The comet was found to be very heterogeneous in it’s surface from images taken from the Rosetta space craft. These two targets are believed to be the best landing sites for hopefully a successful soft landing.
November Stars and Constellations
November marks the Fall Constellations in all their splendor. The Great Square asterism in Pegasus is high to the east and overhead by early November in the early evening. Cassiopeia, Cepheus and Perseus dominant the northern sky, with Andromeda stretching from Pegasus to Cassiopeia. The long but dim Pisces stretches just below the Great Square, nudging Aquarius just to the east, marking the Summer-Autumn constellation border. Also in the vicinity of the Great Square are Equuleus, Triangulum, Aries and Lacerta. Further to the east of Aquarius is Delphinus, a small but conspicuous constellation, sometimes mistaken for the Little Dipper. In the southern sky are Sculpture, Cetus, and the bright star Fomalhaut. The stars of the Fall or Autumn constellations are not as bright as some of the stars of the Winter and Summer Constellations, but there are many above magnitude +1.0.
New Moon First Quarter Full Moon Last Quarter
November 22nd November 29th November 6th November 14th
In folklore, the November Full Moon is called the Beaver Moon, Hunters Moon and the Frosty Moon.
Before dawn on the 1st, Mercury is about 5 degrees above Spica in Virgo and very low on the eastern horizon. This is about the best time to view Mercury this year. Over the next few days it becomes closer to the horizon.
Venus is in the transition phase from the morning to evening sky and will not appear until just after sunset towards the latter part of the month.
Mars is low in the western sky at dusk and will soon be lost in the solar glare by months end.
Jupiter is in the morning sky and visible high in the eastern sky by mid month.
Saturn is lost in the sun’s glare low in the western sky after sunset. Early November is the last chance to view Saturn as it also transitions from the evening sky to the morning sky.
Uranus will appear just beneath the waxing gibbous moon less than 1/2 degree on November 4th, in the evening sky just after sunset. This will be a good time to spot Uranus, very visible in binoculars. Even a small telescope can show a small bluish green disk.
Neptune is in the evening sky high in the southern sky after sunset. Binoculars or a small telescope and a location chart are required to find Neptune.
November sports two decent meteor showers, the Taurids and the Leonids. The Taurids are in fact two separate showers with different radiant and sources. The Taurids are considered a minor shower, and the Leonids a major shower. Both are annual meteor showers.
Taurid Meteor Showers
The South Taurid meteor shower will peak on November 5th, although it last from September 25th to November 25th. This is a minor minor meteor shower producing only about 5 – 10 meteors per hour. The South Taurids are believed to be produced by dust debris from Asteroid 2004 TG10, with a radiant in the direction of Aries. This year, a gibbous near full moon will likely light wash all but the brighter meteors, but the shower is known to produce bright fireballs. The second shower, the North Taurids will peak on November 11th and 12th. They are also a long term shower, but will have the benefit of only a crescent moon, which should not interfere in an appreciative manner. The North Taurids are believed to be space dust left behind by Comet 2P Encke. The two showers do overlap. The North Taurids have a radiant near Taurus and the Pleiades. Both meteor showers can be glimpsed for weeks before and after the peak. As with the South Taurids, the North Taurids can produce bright, orange-red streaks across the sky. Although the radiant are similar, these meteors can be seen in every portion of the sky.
Leonid Meteor Shower
The Leonids are a major annual meteor shower which peaks on November 17th and 18th. This shower typically produces up to 15 meteors per hour, but have also been known to storm, where the meteors are uncountable, as in 1966. The more recent storm, not as intense as 1966, was 2001 and 2002. These meteors are believed to be the remnants of comet Tempel-Tuttle space dust. The radiant is in the constellation Leo, although like the Taurids they can be seen anywhere in the night sky. The waning crescent moon should not be a factor in washing out the dimmer meteors. This year should be a good show. A brightly colored meteor is probably a Taurid.
There are no comets above magnitude 8 in November.
Deep Sky Objects
The showcase for Deep Sky observers is the Great Nebula in Andromeda, M31, or The Great Andromeda Galaxy. The Great Andromeda Galaxy is located in Andromeda, M31, and is one of the brightest Messier objects cataloged for Deep Space Objects. It can be seen easily in binoculars. A small telescope will show the spindle shape. A medium to large telescope will show the dark dust lanes and the two satellite galaxies (M32 &M110). M31 is the largest and closest spiral galaxy to our Milky Way galaxy. It can be glimpsed under very dark skies without optical aid. The stars in the Milky Way, our galaxy, are interstellar. M31 is extragalactic, meaning that your looking at something outside our galaxy. The only other extragalactic objects which can be seen with the naked eye are the Magellanic Clouds, satellite galaxies of the Milky Way. The Andromeda Galaxy also has two satellite galaxies, M32 and M110. Both can be seen in a moderate sized backyard telescope.
M33 in Triangulum is another large spiral galaxy also belonging to the Local Group, which also includes the Milky Way. The galaxy can be glimpsed with the naked eye, but only under perfect ideal conditions.
M33 in Triangulum