November’s crisp autumn skies brought great views of our planetary neighbors. The moon paired up with Saturn and Mars in the evenings, and mornings featured eye-catching arrangements with dazzling Venus. Stargazers could observe a notable opposition by asteroid 3 Juno on the 17th as well as a few bright Leonid meteors.
Red Mars gleamed high in the southern sky after sunset. Saturn sat westward in the constellation Sagittarius. A young crescent moon passed near Saturn on the 10th and 11th. On the 15th, a first quarter moon skimmed by Mars, coming within 1 degree of the planet. The red planet received a new visitor on Nov. 26, when NASA’s InSight mission landed and began its investigation of the planet’s interior. News briefings and commentary are streamed live at: bit.ly/landsafe.
Two bright planets hung low over the western horizon after sunset as November began: Jupiter and Mercury. Binoculars and an unobstructed western horizon helped determined observers spot them right after sunset. Both disappeared into the sun’s glare by mid-month.
Early risers were treated to brilliant Venus sparkling in the eastern sky before dawn, easily outshining everything except the sun and moon. On Nov. 6, from a location with clear view of the eastern horizon, viewers could spot Venus next to a thin crescent moon, making a triangle with the bright star Spica. The following mornings, Venus moved up towards Spica, coming within two degrees of the star by the second full week of November. Venus was up three hours before sunrise by month’s end – a huge change in just weeks! Telescopic observers were treated to a large, 61” wide, yet razor-thin crescent at November’s beginning, shrinking to 41” across by the end of the month as its crescent waxed.
Observers looking for a challenge could hunt asteroid 3 Juno, so named because it was the third asteroid discovered. Juno traveled through the constellation Eridanus and rose in the east after sunset. On Nov. 17, Juno was at opposition and shone at magnitude 7.4, its brightest showing since 1983! Juno was near the 4.7 magnitude double star 32 Eridani in the nights leading up to opposition. It was bright enough to spot through binoculars, but still appeared as a star-like point of light.
The Leonids were expected to peak on the night of the 17th through the morning of the 18th. This meteor shower brought “meteor storms” as recently as 2002, but a storm is not expected this year. All but the brightest meteors were drowned out by a waxing gibbous moon.
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