The night sky in November 2018

posted 31 Oct 2018, 10:39 by Pete Collins
by Anne Holt

Sunrise:   1st    07.07          30th    08.00
Sunset:    1st    16.36          30th    15.54.

New Moon:  7th at 16.01    Full Moon:  23rd at  05.39

Lunar apogee:  14th at 15.55        Lunar perigee:  26th at 12.12

The November full Moon is known as the Beaver Moon, because this is when these animals are active, building their dams in preparation for winter.  Other sources say that it is because this is the time that hunters set beaver traps, before the winter freeze, to ensure a good supply of fur for the cold weather.  Another name for it is the frosty Moon - for obvious reasons.  If it is the last full Moon before the Winter Solstice, which this is, it is also called the Mourning Moon, celebrated by pagans as a time of cleansing and letting go of the past.


The main highlight this month is actually the lack of light - at the start we have ten and a half hours of astronomical darkness, rising to almost 12 hours by month end.  And now the clocks have gone back, we have midnight back at its proper time.  After the first few days in November Venus becomes the star of the show for early risers, dominating the pre-dawn sky. There are a few meteor showers and a better than usual chance of fireballs. And the often overlooked constellation of Cetus might be worth a look -  at the end of the month it's home to a comet, a dwarf planet and a 'wonderful' brightening star.


If it is clear you will see that the Summer Triangle comprising the 3 bright stars Vega, Deneb and Altair is now sinking slowly in the West, giving way to the stars of winter now rising in the east.

Mid-evening the square of Pegasus, the signature constellation of autumn, is fairly high in the south but not particularly prominent, containing only 2nd magnitude stars. It's an easy star-hop from Alpheratz, the top left star of the square of Pegasus to the Andromeda Galaxy, M31, which is now nicely placed fairly high in the south east.

The Winter Hexagon is a beautifully rich area bounded by Sirius (Canis Major), Rigel (Orion), Aldebaran (Taurus), Capella (Auriga), Pollux (Gemini) and Procyon (Canis Minor).  This relatively small region contains half of the ten brightest stars. It will be above the horizon not long after midnight at the start of November and before 11pm by month end.

The Pleiades, just outside the Hexagon are also very well placed and are a beautiful sight in binoculars or a small telescope.

Cassiopeia is still riding high leaving the Plough, on the opposite side of Polaris, low in the Northern sky for much of the night.


Mercury:  in Scorpio,  mag -0.2
Very difficult to see throughout the month. On 1st it sets half an hour after the Sun and is on the horizon as the sky begins to darken.  Reaches greatest eastern elongation on 6th, but isn't any higher at dusk. It moves into Ophiuchus on 8th and back into Scorpio on 26th, when it appears only 3 degrees from the Sun.  Reaches inferior conjunction on 27th and crosses the border into Libra on 30th, when it rises at 07.15,  only 45 minutes before the Sun and separated from it by 4 degrees and much fainter at mag 3.8.

Venus:  in Virgo, mag -4.1
Now a morning 'star' but very low in the brightening sky in the first few days of the month. On 1st it rises at 06.37, about half an hour before the Sun, and is on the horizon at dawn.  On 6th it is close to the waning crescent Moon, very low in the east at around 6am.  Its position then improves rapidly and by the second week in November it should be easily visible, on 8th it rises at 05.43 and reaches 8 degrees in the east before the sky brightens a little before 7am.  It will also have brightened to mag -4.4.   By 30th it rises at 04.09, nearly 4 hours before Sunrise, reaching 22 degrees in the south east while the sky is still reasonably dark. It will have brightened to mag -4.7 and be totally unmissable - weather and tall buildings permitting.
Almost worth getting out of bed early for!

Mars:  in Capricorn,  mag -0.6
Still very prominent in the early evening,although it is moving away from us and is therefore fainter, and smaller when seen through a telescope,  To compensate it is now much higher in the sky than it was when at its brightest. On 1st it is 15 degrees above the south eastern horizon as the sky darkens, culminating at an altitude of 19 degrees at 19.01 and setting at 23.30.  It moves into Aquarius on 12th, when it reaches 22 degrees in the south just before 19.00.  The first quarter Moon passes close to the planet on 16th, they should be visible 18 degrees above the south eastern horizon at around 16.30, with the Moon to the left of Mars.  They are actually at their closest, less than 1 degree apart, at 5am on the morning of 16th when they are below our horizon.  By 30th it will have faded to mag -0.1 but will be even higher, reaching 27 degrees in the south at 18.13.  Because the eastward motion of the planet is at the same rate as the apparent westward motion of the stars, it sets at the same time -  23.30 - throughout the month.

Jupiter:  in Libra, mag -1.7
Not visible in November, despite its brightness.  On 1st it is only 2 degrees above the horizon at dusk.  It moves into Scorpio on 21st, when it is 4 degrees from the Sun.  Reaches Solar conjunction, when it is on the opposite side of the Sun to the Earth, on 26th.  On 30th it is a morning object but still not visible, rising 20 minutes before the Sun and separated from it by only 3 degrees.

Saturn:  in Sagittarius, mag 0.6
Should be visible for a short time after Sunset in early November,  from a site with a clear southern horizon.  On 1st it is at an altitude of 11 degrees soon after 17.00 as the sky darkens.  On 11th at the same time it will be less than 1 degree south west of the crescent Moon while the sky is still quite bright. By 30th it will be slightly fainter at mag 0.5 and only 6 degrees above the horizon at dusk.

Uranus:  in Aries, mag 5.7
Still very well placed for binocular observation, or even naked eye under ideal conditions.  On 1st it rises at 16.11 and reaches 21 degrees in the east by 19.00, culminating 47 degrees above the southern horizon at 23.16. On 20th at around 20.00 the gibbous Moon passes 5  degrees south of the planet, however the Lunar glare means that isn't a good time to try to see it.  On 30th it is at 26 degrees in the east as the sky darkens, reaching 47 degrees in the south at 21.18.  As always, a scope is needed to show its blue green disc.

Neptune:  in Aquarius, mag 7.9
Visible in the earlier part of the night during November.  On 1st it is 21 degrees above the south eastern horizon as the sky darkens, reaching 29 degrees in the south by 18.00 and setting just before 2am.  In the early evening of 17th the 70% waning Moon passes it about 6 degrees to the east. By month end it is best seen in the early evening , on 30th it reaches 29 degrees at 18.30, then sinks to 22 degrees by 21.00, setting just before midnight. Not really a binocular object except under ideal conditions and with good binoculars, a scope is necessary for showing a small rich blue disc.

Dwarf planets and asteroids.

Ceres, in Virgo, mag 8.7
The closest of the dwarf planets is still not easy to see this month after October's solar conjunction.On 1st it rises at 05.23 but is separated from the Sun by just 14 degrees.  On 30th it rises over three and a half hours before the Sun but is only 12 degrees above the horizon by dawn.

Possible photographic targets - for experienced amateur astrophotographers.

Eris:  in Cetus mag 18.8
On 1st it culminates at 23.07, 34 degrees above the southern horizon.  By 30th it reaches this altitude at 21.12.

Haumea;  In Bootes, mag 17.4
Ony 12 degrees above the horizon by dawn on 1st.  By mid month it rises soon after 3am and reaches 22 degrees by 06.00.  On 30th it rises at 02.14 and gets to 34 degrees in the east by 06.23.

Makemake:  in Coma Berenices,mag 17.2
Rises at 02.01 on 1st and reaches 28 degrees in the east as the sky begins to brighten.  Its position improves during the month, on 30th it rises at 00.10 and gets to 50 degrees in the south east by dawn.

Pluto:  in Sagittarius, mag 14.7
Not an easy target this month as it never gets higher than 14 degrees above the horizon.

A better bet for those interested in photographing small objects might be:-
Juno, in Eridanus, mag 7.6.
This month is a very good time to try to spot the third asteroid to be discovered, as it reaches opposition on 17th and will be at its closest and brightest for 13 years.  It is very small, only about 3% of the mass of Ceres, but is very reflective and also quite close to us at the moment:  slightly further than the Earth - Sun distance, which explains its current brightness. On 1st it reaches 21 degrees in the south east at 22.11, and 35 degrees in the south by 01.31.  At opposition it will have brightened slightly to mag 7.4, reaching an altitude of 32 degrees at 00.18.  On 30th it will have started to fade again and be at 31 degrees in the south at 23.13.  As with Neptune it might be visible in good binoculars from a dark sky site, unlike Neptune even a fairly large scope won't show it as anything other than a dot, as it is so small.

Recommended websites for more detail on planetary positions at any time:    (this site also has lots of other information on planets and all other solar system objects)

Meteor Showers

We have one fairly good shower this month

Leonids:  active Nov 6th to 30th, peak 17/18th  ZHR 10 -20   Parent comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle.   Although the predicted time of the peak is given as 22.30, the shower is best seen after midnight when the radiant is reasonably high.  This year the Moon sets at 01.22 on the morning of 18th. They are bright, sometimes colourful, fast moving meteors often leaving long trails.

Minor showers

Northern Taurids:  active.Oct 20th to Dec 10th,  ZHR 5,  The peak is given as Nov 10th, when the Moon sets at 18.26, but there is likely to be enhanced activity for about 10 days in early to mid November.  They are bright, slow moving meteors very similar to the Southern Taurids - not surprising as it is thought that they were originally just one shower.  They often include fireballs, so the chance of these is higher in early to mid November when both showers are active.  Parent comet is the predecessor of Encke.

Alpha Monocerotids:  active Nov 17th to December 2nd. ZHR 3 -5.  Peak is given as the early hours of 22nd, when the almost full Moon doesn't set until 06.17 so will seriously interfere.  The radiant is very low in our sky so the actual number of meteors seen is usually fewer than 3.  This shower is best known for its occasional spectacular outbursts.  This year could possibly see slightly higher rates but nothing which could be described as spectacular is predicted.

November Orionids:  active Nov 14th to Dec 6th,  peak Nov 28th, ZHR 3.  Again, the Moon will be in the way, rising at 21.48 on 28th. The radiant of this minor shower is only a few degrees east of that of the Northern Taurids but meteors from the 2 showers should be easily distinguishable as the Orionids are much faster moving.


As usual there are several very faint comets around but only a couple brighter than mag 10.

38P/Stephan-Oterma, in Gemini, mag 9.6.  On 1st it rises at 20.41 and culminates, 54 degrees above the southern horizon, at 04.38.  During the month it moves north eastwards below the main stars of Gemini.  On the night of 8/9th it passes only 8 arcminutes from NGC 2392, the Eskimo nebula.  It reaches perihelion on 10th, when it will be marginally brighter at mag 9.5.  It should carry on brightening slowly, predicted to reach 9.3 by 21st, then remain steady for the rest of the month. It crosses the border into Cancer on 30th, when it rises at 18.29, reaching 64 degrees in the south at 03.41.  It's high altitude makes it a good telescopic or photographic target.

46P/Wirtanen,  in Fornax, mag 9,7.  Still too low to be seen from our latitude even though it is now moving northwards. Some sources say that it will reach naked eye visibility in mid November, others think it won't ever get above 6 or 7.  It moves into Cetus on 30th, when it will probably be around mag 7.5, but might just be considerably brighter.  On this night it rises at 18.04 and culminates at 21.49, stll only 13 degrees above the southern horizon, setting at 01.38.

More details of comets are given in the websites mentioned earlier and also

And finally:
Also in Cetus at the end of November, variable star omicron Ceti aka Mira, the Wonderful, reaches naked eye brightness, probably around mag 3.5 but could be as bright as mag 2.  The maxima vary and an exact value cannot be predicted.