The night sky in November 2019

posted 30 Oct 2019, 09:39 by Pete Collins   [ updated 30 Oct 2019, 12:54 ]
by Anne Holt

Sunrise     1st:  07.07        30th:   07.59
Sunset      1st:  16.37        30th:   15.54

Astronomical Darkness    1st:   18.35  to  05.10       30th:  18.02  to  05.53

Full Moon:  12th at 13.34      New Moon:  28th at 19.26

Lunar apogee:     7th at 08.38   (405059km)
Lunar perigee:   23rd at 07.66   (366720km)

November's full Moon is known as the Beaver Moon because beavers are active at this time preparing for winter.  An alternative explanation is that it is the time when beavers are hunted.  It's probably both.  Another name is the Frosty Moon.

Highlights

We have plenty of astro darkness, ten and a half hours on 1st and nearly 12 hours on 30th.  And it begins at a reasonable time - soon after 6pm - now we're back on proper time.
 
It isn't a brilliant month for planetary observation, all the naked eye planets are either low in the west after sunset or in the east before sunrise. Jupiter  is getting lower in the evening twilight as Venus gets higher and the two are close together for a few days towards the end of the month.
We have one middling meteor shower, marred this month by the presence of the gibbous Moon.
And, of course, we have one major highlight on the afternoon of 11th, when the planet Mercury passes directly between Earth and the Sun and will be visible, weather permitting, as a very small black dot moving across the face of our star. Mercury comes between the Earth and the Sun every 116 days but, because its orbit is inclined to the ecliptic by 7 degrees, usually passes above or below it, so it rarely results in a transit; it only happens when both planets are at the position where the planes of their orbits cross.  This is in May and November so transits can only happen in those months.
On 11th, Mercury will first appear on the face of the Sun at 12.35 when it is 18.6 degrees above the horizon.  The mid point is at 15.19, much lower at only 6.5 degrees, so you will need a clear SW horizon to see it.   Sunset is at 16.16, while the transit is still ongoing.  
The forecast for that afternoon is currently showing broken cloud, a couple of days ago it said sunshine so who knows?  However, since 2000 this day has been cloudy 81% of the time.
Mercury is too small to be seen with the naked eye (it's only visible in the morning or evening sky because of sunlight reflected off it) so PLEASE DON'T try looking at the Sun during this time.
THE ONLY WAY TO SEE THE TRANSIT SAFELY IS THROUGH A SPECIAL SOLAR, OR SOLAR ADAPTED, SCOPE, OR BY PROJECTING THE IMAGE ON TO A CARD. 
I'm sure all the papers will have instructions on how to do this, so no need to go into it here.

Constellations

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.

Planets

Mercury:  in Libra, mag 0.7
Starts the month as an evening object but so low that it is unlikely to be seen.  On 1st it sets at 16.55 and is 3 degrees below the horizon by the time the sky darkens. It is at inferior conjunction on 11th, when it passes between the Earth and the Sun - see Highlights.  It then becomes a morning object, very low in the sky, but might be seen just before sunrise towards the end of the month.  On 24th it rises at 05.47 and reaches 9 degrees in the SE around 7.20 as the sky begins to brighten, now at mag -0.3.  On 25th it reaches its highest point in the morning sky, 14 degrees above the horizon, at sunrise but no higher than 9 degrees while the sky is still reasonably dark.  It reaches greatest western elongation on 28th, when it appears separated by 20 degrees from the Sun. On 30th it rises at 05.54 and should be visible for a short while after 7am, when it will be 9 degrees above the SE horizon, brighter at mag -0.6.

Venus:  in Libra, mag -3.9
An evening object, still very low but its position is improving.  On 1st it sets at 17.18, only 40 minutes after the Sun and is just 1 degree above the horizon at dusk. It moves into Scorpio on 2nd, Ophiuchus on 9th and Sagittarius on 24th, when it is at 4 degrees as the sky darkens.  On this day Venus passes only 1 degree 24' from Jupiter  at 12.26 when they are both below the horizon. . The two are fairly close on the evenings of 23rd to 25th, with the thin crescent Moon also nearby soon after sunset on 24th. On 30th Venus is 5 degrees above the horizon at dusk, setting at 17.25.

Mars:  in Virgo, mag 1.8
Its position in the morning sky improves during the month, on 1st it rises at 05.03 and reaches 7 degrees in the SSE before the sky brightens.  On 24th at 6am the crescent Moon passes 4.3 degrees north of the planet, the pair should be visible around 7.20, just before dawn.  On 30th it rises at 05.01 and reaches 12 degrees above the horizon in reasonable darkness, marginally brighter at mag 1.7.

Jupiter:  in Ophiuchus, mag -1.8.
Still bright but now very low in the evening sky.  On 1st it is only 9 degrees above the southern horizon as the sky darkens around 17.00, setting at 18.41.  It moves into Sagittarius on 17th, when it is only 7 degrees at dusk.  On 28th, in daylight, just before 11am the 2 day Moon passes only 43' from Jupiter.  One magazine shows this as an occultation - maybe there is one if you're looking from a different location.  On 30th the planet is only 5 degrees above the horizon in twilight, setting at 17.11.

Saturn:  in Sagittarius, mag 0.6.
Also low in the evening sky, and getting lower, so best seen in the early part of November.  On 1st it is at 13 degrees in the south as the sky darkens.  It should be visible for about an hour before it gets too low, setting at 20.01.  On 2nd the 5 day Moon passes close to the planet, only half a degree apart at 07.22, while they are below the horizon from our latitude, but still only 5.5 degrees to the east at 17.00, as the sky darkens.  On 29th the 2 are again close, with the Moon  just over 3 degrees SW of Venus.  On 30th it is only 10 degrees above the horizon at dusk and sets at 18.39.

Uranus:  in Aries, mag 5.7.
Very well placed for binocular and telescopic observation, even for naked eye viewing under ideal conditions. On 1st it should be visible from around 19.00 when it is at 20 degrees in the east.  It culminates, 48 degrees above the southern horizon, at 23.33 and sets at 06.50.  On 30th it should be seen, 25 degrees in the east at 17.25, culminating at 21.35 and setting at 04.50.

Neptune:  in Aquarius, mag 7.8.
Well placed in the early part of the month. On 1st it should be high enough to be seen through a scope soon after 6pm, when it is at 21 degrees in the SE.  It culminates, 29 degrees in the south, at 20.35.  By 30th it culminates at 18.40 and sets at 00.12.

Dwarf Planets

Ceres:  in Ophiuchus, mag 9.2.
Not at its brightest or best position at the moment.  On 1st it is no more than 10 degrees above the horizon in darkness, setting at 18.21. By 30th it is down to 9 degrees and 17.10.

The rest orbit way out in the Kuiper belt, beyond Neptune, are very faint and, because they take so long - hundreds of years - to orbit the Sun, appear to move very slowly against the background stars..  They are only suitable imaging targets for the most experienced astrophotographers.

Pluto:  In Sagittarius, mag 14 5.
Too low to be easily imaged from our latitude, as it will be for many years yet. 
Sets at 20.46 on 1st and 18.55 on 30th.

Makemake:  in Coma Berenices,  mag 17.2.
Morning object.  Rises on 1st at 02.11 and reaches 26 degrees by dawn. On 30th rises at 00.20 and gets to 49 degrees in the SE as the sky begins to brighten, soon after 6am.

Haumea; in Bootes, mag 17.4
On 1st it rises at 04.13 and only gets to 10 degrees above the horizon by dawn. Its position is improving, on 30th it rises at 02.22 and reaches 33 degrees before the sky brightens.

Eris:  in Cetus, mag 18.8
The faintest and most distant of the dwarf planets takes 558 years to make one orbit of the Sun.  It's also the best positioned, should be high enough for imaging between 20.00 and 02.30, reaching its highest point, 34 degrees, at 23.10.  By the end of the month timings are 2 hours earlier.

A few asteroids reach opposition in November, including 2 of the big 4.

Vesta:  in Taurus, mag 6.5.
At opposition on 12th, when it should be visible in binoculars, if you know exactly where to look, from around 8pm till 4am.  Culminates at 00.04 at 44 degrees in the south.  The best way of spotting it, as with all faint objects, is probably to take images a few days apart and look for something that has moved.  Because it only takes  3.63 years to orbit the Sun, its movement, in an east to west direction (retrograde) should be noticeable.

And a trio of fainter ones:

136 Philomela:  in Cetus, mag 10.9
Opposition on 2nd, culminates at 23.58 when it is 45 degrees above the southern horizon. By month end it will have faded to mag 11.4 and culminate at 21.47.

10 Hygiea:  in Taurus, mag 10.3.
In the news recently as new high resolution images show it to have a spherical shape, so it now fulfills all the criteria for a dwarf planet and may be reclassified by the IAU.  At less than half the diameter of Ceres, it would be by far the smallest in this class.  Is at opposition on 26th, when it reaches 60 degrees in the south at 23.51.

88 Thisbe:  in Taurus, mag 10.9. 
At opposition on 28th culminating , 61 degrees above the southern horizon, at 23.53.

Comets

One which may, or may not, reach a reasonable brightness, depending on which source of information is correct.

C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS) in Auriga, mag estimates vary between 8.7 and 11.0.
On 1st it is at 21 degrees in the NE at 20.18, culminating, 71 degrees in the south at 03.06.  It is circumpolar from 3rd.  By month end it should have brightened, maybe to mag 7.8, and be at 27 degrees in the NE at 17.30 moving round to 36 degrees in the NW by 06.30.

68P/Klemola: in Sagittarius, mag 12.4.
Low in the evening sky. On 1st it is only 20 degrees above the horizon as the sky darkens, setting at 21.32.  It moves into Capricorn on 15th, when it sets at 21.13. On 30th it is predicted to be at mag 12.7, maximum altitude 21 degrees, setting at 20.59.  However, some sources say that it might become much brighter, so might be worth keeping a look out for this one.

C/2018 N2 (ASSASSSN): in Andromeda, mag 11.4
Circumpolar throughout November, on 1st it is at 45 degrees in the east at 18.00, highest point 74 degrees south at 22.09 and 22 degrees NW at 05.13.  On 30th it should be suitable for imaging between 17.25, when it is at 65 degrees in the east and 02.33, when it sinks to 21 degrees in the NW. Highest point 75 degrees S is at 19.22.

168P/Hergenrother: in Lynx, mag 12.
Interesting mainly because it ends the month very close to the northern celestial pole, though it will have faded slightly, probably around mag 12.7.

Recommended websites for more information and exact positions at any time of all Solar System objects:
And, for news about comets

Meteor showers

One reasonably active shower this month

Leonids: active Nov 6th to 30th, peak on the night of 16th/17th, ZHR 15.
These are bright, swift moving meteors often leaving persistent trails. Parent comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle.  Best seen after midnight when the radiant reaches a reasonable altitude.  However, the gibbous Moon rises at 19.12 on 16th, so will seriously interfere.

Minor showers:
Northern Taurids: active Oct 20th to Dec 10th, peak 11th/12th but the shower often shows enhanced activity for about 10 days in early to mid October. ZHR 5 but could show more, as the associated Southern Taurid shower is also active until 20th. The radiant is quite high at the peak time, 23.00, but the almost full moon will interfere.  Both Taurid showers often include bright fireballs but these appear to have a 7 year cycle.  The last time there was a higher number than usual was in 2015, so we have another 3 years to wait. Parent comet of both Taurid showers is a precursor of 2P/Encke.

Alpha Monocerotids:  active Nov 15th to 25th, peak at 6am on 22nd, ZHR <5. Only a weak showing is predicted for this one in 2019.  The Moon rising at 01.40 on 22nd will interfere.

November Orionids:  active Nov 14th to Dec 6th, peak  28th, ZHR 3.  Fast moving meteors whose radiant is very close to that of the N Taurids.  Meteors should be easily distinguishable as the Nov Orionids are much faster moving.  No Moon interference.
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