The night sky in November 2020

posted 30 Oct 2020, 10:36 by Pete Collins   [ updated 30 Oct 2020, 15:47 ]
by Anne Holt

Sunrise      1st:   07.08        30th:   08.00
Sunset       1st:   16.35        30th:   15.54

Astronomical darkness
1st:  18.34  to  05.11        30th:   18.02  to  05.54

New Moon:  15th at 05.07      Full Moon:   30th at 09.29

Lunar perigee:   14th at 11.49  (357838km)
Lunar apogee:   27th at 00.30  (405890km)

There is a penumbral Lunar Eclipse on 30th but hardly visible from the Manchester area.  The eclipse begins at 07.32, the Moon sets at 07.56.

November's full Moon is known as the Beaver Moon, because they are very active at this time, building their dams. 
Other names are the Frost Moon and the Chinese White Moon (which unlike the Pink Moon and Blue Moon could actually be the colour of its name, especially when high in the sky)  The Celts called it the Dark Moon, the English Medieval name was the Snow Moon and for Neo Pagans it's the Tree Moon.  As always there are several native N American names:  the Cherokee Trading Moon, the Choctaw Sassefras Moon and the Dakota Sioux's Moon when horns are broken off.  And, as it's the last full Moon before the Winter Solstice, it's also known as the Mourning Moon.

Highlights

We have lots of astronomical darkness, just over ten and a half hours on 1st, almost 12 hours by 30th.  There's a penumbral Lunar Eclipse - difficult to see at the best of times, this one almost impossible from Manchester as it begins just a few minutes before the Moon sets.  This month is a good time to try to spot the elusive Mercury, especially a few days before mid month when it reaches 11 degrees by dawn.  Venus is still very bright but getting much lower in the morning sky, Mars is on view for most of the night, but fading rapidly during the month, and Jupiter and Saturn now set in the early evening.  They are moving closer together, separated by about 5 degrees at the start of November, 3 degrees 18' at the end of the month. International Space Station passes are in the morning sky until 8th, then in the evening sky from 22nd. And we have a few minor and one not quite so minor meteor showers.

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 Virgo, mag 1.1
A morning object, its position improving during the first third of November. On 1st it rises at 05.43 but only gets to 3 degrees above the horizon by dawn.  It's at perihelion on 2nd, when its distance from the Sun is 0.31AU. It reaches its highest point in the morning sky on 9th, when it will have brightened to mag -0.5, rising at 05.25 and visible for a short time around 06.30, reaching 11 degrees in the ESE before the sky brightens.  The following day it is at Greatest Western Elongation, separated from the Sun by 19 degrees. By 12th it has brightened further to mag -0.7 and on 13th the thin crescent Moon passes 1 degree 43' to the north at 20.44.  The following morning they will be about 5 degrees apart, with Mercury at 10 degrees in reasonable darkness. It moves into Libra on 17th, when it only gets to 9 degrees by dawn.  Its position then deteriorates rapidly, by 30th it rises at 06.54 and only gets to 3 degrees before the sky brightens, still at mag -0.7.

Venus:  in Virgo, mag -4.0
Now much lower, but still very bright in the morning sky.  On 1st it rises at 03.42 and should be easily visible an hour later, reaching 24 degrees in the SE by dawn. The crescent Moon is close to the planet on the morning of 13th, they are separated by 5 degrees at 06.00. The pair are closest, 2 degrees 46', the previous night at 23.46 while they are below the horizon for observers in the Manchester area.  On 28th, when it moves into Libra, it rises at 05.08 and reaches 16 degrees in the SE before the sky brightens. By 30th, that is down to 15 degrees.

Mars:  in Pisces, mag -2.1
Now beginning to fade quite rapidly after last month's spectacular opposition.  On 1st it is 8 degrees above the eastern horizon at 17.00, reaching 41 degrees in the south by 22.30. Its apparent motion is currently westwards, retrograde, but on 15th it appears to stand still for a while then start moving eastwards across the sky - prograde motion.  On 25th the gibbous Moon passes 4 degrees 29' to the south at 22.59, while the planet is still quite high in the sky, having culminated 2 hours earlier. It is now down to mag -1.3 and should be visible till 02.30 when it sinks to 8 degrees in the west. On 30th it will be 20 degrees in the east at dusk, culminating, 42 degrees in the south at 20.30 setting at 03.13 and down to mag -1.2.

Jupiter:  in Sagittarius, mag -2.2
The giant of the solar system has now regained its place as the second brightest planet in the sky.  On 1st it culminates at 16.54 as the sky darkens, at 14 degrees in the south. By 19.15 it is very low in the west, setting at 20.45.  On 19th the 24% Moon passes 2 degrees 28' to the south at 09.22. As the planet becomes visible around 16.30 they will be separated by 5 degrees with the Moon to the SE.  At this time Saturn is a few degrees north of the Moon.  Jupiter should be easily visible until around 18.30, setting at 19.49.  On 30th, slightly fainter at mag -2.1, it is 14 degrees in the south at dusk, setting at 19.17.

Saturn:  in Sagittarius, mag 0.6,
On 1st it should become visible around 17.15, as it culminates 15 degrees above the southern horizon, high enough to be seen until a few minutes after 19.00. setting at 21.14. On 19th, the Moon also visits Saturn, 2 degrees 50' to the south at 15.29.  Saturn is not as easy to see as nearby Jupiter in the fading sky.  It should be visible from around 17.00 to 18.07, setting at 20.09.  On 30th it is at 13 degrees in the south as the sky darkens, visible for only 45 minutes before it sinks too low, setting at 19.31.

Uranus: in Aries, mag 5.7
Still very well placed, high in the sky for most of the night so a good time to try to find it using binoculars - or even the naked eye, given the usual caveat.   On 1st it rises at 16.25 and reaches 20 degrees in the east by 19.00, culminating at 23.57, when it is 50 degrees above the southern horizon.  On 27th, the 90% Moon passes 3 degrees to the south at 18.00, in nautical twilight.  They are still close when astro darkness begins, just over an hour later.  On 30th it is at 24 degrees in the east as the sky fades, reaching 50 degrees in the south at 21.49 and sinking to 21 degrees in the west shortly before 3am.

Neptune:  in Aquarius, mag 7.8
Fairly high in the sky from dusk till late evening. On 1st it is at 22 degrees in the SE at 18.02 culminating, 30 degrees in the south, at 20.41 and setting at 02.18.  On 23rd the just past first quarter Moon is 5 degrees to the south of the planet at 18.00, and on 29th it reaches its stationary point before resuming prograde motion.  On 30th it should be visible from around 17.30 when it is 28 degrees above the southern horizon, culminating 2 degrees higher at 18.46 and visible until it sinks to 22 degrees in the SW at 21.25.

Dwarf Planets

Ceres:  in Aquarius, mag 8.7
The closest and brightest of the dwarf planets is not easy to see this month, as it is so low in the evening sky.  On 1st it culminates at 19.48, in astro darkness,  at an altitude of only 12 degrees, setting at 23.28. On 30th it is at 16 degrees as astro twilight ends, setting at 22.12 now down to mag 9.

Pluto:  in Sagittarius, mag 15.2
Still too low for imaging, with no improvement for a long time to come.  On 1st it culminates at 17.03 but is only 13 degrees above the horizon.  On 15th Jupiter passes close to Pluto, 41' to the north 40 minutes before sunset. They are slightly closer on the evening of 14th, with Pluto to the SSE.  On 30th it sets at 18.59, less than an hour into astro darkness.

Haumea:  in Bootes, mag 17.4
Too low for imaging in early November.  On 1st it rises at 04.07 and only reaches 11 degrees by dawn. By mid month it is briefly high enough, on 15th  it rises at 03.24 and reaches 22 degrees by 6am.  It improves rapidly during the second half of the month, on 30th it rises at 02.28 and reaches a reasonable altitude by 5am,  getting to 33 degrees as the sky brightens around 06.30.

Makemake:  in Coma Berenices, mag 17.4
Higher than Haumea, on 1st it reaches 27 degrees in reasonable darkness, on 30th it rises half an hour after midnight and gets to 48 degrees by dawn.

Eris:  in Cetus, mag 18.8 . 
Very faint, so a difficult target for even the most experienced astrophotographers. This month it is quite high in the sky for a few hours each night.  On 1st it reaches 21 degrees just before 20.00 and its highest point, 34 degrees, at 23.08, and is down to 21 degrees again by 02.25. On 30th it is at the same altitudes about a couple of hours earlier.

Asteroids

8 Flora reaches opposition this month on 1st,  in Cetus, at mag 8.0.  It rises at 17.44 and gets to 21 degrees in the SE by 20.20 culminating, 39 degrees in the south, at 00.09 and remaining reasonably high until 4am.  By 30th it has faded to mag 8.7 but is still quite high from around 18.00 to 01.39, highest point 39 degrees, at 21.48.
 
Comets

Again, nothing likely to be spectacular.  

C//2020 P1 (NEOWISE) in Bootes, mag 8.1
Very low in the sky.  On 1st it rises at 04.08 but only reaches 13 degrees by dawn.  It does get higher in the morning sky as the month progresses but, unfortunately, fades considerably.  On 30th it rises at 03.40 and will be at 21 degrees by dawn.  The bad news is that its predicted mag is now 15.9.

C/2020 M3 (ATLAS) in Lepus, mag 9.2
On 1st it reaches 21 degrees in the SE by 01.16 and culminates, 3 degrees higher, at 02.42, setting soon after sunrise.  On 2nd it goes into Orion and on 8th will be at its brightest, predicted mag 9.1.  On this day it rises at 20.35 and should be high enough for imaging, or viewing through a scope, between 23.23 and 05.16.  It culminates at 02.21, when it is 32 degrees above the southern horizon.  By 24th, when it crosses into Taurus, it is down to mag 9.3 and culminates, 53 degrees in the south, at 01.22.  By the end of the month its predicted mag is 9.5 and it will reach 21 degrees soon after 19.00, getting to 60 degrees in the south at 00.57 and visible until dawn. 

Recommended websites for more details and exact positions of all Solar System objects:
https://in-the-sky.org   (my favourite site. this is the one where I find most of the information given above)

Meteor Showers

Leonids:  active Nov 6th to 30th, peak 16th/17th,  ZHR 15 (probably no more than 12 from Manchester) These are fast moving meteors, often leaving trails. Peak activity predicted at 12.00 on 17th, so the shower is best seen just before dawn on that day. Parent comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle.
This shower occasionally produces such high rates that it is known as a meteor storm.  Unfortunately few of us will ever see this, next time it's predicted is 2099. 

Northern Taurids: active Oct 20th to Dec 10th, peak given as the night of 11th/12th but often has a longer peak, lasting a few days on either side of this date.  ZHR 5.  These are slow moving meteors, best seen around 5am when the radiant is highest.  As with the associated Southern Taurids, there could be a few fireballs.  However there is thought to be a seven year period of enhanced fireball activity, the next maximum is not expected until 2022.  The parent comet is usually given as 2P/Encke, or sometimes a fragment of the precursor of this comet.  This year I have seen a couple of sites which say it is asteroid 2004 TG 10.  Confused?  No need to be: this asteroid is thought to be a fragment of 2P/Encke, so it's all the same thing really.
And the good news - no Moon interference this year. Pity the same thing can't be said about clouds.

Alpha Monocerotids:  active Nov 15th to 25th, peak 21st, ZHR variable but usually around 5.  This is another shower which sometimes produces higher rates but, again, not predicted for this year.  They are fast moving meteors, best seen around 4am.  Parent comet  C/1917 F1 (Mellish)

November Orionids:  active Nov 13th to Dec 6th, peak 28th,  ZHR 3 (2 from Manchester).  Best seen when Orion is high at around 2am. This is also the time of peak activity.  The radiant is close to that of the Northern Taurids but the meteors are easily distinguishable as the Nov Orionids are much faster moving.  The gibbous Moon may interfere until it sets at 05.33.

Iota Aurigids: active 1st to 23rd, peak 15th, ZHR 8.  Medium speed meteors, best seen in the evening as the sky darkens.  This shower is not mentioned in the IMO calendar so that could mean that it has had a very poor showing in the last few years.  Or that they just forgot.






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