How to see the planets in the night sky, November 2021

Read our astronomy guide to find out what planets will be visible in the night sky this month, and how you can spot one tonight.

Published: October 28, 2021 at 9:19 am
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Venus is an evening object throughout November 2021, suffering from being in a southern ecliptic part of the sky. In fact, it’s in Sagittarius, the most southerly of the Zodiacal constellations, and this keeps its altitude low as seen from the UK.

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Despite this, at mag. –4.7 Venus is intensely bright and as long as your south through to west-southwest horizon is relatively clear you should be able to see it, weather-permitting of course.

A photograph of crescent Venus
Venus enters its crescent phase in November 2021, appearing thinner each day. Credit: Pete Lawrence

Venus reaches greatest eastern elongation on 29 October when it appears separated from the Sun by 47˚.

It then heads back towards the Sun, gathering pace as it speeds towards inferior conjunction on 8 January.

It sets 100 minutes after the Sun on 1 November, a figure that increases to 150 minutes by the end of the month.

Venus’s November passage against the stars takes it through the Teapot asterism in Sagittarius, the planet passing across the northern regions of the Teapot’s handle in the middle of the month.

A diagram showing Venus's orbit and its positions at conjunction and greatest elongation.
A diagram showing Venus's orbit and its positions at conjunction and greatest elongation. Credit: Pete Lawrence

An 11%-lit waxing crescent Moon lies west of Venus on 7 November, while a 20%-lit waxing crescent lies to the east of the planet on 8 November.

Telescopically, Venus is entering its majestic crescent phase, appearing thinner with each passing day.

Þ View a crescent Moon to the west of Venus on 7 November and to its east on the 8 November. Credit: Pete Lawrence
View a crescent Moon to the west of Venus on 7 November and to its east on the 8 November. Credit: Pete Lawrence

Unfortunately, a thin crescent and low altitude are not a good combination, and the poor atmospheric conditions experienced when viewing a planet close to the horizon will make it tricky to get a sharp view of Venus’s beautiful shape.

On 1 November Venus exhibits a 47%-lit phase, with an apparent diameter of 25 arcseconds.

By the end of the month, the phase will have reduced to 28%-lit while the apparent diameter will have increased to 38 arcseconds.

How to see the planets in November 2021

A diagram showing the phase and relative sizes of the planets in November 2021.
The phase and relative sizes of the planets this month. Each planet is shown with south at the top, to show its orientation through a telescope. Credit: Pete Lawrence

Venus

  • Best time to see: 30 November from 16:30 UT
  • Altitude: 10˚
  • Location: Sagittarius
  • Direction: South-southwest
  • Features: Phase, subtle atmospheric shadings
  • Recommended equipment: 75mm or larger

Mercury

  • Best time to see: 1 November, from 06:15 UT
  • Altitude: 6˚ (low)
  • Location: Virgo
  • Direction: East-southeast

Mercury is a well-positioned morning object at the start of November, rising 100 minutes before sunrise. For most of the month it’s approaching superior conjunction, which finally occurs on 29 November.

Despite losing separation from the Sun, Mercury’s brightness increases over the month, from mag. –0.8 on the 1st to –1.2 by the month’s end. On 3 November a 3%-lit waning crescent Moon lies 6˚ northwest of Mercury. The planet rises 90 minutes before the Sun on this date.

Mars

  • Best time to see: 30 November, 07:00 UT
  • Altitude: 4˚ (low)
  • Location: Libra
  • Direction: Southeast

Mars is a morning object, too close to the Sun to be seen properly at the month’s start, but getting sufficient separation so that its mag. +1.6 dot can be seen after the first week. On 10 November and 11 November, mag. +1.6 Mars sits near to mag. –0.8 Mercury, both planets being about 1˚ apart on these dates.

Jupiter

  • Best time to see: 1 November, from 18:00 UT
  • Altitude: 21˚
  • Location: Capricornus
  • Direction: South

Jupiter is now easy to observe in the evening sky, reaching its highest position, due south, in the early evening. At this time, it will be 22˚ up. The first quarter Moon sits 5˚ south of mag. –2.3 Jupiter on 11 November. By the month’s end, Jupiter’s southerly position is compromised by evening twilight.

Saturn

  • Best time to see: 1 November, from 18:00 UT
  • Altitude: 18˚
  • Location: Capricornus
  • Direction: South

As we approach the year’s end, the placement of the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn becomes compromised by twilight. At the start of November, Saturn can be viewed at its highest point in the sky, due south, in darkness, but by the month’s end you’ll struggle to see it in this position. As the sky does darken towards the end of the month, look out for Jupiter, Saturn and Venus, all in a line with Saturn in the middle.

Uranus

  • Best time to see: 4 November, around midnight
  • Altitude: 52˚
  • Location: Aries
  • Direction: South

Uranus reaches opposition on 4 November and is visible all night long. It reaches an altitude of 52˚ when due south, as seen from the centre of the UK. A bright, almost full Moon sits 1.8˚ south of mag. +5.7 Uranus on the morning of 18 November around 04:00 UT.

Neptune

  • Best time to see: 1 November, 21:00 UT
  • Altitude: 32˚
  • Location: Aquarius
  • Direction: South

Neptune remains well-positioned all month, an evening planet near mag. +4.2 Phi (ϕ) Aquarii. The long dark nights allow it to appear at its highest position in the sky, due south under dark-sky conditions. Shining at mag. +7.9, binoculars are required.

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This guide originally appeared in the November 2021 issue of BBC Sky at Night Magazine.

Authors

Pete Lawrence, astronomer and BBC The Sky at Night presenter.
Pete LawrenceAstronomer and presenter

Pete Lawrence is an experienced astronomer and astrophotographer, and a presenter on BBC's The Sky at Night.

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