In November 2021 it's time to look out for the planets: Venus is still moving through the morning sky, Jupiter and Saturn march on in the evenings, and Uranus might just be visible to the naked eye. Unfortunately it looks like the Leonid meteor shower will be a wash out, but there's plenty of occultations and conjunctions to look out for over the month of November 2021.
Ezzy Greetings listeners and welcome to Radio Astronomy's Guide to the best thing to see in the night sky in November 2021. I'm as a person and I'm joined on the podcast today by reviews editor Paul Money.
Paul Hi Ezzy
Ezzy Hello. And today you're going to be telling us all the best sights that we can catch in the northern hemisphere over the month of November. So, Paul, what are your recommendations for this month?
Paul Well, would you believe it? We're going to start with an ending.
Ezzy With an ending?
Paul Sounds a bit of an oddity, doesn't it? Sort of thinking as the thinking, what on earth is he on about? But last month, towards the end of October, we actually had Mercury move up into the morning sky, into the morning twilight. Now this is one of the best apparitions of Mercury in the morning sky because they do vary throughout the years. It does appear in the morning sky, usually two to three times, but usually only one of them is really good. And this is the one that's really good. So he started in October, but now it finishes and it finishes on a bit of a high note because Mercury's always brightest in the morning sky at the end of its actual apparition. So this is the time now during November, the first couple of weeks of November to actually grab the elusive Inner planet. They say elusive, though, you know a but in actual fact, it is a naked eye planet. He's just a case of looking out at the right time, and you can spot it low down in the twilight as long as you look at the right sort of time. So it look around about half an hour to three quarters an hour after sunset. So sunrise, I should say. But if you do this at sunset, you've done it wrong. This time again, it is. So when it's a morning one make you look in the morning sky. But yeah, this one, I say it's I always I don't get many of them because I have a very poor east southeast horizon. And so things, I've got a lot of stuff that gets in the way, which is a shame. So you do need an uncluttered east southeast horizon, really to get the best out of this. But Mercury's greatest elongation on October 25th, so greatest elongation is the furthest it gets from the Sun before it starts to drift back towards the solar glare. So when we're in November, you know, we actually have it on that sort of downward slide, but it's still well placed to observe nearly for two weeks. And we have a really good guide because anybody who likes following the Moon will actually have the a very slim crescent moon on November the 3rd actually guide you to Mercury. Mercury will be below like the lower left of the crescent moon. And, of course, the crescent moon itself. You know, it's gorgeous to see the Earth shine on it as well. So we got mercury there and you've got the crescent moon with Earthshine to glow above it on November 3rd and at the same time, nearly parallel and slightly to the right actually of making will have the stars Spica. So I say, as some say, Spicer. I'm always Spicer myself sort of thing don't mean I'm into the spice of life or anything like that, but it it's how people people pronounce it isn't it.
Ezzy I'm Spik-a myself.
Paul Yeah, it is. It's a bit of a nightmare getting it right because, you know, we haven't got the language left from those days of how it is actually pronounced. We didn't have recordings in them days.
Ezzy people probably pronounce it differently back then as well.
Paul I wouldn't be surprised at all. I wouldn't be surprised if we've all got it completely wrong. And if somebody from, you know, ancient Greece could actually listen to us now, they'd probably well, it probably wouldn't last sort of thing that just go. Modern civilisation, hey, you know? But yeah, so Spicer is actually Alpha Virginia. So when he emerges back into the sky, it does mean that sort of like Virgo is creeping back into the morning sky as well. So look at that from the November 3rd. Spica or be just the lower right of the Moon, whereas mercury to the lower left. So, you know, so mercury continues down, though. I mean, it is bright. It's around about minus nought point eight. So when is it decent brightness to catch it. And so it gradually drops down towards the horizon and you might get a chance, Now this is a harder job, but you might get a chance to spot Mars emerging into the actual morning twilight as well, because Mars will have gone through solar conjunction during October. So this is the time to catch Mercury and Mars together, and you want to be looking around the 10th and 11th. So if you can still see Mercury on the 10th and 11th, Look out for another star quite close to it, and that will be actually Mars as well. And you need to be doing all this sort of thing to say around about half an hour, three quarters an hour before sunrise. Get it right this time and you know and look roughly towards the south. A sort of thing for it in the in the bright twilight, but that's a good way of a month with an ending, as murky comes the end of its last good morning operation for 2021, so it's always like to catch Mercury and I mean, I've struggled this year. The weather has been so rubbish, you know, I am. We aren't really out as many good nights as we normally have all good mornings, so it's been a real shame.
Ezzy It's what makes astronomy so challenging. You have to keep an eye out and grab those clear nights when you can.
Paul Exactly. I mean, you know, it is something that you can't ignore. If he's going to be clear, although I have to say the weather man's version of clear in our version and clearer are obviously two different definitions because too often I've seen l"Yes, and tonight there will be clear periods or it'll be cleared completely" when I go out and there's haze. Nice Halo Nice halo around the Moon, Mind you, that's always nice to say, I think, but it's a bad sign if you see a halo around the Moon because it usually means it's pretty grotty for anything else. Usually deep sky is wiped out. So actually interesting through haze planets aren't too bad. Obviously, they're brighter, so that's actually something to bear in mind. You know, if it is hazy, don't give up. If there's a planet about if there's a planet, about plan to observe it.
Ezzy Yeah, there's there's usually there's usually something that you can get out and observe. You just might have to adapt your observing schedule based on what nature's deciding to do that month.
Paul Exactly. It's, you know, so we make the best of the of the weather, you know, so if it is hazy, don't worry. So there's something you might be able to do. I like seeing the lunar halo is quite pretty, and sometimes you get what we call moon dogs. The same as sun dogs. So but they happen for either side of the Moon, about 22 degrees away, so they're worth looking out for. I haven't seen many and I'm photographed many, but I have actually seen them. They're quite interesting, but they they have to be quite intense to actually spot them. Now Venus is still there. I mean, we've said this, I think for the last, heaven knows how many months, but in the evening twilight, Venus still lingers. And it's one of those aperations where it was mentioned about Mercury having a really good operation in the morning sky. And Mercury does the same thing in the evening as well. It has one particularly good aperation that's good, and that's usually in the March, April, May period. If you get Mercury in the evening sky, then it's really good. But if you get them in this period times of October, November and early December, then you have a bit of a problem because the ecliptic is very shallow to the horizon. So in actual fact, anything that's lying along the ecliptic actually set quite quickly, but it lingers there very low down all the time in evening twilight. And so Venus is still there and it will still be there over November and into December as well. So he's lingering, but there's a strange effect takes place now because as we go through the month of November, the ecliptic begins to slowly steepen a little. And what that does, it means Venus actually improves. You think after all this time, as it's beginning to recede back to the Sun because it's past greatest elongation as well. Then it should ask you to think it gets worse. But it's a quirk of nature that because the ecliptic slowly gets steeper because of the tilt of the Earth and of course, then how we're moving around the Sun. But it actually improves the visibility of Venus. But it also means Jupiter and Saturn stay visible as well. Venus is catching up. Hasn't quite reached them yet, but it is catching them up. So when we start on November. The first thing Venus is quite a long distance away from Jupiter and Saturn and low down. By the time we get to the end of the month, Then Venus is closer. In fact, Saturn is almost piggy in the middle between it and Jupiter. So it shows you the motion of the Solar System sort of thing, how things are slowly moving and the inner planets are gradually catching up with the outer giants as well. So it's always an interesting thing about this ecliptic. The fact that, you know, this is what's causing Venus to stay visible, you know, and not go. You'd think if it's that low, it must be close to setting and getting out of the way. But now it's going to stay around for a few months yet. So thing is determined to stay with us, I'll tell you Ezzy. So here we have an actual event so that Venus is visible for the time being. Now they all stay visible all month. There's one or two events we'll come to in a moment, but as we move through the month itself, we get to November 5th. Yes, I know November 5th, very auspicious night. There'll be lots of fireworks going on, which actually coincides nicely with the, I believe our November issue has an interesting article about how to observe during fireworks.
Ezzy Well, it does, absolutely.
Paul This is the key because November 5th the planet Uranus comes to opposition and opposition is when the planet is opposite the Sun. In the sky, which means as the sun sets, the planet rises, and it means also that the planet is visible all night long. It's technically naked Eye. It's usually about magnitude five point six to five point eight, so that's bordering naked eye. But you do need dark skies, no light pollution, no city lights or anything like that. And a good star chart, which of course, we have in our monthly charts anyway. So you know, we can find it if you're clear. I have seen it naked eye, but now I wear glasses. I have to say that's gone out the window , which is a great shame, but it doesn't take much optical magnification to make it visible. So even small binoculars, you'll be able to find the planet Uranus. So it's the opposition. Then on 5th November, not a really good night to actually have an opposition itself. A few years ago, my sister asked me to take her. Well, we went with her children to watch a big fireworks display, but it was a really clear night. And what was I doing? I was watching Jupiter rise over in the East because it was so bright and it was just a gorgeous sight. So there we are at the fireworks going off all around us. Nice, bright, big display music going on in the background. And they were wondering what I was doing. I was pointing out, Look, there is Jupiter and said, we're here for the fireworks.
Ezzy So I think that is a good for that. But because I know a lot of astronomers, they get a bit annoyed by the fireworks because it puts out all of this kind of haze and sort of gunpowder residue in the air means it's quite difficult to observe. But there is still stuff you can see. You can still see the Moon. Well, if it ends up, then and you can still see Jupiter.
Paul Exactly. They're not really brightest stuff you can do. But yes, we do get a bit annoyed, almost put up into the atmosphere sort of thing because you can guarantee that there's something you want to watch, particularly and the haze drifts over it and spoils the view. Or there's a bright flash. Just imagine looking through it. I mean, it's not happened to me, but looking through a telescope and a firework goes up through the field of view and explodes. And that wouldn't be very nice, would it? You'd think you'd found a supernova going off. But so that was November 5th then for Uranus at opposition, I say it is actually quite easy to spot if you know where, and even small binoculars will actually show it extremely well. It's actually in Aries at the moment. And it's not to fight between 29 area 2s and Omicron area as well, so that's a nice way to find out if you've got your star charts out. She should find it, but I say it is a reasonably bright planet. It's just not naked eye for most people. But if you've got keen eyesight, you might just spot it if you got really dark skies, but just watch out for the fireworks going off at the same time. Now, moving into the month we just get back to Venus because on November the 7th, just a couple of days later in the evening, we have the crescent moon. And of course, the Crescent Moon isn't just seen in the morning, its seen in the evening skies as well, because obviously the moon orbits around the Earth. So it's do we get to see it to all times of night, depending on its phase. So he's back into the evening sky by November the 7th, and he's quite a decent crescent and it'll be to the right of Venus. Now you shouldn't really need the crescent moon to find Venus. Yes, probably the brightest planet out of the whole lot, but it does help when he adds to the spectacle. And then the next night, the Moon on November 8th, is the other side of Venus. So swapped sides with Planet. The Planet effectively plays piggy in the middle again because of the Moon one side, and then the next night, the Moon is the other side. So I say you shouldn't really need the Moon as a guide to get Venus, but it will be a pretty sight. And I'm nowadays asked as smartphones are so amazing and what they can capture sort of thing. So, you know, you can use your smartphone to capture the Moon. In theory, if you manage to capture the actual picture of the Moon on the 7th with the Venus and on 8th, you could merge them together to show the Moon on either side. That would be an interesting project, something different to do. Now mention that Venus is gradually catching up with Jupiter and Saturn, and that means we have three major planets in the evening sky. Four if you count Uranus and of course, Neptune is off as well, but it's a lot fainter, so won't really cover Neptune this month. But on November the 10th - 11th, we have the Moon again getting closest directly below Saturn on November 10th. This is in the evening sky and you don't have to look in the Twilight. You can leave it until a bit later so the sky is darker. But on 11th, the Moon is a first quarter, so it looks like a half moon and that night its directly below Jupiter sort of thing. So again, you shouldn't need the Moon to find these planets, but if you're not very familiar with the night sky near you, still, if you perhaps just into astronomy, just gettin into it. I mean, you're not you're not going to know these objects very well. So if you know the on the 10th, the moon is directly below Saturn you can look at and Saturn and Jupiter outshine any of the stars in the constellation they're in at the moment, which is Capricornus. So, you know, it outshines them. So, you know, with the Moon below it, you can easily spot which is Saturn and which you Jupiter. Jupiter will be the bright planet to the left of Saturn, but I say on the 11th the first quarter moon will be directly belowJupiter. So you can't mistake them. So that's another nice one to actually watch. And again, we with binoculars, if you can't, if you got nice low power binoculars, are particularly good you should just get them both in the same field of view for both Jupiter and Saturn, ah sorry, the Moon and Saturn and the Moon and Jupiter as well. So nice to spot them. And at the moment, Jupiter and Saturn are still reasonably close. But over the coming years, the gap will get significantly bigger as Jupiter moves away from Saturn. I always say Jupiter moves about one constellation per year, so you know, it's in Capricornus at the moment. It'll be an Aquarius next year, so it steadily moves further away, sort of thing. Saturn is much slower because it's further away from us as well. Now when we get to the 19th, we have a few gaps and I'll mention the Leonids a little bit later on because the meteor shower. But November the 19th again, unlike when planets are right next to stars because the planet, if it's a bright planet, will guide you to a star you probably won't look at or haven't played a lot of attention to. On November the 19th, we actually get that because Venus, we're back to Venus in the evening. I'm trying to keep them nice and convenient, sort of thing because they're in the evening sky for us. But the thing is, Venus is right next to the star Nunci sort of thing, Sigma Sagittarii. And so it's I mean, literally it's in a telescopic field of view. So I think it's that close. So, you know, binoculars might just separate them, but a small telescope will be really good to actually spot them. So I say it's a real nice photo opportunity, and I like it when you know planets are right next to a bright star because they guide you to the star. And these conjunctions, you know, look really, really good sort of thing. So. And so one thing I like to point out conjunctions in the night sky we can actually spot now later that night. And this is one of the things sometimes you get a run of events on on the on the same evening later that evening, The Moon is actually full, so you know, it'll be very bright. It'll overwhelm the vast majority of stars. But on the evening, things so give it another few hours, something around about eight to 10 o'clock. So we find the Moon lies directly between the Pleiades, M45, the Seven Sisters star cluster and the Hyades, which is the V shape of the head of the Bull, Taurus the Bull. And of course, we've got Aldebaran, which is the orange, bright orange star. The eye, I always say the red eye, the bull, but it's more orange to my eyes. So the Moon lies exactly between them. So, you know, if you look at the moon and then you see a little hazy patch above. Use binoculars to make it clear, but you'll see a hazy patch above, which is the Pleiades star cluster. And then... Naked eye, the Hyades are quite bright. So well worth having a look at, and you can see the two. So I always think Taurus is a funny constellation because essentially it's mainly made up of clusters, you know, two big clusters of the main features within that constellation. So there we are now. We'll come back to Taurus in a short while, but let's swap to the morning sky again. We have to do a few of the mornings because what people do, we do get up that way and people do get up to walk the dog. But on the morning of November the 22nd, we have another circumstance where there's a planet next to an an interesting star. In this particular case, I'll think, because it'll be a double star. This is Mars. So we're in the morning twilight zone. Look around about 6:30 in the morning, low down towards the east southeast. Grab Mars. Mars will be the brighter of the group, but, Alpha Libra, Zubin al-Janabi, that's a mouthful, isn't it?
Ezzy Yeah, it's definitely a name.
Paul But the thing about it is it's actually a nice wide double in telescopes, you know? It's one of those showpiece is sort of thing with a slightly fainter companion and Mars will be right next to it. In fact, Mars will make it look like a triple star. So this is an unusual circumstance in a telescope. Binoculars will show them only just but really a telescope is best for this, and you can actually see Mars next. It'll be joining Alpha Libra. And it will look like as if it's a triple star instead of a double star and "catch it for one morning only folks" cuase after that mars is gone, you know, because Mars moves on a past the actual star itself and Mars's moving. Of course, the stars aren't, except for their usual rotation around the Earth because of the turning of the Earth itself. But Mars itself has its own motion in the Solar System. So one night, only one morning only grabbed Mars next to Alpha Libra. So about 6:30 the time I would actually look for that. That's November, the 22nd the morning object. Now we just flip back to Jupiter because I like these conjunctions, tsay mentioning planets next to stars. And as it happens, sometimes because of the motion of the planets you have to remember, we have the retrograde loop effect whereby an outer planets appears to do this sort of slight loop in the sky. And if that occurs close to a reasonably bright star, then effectively you get often three conjunctions, a maximum of three conjunctions with that star. And as it happened, the final one for Jupiter with Delta Capricorni takes place on November the 23rd. So the next evening, in actual fact, this is the third and final conjunction of it for what we call this Jovian year. So you'll have to wait another 12 odd years for it to actually go around the sun again, sort of thing and then come back to the same spot in the sky. So this is the third and final conjunction between Delta Capricorn and Jupiter itself. I mean, Jupiter has been lingering near the star for a while, and in fact, it was closest around about four days earlier, so around about the 18th-19th. But it's just a quirk of nature that we call a proper conjunction is when it's lined up with the right ascension. The coordinates of the right ascension actually match for the star and the planet itself. But we do tend to use conjunction quite loosely. I have to admit a lot of amateur astronomers if their object is next to a star that's generally considered, it's in conjunction. But if we were really, really strict, November 23rd is when Jupiter is in conjunction with Delta Capricorn II. Now we have a chance to see a Dwarf Planet, and we turn back now to Taurus the Bull and the Hyades and Aldebaran because Ceres, this dwarf planet. it got changed. I mean, it felt really good for Pluto, got demoted. Ceres got promoted. Ceres series went from a minor planet to a dwarf planet sort of thing. You know, I mean, dwarf a minor. The narrative almost the same thing, really. It sounds very similar anyway.
Ezzy I always have to look at which one means which.
Paul I know it's not like it's one. What I mean, I still prefer the term asteroid sort of thing, you know? But yeah, but it's just one of those things that you see. I'm an oldie. But the thing about dwarf planet Ceres is it's actually opposition towards the end of the month on the 27th. But let's have a quick look at Ceres now because it is an easy object to get in binoculars. magnitude seven and ideal around opposition, both during November. And she passes through the Hyades and on the night of November, the 2nd 3rd. We've actually got it right next to Aldebaran, so we have another Solar System body right next door, an incredibly bright star. Now, I can't remember a time when in all the years I've been observing, I can't remember a time when a minor planet that I've observed the minor planet, sorry dwarf planet. Oh gosh, I'm getting it wrong myself, but right next to a really bright star such as Aldebaran. So that'll be quite something to watch out for. And again, it's nice if you can get because it's a reasonably bright object. This Ceres, you can take a series of photographs and you get a roll of clear nights. Oh, I've got to make myself laugh now. Run of clear nights. What? What's that? Does that actually happen? It does sometimes it does sometimes. But if you got a run of nights from November the second through to November the 20th, you could take a sequence of photographs. They don't have to be detailed. Long exposures, a simple, short exposure 10- 20 seconds could actually do it. You could pick up Ceres night after night moving through the Hyades cluster and then again, you could layer them. We've done these in our astro processing fate. His whereby we've shown how to layer these and show something actually moving in the sky. So this should be a good chance to test that out. So Ceres moves through the Hyades and and leaves the Hyades around about November 20th - 21st. Then it reaches opposition on the 27th. So therefore it just like Uranus it's visible all night long. So we'll be able to see it all the time. And I say it's a nice one for binoculars. It's not quite the brightest of the minor world. Vesta does that the best reason available at the moment, but certainly Ceres is so definitely go for Ceres this particular time. Now finally, we usually would mention the Leonid meteor shower, which occurred on the 17th and 18th. Unfortunately, this year, it's actually compromised by the Moon. So, you know, there's a lot of moonlight and unfortunately, the Moon's in the morning sky. And really for the Leonids, Leo, the constellation rises late in the night sort of thing and gets to its highest around about three,four o'clock in the morning. Unfortunately, the Moon is still up at that time, so it will look flood the sky with light, so it'll spoil of you. It won't wipe them out completely. He's always worth looking out just in case we've got a clear morning from the 17th into the 18th. It's worth looking out, but you need to keep your expectations realistic because the normal rate is anywhere from 80 to 100 something because Leonids can be good because every three years they have a spectacular outburst. Well, we're nowhere near that. But you know it's worth looking at. You never know. You might get the odd one particularly bright. So you know it's worth looking, but just keep your expectations realistic. You know, the moonlight is going to dim a lot of them, so you're only going to see the very brightest when they actually occur.
Ezzy It's not been a very good year for meteor showers. The moon's just being very uncooperative this year. It seems to always be full.
Paul it is frustrating. You know, there are amateur astronomers out there who specifically only watch meteor showers, you know, so it must have been very disappointing this year for them. As such, next year is a little bit better for some of the showers, so that's something to look forward to. But it is a shame becausethe Leonids is one of those that have the potential to have an occasional outburst as well because they know there are filaments that accompany the main stream. They get an incredibly good at modelling in these filaments as well. But as far as I'm aware, there isn't a particularly bright filament this time for us to look out for and to say this is the compromise of the Moon. Now you do have a period of about an hour before sunrise, where the Moon is so low and setting, but it might give you a chance to see something. So, you know, I say it isn't. It isn't a complete washout, but you know, you have to keep your expectations realistic sort of thing. The moon light will generally wash out most of them, especially if you don't want to get up very, very early in the morning sky. So there we are, though that's all the main object. There is an interesting and I have to say it's very, very partial, but there's a partial eclipse all morning of the 19th, but he's out there just as the Moon set is typical.
Paul So I didn't go into detail on it. But just say it on the 19th the morning, as the Moon set in, there is a partial lunar eclipse, but it is going to be so minor.
Ezzy We should mention that is, it's going to be setting in the UK, I think in the US...
Paul They they'll probably get a good view of it sorted because that goes to the round. Yes, definitely. But for the UK, definitely we haven't got a good view.
Ezzy So if we do have any listeners over in the US, you get to have a lovely lunar eclipse. We unfortunately here in the UK do not, but that is one to watch out for if you're in that part of the world.
Paul But that's life, isn't it? Oh, we should say that's astronomy.
Ezzy Yes, I'm sure in a couple of years we'll have a brilliant one that nobody else will be able to see very well. That's just how it works. Sometimes you get the moon blocking out all of your meteor showers and then another couple of years, it's set throughout most of them throughout the year.
Paul Then we have to put up with cloud. Haha. That's always the thing. We get really good. Well, no moon and whatnot. So we're all looking at the weather forecast. But please stay clear. Stay clear, stay clear. You know, I think if we'll stand outside and just shout all sort of thing or call to whichever deity you happen to support asking for, I have a bit of a joke, but I watched the film. It was the Vikings with Tony Curtis. But it was a funny thing because of Tony Curtis, who was put in a pool of water to die because he was a very poor Viking. But the soothsayer called upon Odin to send the wind. Turn the tide sort of thing. Now you might think, well, where is this lady? Well, I'm dusting off that one night it was ploughed and I really wanted to say something, so I said I would and I wouldn't send the wind to clear the skies, and it cleared! It cleared and I saw it. So occasionally I'll use that. It doesn't always work. So there we are sort of think, you know, you can always try it. You never know. I've got I've got ginger hair. So I mean, I'm supposed to be part Viking. So that's my excuse, and I'm going to stick with it. But Ezzy that's the main event for November. There is a lot to look out for, isn't the, you know, there's always something for us to keep an eye on for it?
Ezzy Yes, there certainly is a lot to look out for this month. You've got mercury in the morning skies still staying with us. Venus is also hanging around for quite a while, possibly a good opportunity to get to see Uranus with this month. But you will need your your telescope or binoculars for that, most likely. but also the dwarf planet Ceres will be reaching opposition on the twenty seventh, though there is a nice conjunction with a bright star on the second and third of this month as well. Unfortunately, it looks like the Leonids are going to be a bit of a washout, but you might still want to pay attention and see if you can catch a couple of those if you're out and happen to be observing on the 17th as well. So thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us today, Paul.
Paul It's a pleasure as they as always.
Ezzy And if our listeners, what to find out even more spectacular sights that will be gracing the night sky this month, be sure to pick up a copy of BBC Sky at Night Magazine. But we have a 16 page pullout sky guide with a full overview of everything worth looking up for in the northern hemisphere in November 2021. Whether you like to look at the Moon, the planets or the deep sky, whether you use binoculars, telescopes or neither, All Sky Guide has got you covered with detailed charts to help you track your way across the night sky. From all of us here at BBC Sky at Night Magazine. Goodbye.