SKY WATCH NOVEMBER 2018
by Bob Berman, as featured in The Old Farmer’s Almanac
Our astronomy editor, Bob Berman, sets you up for the best in night sky sightseeing each month, with special tips for finding bright planets and stars, eclipses, meteor showers, and other celestial objects and events.
In late autumn, after most of the leaves have fallen, the forest suddenly becomes transparent. The contours of the land leap out in 3-D, exposing all kinds of subtleties. And many of them are small, bashful—the kind of sights that require us to look up, instead of down. Above our heads, beyond the changed colors of the lingering leaves, we’ll see the night sky as it changes throughout November.
- The action switches to the predawn sky as planet Venus has transitioned out of the evening sky and into the morning sky. It’s the brightest object in the sky after the Sun and Moon.
- The Moon meets returning Venus on the 6th. Look towards sunrise in the eastern sky around 6 A.M.
- Venus hovers near Virgo’s Spica from the 6th to the 12th and stands 25 degrees high by month’s end.
- Every day, Venus gets brighter. By mid-month, Venus’ disk will be about 10% illuminated by sunshine. By the month’s end, Venus’ disk will be 25% illuminated in sunshine.
Click here for a free, printable star chart to navigate Venus and the night sky!
- On the 1st, Jupiter meets Mercury low in the west; both soon vanish.
- Mars stands about a third of the way up the southern sky at nightfall. The red planet, having resumed its normal eastward motion against the stars, speeds from Capricornus into Aquarius. Just 12 arcseconds wide and at magnitude zero, it is dimming, losing half its width and is now too small to show useful detail in telescopes.
- Saturn shines clear above the southwestern horizon at nightfall. The ringed planet shifts lower in the sky each night, preparing to depart the night sky soon.
- The Moon floats left of ever-lower Saturn on the 11th.
- The Moon and Mars pair up on November 13 to 16.
November boasts two meteor showers.
- The Taurid meteor showers are visible between November 9 and 12. While this is a minor shower with about 5 meteors per hour, the Taurids are known for bright fireballs—a particularly bright meteor. Seeing one is quite a thrill. Even better, the Moon is now in a waning crescent phase. Rising shortly before sunrise, that means no moonlight to ruin the prime time viewing hours, centered on about 12:30 a.m. local time. See Moon rise and set times here.
- The Leonids meteor shower peaks on the night of Saturday, November 17 and early the following morning, November 18. A modest shower, the Leonids bring about 10 meteors per hour at their peak. Due to a bright waxing gibbous Moon this year, viewers will see fewer meteors. Check your Moon phase. The best time to look is before dawn around 3 A.M. so you have to set that alarm!
See our 2018 Meteor Shower Calendar (and get ready for the biggest shower of the year in December!).
November’s Moon was called the Beaver Moon by both the Algonquin tribes and colonial Americans. The Native Americans used the monthly Moons and nature’s signs as a sort of calendar to track the seasons. Why this name? Back then, this was the month to set beaver traps before the swamps froze, to ensure a supply of warm winter furs. The November full Moon was also called the Full Frost Moon by other Native Americans.
November’s full Moon rises November 23, 12:39 A.M. EST.