November Sky Watching


The immense Andromeda galaxy, also known as Messier 31 or simply M31, is captured in full in this new image from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. The mosaic covers an area equivalent to more than 100 full moons, or five degrees across the sky. WISE used all four of its infrared detectors to capture this picture (3.4- and 4.6-micron light is colored blue; 12-micron light is green; and 22-micron light is red). Blue highlights mature stars, while yellow and red show dust heated by newborn, massive stars.  More details.

NASA Photo

November evening skies are a transition between the bright stars that dominate summer and winter skies.  Our summer view of the Milky Way is shifted towards the west and the winter section appears in the eastern sky later in the night.  This permits views of celestial wonders beyond the bounds of our home galaxy.  The magnificent Andromeda Galaxy,also known as M31, is nearly overhead throughout the month.  Binoculars will reveal a fuzzy patch of light.  The photo above shows a satellite view of the galaxy revealing stars of varying ages.

Moon Phases

First Quarter November 2
Full November 10
Last Quarter November 18
New November 25

As for the planets visible this month from the Chicago area and across the globe at northern mid-latitudes,  Mercury and Venus are low in the southwest during evening twilight.  The accompanying video shows their positions each evening for the month.  The video repeats twice.  To locate this pair, find a location with a clear horizon.  With binoculars locate them in the southwest sky.  Mercury moves very quickly.  It is visible near Venus for most of the month then disappears into the sun’s glare.

 At month’s end Venus appears near a crescent moon on November 26.

Daylight Saving Time ends 2 a.m. Central Time for the time zone on November 6.  During the month we lose another hour of daylight as the sun appears farther to the south.

A solar eclipse occurs on November 25, but it is visible from the southern hemisphere (South Africa, Antarctica, Tasmania, and New Zealand).

Mars is a morning planet that is visible high in the southeast before sunrise.

Early in the month, Mars appears to pass Regulus.  Watch Mars’ rapid eastward motion compared to Regulus by looking each clear morning.  They appear closest on the morning of November 10.

 About a week later, the moon appears near Mars and Regulus.  In the diagrams above, notice how far Mars has moved past Regulus, since their closest appearance.

Jupiter appears in the east at sunset.  It is brighter than all celestial objects in its vicinity, except when the moon appears nearby on the evenings of November 8 and 9.  The planet is in the south around midnight and in the west during morning twilight.

Saturn rises in the east before sunrise, appearing near Spica.  The moon is nearby on November 22.

The planets’ positions in their orbits are shown for mid-November 2011.

Share your observations in the comments section.

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