Guide to November skies for amateur astronomers

All month: There's plenty happening up there, but not much to see. For example, the best show of the month takes place in the first week, right around the sun. Mercury, Venus, Saturn, and the moon are the players, but the stage is so bright (daylight!) that we can't see them. Two planets we can see, Mars and Jupiter, are early evening objects, well up in the south at sundown, setting along about midnight. Here are some things to watch for (correct in all time zones unless otherwise indicated):

Nov. 2: New moon is at 1 a.m. Eastern standard time. Mercury backs toward the sun in its retrograde (westerly) motion.

Nov. 3: The moon is at perigee (nearest earth) at about 9 p.m. EST.

Nov. 4: The moon is in conjunction with both Saturn and Antares, occulting Antares over parts of Asia, but there is little chance of seeing them in the brightening twilight before they set tonight.

Nov. 5: Venus moves between earth and sun today (inferior conjunction), entering the morning sky.

Nov. 5-6: The new crescent moon is in the western sky (in Sagittarius) during early twilight both nights.

Nov. 8: Jupiter ends its retrograde drift and moves to the left again along the ecliptic. The moon is at first quarter phase at 4:11 p.m. EST.

Nov. 9-10: The moon is between Mars and Jupiter on the night of the 9th, and to Jupiter's left on the night of the 10th.

Nov. 12-13: Mercury is in inferior conjunction (between earth and sun) at 11:19 p.m. EST, and moves directly across the visible disc of the sun. For 7 hours and 48 minutes, the planet appears as a tiny dark dot moving from left to right across the sun's face. Unfortunately, the transit takes place below the horizon from the Americas.

Nov. 16: The moon is full at 7:12 a.m. EST. It is near Taurus's bright reddish star, Antares, tonight.

Nov. 19-20: The stars to the left and below the moon (closer on the 20th) are Pollux and Castor. Apogee moon (farthest from earth) is on the 19th.

Nov. 22-23: Mercury resumes direct easterly motion on the 22nd. Venus does the same on the 23rd.

Nov. 23-24: The star near the moon (rising after 10 p.m.) is Leo's Regulus. Last quarter is at 11:05 a.m. EST on the 24th.

Nov. 27-28: The crescent moon is in the morning sky, above Virgo's bright star Spica.

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