Starwatch: the November night sky

What to look out for in the coming month, including Jupiter and Venus at their brilliant best in the pre-dawn twilight and the annual Leonids meteor shower

November 2017 star chart

In a month that has the Milky Way stretching almost overhead during most of Britain’s hours of darkness, the highlights are a conjunction in our pre-dawn twilight between the two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, and a return of the Leonids meteor shower under moonless skies.

The chart plots Pegasus and Andromeda high in the S as the Plough swings counterclockwise below Polaris in the N. Deneb in Cygnus is near the zenith at nightfall, but lies almost due W at our map times as Orion climbs into view at our E horizon.

Above Orion is Taurus whose main star, Aldebaran, lies against the V-shaped Hyades star cluster. The night of the 5th-6th sees the bright Moon hide several stars as it crawls along the lower arm of the V towards Aldebaran. The latter slips behind the Moon’s lower-left limb between 02.39 and 03:24 as seen from London and 02:27 to 03:26 for watchers in Edinburgh.

With Saturn bright (mag 0.6) but very low in the SW sky at nightfall, our main planetary interest is just before dawn. Venus continues as a brilliant morning star of mag –3.9 but its altitude at sunrise falls from 13° to only 6° this month as it moves towards the Sun’s far side.

Jupiter, about to emerge in our dawn twilight at mag –1.7, may be glimpsed below and to the left of Venus from the 8th or so and passes a mere 16 arcminutes below-right of Venus on the 13th as they hover very low in the ESE in the brightening twilight. Mars, much fainter at mag 1.8, rises in the E by 04:00 and tracks ESE through Virgo to pass 3° N of Spica on the 28th. Check our Diary for conjunctions between these planets and the waning earthlit Moon.

Very swift Leonids meteors, many leaving bright trains in their wake, arrive between the 15th and 20th and are most numerous near the shower’s peak, predicted for the 17th. They diverge from a radiant point in the Sickle, above Leo’s main star Regulus, and are seen after this rises in the NE at 22:00. Numbers should only improve as this climbs through the E later in the night but are expected to be well down on the storm-force levels seen in 1966 and 1999 – perhaps no more than a dozen per hour.

November diary

1st 15h Venus 4° N of Spica

4th 05h Full moon

6th 03h Moon occults Aldebaran for UK

10th 02h Moon 2.4° S of Praesepe; 21h Last quarter

13th 06h Venus 0.3° N of Jupiter

15th 01h Moon 3° N of Mars

16th 21h Moon 4° N of Jupiter

17th 06h Moon 4° N of Venus; 19h Peak of Leonids meteor shower

18th 12h New moon

21st 00h Moon 3° N of Saturn

24th 00h Mercury furthest E of Sun (22°)

26th 17h First quarter

28th 00h Mars 3° N of Spica


Alan Pickup

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Starwatch: the October night sky
What to look out for during the coming weeks, including the Orionids meteor shower during the second half of October

Alan Pickup

24, Sep, 2017 @8:30 PM

Article image
The April night sky
Starwatch Jupiter rules the sky, but also watch out for comet 41P/Tuttle–Giacobini–Kresák and for the Lyrids meteor shower

Alan Pickup

26, Mar, 2017 @8:30 PM

Article image
The January night sky
Starwatch What to look out for in the first weeks of the new year, including the Quadrantid meteors

Alan Pickup

01, Jan, 2017 @9:30 PM

Article image
The December night sky
Starwatch The highlights to watch out for in December, including the annual Geminids meteor shower, somewhat swamped this year by the proximity of another ‘supermoon’

Alan Pickup

27, Nov, 2016 @9:30 PM

Article image
The August night sky
Starwatch The main event of the next few weeks is the great American eclipse but plenty of Perseid meteors should be visible despite a bright moon

Alan Pickup

30, Jul, 2017 @8:30 PM

Article image
Starwatch: the January night sky
Highlights of a month that includes a ‘supermoon’, a lunar eclipse (though we can’t see it in Britain) and the Quadrantids meteor shower

Alan Pickup

31, Dec, 2017 @9:30 PM

Article image
Starwatch: Orion at his evening best
A detailed look at the Hunter who rules the sky for the next few weeks, plus a brief look at the planetary year ahead and August’s solar eclipse

Alan Pickup

15, Jan, 2017 @9:30 PM

Article image
Starwatch: planets line up for Christmas
Jupiter and Venus still dominate the early morning sky as Mercury becomes more challenging to find

Stuart Clark

23, Dec, 2018 @9:30 PM

Starwatch: Leonids meteor shower hits peak after midnight
Look east before dawn to see the glittering duo of Venus and Spica meet in the constellation of Virgo

Stuart Clark

11, Nov, 2018 @9:30 PM

Article image
Starwatch: the crescent moon journeys between Jupiter and Venus
The three brightest objects in the night sky will line up in the pre-dawn sky later this week

Stuart Clark

27, Jan, 2019 @9:30 PM