Magazine article Natural History

The Sky in November

Magazine article Natural History

The Sky in November

Article excerpt

Mercury spends most of November lost in the Sun's glare. But at month's end the planet may be visible through binoculars, low in the southwestern sky after sunset.

Brilliant Venus, at magnitude -3.9, shines low in the southwestern sky as darkness gathers. As the month begins, the planet sets less than an hour after the Sun. By month's end, though, the rapidly shortening days in the onrush to the (northern) winter solstice leave the planet setting more than an hour and a half after the Sun.

Orange-yellow Mars makes a good apparition this month; it's already high overhead at sunset and doesn't set until around 1 A.M. In early November Mars culminates, or reaches its highest point in the sky, at about 7 P.M.; by month's end it culminates an hour earlier. On the 1 st Mars is 59 million miles from Earth and shines at magnitude -1.2. Among the stars, only Sirius is brighter. By the 30th the distance to Mars increases to 79 million miles, and the planet has dimmed to magnitude -0.4. The waxing gibbous Moon overtakes Mars on November 2 and 3.

Jupiter, in the constellation Leo, rises at about 1:45 A.M. at the beginning of November and just after midnight by month's end. The best time for viewing the planet this month is at approximately 5 A.M., when it shines brightly, high in the southeast.

Saturn, in the constellation Gemini, the Twins, rises at about 8:45 P.M. on the 1st and two hours earlier by the 30th. At midmonth the planet shines with a yellow-white light at magnitude -0.2. Its great ring system is tilted at 25 degrees to our line of sight, making it breathtakingly beautiful, even through a small telescope. …

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