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Hal Kibbey

Last modified: Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Oct. 31, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- As the evening sky darkens during November, Mars will appear 10 degrees high in the southwest an hour after sunset for viewers around 40 degrees north latitude. The red-orange planet will show little detail in a telescope, and it will set an hour later.

Dazzling white Jupiter will rise about two hours after sunset Nov. 1, but by month's end it will already be glaring in the east-northeast as twilight fades. This will be the only bright planet above the horizon for most of the night. It will be approaching opposition during November, and it will be high in the southern sky by mid- to late evening all month. This is an opportunity to get good telescopic views of Jupiter as it travels across the sky from southeast to southwest. Jupiter's four brightest moons will be visible with binoculars. Nearby on the right (south) will be the bright orange star Aldebaran.


Photo courtesy of NASA

Venus will rise about three hours before the sun as November begins and a half hour later at month's end. Before dawn Nov. 25 and 26, Venus and Saturn will pass less than 1 degree apart in the east-southeastern sky. Many telescopes will show the two planets in the same field of view on those mornings, with brilliant white Venus slightly smaller but 60 times brighter than yellow Saturn.

Saturn will be hidden in the solar glare at the beginning of November, but by the middle of the month it will be easily visible above the east-southeastern horizon an hour before sunrise. During November the tilt of Saturn's rings to our line of sight will increase to 18 degrees.

Mercury will come into view in the final week of the month, rising in the east-southeast about an hour before the sun Nov. 24. By month's end it will be 7 degrees above the horizon an hour before sunrise.

Meteor shower

The annual Leonid meteor shower will peak before dawn Nov. 17. The moon will set earlier in the evening, so in a dark sky, up to 20 meteors per hour may be visible. To see the most meteors, get away from city lights. The shower's radiant, the point from which the meteors appear to come, will be in the constellation Leo the Lion. The bright star Regulus is part of Leo and can serve as a marker for the radiant. The farther sickle-shaped Leo climbs above the eastern horizon, the more meteors there will be all over the sky. The Leonid meteors are caused by streams of dust particles from Comet Tempel Tuttle.

More information about meteor showers is available from the American Meteor Society.

Solar eclipse

The first total eclipse of the sun in more than two years will happen Nov. 13-14. The sun's shadow will skim northern Australia and then cross the South Pacific and the International Date Line. An animated map of the path of the eclipse can be seen at this NASA site.

Moon phases

The moon will be at third quarter on Nov. 6, new on Nov. 13, at first quarter on Nov. 20 and full on Nov. 28.