Welcome to the Sky Watch for November 2020. See the Moon and orange Mars on Wednesday, November 25, for a stunning conjuction! Plus, learn about Earthshine, the Seven Sisters star cluster, and the full Beaver Moon on November 30!
In November, all five bright planets will be visible. Except for Mercury in the predawn east, all of the planets fade a bit during the month of November. However, they are still easily visible with the naked eye.
Nighttime Planets in November
Three planets—Mars, Jupiter and Saturn—appear right as night falls, making for some easy sky watching.
- The brightest “star” to light up the eastern half of sky will be Mars.
- And the brightest “star” in the western half of the sky will be Jupiter. It’s that simple.
- As evening dusk fades, use bright Jupiter to find dim Saturn. Jupiter is about 12 itmes brighter than golden Saturn, which can be located about 5 degrees to its east. (Five degrees is roughly the width of two fingers at an arm length from the eye.)
Have you noticed bright Jupiter continuing its steady march toward Saturn? The pair are now visible only in the first few hours of each night. Watch each night as they continue to draw a little nearer to each other each week until their long-awaited close Jupiter-Saturn conjunction at the December solstice—on the 21st their closest conjunction since July 16, 1623.
November 18 to 21 Moon, Jupiter, Saturn
- On November 18 and 19, after sunset, use the lovely crescent moon to locate Jupiter and Saturn floating nearby. Look first for Jupiter, and then for the Ringed Planet.
- On November 20 and 21, the Moon’s lit face will point towards the giant gas planets.
Image: Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon close together to the southeast after sunset. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.
November 24 and 25 Moon and Mars Meet
You can NOT miss Mars. The planet, looking very orange and bright, is the only bright object in the southeastern sky as darkness falls.
On November 24, 25 and 26, 2020, use the waxing gibbous Moon to find the bright red planet Mars after sunset. It will start to ascend into the night and shine bright well past midnight.
See Mars rise and set times for your location.
Image representing where Mars can be located vis a vis the waxing Moon on Wednesday, November 25, 2020.
Morning Planets in November
The other two planets—Mercury and Venus—appear in the early morning sky.
- Venus sinks lower each morning but is still conspicuous before dawn.
- Use Venus to find Mars; our neighboring planet hovers above the innermost planet from the 8th to the 18th, 40 minutes before sunrise. Look for an unobstructed eastern horizon.
- On November 13, look for the thin crescent Moon between Mercury and Venus; then use the Moon to find the two planets above on the 14th.
Go to the Almanac rise/set calculator to find out when the Moon and planets rise and set in your sky.
The Pleiades Star Cluster
The Pleiades (also called the Seven Sisters) is a bright cluster of stars best enjoyed in the cooler fall and winter months in the Northern Hemisphere. On a clear night, the brightest stars in the cluster are visible with the unaided eye. Look in the east in the couple of hours after dark. The cluster rises to its highest point around midnight.
In Japan, this star cluster’s ancient name is Subaru (yes, the car name). Learn more about the Pleiades.
Image: Pleiades star cluster rising in the East about 9 p.m. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.
Earthshine in Mid-November
Ever noticed that you can sometimes see the part of the Moon that isn’t lit up directly by the Sun’s rays? That’s called earthshine! The Sun’s light rays are reflecting off Earth’s surface and back onto the Moon! It gives the dark, unlit portion of the Moon an eerie radiance. Learn more about earthshine.
In November 2020, the best times to observe Earthshine in November are:
- November 9 to 12 before dawn, just above the “Morning Star,” Venus
- November 17 to 20 after sunset, near Jupiter and Saturn
Full Moon Late in the Month
The Full Moon for November reaches peak illumination in the early morning hours of Monday, November 30, at 4:30 A.M. EST.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac calls this the Full Beaver Moon. See the November Moon Guide for facts and folklore.