Astronomy: What to look for in the sky in November

Venus, a typical view as seen soon after sunset this month, looking to the South West

Venus, a typical view as seen soon after sunset this month, looking to the South West - Credit: James Abbott, North Essex Astronomical Society

James Abbott of North Essex Astronomical Society on what can be seen this month.

The last month of autumn brings a return to short days with the Sun setting at 4pm GMT by mid-month.

In the early evening twilight after sunset looking low to the South West, Venus will be shining brightly. On November 8 the young Moon will be close to Venus.

Jupiter and Saturn can still be seen in the evening. The Moon will pass below Saturn on November 10 and below Jupiter on November 11.

The Lucy mission to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids successfully launched on October 16.

The Trojans orbit the Sun with Jupiter and over a 12-year journey, Lucy will visit eight different asteroids. The Trojans are left over ‘building blocks’ from the early history of our Solar System.

Full Moon is on November 19 with our constant companion in space beaming down from 60 degrees altitude at midnight.    

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The Taurid meteor shower peaks in the first half of November.

The constellation of Taurus, from where the meteors appear to come, reaches a good height in the Eastern sky by about 9pm so late evening watches under clear skies should be rewarded with seeing at a least a few of these slow moving meteors.

The winter constellations can be seen by late evening with Orion well up in the South East by 11pm.

The central star of the three in Orion’s belt is called Alnilam and it is one of the most powerful stars in our galaxy.

Although about 2,000 light years away, it is readily visible owing to its extreme luminosity which is estimated to be between 300,000 and 800,000 times that of our Sun.

Alnilam is a class of star known as a ‘blue supergiant’. Unlike our Sun which lives for many billions of years, supergiants live for only a few million years, burning their hydrogen fuel at a high rate and ending in a supernova explosion.

In their final phases, supergiants fuse heavier elements together which are then blasted out into space when the star explodes.

These heavier elements include iron and so we have unknown stars that exploded billions of years ago to thank for a metal here on Earth which is an essential part of our modern society. 


Astronomy: The Autumn Equinox, Cassiopeia and the Perseus Double Cluster

Astronomy: Taurid meteors and the Great Square of Pegasus