Winters are almost here in the Northern Hemisphere and the sky is in transition. The summer constellations such as Scorpion, Sagittarius, and Capricornus are making way for Orion, Taurus, Aries, etc. November 2021 has a variety of astronomical events in its store. Let’s have a look at them.
Top Astronomical Events in November 2021
November 5: Uranus at opposition
On November 5, Uranus will be at opposition. It will align with the Earth and the Sun, the Earth being in the middle. The opposition also marks the closest approach of the planet to us. Since it lies opposite the Sun, it rises in the east at dusk, reaches its highest point in the sky around midnight, and sets at dawn. It’s the best time to photograph the planet or see it with naked eyes/telescope.
Since Uranus has an apparent magnitude of +5.8, it won’t be visible to unaided eyes. The planet lies in Aries, and you’ll need a telescope to see it.
November 5: New Moon
The Moon will pass close to the Sun and remain hidden in its glare for a couple of days. So it’s a great chance to see faint celestial objects like nebulae, star clusters, and galaxies.
November 7: Comet 67P at its brightest
Remember the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission that landed the first human-made object on a comet? That comet is coming for a visit. 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (or 67P) is a Jupiter-family comet that has its origins in the Kuiper belt. It visits the Earth every 6.45 years. In 2021, the comet will reach its perihelion (closest to the Sun) on November 3, its peak brightness on November 7, and perigee (closest to the Earth) on November 13.
Look for the comet in Gemini in the dawn sky. After November 10, the comet will transit to Cancer. You will need a telescope to see Comet 67P.
November 8: Lunar occultation of Venus
An occultation is an astronomical event that occurs when one object is hidden by another object that passes between it and the observer. In other words, when the object in the foreground blocks the view of the object in the background, it is called an occultation. The term occultation is mainly used when the Moon passes in front of an astronomical object. The Moon’s orbit is inclined slightly with respect to the ecliptic, meaning any stars with an ecliptic latitude of fewer than ± 6.5 degrees may be occulted by it. Since the planets also lie in the ecliptic, they are often occulted by the Moon.
On November 8, the Moon will pass in front of Venus, temporarily hiding the planet as seen from some parts of the world.
Lunar occultations are only ever visible from a small fraction of the Earth’s surface. Since the Moon is much closer to the Earth than other celestial objects, its exact position in the sky differs depending on your precise location on Earth due to its large parallax. As seen from two points on opposite sides of the Earth, the Moon’s position varies by up to two degrees or four times the diameter of the full Moon.
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Hence if the Moon is aligned to pass in front of a particular object for an observer on one side of the Earth, it will appear up to two degrees away from that object on the planet’s other side. For the rest of the world, the Moon will pass very close to Venus in Sagittarius.
November 10-11: Moon, Jupiter, and Saturn
The Moon will pass close to Jupiter and Saturn on November 10 and 11. Look for them in the southwest after the dusk sky fades. The brighter of the two planets will be Jupiter.
November 12: Taurid meteor shower
The first meteor shower of November will be active from October 20 to December 10, producing its peak rate of meteors around November 12. The Northern Taurids is an annual meteor shower that takes place when the Earth passes through the debris of the asteroid 2004 TG10.
As the name suggests, its radiant, the point from where all the meteors appear to originate, lies in Taurus. The shower will produce its best display an hour after midnight when the radiant is well up in the sky. At its peak, the shower can offer up to 5 meteors per hour. There is no need for any telescope or binoculars.
November 17: Leonid meteor shower
The second meteor shower of the month will be active between November 6 and November 30, reaching its peak activity on November 17. The radiant of the Leonid meteor shower lies in the constellation of Leo. The radiant will reach its highest point in the sky after sunrise, so the best time to watch the shower is shortly before dawn.
The shower can produce up to 15 meteors per hour. You don’t need any telescope to watch the meteor shower. Just find a dark place away from the city lights, and give your eyes at least 30 minutes to adapt to the darkness. You may also use these space apps to locate the radiant quickly. The near Full Moon in Aries will present significant interference as the moonlight will wash the faint meteors.
November 19: Partial lunar eclipse
The Moon will pass in the Earth’s shadow creating a partial lunar eclipse that will last about 3.5 hours (from 07:19 UTC to 10:47 UTC). It will be visible from Oceania, the Americas, Eastern Asia, Northern Europe, and Indonesia as shown below. At the time of the greatest eclipse, 97% of the Moon’s disk will be shadowed by Earth.
November 21: The Moon at apogee
The Moon will reach its furthest point from the Earth appearing slightly smaller than normal.
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November 28: Venus at its highest altitude in the evening sky
Venus blazes in the southwest at dusk and on November 28, it will reach its highest point in the evening sky in its 2021 evening apparition. At mag -4.4, Venus is the brightest object in the evening sky after the Moon. Around the end of the month, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn will appear to be aligned in the dusk sky as shown below.
November 2021 Planet Round-Up
The first week of November is the best time to see Mercury in the east at dawn. The tiny planet will then pass close to the Sun and remain hidden in its glare for the coming few weeks.
Venus rules the evening sky in the southwest. Its magnitude of -4.4 makes it the second brightest object in the sky after sunset. Don’t miss the occultation/conjunction of Venus with the Moon on November 8 and its alignment with Jupiter and Saturn in the last week of the month.
The Red Planet recently passed its solar conjunction and hence, it will remain hidden in the Sun’s glare for a few weeks.
Jupiter was at opposition in August and hence it becomes visible as the dusk sky fades to darkness. Look for it in the south/southwest after sunset.
The ringed beauty shines alongside Jupiter and can be easily seen with naked eyes. Do not confuse it with Jupiter. Saturn is the fainter of the two planets.
Uranus will be at opposition on November 5 which means it lies opposite the Sun and can be seen as soon as the evening twilight fades. You’ll need a telescope to see the planet.
Neptune passed its opposition in September and can be seen through a telescope throughout the night in Aquarius.
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Admin and Founder of ‘The Secrets Of The Universe’ and former intern at Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore, I am a science student pursuing a Master’s in Physics from India. I love to study and write about Stellar Astrophysics, Relativity & Quantum Mechanics.