The November Night Sky

Published: Fri 20 Oct 2006 11:02 AM
Brian Carter
In the Summer months with warmer nights, looking at the stars and planets becomes a pleasure, instead of a cold ordeal.
November is a very poor month for viewing the planets. Saturn will be visible for all of November. Jupiter and Mercury will be visible for the first few days and Mercury may possibly be visible in late November. Mars and Venus will not be visible at all.
Mercury will be visible in the evening twilight sky for the first few days of November and possibly in the morning twilight sky towards the end of the month. At the start of November it sets at 21 26, at 21 00 (an hour after Sunset) by November 4 and at about the same time as the Sun sets by November 9. By the end of the month it rises 49 minutes before Sunrise at 04 53, so it may just be visible in the morning twilight. Mercury is in the constellation of Libra. From the start of November its magnitude rapidly fades from 1.3 to 2.4 by November 4. Its magnitude is –0.6 by the end of the month.
Jupiter will be visible in the evening twilight for the first few days of November. At the start of November it sets at 21 21, by November 6 an hour after Sunset at 21 07 and by November 21 it sets at Sunset. Jupiter is in the constellation of Libra. Its magnitude is a constant –1.7.
Saturn will be visible for the last third of the night. At the start of November it rises at 03 18 and at 01 27 by month’s end. Saturn is in the constellation of Leo, in which it remains until September 2009. Its magnitude slightly brightens from 0.5 to 0.4 during the month.
Mars is visually too close to the Sun to be seen in November. It will reappear in the morning sky in December. Mars stars the month in the constellation of Virgo, moving into Libra on November 4.
Venus is visually too close to the Sun to be seen in November. It will reappear in the evening sky in late December. Venus starts the month in the constellation of Libra, moving into Scorpius on November 19 and finally into Ophiuchus on November 24.
All times are for Wellington unless otherwise stated. Other centres may vary by a few minutes.
Phases of the Moon
Full Moon – November 6 at 01:58.
Last Quarter – November 13 at 06:45.
New Moon – November 21 at 11:18.
First Quarter – November 28 at 19:29.
Transit of Mercury on November 9
The whole of the transit of Mercury on November 9 will be visible from New Zealand. Its duration is slightly under 5 hours, starting at ~08 12 and finishing at ~13 10. Mercury will enter the disk of the Sun at an azimuth of 141°, but because of the orientation of the Sun at 8 am, this equates to the right rim of the Sun or about 3 o’clock on a clock face. Mercury leaves the Sun’s face at an azimuth of 269° or towards the left rim as seen at 1 pm.
The Earth orbits the Sun in one year and Mercury in about 88 days, so these transits occur every few years. There are only 14 in the twenty first century. The next Mercury transit that can be fully seen from New Zealand is in 2052 November (although some areas in New Zealand will see the very end and the very beginning of the transits in 2019 and 2032 November respectively).
The diameter of the Sun is 0.5° but mercury is only ~10 seconds of arc or 180 times smaller. For this reason a small telescope fitted with a solar filter, will be needed to “view” the event. It is imperative that you do not look directly at the Sun though binoculars or a telescope as very serious eye damage will occur. To observe the Sun safely the telescope needs to be fitted with a special solar filter or the image needs to be projected onto a white card.
The Carter Observatory will be open for viewing of the event from about 8 am. We will use solar filters to SAFELY view the event. This always assumes that the weather conditions are favourable and the sky is not cloudy.
Astronomical societies and observatories around the country will probably have safe viewing sessions, so please contact your local facility.
Diary of Astronomical Phenomena
Nov 4 Moon at perigee (closest to the Earth) at 13:00. (Distance = 0.0024104 AU = 360,590 km).
6 Full Moon at 01 58.
9 Mercury in inferior conjunction (between the Sun and Earth) at 11 00. For transit information see elsewhere in this Newsletter.
16 Moon at apogee (furthest from the Earth) at 12:00 (Distance = 0.0027086 AU = 405,200 km).
18 Mercury stationary against the background stars at 08:00, as its motion changes from a Westerly to an Easterly direction.
21 New Moon at 11 18.
22 Jupiter in conjunction with the Sun (on the far side of the Sun) at 12 00.
26 Mercury at greatest Westerly elongation from the Sun (20) at 02 00.
This chart shows the sky as it appears at about 22:00 for ~November 15.

Click to enlarge
How To Use the Sky Charts
To use the sky chart hold it up to the sky so that the direction in which you are looking is at the lower edge of the map. For example, if you are looking at the western horizon then the map should be held so that the “WEST” label is at the lower edge. The altitude and direction of the stars and planets will then be correctly shown. The centre of the chart will be directly overhead.
* Brian Carter is the Senior Astronomer at Carter Observatory (The National Observatory of New Zealand), Observatory Web Site:

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