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Planet party, meteors will fill November sky

By Mike Shanahan

Bishop Museum


In November, all five naked-eye planets will be visible, including the all-night appearance of Jupiter, and a morning gathering of Venus and Saturn. The Leonid meteor shower returns mid-month, and there will be a solar eclipse deep in the southern hemisphere.

Brilliant Jupiter is visible nearly all night in November. Jupiter is bright all month, far outshining every other dot except Venus, which rises early.

In early November, look for Jupiter rising in the east at 8 p.m., crossing overhead around 3 a.m., and standing about halfway down the western sky at daybreak. By mid-month, Jupiter will rise in the east around 7 p.m., cross the top of the sky at 1:40 a.m., and will be about one-third of the way up in the west at dawn. By month's end, the planet will already be low in the east as it gets dark (6:30 p.m.), will cross the zenith at 12:30 a.m., and will set at dawn.

Jupiter also has several encounters with the nearly full moon coming up. On Halloween, look for the just-past full moon to rise at 7:35 p.m. in the east, less than a half-hour before Jupiter rises. Throughout the rest of Halloween night, Jupiter will hang just 6 degrees (the width of three fingers) from the moon. The moon and Jupiter will again appear close Nov. 27-30.

Mars hangs on in the post-dusk sky throughout November, shining low in the west all month long. Throughout the month, look for the red planet about 15 degrees above the southwestern horizon at dusk. Also throughout the month, look for Mars setting at around 8:15 p.m. It is rare for a planet to seem to stand still like this all month. Look for the young crescent moon next to Mars on Nov. 15 and 16.

As Jupiter blazes high in the early-morning sky, look for the even-brighter light of Venus rising in the east around 4 a.m. at the start of November. Venus will be about one quarter of the way up in the east at daybreak. By the end of the month, Venus rises at 4:45 a.m. and is only 20 degrees (the width of two palms at arm's length) at dawn. Look for a slender waning crescent moon next to Venus on the morning of Nov. 11.

The planet Saturn is lost in the sun at the start of November. Look for Saturn around mid-month, rising in the east at 5:20 a.m. and hanging about 15 degrees above the horizon at dawn. By Nov. 30, Saturn rises at 4:30 a.m. and is about 20 degrees above the horizon at dawn.

Saturn and Venus will gather together at the end of the month. From Nov. 15-26, look for Saturn as a bright dot hanging below Venus. On the 15th, Saturn is about 12 degrees below Venus, or a little more than the width of your palm held at arm's length. Each morning from then until the 26th, Saturn will appear to be a little closer to Venus. The planets will appear closest on the morning of Nov. 26, when Saturn will be less than half a degree to the lower left of Venus. That's less than the width of the full moon. By the next morning, Saturn will appear less than half a degree above Venus. From then on, Saturn will appear a little higher above Venus every morning.

Finally, Mercury joins this early-morning planet club by the last week of November. Mercury rises in the east around 5:45 a.m. on Nov. 2, slightly brighter than Saturn above it. At the end of the month, Mercury rises at 5:25 a.m., and is about eight degrees above the horizon at daybreak.

Other sky events

» Nov. 13-14: Total solar eclipse, which is not visible from Hawaii. This is the only total solar eclipse of 2012. The only place it is visible from land is from the northern territory of Australia.

» Leonid Meteor Shower: This event peaks on the nights of Nov. 16-17. So stay up late on the 17th and into the morning of the 18th. The Leonids have an intense peak every 33 years and were responsible for the greatest meteor shower over Hawaii in recent times, the 2001 shower. The Leonids have not been anywhere near as spectacular since 2001, but you can still hope for up to 10 meteors an hour.

As always, meteor showers are better after midnight. While meteors can appear anywhere, the Leonids are so named because the streaks of light seem to radiate from Leo the Lion, a constellation that rises in the east around 12:45 a.m. in mid-November. Meteor showers are the ultimate "do it yourself" astronomy event: All you need is a dark location, away from city lights, with a good view of the eastern sky. Telescopes and binoculars are neither needed nor helpful; just make sure you are comfortable. A lawn chair is always good.

November Sky map

On the November map you can still find the Summer Triangle, visible in the western sky.

All the constellations that tell the story of Perseus are visible in this sky. These include Perseus the hero in the northeast; Pegasus (the flying horse created when Perseus slew Medusa) in the middle of the sky; Andromeda, attached to Pegasus; Cetus, sometimes identified with the sea monster who almost ate Andromeda before Perseus rescued her; and Andromeda's parents, King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia, in the north.

Cassiopeia is made of five fairly bright stars. The middle three stars make a triangle that points toward the North Star.

The brilliant winter constellations include the Pleiades, Taurus, Auriga, Orion and the Gemini.

Mike Shanahan is director of Education, Exhibits
and Planetarium. For more information, go to

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