Astro-events November 2021

I can’t deny it, Autumn is by far my favourite season. The wonderful colours all around, the turtlenecks, the hot tea…and of course, the long dark nights. November here, in the heart of Europe, tastes more like winter than autumn in terms of temperatures at nigh but hey, we do what we gotta do, right? Let’s have a look then at the astronomical events we can’t miss this month.

November 4 – Super New Moon. November opens with a new Moon, which this month coincides with the second Supermoon of the year as on this night our natural satellite will be nearly at its closest approach to Earth, thus appearing around 7% larger in the sky. However, as for any other new Moon, this won’t be visible as only the far side of the Moon will be lit leaving the side visible from Earth in the dark. No worries though, prepare your telescopes and camera/eyepieces, this is the best time to hunt for faint deep sky objects (DSOs).

November 4-5 – Uranus at opposition. On the night between the 4th and the 5th of November, the Ice Giant Uranus will reach its opposition, meaning it will sit opposite to the Sun in the sky appearing at its brightest: this is the best time to glance at this distant world. From Europe it will be visible all night, starting from around 7pm CET and reaching its highest point in the sky around midnight above the southern horizon. Uranus is the farthest planet visible to the naked eye but from the city will be extremely hard to spot. A pair of binoculars or a telescope are thus better suited for the job. Read more about Uranus here.

November 10 – Conjunction of the Moon and Saturn. If you missed last month’s conjunction, this is your opportunity to make amends. On this night, in fact, a 6-days old Moon will meet the ringed planet at around 5:30 pm CET in a spectacular conjunction. This event is visible to the naked eyed although a pair of binoculars can deliver amazing views!

November 11 – Conjunction of the Moon and Jupiter. Again, if you couldn’t watch Jupiter and the Moon dancing together in October, this is the right opportunity to observe this fantastic conjunction. The Moon will be 7-days old and will encounter the king of planets above the south-eastern horizon from 5:30pm CET. The event is visible to the naked eyes though a pair of binoculars will show Jupiter’s Galilean moons joining the dance.

November 11-12 – (Northern) Taurid Meteor Shower. The Taurid is a minor meteor shower originating from the Comet 2P Encke and occurring every November. This is not a particularly active shower and even at its peak it produces around a dozen “shooting stars” per hour. However, the Taurids is quite interesting for its capacity to produce occasional fireballs. Compared to normal meteors, fireballs are generated by larger objects and travel much more slowly, appearing to almost skip across the sky, often flaring several times before fading away. As the name suggests, the radiant is in the constellation Taurus. This event is best observed from dark skies, far away from cities’ light pollution, and with the naked eye as a telescope would only reduce your field of view.

November 17 – Leonid Meteor Shower. Less than a week after the Taurid, another meteor shower will reach its peak, producing around 15 meteors per hour. This is the Leonid meteor shower, which is generated by dust grains left behind by the Comet Tempel-Tuttle and has its radiant in the constellation Leo. The shower is expected to reach peak activity at around 7pm CET on November 17th so the best displays might be seen after the radiant rises on 17 November. This event is best observed from dark skies, far away from cities’ light pollution, and with the naked eye as a telescope would only reduce your field of view.

November 19 – Full Moon. This month’s Full Moon is the Beaver Moon, so called by the Native Americans as it marked the time of year to set the beaver traps before the swamps and rivers froze. It has also been known as the Frosty Moon and the Dark Moon. The full Moon is obviously well visible to the naked eye but the view through a telescope or binoculars is an unforgettable experience.

The Orion Nebula by Adriano Anfuso

DSOs in November. The night sky is gradually changing, shifting towards winter targets: the Orion constellation gets higher and higher, the Pleiades (M45) are up all night and the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) continues to amaze. With Orion, some of the most beautiful targets climb up the skies: the Orion Nebula (M42), obviously, but also the Horsehead and Flame Nebula (NGC 2023 and NGC 2024), Casper the Friendly Ghost (M78) and the beautiful open cluster NGC 2175, embedded in a colourful diffusion nebula.

Other DSOs visible this month include the Rosette Nebula (NGC 2244), the Flaming Star Nebula (IC 405), the Heart Nebula (IC 1805) and the Soul Nebula (IC 1848), the Wizard Nebula (NGC 7380) and the North America Nebula (NGC 7000). If you’re hunting for galaxies, some of the main targets other from the might Andromeda Galaxy are the Bode’s Galaxy (M81) and Cigar Galaxy (M82), the Triangulum Galaxy (M33) and the Firework Galaxy (NGC 6946).