November 2011, Stars over Wollumbin, our Southern Skies

November is a great month for observing the evening and night skies.

King Jupiter is the brightest, visible for great part of the night

Venus sets later every evening in the West, becoming more brilliant

Mercury remains visible the whole month, setting after the Sun in the West

Red Mars is up a few hours before sunrise

Saturn will make his first appearance at the end of November in the pre dawn sky

Other events

~ a close encounter with Asteroid Lutetia (a once in 30 years event), coming our way on November 8 ~

~ a massive Sun Spot ~ Meteors Showers ~ a Partial Solar Eclipse ~


I haven’t been able to update the Stars over Wollumbin page and the skyscapes of observable events (right sidebar’s link) since September. I am still keen on these regular features. I’ll try my best to continue updating them. Writing these posts help me, and hopefully my readers too, to stay in touch with the ‘real’ celestial bodies, getting a sense of their visible, tangible magic.

*MERCURY: transiting Tropical Sagittarius this month Mercury can be observed, with Venus, against the backdrop of Scorpio constellation. For the first two weeks of November it will be easy to spot Mercury because of his vicinity to Venus, especially for people in the Southern Hemisphere. Mercury will reach a magnitude of – 0.3 compared with much brilliant Venus, -3.9, and appear southward and nearly parallel to Venus in our southern regions. A few minutes ago I had them both framed by my caravan’s window!

Now Evening Star, after becoming Stationary Retrograde on November 23, Mercury will conjunct the Sun on December 4 (Inferior Conjunction). Our Little Brother will afterwards re-emerge in the dawn twilight, very close to the eastern horizon, in early December. The Crescent Moon will be appear close to Mercury in the evening sky on November 26.


VENUS: Venus is again queen of the evening sky, but Jupiter, in the opposite hemisphere, surpasses her in brilliance in November. She is gradually separating from the Sun this month, climbing the sky higher every evening, from West to East, reflecting more sunlight back to Earth and thus becoming brighter.

Mercury is doing just the opposite, nearing the Sun and edging toward the western horizon.

Venus will be at her maximum brightness in April 2012, having reached  maximum elongation or longitudinal distance from the Sun, at the end of March. The Crescent Moon will be close to Venus in the evening sky on November 27.

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*MARS: in November Mars will be visible only for a few hours, rising about 2 am in Southern Hemisphere mid-latitudes, and remaining pretty close to the horizon. The dark hour just before dawn will be the best time to spot Mars because then he will be higher in the sky.

Another chance to recognize the Red Planet will be on November 10 when it will be conjunct the alpha star of Leo, Regulus, the Little King; and also on November 17/18, night of the Leonid Meteorite Shower, when the Last Quarter Moon may hinder the shooting stars’ view while making Mars more obvious.



JUPITER: the brightest planet this month, after the Sun opposed him on October 28, Jupiter is now already high in the North-Eastern sky by sunset. The Giant Planet will set earlier every night as we near December, descending toward the West.

Jupiter is transiting between the constellation of Aries (the Ram), Pisces (the Fish) and Cetus (the Whale). The Moon will be visually close to Jupiter on November 8/9.

November 2011 is not be the best month to spot SATURN, as the Ringed Planet will remain very close to the Eastern horizon, mainly lost in the pre dawn twilight until the middle of the month, particularly in Southern Hemisphere latitudes. Saturn is however slowly climbing the sky, not completely invisible as it was the case in October. By the end of the month it will become easier to observe Saturn, a not so bright Morning Star in the East.

Throughout the month Saturn will transit in the vicinity of the alpha star of Virgo, Spica, the ear of corn in the maiden’s hand. To make sure to find both the planet and the star, wait until November 22 when the Waning Crescent Moon will be close to them just before sunrise.


Other major astronomical events in November

Two Meteors Showers are expected this month, the Taurid and the Leonids. The first reached its peak in early November, but some shooting stars could still be observed until the middle of November, coming from the Pleiades and Hyades clusters, near the constellation of Taurus. There aren’t that many shooting stars in this shower but they are sometimes quite bright.

The Leonid Shower can be active between November 13 and 20 instead, reaching its peak on November 17/18. This shower displays 25 to 40 meteors per hour, usually not very bright, but prone to occasional outbursts (meteors’ storms).

Best time for viewing the Leonids will be after 3 am. The Last Quarter Moon, on November 17/18 may actually hinder this shower’s view, the Moon transiting in between the front paws of the celestial lion on the night of the 18th, just above Mars and Regulus.

A massive Sunspot (called AR1339) was detected by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) on November 3. It is apparently 80,000km x 40,000km, many times bigger than planet Earth.

The Sunspot is expected to face the Earth during the second week in November, possibly causing intense solar flares that in turn could affect our electrical power grids and the working of our satellites. A big Solar Flare was already detected on November 6.

Enough for a week? I think so!

For more information about this Sunspot please navigate to this SpaceWeather’s article HERE.

And fro a historical take on Sun Spots and Flares please navigate to some interesting article on space.com HERE.

A Partial Solar Eclipse in the Tropical Sign of  Sagittarius is on the cards for the New Moon of November 25. This Eclipse will be visible only partially from some places in New Zealand, Tasmania and South Africa and nearly in its entirety across Western Antarctica. The series to which this Eclipse belongs started near the North Pole in 1074 and will end in 2084 at the South Pole.

For more information about this Eclipse please navigate to this Wikipedia article HERE.

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All the Sky Snapshots have been generated using Stellarium, a wonderful Planetarium freeware software.

Information for the Sky Events has been gathered from these web sites:

http://www.suite101.com/profile.cfm/kellykw

http://homepage.ntlworld.com/mjpowell/Astro/Naked-Eye-Planets/Naked-Eye-Planets.htm#PlanetList

http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/visible-planets-tonight-mars-jupiter-venus-saturn-mercury

http://www.astronomy.com/en/News-Observing/Sky%20this%20Month.aspx

http://www.curtrenz.com/astronomical.html

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