Night sky highlights - November 2017

This month, have a look for Venus and Jupiter in conjunction and the Leonid meteor shower.

(Details given are for London and may vary for other parts of the UK).

Top three things to see this month

6th Nov – Look east to catch the waning gibbous Moon and the star Aldebaran in the evening.

13th Nov – Find Venus and Jupiter in conjunction in the eastern predawn sky.

17th / 18th Nov – Spot meteors at the peak of the Leonid meteor shower.

6 November

The Moon and Aldebaran

Spot the waning gibbous Moon beside Aldebaran in the south-eastern sky. Aldebaran is the 14thbrightest star in our sky and you may be able to see its red colour as your eyes become dark-adapted. Found in the constellation of Taurus, it marks the star at the eye of the bull. Look further above the horizon from Aldebaran and you may be able to find the seven sisters or the Pleiades – a cluster of 7 stars as seen with the naked eye – but grab a pair of binoculars or a telescope to reveal many more.

11/12 November

It’s the peak of the Northern Taurids meteor shower. They are caused by the dust left over from comets as the orbit the Sun. When this dust falls through the Earth’s atmosphere it burns very brightly and we see the commonly termed ‘shooting stars’ in our sky; the Northern Taurids are caused by the Comet Encke. Unfortunately there is a very low hourly rate so they may be hard to spot.

13 November

Venus and Jupiter at conjunction

There’s a rare opportunity to see Venus and Jupiter in conjunction on this morning. A conjunction is the apparent meeting of two objects in the sky and this pair will be about ¼ of a degree apart. You’ll have to look before the Sun rises and these planets will be very close to the horizon in the pre-dawn sky so you will need to head to an open space with a clear view of the horizon. They can be seen with just your eyes and are close enough to be seen in the same field of view through a telescope.

15 November

The Moon and Mars

The waning crescent Moon will appear beside the planet Mars in the south-east. Look before sunrise and also track down towards the horizon and you could see the star Spica and catch a glimpse of Venus and Jupiter before sunrise.

17/18 November

Northern Taurids meteor shower

The Northern Taurids meteor shower earlier in the month may prove to be disappointing but the peak of the Leonids meteor shower could provide much more striking activity. This meteor shower is associated with the Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle and in the past has shown amazing activity of thousands of meteors per hour. This year, the rate is likely to be around 15 meteors per hour but they do often leave persistent trains. Head out after midnight to catch the meteors – although the radiant lies within the constellation of Leo, they can be seen all over the sky and with the Moon in its new Moon phase, the viewing conditions should be favourable with no moonlight to interfere.

24 November

You’ll find Mercury at greatest Eastern Elongation. It’s the best time to look for Mercury as it will be at its furthest apparent position east of the Sun making it easier to spot just after the Sun sets in the south-western sky. It will still be quite hard to find as it will be very close to the horizon so you’ll need to get to an open area with no buildings or trees to block your view.

The Moon this month

Evening in the Ptolemaeus Chain and Rupes Recta Region © Jordi Delpeix Borrell
Evening in the Ptolemaeus Chain and Rupes Recta Region © Jordi Delpeix Borrell
  • 4 Nov - full Moon
  • 10 Nov – last quarter Moon
  • 18 Nov – new Moon
  • 26 Nov – first quarter Moon

... and looking ahead to the next month, on 3 December you'll be able to see a supermoon! What is a supermoon?

See the other amazing photographs from this year's Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition in our free exhibition such as Evening in the Ptolemaeus and Rupes Recta Region by Jordi Delpeix Borrell which was the Runner-up for our Moon category

Look Up! Podcast

As well as taking you through what to see in the night sky each month, Royal Observatory Greenwich astronomers pick their favourite astro news story. For November, they’re chatting about the first seen collision of two neutron stars that created gravitational waves and light - forming large amounts of the heaviest elements like Gold in the process and the discovery of a 50 km cave under the Moon’s surface by the Japanese Space Agency – Jaxa, raising hopes for future colonisation.

Stargazing tips

  • When looking at faint objects such as stars, nebulae, the Milky Way and other galaxies it is important to allow your eyes to adapt to the dark – so that you achieve night vision.
  • Allow 15 minutes for your eyes to become sensitive in the dark and remember not to look at your mobile phone or any other bright device when stargazing.
  • If you are using a star app on your phone switch on the red night vision mode.
  • Need a stargazing telescope or decent binoculars? Check out our range of high-quality observing equipment recommended by Royal Observatory astronomers:

See our range of observing equipment

Share your astronomy pictures

This month's banner image is by Francesco Pelizzo.

If you want to be in with a chance to showcase your astrophotography skills on the banner for next month's night sky blog, share your photos via our Royal Observatory Astrophotography Facebook group

Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year

The Rho Ophiuchi Clouds by Artem Mironov
The Rho Ophiuchi Clouds by Artem Mironov

Come and see this year’s amazing entries and winner to the world’s biggest astrophotography competition in our free exhibition at the Royal Observatory.

See the Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition

See more of the night sky

Come on an amazing tour of this month’s night sky in our Sky Tonight live planetarium show.

See the Sky Tonight planetarium show

Central image: Milkyway above Alpe di Siusi/Dolomites © Fabian Dalpiaz