Night sky highlights - November 2018

The best of astronomy this month:

By Dhara Patel, Astronomy Education Officer

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

Top 3 things to see this month:

  • 2nd Nov - Look for the Moon beside the bright stars Regulus and Algieba in the very early hours looking towards the east.
  • 15th Nov - Spot the last quarter moon beside Mars in the southern sky in the hours after sunset.
  • 17-18th Nov - Scan the sky to catch a few meteors from the Leonids meteor shower after midnight.

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 super strong flares around red dwarf stars and the habitability on exoplanets around them along with new signs that will help astronomers detect binary supermassive black holes - the precursors to black hole mergers! Have a listen below then vote for your favourite news story on our Twitter poll during the first week of the month.

 

Our podcast is available on iTunes too - search Look Up! and rate us if you enjoyed listening.

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Throughout the month

Orion

As the summer constellations begin to disappear from our evening skies, winter constellations are well on their way as we move into November. Constellations like Orion the Hunter, Eridanus (often depicted as a River), and even Canis Major, one of Orion’s packhounds are making their appearances earlier and earlier in the night. Orion may not be high in the sky yet in the early evening but it’s still worth a look thanks to its wonderful array of celestial features. From deep orange Betelgeuse at his shoulder, through his striking belt of stars and Orion’s nebula, all the way to Rigel at his knee, there’s plenty to see whether you own a telescope, a pair of binoculars or are merely using your own eyes.

Sirius in the constellation of Canis Major

Canis Major is home to the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius, the dog star, and over the next few months it will begin to dominate the southern horizon with its bright white light. The twinkling effect of our atmosphere can bring out an array of momentary transient colours making it a striking feature rising in the south-east around 11pm. Sirius is in fact a binary star system, consisting of a bright white main sequence star in the prime of its life along with a very faint white dwarf star, the pair separable only with the most powerful telescopes.

Andromeda Galaxy

Andromeda is still high up in the sky throughout this month with the Andromeda Galaxy itself almost at zenith, the point directly overhead, throughout the night. The light from objects near the zenith passes through the least amount of atmosphere to reach the ground, reducing its detrimental effects on any images taken so this is the perfect time for astrophotographers to push themselves and get a shot of this faint deep sky object. The Andromeda Galaxy is the most distant object visible to the naked eye, a faint fuzzy patch of light which is in fact just the core of the galaxy. Had we eyes capable of seeing the fainter disk of the galaxy it would cover a region of the sky 3 times bigger than the full moon.

The Galaxy Next Door © NASA/JPL-Caltech
The Galaxy Next Door © NASA/JPL-Caltech

2-11 November

Moon, Regulus and Algieba

Closer to home, the Moon begins this month in its last quarter phase. Later a thin crescent moon will pass by the bright stars Regulus and Algieba on the 2nd before reaching new moon on the 7th. Jupiter has now passed too close to the Sun to be visible during the night time hours. While it too is closing in on setting before the hours of darkness, the still visible, dusk-embedded Saturn will be passed by the thin crescent moon on the 11th.

Moon and Saturn

15-16 November

Moon and Mars

A first quarter moon will then pass by Mars between the 15th and 16th. Mars remains bright and clearly visible in the southern sky throughout this month until about 10pm each night, providing an excellent target for both naked eye and telescope observations.

17-18 November

Radiant of Leonids meteor shower

This month places host to a couple of major meteor showers. The Northern Taurid shower, having begun in October, peaks on the night of the 11th-12th of November. Unfortunately at a peak rate of around 5 per hour and no sign of the periodic fireball activity this year, it is unlikely to be particularly spectacular. On the other hand, the Leonids peaking on the 17th and 18th may have better luck. Though rates have exceeded 3000 per hour in the past, a rather more modest 15 per hour is expected this year. The gibbous moon may make spotting fainter meteors more difficult but it may still be worth waiting until just after midnight for the best view.

23 November

Moon and Aldebaran

The Moon will reach its full phase on the 23rd while close to the bright star Aldebaran, the bright eye of Taurus the Bull, before waning back to its last quarter phase on the 30th back in the constellation of Leo the Lion.

The Moon's phases this month

Aurorascape © Mikkel Beiter
Aurorascape © Mikkel Beiter
  • 7 Nov - new moon (4:02pm)
  • 15 Nov - first quarter moon (2:54pm)
  • 23 Nov - full moon (5:39am)
  • 30 Nov - last quarter moon (12:19am)

See a selection of the amazing short-listed photographs like Aurorascape by Mikkel Beiter from the 2018 Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition

The winners of this year's competition were announced on 23rd October 2018 and you can see them along with the shortlisted entries in the Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year Exhibition at the National Maritime Museum.

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 can achieve better 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're using a star app on your phone then switch on the red night vision mode.
  • Need a stargazing telescope or 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

Congratulations to Mark Forbes for his beautiful image of the night sky. He shared his image on our astrophotography Facebook page and we chose it for November's banner image.

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

You can also connect with us on Twitter: @ROGAstronomers

Hubble Vision - gallery exhibition

planetary nebula NGC 2818 © NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScl,AURA)
planetary nebula NGC 2818 © NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScl,AURA)

Come and see some of the most spectacular images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in our free exhibition at the Royal Observatory Greenwich.

The exhibition is open daily until 12 May 2019.

See more of the night sky

Come on an amazing tour of this month's night sky in our Sky Tonight planetarium show delivered live by a Royal Observatory Greenwich astronomer.

See the Sky Tonight planetarium show

Central image: © Mark Forbes

Resources for teachers and students 

The Royal Observatory learning team have also created:

  • Free animated videos that answer the biggest questions in astronomy and free resources to go alongside them.

You can find them here

ROG video 'How do we know how old the Sun is?'
ROG video 'How do we know how old the Sun is?'
  • A whole host of podcasts featuring interviews with real space scientistsastronauts and active researchers working in the UK Universities.

You can listen to these here

Joanna Ramasawmy, astrophysicist at the University of Hertfordshire
Joanna Ramasawmy, astrophysicist at the University of Hertfordshire