November might be a cold month, but that doesn’t mean it’s not great for stargazing. The cool evenings are also clear and great for turning your telescope skyward. If you’re looking to spy to some of the best sights this month, read on for the details.
- November 11 – Mercury Transits the Sun
- November 12 – Frost Moon
- November 17 – Leonids Meteor Shower Peak
Mercury Transits the Sun
On Monday, November 11, Mercury will be visible transiting the disk of the sun. This won’t happen again until 2032, and that event won’t even be visible from North America! The transit will be visible for five hours across most of North America, though only the eastern side of the continent will see the first and second contacts. The event will also be visible from South America and the Caribbean.
Make sure you don’t use just any telescope to try to watch the transit! Looking directly at the sun is very dangerous, so you need to make sure you have the right filters on your telescope. You’ll also want to make sure you’ve got a rather high magnification available: Mercury will be a very tiny black dot across the sun.
The Full Frost Moon
On Tuesday, November 12, the Frost Moon will be visible all night. Also known as the Beaver Moon, November’s full moon is always visible near Taurus and Aries. Interestingly, the Moon will be exactly opposite the sun from the Earth’s point of view, so it will appear fully illuminated from sunset to sunrise.
Full moons during the short days of the year always bring high luminosity due to the relative positions of the Sun and Moon. As such, expect long shadows and a high moon to illuminate the entire night of the 12th and morning of the 13th.
Leonids Meteor Shower Peaks
Sunday, November 17, just before dawn, you’ll be able to see the peak of the Leonids meteor shower. The Leonids started on the 5th of November and will continue until December 3. These meteors are created by the comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle, a periodic comet that passes through our Solar System.
During the peak on November 17, there will be as many as 15 meteors visible per hour. Unfortunately, the moon will be a bright waning gibbous, washing out many of the meteors that might otherwise be visible.