Starwatch: November skies bring the start of winter constellations

November Starwatch.jpg
The moon, Venus, Spica and Mercury form a triangle on Nov. 13. Image courtesy Minnesota Star Watch

As dawn prepares to break on Nov. 1, Venus and a bright round moon face each other across an expanse of sky sparkling with the stars of the winter constellations.

Venus holds its ground as the moon works its way eastward toward the shimmering planet. As it goes, the moon wanes to a thin crescent that hangs above Venus on the 12th. On the 13th, the moon and Venus form a triangle with Spica, Virgo’s brightest star. With sharp eyes, you may see Mercury very low beneath the moon that morning.

Spica also begins the month below Venus, but glides past the planet between the 17th and 19th. By month’s end, Spica and Venus will be far apart and Arcturus, the brightest star in Bootes, the herdsman, will shine high to the left of Venus.

Mars, still fairly bright, is well up in the east to southeast at nightfall. Over the night of the 25th-26th, a bright gibbous moon rises and sets with the red planet. Brilliant Jupiter and dimmer Saturn come out in the south to southwest. Watch as they drift farther westward, drawing closer to each other all the while. Both are moving eastward against the background of stars, but Jupiter moves faster and gains steadily on the ringed planet. Go out close to nightfall on the 18th and 19th to see a crescent moon shining near them. In December, Jupiter sweeps by Saturn in a very close encounter.

The Leonid meteor shower peaks after midnight the morning of the 17th. Meteors radiate from the Sickle—the backward question mark of stars outlining the head of Leo, the lion. No moon will interfere, and you may see 10 to 15 meteors per hour.


November’s full moon reaches perfect fullness at 3:30 a.m. on the 30th. It rises the evening of the 29th, between Aldebaran, the eye of Taurus the bull below; and the Pleiades star cluster above.

Meanwhile, the winter constellations are making their grand entrance into the evening sky. They appear one by one, earlier every night. When the hourglass form of Orion the hunter climbs over the eastern horizon, you’ll know that Sirius, the night sky’s brightest star, won’t be far behind.

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