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Star Trak: November 2019

For immediate release: October 31, 2019

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, will have a close encounter in evening twilight late in November. They will be less than 2 degrees apart on Nov. 22 to 24. Observers around latitude 40 degrees north will see brilliant white Venus about 10 degrees above the southwest horizon a half hour after sunset, with fainter Jupiter about 2 degrees above it.

Northern Summer on TitanSaturn's largest moon Titan
Photo Credit: JPL - NASA

Saturn will be 25 degrees high in the south-southwest an hour after sunset at the start of November and 15 degrees high an hour earlier by month's end. The ringed planet will glow bright yellow near the Teapot formation of the constellation Sagittarius. Its largest moon, Titan, will be visible with any telescope. The best views of Saturn with a telescope will be when it is highest soon after nightfall. Its ring system will be tilted 25 degrees to our line of sight.

The outer planet Uranus will be just past opposition at the start of November, visible all night among the background stars of the constellation Aries. It will reach peak altitude of 60 degrees due south around midnight local time. By month's end the planet will be highest in the south around 9:30 p.m., but there will be no bright star nearby to help in finding it. Its distinctive blue-green color will be a pretty sight in binoculars or a telescope.

Mars will rise just before the start of morning twilight in early November, but about two hours before the sun by month's end. The golden-orange planet will pass less than 3 degrees to the upper left (north) of the bright white star Spica on Nov. 8 to 12.

Mercury will cross the face of the sun on Nov. 11 and then have its best morning appearance of the year. On Nov. 28, it will be conspicuous in the brightening twilight, gleaming 10 degrees high in the east-southeast 45 minutes before sunrise.

Meteor shower

The annual Leonid meteor shower will peak on the night of Nov. 17 to 18. Moonlight will cut into the maximum rate, which would otherwise be about 15 meteors per hour before the start of morning twilight. The shower's radiant, the point from which the meteors appear to come, will be in the constellation Leo. The bright star Regulus is part of Leo and can serve as a marker for the radiant. The farther sickle-shaped Leo climbs above the southeastern horizon, the more meteors there will be all over the sky.

The Leonid meteors are caused by streams of dust particles from Comet Tempel-Tuttle. They strike Earth's atmosphere at 44 miles per second, the fastest of any meteors, so they produce more fireballs than most showers. More information about meteor showers is available from the American Meteor Society.

Moon phases

The moon will be at first quarter on Nov. 4, full on Nov. 12, at third quarter on Nov. 19 and new on Nov. 26.

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