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Star Trak: November 2020

For immediate release: November 1, 2020

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Mars will be a superb sight high in the east an hour after sunset at the start of November. Earth is leaving Mars behind after the two were closest last month, and the Red Planet will decrease in apparent brightness as a result. But November will still be a fine time to observe red-orange Mars. It will be highest soon after 10 p.m. early in the month and around 8:30 p.m. as the month ends for observers at mid-northern latitudes.

Jupiter and Saturn will continue their striking pairing in the southern sky during November. The best time to begin viewing them will be as soon as the sky darkens after sunset, when they will be highest in the south. Their separation will decrease from 5 degrees to 2 degrees as the month progresses. Jupiter will still be brighter than Saturn, but it will dim somewhat as the month advances. Glowing yellow Saturn will hold steady in brightness. Saturn's ring system will be tilted 22 degrees to our line of sight.

Venus will be high in the east-southeast during November morning twilight. The brilliant white planet will appear above the eastern horizon soon after 4 a.m. local time, almost three hours before the sun. On Nov. 15 Venus will be 4 degrees north of Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo.

Mercury will be visible for the entire month. On Nov. 2 it will rise well over an hour before the sun. Look for the small planet that morning 4 degrees to the left (east) of Spica in the east-southeast. On Nov. 10 Mercury will be at greatest elongation from the sun and visible more than 90 minutes before sunrise. At month's end it will still rise almost an hour before the sun. Mercury, Venus, and Spica will form a lovely triangle in the east-southeastern sky Nov. 12-14.

Meteor shower

The annual Leonid meteor shower will be active between Nov. 6 and Nov. 30, peaking on the morning of Nov. 17. The moon will be out of the sky then, and the maximum rate may be as many as 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 at https://www.amsmeteors.org/meteor-showers/.

Moon phases

The moon will be at third quarter on Nov. 8, new on Nov. 15, at first quarter on Nov. 22, and full on Nov. 30.

Author: Hal Kibbey Email: hkibbey [at] gmail.com

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