Skywatching at a Glance – November 2016

Skywatching at a Glance – November 2016

Since most of the planets are difficult to observe from the UK during the month of November, it might be a good idea to spend some time observing the Moon instead, and especially the detail in the Maria, or “Seas of Stone” which are large, dark, basaltic plains formed by ancient volcanic eruptions.. These “lunar mare” are shown in the image below. See how many craters and other detail in the Maria you can spot with binoculars or a small telescope.

Lunar Mare. Image credit: Wiki Commons

Lunar Mare. Image credit: Wiki Commons

Moon Phases for November 2016

New Moon First Quarter Full Moon Last Quarter
November 29 November 7 November 14 November 21

Planet Watch in November 2016


Mercury rises just after sunset in the southwest at the beginning of the month, and steadily gains altitude as it approaches a position of maximum elongation from the Sun. Look for Mercury close to Venus on the 23rd of the month.


Venus rises progressively earlier as November wears on, to rise about 3 hours after sunset by month’s end. The planet’s brightness also remains fairly constant throughout the month, which makes it easy to spot as it moves eastward out of the constellation Ophiuchus, and into Sagittarius.


Mars is not very visible during November, being too far away, and too low on the horizon to make it possible to spot surface details.


Jupiter being the only pre-dawn planet at this time, early risers should have no problem finding the King of the Planets in the south east about 2.5 before dawn at the start of the month. Being relatively bright at magnitude -1.7, Jupiter should be easy to spot in the constellation Virgo throughout the month.


Northern hemisphere observers, and particularly those in the UK, will have a difficult time spotting Saturn at this time, since it will remain within 10 degrees of the horizon for the foreseeable future.

Read more about November planet observation from the UK here…

Meteor Showers in November 2016

November sees two meteor showers, the Northern Taurids that peak on, or about the 10th of the month, and the more famous Leonids, that is expected to peak on the night of 17/18 November. While The Northern Taurids become visible after the Moon had set, the Leonids arrive while the Moon is still nearly full. However, chances are that some high-speed Leonids may turn into fireballs, counteracting the bright moonlight.

Read more about November meteor observation from the UK here…

Deep Sky Objects to Look For In November 2016

The constellations Lyra and Cygnus are particularly well placed for observers in the UK at this time of year, and while these constellations do not have a surfeit of spectacular deep sky objects, they do contain some of the most famous objects that are visible to amateurs with modest equipment.

Messier 56 (M56, NGC 6779)

Messier 56. Image credit: Wikipedia

Messier 56. Image credit: Hunter Wilson

This large, spectacularly beautiful star cluster in Lyra is an easy target for 8-inch telescopes, which are the smallest instruments that will resolve individual stars in the cluster. Look for the cluster close to another famous object in Lyra, M57, also known as the Ring Nebula.

North America Nebula – NGC 7000 (Caldwell 20)

NGC7000. Image credit: Ken Crawford

NGC7000. Image credit: Ken Crawford

This is one of the view nebulae that do not require a powerful imagination to see the object it is named for, but since it has a very low surface brightness, what is required is patience, and suitable nebula filters on optical equipment to “lift” the nebula from the background. Read more about both deep sky objects here…