The night sky tonight and on any clear night offers an ever-changing display of fascinating objects you can see, from stars and constellations to bright planets, often the moon, and sometimes special events like meteor showers. Observing the night sky can be done with no special equipment, although a sky map can be very useful, and a good beginner telescope or binoculars will enhance some experiences and bring some otherwise invisible objects into view. You can also use astronomy accessories to make your observing easier, and use our Satellite Tracker page powered by N2YO.com to find out when to see the International Space Station and other satellites. Below, find out what's up in the night sky tonight (Planets Visible Now, Moon Phases, Observing Highlights This Month) plus other resources (Skywatching Terms, Night Sky Observing Tips and Further Reading).
Monthly skywatching information is provided to Space.com by Chris Vaughan of Starry Night Education, the leader in space science curriculum solutions. Follow Starry Night on Twitter @StarryNightEdu.
Editor's note: If you have an amazing skywatching photo you'd like to share for a possible story or image gallery, please contact managing editor Tariq Malik at email@example.com.
Yearly Night Sky Guides:
Calendar of Observing Highlights
Monday, November 5 midnight to dawn — Southern Taurids Meteor Shower Peaks
Meteors from the Northern Taurids shower appear from September 23rd to November 19th annually. The long-lasting, weak shower, offering up to 5 meteors per hour at the peak, is derived from debris dropped by the passage of periodic Comet 2P/Encke. The debris' larger than average grains often produce colorful fireballs. The old crescent moon will leave the overnight sky dark enough for meteor watching. The best viewing time will occur around 1 a.m. local time, when the shower's radiant, located in western Taurus, is high in the southern sky.
Tuesday, November 6 pre-dawn – Old Moon meets Venus
Visible low in the east-southeastern sky before dawn on Tuesday, November 6, the old crescent moon will appear 8.5 degrees (or a generous palm's width) to the left of the very bright planet Venus. Viewed in a telescope, Venus will exhibit the same illuminated phase as the moon.
Tuesday, November 6 after sunset — Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation
On Tuesday, November 6, Mercury will officially reach its widest separation east of the Sun for the current evening appearance. Viewed in a telescope (inset), the planet will exhibit a waning disk that is 63% illuminated. While the elusive inner planet will be separated from the sun by 23 degrees (or 2.3 fist diameters at arm's length), Mercury's position below a shallowly dipping evening ecliptic will cause it to set less than hour after sunset, making this a poor apparition for Northern Hemisphere observers (but a good one for Southern Hemisphere viewers). The best time period to look for Mercury will be between 5:15 and 5:45 p.m. local time.
Wednesday, November 7 at 11:02 a.m. EST — New Moon
At its new phase, the moon is travelling between Earth and the sun. Since sunlight can only reach the side of the moon facing away from Earth, and the moon is in the same region of the sky as the sun, our natural satellite will be completely hidden from view for about a day.
Friday, November 9 after sunset — Mercury and Young Moon over Antares
After sunset on Friday, November 9, the young crescent moon will appear 6.5 degrees (about a palm's width) above Mercury, which will shine with a visual magnitude of -0.22. Mercury, in turn, will be situated less than two degrees above the bright star Antares. Mercury will set shortly before 8 p.m. local time.
Sunday, November 11 early evening — Crescent Moon meets Saturn
In the southwestern sky during early evening on Sunday, November 11, the crescent moon will be visible three degrees (about 3 finger widths) to the upper left of the planet Saturn. Both objects will appear within the field of view of binoculars (green circle) until they set in the west at 8 p.m. local time.
Monday, November 12 midnight to dawn — Northern Taurids Meteor Shower Peaks
Meteors from the Northern Taurids shower appear from October 19th to December 10th annually. The weak shower, offering only 5 meteors per hour at the peak, is derived from debris dropped by the passage of periodic Comet 2P/Encke. The debris' larger than average grains often produce colorful fireballs. The young moon will set in early evening, leaving the overnight sky ideal for meteors. The best viewing time will occur around 1 a.m. local time, when the shower's radiant is high in the southern sky.
Monday, November 12 early evening – Moon near Pluto and Vesta
In the southwestern sky during early evening on Monday, November 12, the waxing crescent moon will be situated near both the major asteroid Vesta and the dwarf planet Pluto. Vesta, which is visible binoculars, will be less than 3 degrees (about 3 finger widths) to the lower left of the moon. Distant Pluto, far too dim to be visible without a very large telescope, is currently sitting very close to the ecliptic. The eastward orbital motion of the moon (green line) will carry it in front of Pluto at about 19:00 UT, producing a lunar occultation of the planet for observers in northeastern North America, southern Greenland, Iceland, the Azores, and most of western Europe.
Tuesday, November 13 pre-dawn – Venus Stops to Kiss Spica
On Tuesday, November 13, bright planet Venus will cease its westward trip through the stars of Virgo. On that date, it will pause and then commence travelling eastward (red path with labeled dates). In the pre-dawn southeastern sky that morning, the planet will appear only about 1 degree (a finger's width) to the lower left of the very bright, white star Spica. The nearby planet and the distant star will both fit together within the field of view of a backyard telescope at low magnification (orange circle). On the following mornings, Venus will slowly pull away from the star.
Thursday, November 15 at 9:54 a.m. EST — First Quarter Moon
After the moon has completed the first quarter of its orbit around Earth, the relative positions of the Earth, sun, and moon cause us to see it half-illuminated — on its eastern side. A first quarter moon always rises around noon and sets around midnight local time, so it is also visible in the afternoon daytime sky. The evenings around first quarter are the best times to see the lunar terrain when it is dramatically lit by low-angled sunlight.
Thursday, November 15 at 5:51 p.m. — Algol at Minimum Brightness
The "Demon Star" Algol in Perseus is among the most accessible variable stars for beginner skywatchers. Its naked-eye brightness dims noticeably for about 10 hours once every 2 days, 20 hours, and 49 minutes because a dim companion star orbiting nearly edge-on to Earth crosses in front of the much brighter main star. On Thursday, November 15 at 5:51 p.m. EST, Algol will reach its minimum brightness of magnitude 3.4. At that time, it will sit partway up the northeastern horizon. By 10:51 p.m. EST, it will be near the zenith and will have brightened to its usual magnitude of 2.1.
Thursday, November 15 evening – Moon Passes Mars
In the evening sky on Thursday, November 15, the waxing, slightly gibbous moon will be situated 3 degrees (or 3 finger widths) to the lower right of reddish planet Mars. The orbital path of the moon (green line) will carry it closer to Mars through the evening. The duo will set in the west at about midnight local time. Observers in most of Antarctica, the Falkland Islands, and southern South America will see the moon occult Mars at about 06:00 UT.
Saturday, November 17 all night — Juno at Opposition
On Saturday, November 17, the major main belt asteroid Juno will reach opposition. At that time, Earth will be passing between the asteroid and the sun, minimizing our distance from Juno and causing it to appear at its brightest and largest for this year. The magnitude 7.45 object will be visible in binoculars and small telescopes all night long. Juno will be positioned about equally distant from the bright stars Aldebaran in Taurus and Rigel in Orion.
Saturday, November 17 pre-dawn — Leonids Meteor Shower Peaks
The annual Leonids Meteor shower, derived from material left by repeated passages of periodic Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle, runs from November 5th to December 3rd. At the peak, before dawn on November 17, expect to see about 15 meteors per hour, many with persistent trains. A waxing gibbous moon will brighten the sky, but will set at around midnight, leaving a darker pre-dawn sky.
Friday, November 23 at 12:39 a.m. EST — Full Beaver Moon
The November Full Moon, traditionally known as the Beaver Moon or Frost Moon, always shines in or near the stars of Taurus and Aries. Since it's opposite the sun on this day of the lunar month, the moon is fully illuminated and rises at sunset and sets at sunrise. Full moons during the winter months in North America climb as high in the sky as the summer noonday sun, and cast similar shadows.
Friday, November 23 evening – Moon Crosses the Bull
When the full moon rises in the east at about 5:30 p.m. local time on Friday, November 26, it will be sitting only 1.5 degrees from Aldebaran, the bright reddish star that marks one eye in the triangular face of Taurus the bull. Several hours earlier, observers in Europe and Africa will be able to see the moon pass only 0.7 degrees above Aldebaran as the moon's eastward orbital motion (green line) carries it across Taurus' face.
Sunday, November 25 evening — Neptune Stands Still
On Sunday, November 25, the distant, blue planet Neptune will complete a retrograde loop that has been carrying it westward since mid-June. After today, it will resume its slow, regular eastward motion (red path) through the stars of Aquarius. The magnitude 7.9 planet can be observed all evening in binoculars and backyard telescopes from dark sky locations.
Tuesday, November 27 midnight to dawn — Moon Visits the Beehive
When the waning gibbous moon rises at about 9:15 p.m. EST on Tuesday, November 27, it will be located less than 5 degrees from the large open star cluster known as the Beehive and Messier 44 in Cancer. During the night, the moon will pull farther away from the cluster. Both objects will fit within the field of view of a telescope at low magnification (orange circle).
Thursday, November 29 at 7:19 p.m. EST — Last Quarter Moon
At its last quarter phase, the moon rises around midnight and remains visible in the southern sky all morning. At this phase, the moon is illuminated on its western side, towards the pre-dawn sun. Last quarter moons are positioned ahead of the Earth in our trip around the sun. About 3½ hours later, Earth will occupy that same location in space. After this phase, the waning moon traverses the last quarter of its orbit around the earth, on the way to new moon.
Mercury will spend most of November in an evening apparition that began in October. Due to Mercury's position below an already shallowly dipping evening ecliptic, this will be a poor appearance for Northern Hemisphere observers, but very good one for those in the Southern Hemisphere. On November 6, Mercury will reach a maximum angle of 23 degrees east of the Sun. Viewed in a telescope (inset) that evening, the planet will exhibit a 63% illuminated waning disk. Mercury will continue to wane in phase, brighten, and grow larger in appearance this month because it will be moving towards Earth; but the innermost planet will become hidden by the nearby sun's glare before the last week of November.
Venus, which passed solar conjunction in late October, will re-appear in the eastern pre-dawn sky among the stars of Virgo during November. The very bright planet will spend the month swinging farther from the sun while waxing in illuminated phase and shrinking in apparent disk size. Meanwhile, its visual magnitude will brighten from -4.2 to -4.9. Visible low in the east-southeastern sky before dawn on November 6, the old crescent moon will appear 8.5 degrees to the left of Venus. On November 13, Venus will stop traveling westward through the stars of Virgo and commence eastward motion. On the same date, the planet will appear only about 1 degree to the lower left of Virgo's brightest star, Spica.
Mars will be better positioned for viewing during November because the autumn evening ecliptic has lifted it higher. On November 11, the red planet's eastward orbital motion will take it out of the stars of Capricornus and into Aquarius. During the month, as Earth pulls away from the Red Planet, Mars will remain a bright reddish naked-eye object, but its visual brightness will diminish from magnitude -0.6 to 0.0. Meanwhile, the planet's apparent disk diameter will decrease from 11.8 arc-seconds to 9.3 arc-seconds. On November 15, the waxing, slightly gibbous moon will land 3 degrees to the lower right of Mars. Observers in most of Antarctica, the Falkland Islands, and southern South America will see the moon occult Mars at about 06:00 UT.
Jupiter will begin November embedded in the western evening twilight, observable with difficulty at about 6:45 p.m. local time. By mid-November, the magnitude -1.74 planet will still be above the west-southwestern horizon at 5 p.m. local time, but will be very hard to see. After mid-month, Jupiter will disappear completely into the sun's glare, and then reach solar conjunction on November 26. On November 8, the very young crescent moon will land less than 3 degrees above Jupiter.
Saturn will be visible during November as a medium-bright (magnitude 0.55), yellowish object in the lower part of the southwestern early evening sky — but viewing conditions will be less than optimal due to its low elevation after dusk. The ringed planet will be moving slowly eastward within the Milky Way, to the upper right of the stars that form Sagittarius' teapot-shaped asterism. At the end of November, Saturn will land less than 1.5 degrees to the right of the globular star cluster designated Messier 22. Both objects will fit within the field of view of a backyard telescope at low magnification. Saturn's rings, which subtend an angular size of about 37 arc-seconds, continue to be well open because the planet's northern pole is tilted roughly sunward. On November 11, the crescent moon will be visible three degrees to the upper left of Saturn.
Recently past opposition, blue-green Uranus (magnitude 5.7) will be very well positioned for observing with binoculars and backyard telescopes all night during November, climbing the southeastern sky until about midnight. The planet will spend the month moving slowly retrograde westward among the stars of western Aries. On November 1, Uranus will sit less than 2.5 degrees to the left of the naked-eye star Omicron (o) Piscium, and close to within 1.5 degrees of that star at month end.
During November, deep blue Neptune will be visible for most of the night, setting in the west in the hours after midnight. The distant planet will spend the month moving retrograde westward through the stars of central Aquarius — shifting slowly toward that constellation's naked-eye star, Hydor (Lambda (λ) Aquarii). That star will sit about 2 degrees to the west of Neptune all month.
Gibbous: Used to describe a planet or moon that is more than 50 percent illuminated.
Asterism: A noteworthy or striking pattern of stars within a larger constellation.
Degrees (measuring the sky): The sky is 360 degrees all the way around, which means roughly 180 degrees from horizon to horizon. It's easy to measure distances between objects: Your fist on an outstretched arm covers about 10 degrees of sky, while a finger covers about one degree.
Visual Magnitude: This is the astronomer's scale for measuring the brightness of objects in the sky. The dimmest object visible in the night sky under perfectly dark conditions is about magnitude 6.5. Brighter stars are magnitude 2 or 1. The brightest objects get negative numbers. Venus can be as bright as magnitude minus 4.9. The full moon is minus 12.7 and the sun is minus 26.8.
Terminator: The boundary on the moon between sunlight and shadow.
Zenith: The point in the sky directly overhead.
Night Sky Observing Tips
- Adjust to the dark: If you wish to observe faint objects, such as meteors or dim stars, give your eyes at least 15 minutes to adjust to the darkness.
- Light Pollution: Even from a big city, one can see the moon, a handful of bright stars and sometimes the brightest planets. But to fully enjoy the heavens — especially a meteor shower, the constellations, or to see the amazing swath across the sky that represents our view toward the center of the Milky Way Galaxy — rural areas are best for night sky viewing. If you're stuck in a city or suburban area, a building can be used to block ambient light (or moonlight) to help reveal fainter objects. If you're in the suburbs, simply turning off outdoor lights can help.
- Prepare for skywatching: If you plan to be out for more than a few minutes, and it's not a warm summer evening, dress warmer than you think necessary. An hour of observing a winter meteor shower can chill you to the bone. A blanket or lounge chair will prove much more comfortable than standing or sitting in a chair and craning your neck to see overhead.
- Daytime skywatching: When Venus is visible (that is, not in front of or behind the sun) it can often be spotted during the day. But you'll need to know where to look. A sky map is helpful. When the sun has large sunspots, they can be seen without a telescope. However, it's unsafe to look at the sun without protective eyewear. See our video on how to safely observe the sun, or our safe sunwatching infographic.