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In November we have one . . . then two bright planets visible in the southwest sky at dusk and two . . . then three bright planets low in the east-southeast sky at dawn. In the evening, Saturn gradually dips lower in the southwest as the month progresses, ultimately to be joined by the end of the month by speedy Mercury. In the morning sky, Mars shines dimly in the east-southeast, while a far brighter Venus glows close to the horizon, to be joined in spectacular fashion by Jupiter during the second week of the month. 

Night Sky: Visible Planets, Moon Phases & Events, November 2017

Best Night Sky Events of November 2017: Stargazing Maps

In our schedule, remember that when measuring the angular separation between two celestial objects, your clenched fist held at arm's length measures roughly 10-degrees. Here, we present a schedule below which provides some of the best planet viewing times as well directing you as to where to look to see them.

During November, Mercury delivers a poor evening apparition for observers in mid-northern latitudes worldwide, never climbing very high in the sky due to its position below an already shallow evening ecliptic. Viewed through a telescope during November, Mercury's disk will nearly double in diameter and reduce in phase from almost full to less than half illuminated. It is at peak visibility after reaching its greatest angle east of the sun on November 23. For an hour after sunset on Sunday, November 19, look low in the western sky for the young crescent moon sitting 8.5 degrees to the right of Mercury. In the last week of the month, Mercury passes a few degrees below Saturn.
During November, Mercury delivers a poor evening apparition for observers in mid-northern latitudes worldwide, never climbing very high in the sky due to its position below an already shallow evening ecliptic. Viewed through a telescope during November, Mercury's disk will nearly double in diameter and reduce in phase from almost full to less than half illuminated. It is at peak visibility after reaching its greatest angle east of the sun on November 23. For an hour after sunset on Sunday, November 19, look low in the western sky for the young crescent moon sitting 8.5 degrees to the right of Mercury. In the last week of the month, Mercury passes a few degrees below Saturn.
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Mercury puts in its poorest apparition of the year for Northern Hemisphere viewers, even though it's a very good one for people in mid-southern latitudes. Northerners will have their best shot at the zero magnitude planet in the second half of the month, when they may glimpse it very low in the southwest about 40 minutes after sunset. This rocky world reaches greatest elongation on Nov. 23, when it will be 22-degrees east of the sun and will within 85 minutes after sundown. This is a relatively unfavorable apparition for northern observers, because the ecliptic makes a small angle with the horizon during autumn evenings. On Nov. 20, about 40 minutes after sunset, Mercury will be hovering near the west-southwest horizon, directly below a very thin crescent Moon and Saturn; by the Nov. 28, Saturn will be to Mercury's upper right. Binoculars will prove very helpful for making both viewing attempts.

Extremely bright Venus remains visible in the eastern pre-dawn sky during November, but drops steadily lower as it swings sunwards – passing a few degrees to the left of the bright star Spica on November 2-3. Throughout the month, Venus exhibits a nearly full phase. On the mornings surrounding Monday, November 13, Venus will pass very close to Jupiter. At only 0.25 degrees apart at closest approach, the two planets will fit within the field of view of a backyard telescope's eyepiece. Before sunrise on November 17, the old crescent moon will land 4 degrees to the left of Venus.
Extremely bright Venus remains visible in the eastern pre-dawn sky during November, but drops steadily lower as it swings sunwards – passing a few degrees to the left of the bright star Spica on November 2-3. Throughout the month, Venus exhibits a nearly full phase. On the mornings surrounding Monday, November 13, Venus will pass very close to Jupiter. At only 0.25 degrees apart at closest approach, the two planets will fit within the field of view of a backyard telescope's eyepiece. Before sunrise on November 17, the old crescent moon will land 4 degrees to the left of Venus.
Credit: SkySafari App

Venus rises about 1.5 hours before the sun at the beginning of the month. Look for it rising about 10 degrees south of due east. Less than 10 minutes later the blue gem of the much fainter star Spica appears. On Nov. 2, planet and star are in conjunction with Spica (about 1/85th as bright as Venus) 3.5-degrees to Venus' lower right. During the second week of November, the planet Jupiter begins making itself evident slowly climbing up from the horizon toward Venus.

The two planets will appear spectacularly close together, rising side by side on the morning of Nov. 13. Thereafter, as the month progresses, Jupiter and Spica keep appearing higher and Venus lower at dawn. Here is a challenging observation: on Nov. 17, look for an exceedingly thin crescent moon (1-percent illuminated) about 5-degrees to the left of Venus. By month's end, Venus rises less than an hour before the sun and is becoming difficult to find low in bright twilight. 

During November Mars, moving prograde through Virgo, climbs away from the sun in the eastern pre-dawn sky. Still quite small and dim, the red planet will brighten slightly as it slowly decreases its distance from Earth. On November 14 and 15, the waning crescent moon will pass to the left of Mars.
During November Mars, moving prograde through Virgo, climbs away from the sun in the eastern pre-dawn sky. Still quite small and dim, the red planet will brighten slightly as it slowly decreases its distance from Earth. On November 14 and 15, the waning crescent moon will pass to the left of Mars.
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Mars is an inconspicuous ochre-reddish light in Virgo. It is still unusually faint (magnitude +1.8) because it is far from the Earth, fleeing ahead of us in the race around the Sun and rising more than three hours before the Sun at midmonth. But watch out for Mars. It will brighten every month and edge closer to the evening sky as Earth, moving faster, eventually catches up to it next summer. On the morning of Nov. 15, Mars will be 6 degrees to the upper right of a waning crescent moon. On Nov. 27, the Red Planet passes 3.1-degrees north of Spica, which is twice as bright.

Fresh from solar conjunction, Jupiter is visible in the predawn eastern sky in November, moving prograde from Virgo into Libra on November 15. During mornings in mid-month, Jupiter will be very close to Venus, reaching a minimum separation of 0.25 degrees on Monday, November 13. At that time, the two planets will fit together within the field of view of a backyard telescope's eyepiece. The waning crescent moon hops over Jupiter on November 16-17.
Fresh from solar conjunction, Jupiter is visible in the predawn eastern sky in November, moving prograde from Virgo into Libra on November 15. During mornings in mid-month, Jupiter will be very close to Venus, reaching a minimum separation of 0.25 degrees on Monday, November 13. At that time, the two planets will fit together within the field of view of a backyard telescope's eyepiece. The waning crescent moon hops over Jupiter on November 16-17.
Credit: SkySafari App

Jupiter, after the first week of November, begins to emerge into view low in the glow of dawn, about 8 degrees to the lower left of Venus in the east-southeast. Watch for this spectacular "dynamic duo" on three consecutive mornings . . . Nov. 12, 13 and 14. On Nov 12, Jupiter appears 1.25 degrees below Venus. On Nov. 13, they are separated by just 0.3 degrees or little more than one-half the apparent width of the moon. They will appear to rise side-by-side with brighter Venus (magnitude -3.9) on the left and Jupiter (magnitude -1.7) on the right. Most telescopes will show them in the same field of view. The great Jovian planet appears three times wider than the nearly full disk of Venus. On the 14th, the two planets are again separated by 1.25 degrees, but this time with Jupiter appearing to the upper right of Venus. On Nov. 16, a very thin crescent moon will hang 7-degrees directly above Jupiter. By month's end Jupiter will be rising more than two hours before sunrise.

Saturn spends November as a naked eye object in the southwestern evening sky. It sets about 8:30 pm local time on the 1stand 5:45 pm by month end, when it has entered the evening twilight. On November 18, Saturn departs the stars of southern Ophiuchus for Sagittarius, where it will remain until early 2020. In early evening on Monday, November 20, the young crescent moon will be situated only 2.5 degrees to the upper right of Saturn, making a lovely sight in binoculars.
Saturn spends November as a naked eye object in the southwestern evening sky. It sets about 8:30 pm local time on the 1stand 5:45 pm by month end, when it has entered the evening twilight. On November 18, Saturn departs the stars of southern Ophiuchus for Sagittarius, where it will remain until early 2020. In early evening on Monday, November 20, the young crescent moon will be situated only 2.5 degrees to the upper right of Saturn, making a lovely sight in binoculars.
Credit: SkySafari App

Saturn still lingers forlornly in the southwest after dusk. Catch it early; the ringed planet sets more than an hour after dark at the beginning of the month, but before the end of evening twilight by Nov. 30. On Nov. 20, 40 minutes after sunset, look about 10-degrees above the west-southwest horizon to sight a slender sliver of a crescent Moon (just 5-percent illuminated) sitting to the right and slightly above Saturn. Then, on Nov. 28, use binoculars to scan near the west-southwest horizon again about 40 minutes after sunset to find Saturn and to its lower left, Mercury glowing almost twice as bright.

Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York's Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for Natural History magazine, the Farmers' Almanac and other publications, and he is also an on-camera meteorologist for Fios1 News in Rye Brook, NY.