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First it was Venus . . . and now Jupiter is exiting our evening sky. Maybe you'll catch a final glimpse of it at the very start of the month with binoculars, hovering just above the southwest horizon. Then, that's it until it emerges from the sun's glare in the dawn twilight later in December.

If you're south of the equator, Mercury puts on a nice show during the first two weeks of this month, but for us northerners it's a difficult-to-near impossible task to see it as it will be setting deep in the bright evening twilight within an hour of sunset. Saturn is still in evidence, low in the southwest for a few hours after sunset. Mars is the most well-placed of all the planets, shining almost due south at nightfall. But since it continues to recede from Earth, it continues to fade. In fact, it loses almost half its brilliance during November. Finally there is Venus, the lone morning planet, which literally vaults into prominence from being buried in sunrise fires at the start of the month, to climbing well up into east-southeast sky before the break of dawn by month's end. [The Night Sky This Month: November 2018 Sky 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.

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.
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.
Credit: Starry Night software

Mercury – is dismally low for skywatchers at mid-northern latitudes (but marvelously high for those at mid-southern latitudes like Cape Town and Auckland!). It reaches greatest elongation (23 degrees) on Nov. 6, this year's least favorable evening apparition. Well south of the sun, the zero-magnitude planet sets only an hour after it. On Nov. 27, Mercury passes inferior conjunction, eventually becoming well-placed in December's morning sky. 

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.
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.
Credit: Starry Night software

Venus – is a good reason to be up at the crack of dawn in November; it's a silvery lamp that rises above the east-southeast horizon. Venus was at inferior conjunction on Oct. 26. But the steep angle of the ecliptic at dawn in late autumn helps Venus vault noticeably higher with each passing day for observers at mid-northern latitudes.

You might first glimpse Venus on the morning of Nov. 1, rising only about 35 minutes before the sun. But just a few days later on Nov. 4, viewers around 40 degrees north latitude can see Venus come up a full hour before the sun and shine more than 10 degrees above the horizon at sunrise.

As November ends, Venus rises more than three hours before the sun and hangs 30 degrees up at sunrise. All month Venus brightens impressively and in early December it will reach the pinnacle of its magnificent brightness, shining at magnitude -4.9. Through a telescope, the phase of the planet looks most remarkable early in the month. That's when you may be able to glimpse Venus when it's only a few percent illuminated, a hairline crescent close to an arcminute long; about 1/30 the apparent diameter of the moon.

Venus is not alone in the dawn sky. Its leap takes it up into the proximity of the bluish 1st-magnitude star Spica in Virgo. Venus rises under Spica all month and at first seems destined to soar up and catch it. Instead, the closest it gets to Spica is 1.2 degrees early on the morning of the 15th. 

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.
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.
Credit: Starry Night software

Mars – still glows orange in the southern sky after sunset and sets just prior to midnight. On the 1st, while 74 million miles from the Earth, Mars shines at magnitude -0.6. As the distance increases to 94 million miles by the end of November, the planet fades to magnitude 0.0 and its telescopic disk will have shrunk by 21 percent. Since it is summer in the Martian southern hemisphere, the south polar cap, tilted 23 degrees toward the Earth, has finally disappeared. In November Mars will show a greater phase defect than at any other time this year, its disk being only 86-percent illuminated. Looking due south as darkness falls on Nov. 15th, you'll see Mars shining about 4 degrees to the upper left of the moon.

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.
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.
Credit: Starry Night software

Jupiter – might be visible in the early evening sky of Nov. 1 with binoculars; scan low near the southwest horizon about a half hour after sunset for perhaps your final glimpse of the biggest planet of the solar system before it completely disappears from view into the sunset glow. About 7 degrees to its left is the solar system's smallest planet, Mercury, shining only about ¼ as bright. On Nov. 26, Jupiter is in conjunction with sun and transitions from the evening to the morning sky.

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.
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.
Credit: Starry Night software

Saturn – appears about half as bright as Mars this month, but it remains one of the leading lights of the western twilight sky nonetheless. Saturn is that bright yellowish-white "star" situated 4 degrees to the lower right of 4-day old crescent moon in the south-southwest evening sky of Nov. 11th. The ringed planet will disappear into the sunset before Christmas.

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 Verizon FiOS1 News in New York's Lower Hudson Valley.