The full moon of November, called the Beaver Moon, will shine in the constellation Aries tonight (Nov. 12), the same day as the peak of the Northern Taurid meteor shower and a day after Mercury transits the sun.
The moon becomes officially full for observers on the East Coast of the U.S. on Nov. 12 at 8:34 a.m. EST (1334 GMT), according to NASA. In New York City, the moon will rise on the evening of Nov. 12 at 5:06 p.m. local time and set the next morning at 7:31 a.m., according to timeanddate.com. The moon will be in the constellation Aries, and will rise about half an hour after sunset.
The full moon is so bright that it tends to wash out fainter objects, even from dark-sky locations. That said, on the night of the full moon the Taurid meteor shower will be in one of its periods of peak activity, and it's possible to catch a few meteors here and there. According to the American Meteor Society, the rate of meteors from the Taurids, named for the Taurus constellation where they appear to originate in, is low — 5 to 10 visible meteors per hour — but they tend to move slowly, and produce more bright fireballs.
Sharing the sky with the full moon will be the planets Venus, Jupiter and Saturn. Venus will be a bright presence just after sunset, low in the west. As November progresses, Earth's sister planet will get higher in the sky as it moves east. Venus will be at its greatest distance east of the sun, called greatest eastern elongation, in March of 2020, and it will be an "evening star" until June.
Jupiter and Saturn, meanwhile, are edging closer to the sun from the point of view of earthbound observers. Jupiter will set about 2 hours after sunset, and Saturn an hour later.
Mars, meanwhile, will be nearly invisible — on the night of the full moon, it will not get more than 12 degrees above the horizon at sunrise. Mercury won't be visible, either, as it is only 3 degrees — six solar diameters — away from the sun. On Nov. 11, it will be at inferior conjunction, the point directly between the sun and Earth, and it will actually transit the sun's disk. Observers with a small telescope can observe the transit, if proper precautions are taken.
November has some bright constellations visible even in light-polluted urban areas. The constellations of Taurus and Orion appear near the full moon above the eastern horizon; by midnight those two will be high in the sky, and even with the bright moon nearby one can see Orion's distinctive belt (which contains the stars Alnilam, Alnitak and Mintaka).
By 11 o'clock local time on the night of the full moon, the constellation Gemini will also be above the horizon in the east. If you stand facing north, you can draw a line across the sky from east to west that will pass near the two brightest stars in Gemini, Castor and Pollux, and then past Capella, the brightest star in the constellation Auriga, and then through the Perseus constellation.
Southern Hemisphere skywatchers will be seeing the summer constellations become prominent. Australians at the latitude of Melbourne will see the moon become officially full on Nov. 13 at 12:34 a.m. local time.
At that point Alpha Centauri, the sun's nearest stellar neighbor, will be in the south while the moon is high in the northeast. Alpha Centauri will only be about 8 degrees above the horizon, though. To its left (facing south) will be the Southern Cross. Higher in the southeast will be Canopus, the brightest star in Carina, the "keel of the ship" (associated with the Argo, the ship of the legendary Jason and the Argonauts).
The moon will be in Taurus and near Orion, but both constellations will appear "upside down." Near Orion's foot, the star Rigel, one can trace the constellation Eridanus, the river as it winds higher in the sky until it ends at the star Achernar, which is 68 degrees up in Melbourne just after midnight.
The November full moon is often called the Full Beaver Moon, according to the Old Farmer's Almanac, because that was when the eponymous animals become active to prepare for winter.
The Ojibwe peoples called November's full moon the Mnidoons Giizisoonhg, according to the Ontario Native Literacy Coalition. The name means the Little Spirit Moon, reflecting that it was the 12th month for the Ojibwe, a time for spiritual reflection ahead of a new year.
In the Pacific Northwest, the Tlingit called the November full moon the Scraping Moon, or Kukahaa Dís, because bears would start to prepare their dens, while the Haida called the month the Cha'aaw Kungaay ("bears hibernate"), according to the Tlingit Moon and Tide Teaching Resource published by the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.
In the Southern Hemisphere, November is the late spring; the Māori of New Zealand called the lunar months of November to December (measured from new moon to new moon, with the full moon falling right in the middle) Hakihea, meaning "Birds are now sitting in their nests," according to the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.
Editor's note: If you snap a great photo of the Beaver Moon or any other night-sky sight you'd like to share with Space.com and our news partners for a story or image gallery, send images and comments to managing editor Tariq Malik at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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