The full moon of November, called the Full Beaver Moon, will grace skies this Friday, one day after the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S., in the wee hours of Nov. 23, when the moon will make a close pass by Aldebaran, the brightest star in Taurus.
The moon will become officially full on Nov. 23 at 12:39 a.m. EST (0539 GMT), according to NASA. For skywatchers in New York City, the moon will rise on the evening of Nov. 22 (Thanksgiving Day) at 4:36 p.m. and set the next morning at 7 a.m., according to the U.S. Naval Observatory. Earth's natural satellite will be in the constellation Taurus and will rise about 6 minutes after sunset.
At 4:11 p.m. EST (2111 GMT) on Nov. 23, the moon will share the same celestial longitude as the star Aldebaran, a situation called a conjunction. That time will still be during the day for observers in most of the Western Hemisphere, and the moon will not have risen yet. To see the actual moment of conjunction, observers will have to be east of New York City; for example, in London the conjunction will occur at 9:11 p.m. local time, and the moon will be well up in the sky by that point. [Best Night Sky Events of November 2018 (Stargazing Maps)]
The full moon is so bright that it tends to wash out fainter objects, even when viewed from dark-sky locations. That said, joining the moon on the night of Nov. 22-23 will be a few planets, notably Mars and Saturn, both visible about an hour and a half after sunset in the western sky.
Those two planets will rise during the daytime; Mars will set for East Coast observers at about 11:30 p.m. local time, while Saturn will set a bit earlier, at 7 p.m., according to heavens-above.com. Saturn will be lower in the sky at that point, about 12 degrees above the western horizon, or a bit more than the width of a fist held at arm's length. Mars will be higher, sitting at about 37 degrees. The ringed planet will be in the constellation Sagittarius, and Mars will be in Libra, but with a full moon the latter constellation will be hard to see, as it is rather faint.
Other planets won't be visible on the days around the full moon, as they will be below the horizon. One exception is Uranus, which will be in the eastern half of the sky at about 28 degrees above the horizon in the constellation Aries, but Uranus can be hard to catch without binoculars or a small telescope. It never gets brighter than about magnitude 5.5, which fis near the limit of what most people can see without optical aids.
Late November has some bright constellations visible, even if you're viewing from light-polluted, urban areas. Taurus and Orion will appear near the full moon above the eastern horizon; by midnight, those two will be high in the sky. And nearby, sitting even with the bright moon, Orion's distinctive belt (formed by the stars Alnilam, Alnitak and Mintaka) will be visible.
Other sky events falling near the date of the full moon include the Leonid meteor shower, which will peak overnight on Nov. 17-18; the moon, at that point, will be two days past its first quarter. To best see the meteors, you will need to be in a relatively dark location and will have to wait until the moon sets (which will happen at 1:35 a.m. on Nov. 18 for observers in New York City). The Leonids are known for producing occasionally spectacular showers at approximately three-decade intervals (that doesn't apply to this year). Even in an ordinary year (such as this one), the shower can produce 10 to 15 meteors an hour. The meteors are the result of debris left in the orbital path of Comet Tempel-Tuttle.
The November full moon is often called the Full Beaver Moon, according to "The Old Farmer's Almanac," because that is when the eponymous animals become active as they prepare for the winter season.
According to the Ontario Native Literacy Coalition, the Ojibwe people called November's full moon the "Mnidoons Giizisoonhg." 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 prepare their dens at this time -- scraping the den to clear out space. 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.