SKY GUIDE: This map represents the night sky as it appears over Maine during November. The stars are shown as they appear at 10:30 p.m. early in the month, at 9:30 p.m. at midmonth, and at 8:30 p.m. at month’s end. Jupiter, Neptune, and Uranus are shown at their midmonth positions. To use the map, hold it vertically and turn it so that the direction you are facing is at the bottom. Sky Chart prepared by Seth Lockman

The month of November can be a little bleak with the fall foliage fading out and the snows of winter not here yet, but there will be plenty of exciting celestial highlights to make up for any terrestrial shortfalls. These include three bright planets perfectly placed in our evening sky, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars in that order, another comet that could become visible to the naked eye by early next year, a potentially better-than-average Leonid meteor shower, and the second total lunar eclipse for our country this year during the early morning hours of Nov. 8.

Three bright planets now rule our evening skies. Last summer none of the planets were visible in the evening sky since they were all morning planets, which is very unusual. Saturn is still in Capricorn since it spends over two years in each constellation. It will set first, around 10:30 p.m. by the end of the month. It dims a little more this month since we are getting farther ahead of it in our faster orbit around the sun. Its rings are tilted at only 15 degrees and are getting thinner to our line of sight, which happens once every 29 years – the time it takes Saturn to orbit the sun. They will disappear entirely by 2025, as they last did in 1996.

Jupiter rises before sunset and is still up for most of the night since it is only a little over a month past its best opposition in 59 years, which happened on Sept. 26. Jupiter will also fade a little more this month as we race farther ahead of it around the sun, but it is still much brighter than usual and about 20 times brighter than Saturn.

Mars will be the real “star” of the evening sky this month and next. The red planet is getting closer and brighter every night as we rapidly catch up with it in our faster orbit around the sun. It already started its retrograde, or westward motion, against the fixed background of stars and it will reach opposition on Dec. 8. It now rises by 9 p.m. in Taurus and it will rise two hours earlier by the end of the month as it will also get considerably brighter and larger. It starts the month at minus-1.2 magnitude, a little fainter than our brightest star, Sirius, which always shines at minus-1.4 magnitude in Canis Major. Then it ends this month at a dazzling minus-1.8 magnitude, just one magnitude or 2.5 times fainter than Jupiter.

The annual Leonid meteor shower is usually one of the five best meteor showers each year after the Geminids and Perseids. Even though a last quarter moon will rise around midnight this year to spoil much of the show, you can expect up to 250 meteors per hour during the morning of Nov. 19 from a debris stream shed by its parent comet, 55P/Tempel-Tuttle.

The last good highlight this month is another total lunar eclipse, starting at 3 a.m. on Nov. 8. The umbral part of this lunar eclipse doesn’t start until 4:09 a.m., when the moon starts to pass into the denser part of Earth’ shadow. You won’t really notice any darkening on the moon until that time. Then the total part begins at 5:16 a.m. and ends at 6:41 a.m. when the whole moon will be completely immersed in our shadow. However, the sun will rise at 6:30 that morning and the full moon will set before it completely exits our shadow. That will be quite a sight to see the eclipsed moon setting as twilight dawns and the sun rises. I have seen dozens of lunar eclipses, but never one like this into sunrise.


The moon will be in Aries the Ram, near the Pleiades and Mars in Taurus. Watch how other celestial objects will become brighter as the moon gets darker. Jupiter will be just one constellation to the west in Pisces the Fish, but it will set soon after the eclipse starts. Our shadow always stretches nearly a million miles into space. But only when the sun, Earth, and moon are in perfect alignment can we see our shadow projected onto the moon or stand at the very bottom of the moon’s shadow cone as it just brushes across the earth, barely reaching us at all since it only extends about 250,000 miles into space at all times.

The exact color that the moon will take on during a total eclipse is always a mystery. It can range from dark gray, almost invisible, to a bright copper orange with a bluish rim. That is called the Danjon scale, which goes from 0 to 4, dark to bright. It depends on the exact composition of our atmosphere at the time and how many particulates are floating around in it. The only reason the moon does not disappear completely is that our atmosphere acts as a giant lens and bends a little reddened sunlight around Earth and onto the moon to give it that great three-dimensional appearance.

NASA recently had a great success with its DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) mission hitting the tiny moon, Dimorphos, of an asteroid named Didymos, which means “twin” in Greek. This is the first time we ever changed the orbit of a natural body in our solar system in a planned and measurable way. This is part of our new planetary defense system using a kinetic impactor. DART weighed about half a ton and was only 6 feet long. It was like smashing a golf cart into the Great Pyramid of Giza.

NASA has not been so successful yet with getting its Artemis mission off the ground, but it has been officially rescheduled for Nov. 14, so that is also good news.


Nov. 1: First quarter moon is at 2:37 a.m.


Nov. 3: In 1957, the Soviets launched Sputnik 2, sending the first creature into space, a dog named Laika.

Nov. 4: The moon passes near Neptune and Jupiter today.

Nov. 8: Full moon is at 6:02 a.m. This is the Beaver or Frosty Moon. It will also be fully eclipsed by the earth this morning. Look for the planet Uranus just to the left and above the moon while it is in our shadow. … Edmund Halley was born in 1656. I first saw his comet on his birthday in 1985.

Nov. 9: Carl Sagan was born 1934. … Uranus is at opposition today in Aries.

Nov. 11: The moon passes 2 degrees north of Mars today.

Nov. 16: Last quarter moon is at 8:27 a.m.


Nov. 17: The Leonid meteor shower will peak this morning.

Nov. 20: Edwin Hubble was born in 1889.

Nov. 23: New moon is at 5:57 p.m.

Nov. 24: Jupiter is stationary today, ending its retrograde motion.

Nov. 28: The moon passes 4 degrees south of Saturn tonight.

Nov. 30: First quarter moon is at 9:37 a.m. Mars comes closest to Earth today at 50.6 million miles away, but it will not reach opposition until Dec. 8.

Bernie Reim of Wells is co-director of the Astronomical Society of Northern New England.

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