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Mercury

Mercury reached greatest eastern elongation last month and was visible as an evening star throughout October for residents located at equatorial and southern latitudes. For those observers, the planet remains visible just after sunset in the evening twilight during the early part of November. On the first of the month, Mercury when viewed from a latitude of 34S (e.g. Sydney, Australia) is positioned about 17 degrees above the west-southwest horizon, half an hour after sunset. At this time the planet shines at magnitude -0.1. Each subsequent evening Mercury decreases in brightness and altitude until around November 10th, when it becomes engulfed in the bright twilight glare and hence no longer visible.

Mercury evening star October/November 2012

Mercury evening star October/November 2012 - pdf format

On November 17th, Mercury passes through inferior conjunction and rapidly moves out to the west of the Sun. The planet is then visible for about 4 weeks from the last week of November, appearing as a morning star. For observers located at 51.5N (e.g. London, England), Mercury is located a little over 6 degrees above the southeastern horizon, 45 minutes before sunrise; increasing to almost 10 degrees by months end. At the same time, the planets magnitude brightens from 0.9 to –0.2. The visibility is not quite so good for locations further south. From Sydney, Mercury is only about 5 degrees above the horizon, 30 minutes before sunrise on the last day of November.

Moon, Mercury, Venus, Saturn and Spica in the Northern hemisphere morning sky - November/December 2012

Moon, Mercury, Venus, Saturn and Spica in the Northern hemisphere morning sky - November/December 2012 - pdf format

Moon, Mercury, Venus, Saturn and Spica in the Southern hemisphere morning sky - November/December 2012

Moon, Mercury, Venus, Saturn and Spica in the Southern hemisphere morning sky - November/December 2012 - pdf format

Venus

Venus remains a superb morning object this month, although the period of visibility is now decreasing. At the start of the month from northern temperate latitudes, Venus rises about 3.5 hours before the Sun decreasing to about 2.5 hours by months end. For observers located further south, Venus is visible for considerably less time. For example from Sydney, the planet rises only 1.5 hours before the Sun during November.

Venus starts the month in Virgo before moving into Libra at the end. The waning crescent Moon passes 5 degrees south of Venus on the morning of November 11th and Venus passes only 0.6 degrees south of much fainter Saturn (mag. 0.8) on the morning of November 27th. During the last week of November, Venus is located about 10 degrees or so to the northwest of Mercury.

The planets magnitude fades slightly from –4.0 to –3.9 during November, with the illuminated phase increasing from 81 to 88 degrees.

Mars

Mars remains a difficult evening object located towards the west-southwestern horizon. Although the "Red planet" sets about 2 hours after the Sun for northern hemisphere observers, it remains inconveniently low down and is located only 5 degrees above the horizon, 1 hour after sunset. From the tropics and the southern hemisphere the period of visibility is much better. On November 1st from Sydney, Mars sets more than 3 hours after the Sun and is positioned 25 degrees above the western horizon, 1 hour after sunset. By November 30th, the planet sets less than 2.5 hours after the Sun. One hour after sunset, it is positioned 16 degrees above the western horizon.

Mars starts the month in Ophiuchus before moving into Sagittarius on November 12th. The planet shines at magnitude 1.2 but continues to distance itself from Earth. It is now more than 2 AU away, resulting in an apparent size of only 4 arc seconds; not much greater than that of Uranus.

The waxing crescent Moon passes 4 degrees north of Mars in the early evening sky on November 16th.

Jupiter

Jupiter remains a brilliant unmistakable object that dominates the night sky especially for northern hemisphere observers. From southern hemisphere latitudes, Jupiter appears lower down, but still unmistakable due to its brightness. It is currently moving retrograde in Taurus, a few degrees to the north of orange/red star Aldebaran (mag. 0.9) and the large sprawling Hyades open cluster. The Pleiades (M45), the most famous open cluster in the sky is positioned about 15 degrees to the west and a little north of Jupiter.

Jupiter in Taurus during November 2012

Jupiter in Taurus during November 2012 - pdf format

The giant planet is approaching next month's opposition and is now visible for almost all of the night. Jupiter's brightness increases slightly from magnitude –2.7 to –2.8 and the apparent size from 47 to 48 arc seconds during November.

This month there are two occultation's of Jupiter and the Moon. On November 2nd, the Moon passes 0.9 degrees south of Jupiter with an occultation visible from most of South Africa and the southern Ocean. The second occultation occurs on November 29th. This time the Moon passes 0.6 degrees south of Jupiter and an occultation is visible from southern South America and southern Africa.

Saturn

Saturn has now passed through superior conjunction (October 25th) and reappears as a morning object towards the end of November. At this time, the "Ringed planet" is visible low down towards the east-southeast before dawn. The planet is currently located in Virgo with a magnitude of 0.8. The distance between Saturn and the Earth is currently decreasing and stands at just over 10.5 AU, resulting in an apparent size of approx. 15 arc seconds.

On November 12th, the Moon passes 4 degrees south of Saturn. Near the end of the month (November 27th) Venus passes 0.6 degrees south of Saturn.

Uranus

Uranus at magnitude 5.8 is now moving retrograde in Pisces and is located just south of the "Great Square of Pegasus". The planet is visible as soon as it gets dark and for most of the remainder of the night.

It is located about a degree to the west of star 44 Piscium, which at magnitude 5.8 is of equal brightness.

Neptune

Neptune is visible as soon as it gets dark until around midnight. The planet is located in the constellation of Aquarius. To find Neptune, first imagine a line connecting stars Ancha (θ Aquarii) mag. 4.2 and ι Aquarii (mag. 4.3). Just over halfway along this line is e Aqr (38 Aquarii), a star that shines at mag 5.4. Positioned about 0.5 degrees to the south of e Aqr is Neptune.

Neptune shines at mag. 7.9 and is visible with a pair of binoculars or a small telescope.

Solar System Data Table November 2012

 DateRight AscensionDeclinationMag.SizeIllum. (%)Distance (AU)Constellation
Sun5th Nov 201214h 41m 24.1s-15d 40m 40.6s-26.832.3'1000.992Libra
Sun15th Nov 201215h 21m 48.1s-18d 28m 57.1s-26.832.3'1000.989Libra
Sun25th Nov 201216h 03m 35.3s-20d 44m 41.6s-26.832.4'1000.987Scorpius
Mercury5th Nov 201216h 05m 13.3s-23d 33m 34.3s0.208.1"380.835Scorpius
Mercury15th Nov 201215h 46m 43.2s-20d 25m 27.4s4.009.9"030.683Libra
Mercury25th Nov 201215h 06m 09.9s-15d 05m 54.2s0.908.7"200.770Libra
Venus5th Nov 201212h 35m 15.8s-01d 58m 27.3s-4.013.0"821.280Virgo
Venus15th Nov 201213h 20m 46.2s-06d 35m 05.1s-3.912.5"841.336Virgo
Venus25th Nov 201214h 07m 21.9s-11d 01m 08.7s-3.912.0"871.389Virgo
Mars5th Nov 201217h 19m 25.8s-24d 10m 33.4s1.204.5"952.069Ophiuchus
Mars15th Nov 201217h 52m 13.3s-24d 31m 55.4s1.204.5"962.100Sagittarius
Mars25th Nov 201218h 25m 31.4s-24d 26m 49.4s1.204.4"962.130Sagittarius
Jupiter5th Nov 201204h 53m 28.3s21d 43m 17.8s-2.847.2"1004.176Taurus
Jupiter15th Nov 201204h 48m 45.9s21d 35m 58.1s-2.848.0"1004.111Taurus
Jupiter25th Nov 201204h 43m 18.8s21d 27m 07.5s-2.848.4"1004.075Taurus
Saturn5th Nov 201214h 07m 57.2s-10d 33m 39.7s0.815.5"10010.753Virgo
Saturn15th Nov 201214h 12m 30.6s-10d 57m 08.2s0.815.5"10010.714Virgo
Saturn25th Nov 201214h 16m 56.1s-11d 19m 14.0s0.815.6"10010.650Virgo
Uranus5th Nov 201200h 19m 37.2s01d 18m 57.0s5.803.7"10019.268Pisces
Uranus15th Nov 201200h 18m 39.3s01d 13m 01.9s5.803.6"10019.386Pisces
Uranus25th Nov 201200h 17m 56.6s01d 08m 48.3s5.803.6"10019.525Pisces
Neptune5th Nov 201222h 09m 57.3s-11d 59m 06.2s7.902.3"10029.681Aquarius
Neptune15th Nov 201222h 09m 55.6s-11d 59m 08.7s7.902.3"10029.849Aquarius
Neptune25th Nov 201222h 10m 07.1s-11d 57m 58.2s7.902.3"10030.022Aquarius