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Mercury

Mercury emerges from the twilight from about the middle of the month as an early evening object for observers at tropical and Southern Hemisphere latitudes. The nearest planet to the Sun can be spotted low down above the west-southwestern horizon just after sunset. For example, from latitude 35S (approx. equal to Sydney, Cape Town and Santiago), Mercury appears just 2 degrees above the horizon 45 minutes after sunset on November 16th. By months end it has improved to 7 degrees. During this time its brightness hardly varies, decreasing slightly from mag. -0.6 to -0.5.

On November 18th, Mercury passes 3 degrees north of Antares (α Sco - mag. +1.0) and on November 24th it passes 4 degrees south of Saturn (mag. +0.6). Mercury appears 3x brighter than Saturn and 4x brighter than Antares.

Observers at mid-northern latitudes will struggle to spot Mercury this month.

Venus

Venus is now a brilliant object in the western sky after sunset. The planet can be seen for more than 3 hours after sunset from tropical and southern latitudes although considerably shorter from further north. During November, its brightness increases slightly from mag. -4.0 to -4.1 with the phase of the planet decreasing from 78% to 69%. The apparent size of Venus increases from 14 to 17 arc seconds as the month progresses.

Saturn (mag. +0.6) is positioned just a few degrees from Venus at the beginning of the month, although Venus is almost 100x brighter. On November 2nd and 3rd, the thin waxing crescent Moon passes a few degrees north of the pair, providing some nice early evening viewing.

Moon, Venus and Saturn as seen 45 minutes after sunset on November 3rd from London, England (credit:- stellarium/freestarcharts)

Mars

Mars remains an evening object this month although from northern temperate latitudes it's now fairly low in the sky. The planet has been in the news recently following the failed landing attempt of the Schiaparelli probe as part of the ESA/Roscosmos ExoMars programme.

Mars starts the month in Sagittarius before crossing into Capricornus on November 8th. It continues to slowly fade in brightness as the month progresses (mag. +0.4 to +0.6). From northern latitudes, Mars now sets mid-evening although from further south it can be seen until midnight.

On November 6th, the waxing crescent Moon passes 5 degrees north of Mars.

Mars during November 2016 (credit:- freestarcharts)

Mars during November 2016 - pdf format (credit:- freestarcharts)

Jupiter

Jupiter is now a beautiful early morning object moving direct among the stars of Virgo. Its brightness and apparent size improves this month from mag. -1.7 to -1.8 and 31 to 33 arc seconds respectively. Jupiter's current path is taking it southwards and therefore it's slowly becoming more favourable for southern-based observers. By months end it rises about 3am.

The waning crescent Moon passes 2 degrees north of Jupiter on November 25th with the pair forming a lovely sight in the dawn twilight sky.

Jupiter during November 2016 (credit:- freestarcharts)

Jupiter during November 2016 - pdf format (credit:- freestarcharts)

Saturn

Saturn, mag. +0.6, is an early evening object in Ophiuchus visible just after sunset low down towards the western horizon. It's best seen from the tropics and Southern Hemisphere although it's now drawing ever closer to solar conjunction. As the month progresses, the planet will become increasingly more difficult to spot against the twilight.

On November 2nd, the thin waxing crescent Moon passes 4 degrees north of Saturn. As previously mentioned, Venus at this time is in the same region of sky and nice views of the three objects can be obtained during early evenings of November 2nd and 3rd.

Later in the month, brighter Mercury passes 4 degrees south of Saturn on November 24th, with the thin waxing crescent Moon passing 4 degrees north of Saturn again on November 30th.

Uranus

Uranus is now passed opposition but continues to be well placed for observation throughout November. The seventh planet from the Sun can be seen in Pisces towards the east as soon as it's dark enough, remaining observable until the early hours of the morning. At mag. +5.7, Uranus is faintly visible to the naked eye but much easier to spot with binoculars. A small 80mm (3.1-inch) refractor at high magnifications will show a small greenish disk, 3.7 arc-seconds in diameter, but even large amateur scopes don't reveal much more.

Uranus has 27 known most satellites and the largest four can be spotted with medium/large amateur telescopes. Titania and Oberon can be seen with a 200mm (8 inches) scopes. Umbriel and Ariel are more difficult to spot since they are fainter and orbit closer to the planet.

On November 12th, the waxing gibbous Moon passes 3 degrees south of Uranus.

Uranus during November 2016 (credit:- freestarcharts)

Uranus during November 2016 - pdf format (credit:- freestarcharts)

Neptune

Neptune, mag. +7.9, is located in Aquarius. The distant planet is visible after sunset towards the southeast (Northern Hemisphere) or the northeast (Southern Hemisphere) and remains so until after midnight. Neptune is never bright enough to be seen with the naked eye but it's relatively easy to spot with binoculars and small scopes. The planet can be found about 30 degrees southwest of the centre of the Great Square of Pegasus and 3 degrees southwest of star lambda Aqr (λ Aqr - mag. +3.7). Positioned 20 degrees further south is first magnitude star Fomalhaut (α Psc - mag. +1.2).

A small scope at high magnification shows a small featureless blue disk spanning 2.3 arc seconds in diameter. Even larger scopes struggle to reveal more, although top amateur CCD imagers are able to capture features in the atmosphere.

On November 9th, the waxing gibbous Moon passes one degree north of Neptune with an occultation visible from Eastern Europe. Later in the month on the 20th, Neptune reaches its second stationary point, which signals the end of this year's opposition period. Direct motion is then resumed.

Neptune during November 2016 (credit:- freestarcharts)

Neptune during November 2016 - pdf format (credit:- freestarcharts)

Solar System Data Table November 2016

 DateRight AscensionDeclinationApparent MagnitudeApparent SizeIllum. (%)Distance from Earth (AU)Constellation
Sun5th Nov 201614h 41m 18.4s-15d 40m 14.7s-26.832.3'1000.991Libra
Sun15th Nov 201615h 21m 41.3s-18d 28m 33.7s-26.832.3'1000.989Libra
Sun25th Nov 201616h 03m 27.9s-20d 44m 22.4s-26.832.4'1000.987Scorpius
Mercury5th Nov 201615h 01m 13.9s-17d 33m 44.0s-1.006.0"991.439Libra
Mercury15th Nov 201616h 04m 28.0s-22d 15m 32.6s-0.605.1"961.399Scorpius
Mercury25th Nov 201617h 09m 02.0s-25d 07m 07.9s-0.504.7"901.303Ophiuchus
Venus5th Nov 201617h 20m 51.8s-25d 00m 53.7s-4.014.3"771.166Ophiuchus
Venus15th Nov 201618h 13m 46.8s-25d 35m 51.7s-4.115.2"741.100SagittariusĀ 
Venus25th Nov 201619h 06m 12.5s-24d 57m 49.2s-4.116.2"711.033SagittariusĀ 
Mars5th Nov 201619h 56m 20.0s-22d 39m 27.5s0.407.3"861.276SagittariusĀ 
Mars15th Nov 201620h 27m 01.3s-20d 54m 23.2s0.507.0"871.337Capricornus
Mars25th Nov 201620h 57m 19.5s-18d 49m 08.2s0.606.7"871.400Capricornus
Jupiter5th Nov 201612h 45m 03.1s-03d 36m 47.6s-1.731.4"1006.280Virgo
Jupiter15th Nov 201612h 52m 16.9s-04d 21m 16.7s-1.731.9"1006.186Virgo
Jupiter25th Nov 201612h 59m 07.0s-05d 02m 37.9s-1.832.5"1006.075Virgo
Saturn5th Nov 201616h 53m 43.1s-21d 12m 15.5s0.615.3"10010.872Ophiuchus
Saturn15th Nov 201616h 58m 22.2s-21d 20m 34.6s0.615.2"10010.948Ophiuchus
Saturn25th Nov 201617h 03m 14.3s-21d 28m 28.8s0.615.1"10011.000Ophiuchus
Uranus5th Nov 201601h 20m 16.4s07d 46m 44.6s5.703.7"10019.019Pisces
Uranus15th Nov 201601h 18m 57.5s07d 39m 04.9s5.703.7"10019.097Pisces
Uranus25th Nov 201601h 17m 49.8s07d 32m 35.3s5.703.7"10019.201Pisces
Neptune5th Nov 201622h 43m 58.8s-08d 58m 35.4s7.902.3"10029.500Aquarius
Neptune15th Nov 201622h 43m 45.8s-08d 59m 41.6s7.902.3"10029.662Aquarius
Neptune25th Nov 201622h 43m 45.4s-08d 59m 31.2s7.902.3"10029.831Aquarius