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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Solar System Data Table November 2016
|Date||Right Ascension||Declination||Apparent Magnitude||Apparent Size||Illum. (%)||Distance from Earth (AU)||Constellation|
|Sun||5th Nov 2016||14h 41m 18.4s||-15d 40m 14.7s||-26.8||32.3'||100||0.991||Libra|
|Sun||15th Nov 2016||15h 21m 41.3s||-18d 28m 33.7s||-26.8||32.3'||100||0.989||Libra|
|Sun||25th Nov 2016||16h 03m 27.9s||-20d 44m 22.4s||-26.8||32.4'||100||0.987||Scorpius|
|Mercury||5th Nov 2016||15h 01m 13.9s||-17d 33m 44.0s||-1.0||06.0"||99||1.439||Libra|
|Mercury||15th Nov 2016||16h 04m 28.0s||-22d 15m 32.6s||-0.6||05.1"||96||1.399||Scorpius|
|Mercury||25th Nov 2016||17h 09m 02.0s||-25d 07m 07.9s||-0.5||04.7"||90||1.303||Ophiuchus|
|Venus||5th Nov 2016||17h 20m 51.8s||-25d 00m 53.7s||-4.0||14.3"||77||1.166||Ophiuchus|
|Venus||15th Nov 2016||18h 13m 46.8s||-25d 35m 51.7s||-4.1||15.2"||74||1.100||Sagittarius|
|Venus||25th Nov 2016||19h 06m 12.5s||-24d 57m 49.2s||-4.1||16.2"||71||1.033||Sagittarius|
|Mars||5th Nov 2016||19h 56m 20.0s||-22d 39m 27.5s||0.4||07.3"||86||1.276||Sagittarius|
|Mars||15th Nov 2016||20h 27m 01.3s||-20d 54m 23.2s||0.5||07.0"||87||1.337||Capricornus|
|Mars||25th Nov 2016||20h 57m 19.5s||-18d 49m 08.2s||0.6||06.7"||87||1.400||Capricornus|
|Jupiter||5th Nov 2016||12h 45m 03.1s||-03d 36m 47.6s||-1.7||31.4"||100||6.280||Virgo|
|Jupiter||15th Nov 2016||12h 52m 16.9s||-04d 21m 16.7s||-1.7||31.9"||100||6.186||Virgo|
|Jupiter||25th Nov 2016||12h 59m 07.0s||-05d 02m 37.9s||-1.8||32.5"||100||6.075||Virgo|
|Saturn||5th Nov 2016||16h 53m 43.1s||-21d 12m 15.5s||0.6||15.3"||100||10.872||Ophiuchus|
|Saturn||15th Nov 2016||16h 58m 22.2s||-21d 20m 34.6s||0.6||15.2"||100||10.948||Ophiuchus|
|Saturn||25th Nov 2016||17h 03m 14.3s||-21d 28m 28.8s||0.6||15.1"||100||11.000||Ophiuchus|
|Uranus||5th Nov 2016||01h 20m 16.4s||07d 46m 44.6s||5.7||03.7"||100||19.019||Pisces|
|Uranus||15th Nov 2016||01h 18m 57.5s||07d 39m 04.9s||5.7||03.7"||100||19.097||Pisces|
|Uranus||25th Nov 2016||01h 17m 49.8s||07d 32m 35.3s||5.7||03.7"||100||19.201||Pisces|
|Neptune||5th Nov 2016||22h 43m 58.8s||-08d 58m 35.4s||7.9||02.3"||100||29.500||Aquarius|
|Neptune||15th Nov 2016||22h 43m 45.8s||-08d 59m 41.6s||7.9||02.3"||100||29.662||Aquarius|
|Neptune||25th Nov 2016||22h 43m 45.4s||-08d 59m 31.2s||7.9||02.3"||100||29.831||Aquarius|