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Mercury

Mercury reaches greatest elongation on November 24th when it moves out to 22 degrees east of the Sun. This month offers an excellent opportunity for observers located at southern and tropical latitudes to spot the elusive planet, low down above the western horizon just after sunset. For example, from latitude 35S (approx. equal to Sydney, Cape Town and Santiago), Mercury shines at mag. -0.4 and appears 4 degrees above the horizon, 45 minutes after sunset on November 1st. By the 24th, it improves to 11 degrees altitude. The planet's brightness remains relatively constant throughout the month, except for the last few days when it fades slightly. From mid-latitude northern latitudes, Mercury is not well placed for observation but keen eyed observers may be able to spot the planet in evening twilight, low down above the western horizon around the time of elongation.

From about November 25th to the 30th, Saturn is positioned within four degrees of Mercury. At mag. +0.6, Saturn appears about 2.5 times fainter than its much closer Solar System neighbour. On November 20th, the thin waxing crescent Moon passing 7 degrees north of Mercury.

Mercury and Saturn during November evenings, 45 minutes after sunset, from mid-latitude southern locations (credit:- freestarcharts)

Venus

Venus, mag. -3.9, is now moving back towards the Sun but remains visible as an early morning object. From northern locations, the brilliant planet rises only 90 minutes before the Sun at start of the month, decreasing to 45 minutes by months end. The visibility period is even less from locations further south. Due to its close proximity to the Sun, spotting the planet during the latter part of November will be increasingly difficult and therefore appropriate care should be taken.

On November 13th, Venus passes less than a 1/3 of a degree north of Jupiter and four days later the thin waning crescent Moon passes 4 degrees north of the planet. With Venus, Jupiter, Mars and the Moon all in the same region of sky, the mornings of November 15th and 16th should provide pleasant viewing for early risers.

Venus, Jupiter, Mars and the thin crescent Moon as seen just before sunrise from mid-latitude northern latitudes on November 16th (credit:- freestarcharts)

Mars

Mars, located in Virgo, is an early morning object visible towards the east before sunrise. The "Red planet" shines at mag. +1.7. By months end from northern temperate locations it rises about 4 hours before the Sun, although the visibility period is considerably less for those located further south.

The planet's apparent diameter is just 4 arc seconds and therefore no surface details are telescopically visible. On November 15th, the waning crescent Moon is situated 3 degrees north of Mars. Towards the end of the month, Mars passes 3 degrees north of slightly brighter star, Spica (α Vir - mag. +1.0).

Jupiter

Jupiter emerges from the morning twilight during the second week of November, becoming visible above the eastern horizon just before sunrise. The "King of the Planets" shines at mag. -1.7. Although towards the lower end of its magnitude range, it's still brighter than any night-time star.

As previously mentioned, Venus passes just north of Jupiter on November 13th. On November 16th, the thin waning crescent Moon passes 4 degrees north of the planet.

Saturn

Saturn, mag. +0.6, is an early evening object visible towards the western horizon just after sunset. The planet is currently drawing ever closer to solar conjunction, which it reaches on December 21st. Due to its declination of -22 degrees, it's best seen from southern or tropical regions. From mid-latitude northern locations, Saturn will become increasingly difficult to spot against the bright twilight, especially during the second half of the month.

The thin waxing crescent Moon passing 3 degrees north of Saturn on November 21st and as previously mentioned, Mercury and Saturn are positioned close together towards the end of the month.

Uranus

Uranus reached opposition last month and continues to be well placed for observation throughout November. The seventh planet from the Sun is located in Pisces, close to the Aries constellation border. It's visible towards the east as soon as it's dark enough, remaining so until the early hours of the morning. At mag. +5.7, Uranus can just about be seen with the naked eye, although it's much easier to spot with binoculars. A small 80mm (3.1-inch) refractor at high magnifications shows a small greenish disk, 3.7 arc seconds in diameter.

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 200mm (8 inch) scopes. Umbriel and Ariel are more difficult to spot, since fainter and closer to the planet.

On November 3rd and again on the 30th, the waxing gibbous Moon passes 4 degrees south of Uranus.

Uranus during November 2017 (credit:- freestarcharts)

Uranus during November 2017 - pdf format (credit:- freestarcharts)

Neptune

Neptune, mag. +7.9, is located in Aquarius. The distant planet can be spotted after sunset and remains visible until after midnight. Although never bright enough to be seen with the naked eye, it's relatively easy to glimpse with binoculars and small telescopes. The planet is currently positioned about 30 degrees southwest of the centre of the Great Square of Pegasus and just south of lambda Aqr (λ Aqr - mag. +3.7).

Neptune starts the month moving retrograde until November 22nd, when its second stationary point is reached. Direct motion is then resumed and this event is generally regarded as signaling the end of this year's opposition period.

On November 27th, the waxing gibbous Moon passes a degree south of Neptune.

Neptune during November 2017 (credit:- freestarcharts)

Neptune during November 2017 - pdf format (credit:- freestarcharts)

Solar System Data Table November 2017

 DateRight AscensionDeclinationMag.App. SizeIllum. (%)Dist. (AU)Constellation
SunNov 0514h 40m 17.8s-15d 35m 36.1s-26.832.3'1000.992Libra
SunNov 1515h 20m 38.8s-18d 24m 38.2s-26.832.3'1000.989Libra
SunNov 2516h 02m 24.2s-20d 41m 25.0s-26.832.4'1000.987Scorpius
MercuryNov 0515h 43m 42.2s-21d 35m 14.2s-0.45.1"901.321Libra
MercuryNov 1516h 43m 25.8s-24d 45m 28.0s-0.35.7"801.188Ophiuchus
MercuryNov 2517h 35m 34.4s-25d 44m 36.9s-0.46.8"610.996Ophiuchus
VenusNov 0513h 40m 59.6s-08d 56m 14.7s-3.910.3"961.620Virgo
VenusNov 1514h 28m 45.6s-13d 22m 59.2s-3.910.1"971.646Libra
VenusNov 2515h 18m 17.0s-17d 17m 05.5s-3.910.0"981.667Libra
MarsNov 0512h 31m 34.9s-02d 10m 45.0s1.83.9"972.383Virgo
MarsNov 1512h 54m 48.5s-04d 39m 52.4s1.84.0"962.320Virgo
MarsNov 2513h 18m 11.0s-07d 05m 33.9s1.74.2"962.251Virgo
JupiterNov 0514h 13m 23.7s-12d 19m 52.6s-1.730.7"1006.422Virgo
JupiterNov 1514h 21m 46.3s-13d 02m 31.0s-1.730.9"1006.388Virgo
JupiterNov 2514h 30m 02.8s-13d 43m 08.0s-1.731.1"1006.332Libra
SaturnNov 0517h 37m 17.5s-22d 21m 07.5s0.615.4"10010.775Ophiuchus
SaturnNov 1517h 41m 40.0s-22d 24m 29.4s0.615.3"10010.877Ophiuchus
SaturnNov 2517h 46m 20.8s-22d 27m 21.7s0.615.2"10010.956Sagittarius
UranusNov 0501h 35m 52.6s09d 20m 49.6s5.73.7"10018.958Pisces
UranusNov 1501h 34m 28.8s09d 12m 57.5s5.73.7"10019.024Pisces
UranusNov 2501h 33m 15.2s09d 06m 05.2s5.73.7"10019.117Pisces
NeptuneNov 0522h 52m 26.4s-08d 11m 14.6s7.92.3"10029.456Aquarius
NeptuneNov 1522h 52m 10.3s-08d 12m 39.5s7.92.3"10029.614Aquarius
NeptuneNov 2522h 52m 06.7s-08d 12m 47.2s7.92.3"10029.783Aquarius