With the conclusion of October taking with it spooky pumpkins, fall leaves and the hope of any remaining warm weather, it’s time to bundle up and turn our attention to the crisp month of November. What can we expect from the night sky during our transition to winter? Grab a cup of hot chocolate, dust off that scarf and let’s look at a few of the highlights.
Marvel at the full Beaver Moon (Nov. 4)
November’s full moon is nicknamed the Beaver Moon, Frost Moon and Hunter Moon. (Photo: Niks Freimanis/Flickr)
November’s full moon will rise on the morning of the 4th at 1:22 a.m. EDT. Early American colonists commonly referred to this full Moon as the Beaver Moon, after the time of year when beavers were most active and traps were set. American Indians named it the Frost Moon, after the season’s first frozen evenings. The Māori of New Zealand in the Southern Hemisphere took the opposite approach and described it as a moon heralding the return of summer.
Grab an extra hour of stargazing with Daylight Saving Time (Nov. 5)
The medieval St Cwyfan’s Church in Llangadwaladr, Anglesey, Wales. (Photo: Kris Williams/Flickr)
Yes, Daylight Saving Time is believed by man to be an outdated and terribly inconvenient idea. If you want to put a positive spin on the upcoming “fall back” slated for much of the U.S. on Nov 5. at 2 a.m. EDT, how about an extra hour of stargazing? We know it’s not as bady as an extra hour of sleep, but perhaps we can tempt you with a certain meteor shower explained below?
View the first peak of the Taurids meteor shower (Nov. 4-5)
A taurid firebal and aurora in 2015 lighting up the night sky over the state of Washington. (Photo: Rocky Raybell/Flickr)
If you’re looking for something to do with your extra hour of night sky on the evening of Nov. 5, grab a blanket and try to spot some Taurid fireballs. According EarthSky, the Southern Taurids meteor shower, which runs from September 25 to November 25, will peak from Nov. 4 to 5. The shower, remnants from comet Encke, is known less for its volume of shooting stars and more for how exceptionally bright they are. Despite an expected showing of less than 10 meteors per hour (as well as some interference from the full moon), these fireballs are well worth the time it might take to observe them.
Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter (Nov. 13)
An extremely close conjunction of Venus and Jupiter (top left in image) will take place on Nov. 13. (Photo: Dave Schumaker/Flickr)
If you happen to wake before dawn on the morning of Nov. 13, you’ll witness an extremely close conjunction of Jupiter and Venus in the Eastern sky. Conjunctions occur when the orbits of two planets make them seemingly appear to pbad by each other in the night sky. While Jupiter and Venus have frequent conjunctions, this one will be particularly tight, appearing only 0.3 degrees apart. The next close conjunction between these two will not take place again until Jan. 22, 2019.
View the second peak of the Taurids meteor shower (Nov. 12-13)
If you miss the peak of the first Taurids, don’t despair. A second peak will take place on the evening of Nov. 12 to 13. (Photo: Channone Arif/Flickr)
If the full moon manages to spoil the Taurids’ first peak on the 5th, you could always try again for the sequel. Called the Northern Taurids, these fireballs are essentially a second stream of debris left over from Encke. The meteor shower generally runs from Oct.12 to Dec. 2 and peaks on the evening of Nov 12. Like the previous showing, this one is all about catching fireballs. You can expect about 7 per hour until the waning crescent moon rises in the early morning hours to spoil the view.
Catch the zippy Leonids meteor shower (Nov. 17)
The Leonids meteor shower will peak on the evening of Nov. 17. (Photo: Jeff Wallace/Flickr)
Produced by dust streams left behind by comet Tempel-Tuttle, a periodic comet that will return in 2031, the Leonids are a moderate meteor shower with a peak display of about 15 to 20 shooting stars. Like other meteor showers, this one will be best viewed after midnight. Turn your gaze towards the constellation Leo the Lion, where the shooting stars appear to emanate.
It’s worth noting that the Leonids are responsible for some of the most spectacular meteor showers ever witnessed by man. Every 33 years, which is the orbital period of the parent comet, the Earth pbades through young debris trails that can spark as many as 1,000 meteors per hour. The last one, in 2001, featured hundreds per hour. The one in 1966? Downright magical.
“Meteorites began to appear by 10:30 p.m.; there were about three or four every five minutes,” recalled Christine Downing. “At the time that seemed extraordinary, but by 12:30 a.m. it was raining stars over the entire sky. We were in a dark, desert valley bowl, rimmed by mountains; the Sierras were in the west. By 2:00 a.m. it was a blizzard. There was the unnerving feeling that the mountains were being set on fire. Falling stars filled the entire sky to the horizon, yet it was silent. If these Leonids had been hail, we wouldn’t have been able to hear each other. If they had been a show of fireworks, we would have been deaf.”
Welcome the New Moon (Nov. 18)
Devil’s Tower and the Milky Way in a frame from a time lapse video shot by photographer David Kingham. (Photo: David Kingham/Flickr)
With the moon located on the same side of the Earth as the sun, the evening of Nov. 18 will offer the perfect opportunity to scope out some distant galaxies, meteors, comets, or just kick back and gaze at the beauty of the Milky Way.
The launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy (All month)
Will SpaceX finally launch its Falcon Heavy rocket in November? (Photo: SpaceX)
Back in July, Elon Musk took to Instagram to announce that SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, the world’s most powerful rocket, would have its maiden launch in November. Will it really happen? We have no idea and, so far, Musk hasn’t given any additional hints. All we do know is that SpaceX’s website still lists the first takeoff for 2017.
Whenever the Falcon does arrive, it will offer the ability to lift into orbit over 54 metric tons — a payload that hasn’t been possible since the last Saturn V flew in 1973. This will open the door to not only new possibilities in near-Earth space, but also for fulfilling Musk’s goal of one day colonizing Mars. Before we get there, however, there’s likely to be fireworks –– literally. Back in July, Musk talked about the risks of developing a rocket like the Falcon Heavy and the very real possibilities that it will suffer the same fate as early Falcon 9 launches.
“There’s a real good chance that it does not make it to orbit,” he said. “I hope it gets far enough away from the launch pad that it does not cause pad damage — I would consider that a win.”
Whether it launches this month or several months from now, the first flight of the Falcon Heavy will certainly be an event worth tuning in for.