Skywatchers, don't miss these awesome cosmic spectacles
November promises to bring a slew of celestial events, sure to keep amateur astronomers busy.
Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters
November has begun, and with it comes a set of cosmic events that skywatchers will want to look out for – including aligning planets, multiple meteor showers, and a comet visible with the naked eye.
Last month, Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter chased one another within the constellation Leo, with Venus taking the lead, in what University of Adelaide astronomer Ian Musgrave described as “a planetary dance, in that the planets are coming relatively close to each other, as we see them in the sky.”
"Of course, they're actually separated by millions of miles [but] when the planets are close to each other in the sky we call this a planetary conjunction,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation at the time.
This month, a somewhat dim Mars and a bright Venus will conjunct in the early hours of the morning on Tuesday, according to the US Naval Observatory. Less than a degree apart, both planets rise at about 2:45 a.m., The Washington Post reports.
Other celestial events include the Taurid meteor shower, which will peak on Wednesday, promising about 10 meteors an hour. The Leonids, a meteor shower caused by the Temple-Tuttle comet and that peaks in mid-November every year, are expected to do so at midnight on Nov. 17 to 18 for the continental US.
Once in a great while, the Leonids produce a meteor storm that features thousands of meteors per minute, but astronomers say this year’s shower will be more average, with about 15 shooting stars an hour.
November will also see the asteroid Vesta pass near the Cetus constellation, named after a sea monster in Greek mythology. Vesta, though relatively small at 325 miles in diameter, will be bright enough to be visible to watchers using only binoculars, according to Tech Times.
The Catalina comet, visible with or without binoculars, can also be spotted near the constellation Virgo on Nov. 22.