November, from the Latin novem for nine, is the eleventh month of the year. The name comes from a time when the Romans had only ten named months totaling 304 days. The remaining days in the year were during winter and not assigned to a month. Interesting! With that out of the way, in this blog we’ll highlight November planetary events for sky watchers!
5 November — Uranus!
Famous as the butt of planetary jokes and puns, the “ice giant” Uranus will be visible all night on November 5th when it rises in “opposition” at sunset (hence it is opposite the Sun from Earth’s viewpoint). It will also be at its largest for the year: a diminutive 3.76″ of arc. It became magnitude 5.7 at the start of September this year and will stay that bright until early January 2022. Due to its distance and close-to-circular orbit, Uranus doesn’t vary that much in brightness over time. It’ll spend the rest of the year in the 5.8 – 5.9 magnitude range before the next opposition approaches. While technically a naked-eye target in dark skies, you’ll need magnification to confirm you’re looking at a planet and not a field star.
You won’t see any details on the planet, but with a big enough instrument or through imaging, you can capture some of its moons (the two largest will be at magnitude 13.9). The Sky & TelescopeMoons of Uranus interactive online tool will display the positions of the major Moons in relation to Uranus for the date and time selected.
For the history of how Uranus was flushed out from the background stars, and equipment advice for the opposition, see our 2018 Uranus Opposition blog post.
The Most Versatile Planetary Eyepiece!
You’ll need to turn up the power to confirm that you’ve sighted Uranus and not a field star. The most convenient way to do this is to use the Nagler Zoom. With just a flick of the finger you can continuously vary the focal length from 6mm down to 3mm with click-stops along the way at 5mm and 4mm focal length settings.
The Nagler Zoom was conceived as our ideal planetary eyepiece. Like all Tele Vue eyepieces, it’s designed for full-field sharpness in any speed telescope, as well as high contrast and transmission with natural color rendition, low scatter, and comfortable eye-relief. Use it to fine-tune magnification for the seeing conditions — no need to swap eyepieces to find the highest usable power. It’s parfocal through the zoom range, maintains its eye-relief and has the aforementioned click-stops for each focal length. Its constant 50° apparent field of view makes it more appropriate for scopes on tracking mounts. Read more about it on our website Nagler 3-6-mm and (mobile site).
19 November — Lunar Eclipse
The November 19th full Moon will bring a Lunar Eclipse. The entire Moon, except a tiny sliver in the south, will darken. Therefore it is will be a “Partial” eclipse — though “almost total” is more descriptive. This eclipse is part of the same cycle as the November 9, 2003 eclipse that was total.
Looking at the Moon does not need any eye protection and this is a sight anyone can enjoy — if they are in the right location.
The eclipse will peak at about 9:00 UT on November 19th. This will be a morning event in the western hemisphere and an evening event in the far east. Pacific waters are favored for the full-show, but so are most of North America and Siberia. There will be disappointment in London as the umbral phase arrives at moonset, but Edinburgh will see the umbra creep along the Moon’s face for a half-hour before the moonsets. Australia, Japan, the Philippines, and much of China will also see the umbral shadow.
This eclipsed full Moon will be smaller than usual — a Micromoon. This happens when the Moon becomes full near orbital “apogee” — the furthest point from Earth.
The December 2021 issue of Sky & Telescope has a wonderful article, “Small-Scope Winter,” on viewing the winter night sky. It is part of the Wide-Field Vistas series written by Brian Ventrudo. Within the pages is a small-scope guided tour of several celestial regions using fields of view from 2.3° to 5°. From Auriga and Perseus to the north to Puppis and Canis Major in the south, clusters, nebulae, stars, stellar groupings, and more come to life in Brian’s succinct prose.
Brian wrote this article using the Tele Vue-85 APO refractor with eyepieces that match the specs of our 24mm and 35mm Panoptic series. He says the objects on his tour lie within reach of scopes from 480mm to 700mm in focal length. This matches the range of our scopes capable of handling 2″ eyepieces, from the Tele Vue-76 (480mm) to the Tele Vue-NP127is (660mm). If you’re in the market for a small, portable, wide-field telescope that can also handle high-powers, see our advice article: Why You Should Choose a Tele Vue Telescope.
27 November — Ceres
Ceres, the first discovered and largest member of the asteroid belt, was initially sighted on the first day of the first month of the first year of the 1800s (01/01/1801). Giuseppe Piazzi at the Palermo Observatory in Sicily made the find while searching for a predicted planet between Mars and Jupiter. He originally thought the dim and slow-moving object he found was a comet. By the time word of the discovery was widely published, Ceres was lost in the glare of the Sun and astronomers were unable to locate it when that area emerged from the Sun’s glare. Famed German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss got involved and after months of work published his prediction of Ceres position for December of that year. On the last day of the last month of the year (12/31/1801) Ceres was recovered within a full-Moon’s width (0.5°) of the predicted position.
Now is the time for you to “discover” Ceres yourself. Over November it will “brighten” from magnitude 7.8 to 7.2 when it reaches opposition on November 27th (with a scant angular diameter of only 0.75″ of arc). It will fade to magnitude 7.9 at the end of the year and be a dismal magnitude 9 by next Spring. While Ceres is never a naked-eye object, at opposition you can easily pick it up in a binocular or finderscope. Due to its small diameter (939 km / 583 miles) don’t expect to see a planetary disc in a smallish scope. You’ll confirm your Ceres observation by noting its motion over time.
Ceres was named after the ancient Roman goddess of agriculture (from whom we also get the word cereal). While initially regarded as the 8th known planet, it was reclassified as an “asteroid” after more objects were found between Mars and Jupiter. In the 21st century, it was reassigned, with Pluto, to the new “dwarf planet” category. Ceres is the only object in the main asteroid belt with enough mass to form a spherical shape — therefore it is the single main belt asteroid that meets the criteria of being a dwarf planet. In fact, Ceres comprises 25% of the mass of the entire asteroid belt!
Powermate for Planetary Visual and Photography
With enough focal length, you can resolve the disk of Ceres and the moons of Uranus. That often calls for a focal length amplifier.
Imaging with Powermates is easy: the visual tops all unscrew to accept a specific Tele Vue Powermate T-Ring Adapter for use with standard camera T-rings.
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