The Sky Above You – November 2020


By Duncan Lunan



The Moon will be New on November 15th and Full on November 30th. There will be a penumbral lunar eclipse on the morning of November 30th, beginning soon after 7.30 a.m., but it may not be dark enough to notice, and the Moon sets during the event.


The planet Mercury returns to the morning sky in November, in Virgo, at greatest western elongation on the 10th, to lower left of Venus beyond the crescent Moon on November 13th, and it disappears again into daylight at the end of the month.


Venus remains brilliant in the morning sky, rising about 3.30 a.m. in Virgo to pass Spica on 15th and 16th November, reaching Libra on November 28th. The Moon is near Venus on 12th November.


Mars in Pisces sets about 3.30 a.m. in November, still bright although diminishing as the Earth draws away from it after opposition last month. Mars comes to its apparent ‘stationary point’ on November 15th, after which it will begin to move eastward against the stars. The Moon is near Mars on the night of 25th November.


Jupiter in Sagittarius sets at 8 p.m. in November. The Moon is near Jupiter on November 19th.


Saturn remains close to Jupiter, and the Moon is near Saturn on November 19th.


Uranus is in Aries, and sets about 6 a.m. in November, near the Moon on the 27th.


Neptune in Aquarius sets around 1 a.m. in November. Neptune is near the Moon on November 23rd, and ‘stationary’ on November 29th.


Meteors from the Taurid shower continue from late October to early December, peaking on November 11-12th. The Leonid meteors, which peak on the night of 17-18th November, are best after midnight GMT, as the Earth turns to face the incoming stream of dust along the comet’s orbit. Neither will be spoiled by the Moon this year, and it’s best not to look at the constellation in question when watching, as the meteors will appear to radiate from it.



Duncan Lunan’s latest book “From the Moon to the Stars”, a collection of space travel stories old and new relating to the Moon and Project Apollo, illustrated by Sydney Jordan, is now available from the publishers at https://othersidebooks.wordpress.com, as well as on Amazon or through booksellers; details of that and his other books are on Duncan’s website, www.duncanlunan.com.










The Sky Above You


By Duncan Lunan


About this Column


I began writing this column in early 1983 at the suggestion of the late Chris Boyce.   At that time the Post Office would allow 1000 free mailings to start a new business, just under the number of small press newspapers in the UK at the time.   I printed a flyer with the help of John Braithwaite  (of Braithwaite Telescopes)  offering a three-part column for £5, with the sky this month, a series of articles for beginners, and a monthly news feature.   The column ran from May 1983 to May 1993 in various newspapers and magazines, but never in more than five outlets at a time, although every one of those 1000-plus papers would have included an astrology column.   Since then it’s appeared sporadically in a range of publications including The Southsider in Glasgow and the Dalyan Courier in Turkey, but most often, normally three times per year, in Jeff Hawke’s Cosmos from the first issue in March 2003 until the last in January 2018.   It continues to appear monthly in Troon's Going Out and Orkney News. Enquries from other outlets welcomed!


 The monthly maps for the column were drawn for me by Jim Barker, based on similar, uncredited ones in Dr. Leon Hausman’s “Astronomy Handbook”  (Fawcett Publications, 1956).   Jim had to redraw or elongate several of them because they were drawn for mid-US latitudes, about 40 degrees North, making them usable over most of the northern hemisphere.   The biggest change needed was in November when only Dubhe, Merak and Megrez of the Big Dipper, as the US version called it, were visible at that latitude.   In the UK, all the stars of the Plough are circumpolar, always above the horizon.   We decided to keep an insert in the January map showing the position of M42, the Great Nebula in the Sword of Orion, and for that reason, to stick with the set time of 9 p.m., (10 p.m. BST in summer), although in Scotland the sky isn’t dark then during June and July. 


To use the maps in theory you should hold them overhead, aligning the North edge to true north, marked by Polaris and indicated by Dubhe and Merak, the Pointers.   It’s more practical to hold the map in front of you when looking south and then rotate it as you face east, south and west.   Some readers are confused because east is on the left, opposite to terrestrial maps, but that’s because they’re the other way up.   When you’re facing south and looking at the sky, east is on your left.  


The star patterns are the same for each month of each year, and only the positions of the planets change.   (“Astronomy Handbook” accidentally shows Saturn in Virgo during May, showing that the maps weren’t originally drawn for the Hausman book.)   Consequently regular readers for a year will by then have built up a complete set of twelve.





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