Skynotes November 2016


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Month Highlights

Mercury, Venus, Mars and Saturn can all be seen in the evening sky at sunset. Look west and Venus is impossible to miss shining as the bright ‘evening star’. Mars can be found high above Venus, while Saturn sits below Venus and quickly drops towards the western horizon throughout the month. From the middle of the month, Mercury can be found low to the west, passing by Saturn on the 21st.

Jupiter reappears in the eastern sky this month, shining alongside the bright star Spica (Virgo).

This month’s Full Moon on the 14th is the closest Full Moon since January 26, 1948. It’s a great excuse to make sure you catch the Full Moon rising at sunset, but will it really look different to any other month? It’s more likely a case of knowing that the moon is closer which makes us perceive it as bigger, brighter and better than any we’ve seen before.

Sunrise & Sunset Times

Date Rise Set
Tuesday 1st 6:13 7:55
Friday 11th 6:03 8:06
Monday 21st 5:56 8:16
Wednesday 30th 5:52 8:26

Moon Phases

Phase Date
First Quarter Tuesday 8th
Full Moon Monday 14th
Last Quarter Monday 21st
New Moon Tuesday 29th

The Moon will be at perigee (closest to Earth) on Monday 14th at a distance of 356,511 km.

The Moon will be at apogee (furthest from Earth) on Monday 28th at a distance of 406,555 km.

Let the Moon be Your Guide

The Moon can be used as a pointer to find other objects in the sky.

  • The waxing crescent Moon sits between bright Venus (above) and Saturn (below) after sunset on the 3rd.
  • On the evening of the 6th, the crescent Moon is below Mars.
  • The Full Moon on the 14th, is the closest Full Moon in almost 70 years.
  • The waning gibbous Moon travels across the sky with the red giant star Aldebaran (Taurus) on the 15th.
  • During the early hours of the 19th, the gibbous Moon sits above the twin stars of Gemini, Castor and Pollux.
  • The Last Quarter Moon is close to Regulus (Leo) on the morning of the 21st.
  • Before sunrise on the 25th, the waning gibbous Moon sits to the left of Jupiter.


Mercury returns to the evening sky appearing low in the west after sunset from the middle of the month. On the 21st, Mercury will sit directly between the red supergiant star Antares (to the left) and the planet Saturn (to the right).

Venus looks stunning in the evening sky, outshining all the other stars and planets. On the 3rd, the planet Saturn sits directly below Venus in the western sky and the crescent Moon can be found between the two planets.

Mars is high above Venus in the western sky at sunset. Its reddish glow is not as bright as it was earlier in the year, as it slowly moves away from Earth. The Moon will sit just below Mars on the 6th.

Jupiter appears in the morning sky this month. It can be found low to the eastern horizon before sunrise. The bright star to the right of Jupiter is Spica (Virgo, the maiden). On the 25th, the crescent Moon sits just to the left of Jupiter.

Saturn disappears below the western horizon at the end of the month, so it’s the last chance to see the ringed planet before it moves too close to the Sun. It is found alongside the constellation of Scorpius. After sunset on the 3rd, Saturn sits directly below bright Venus with the crescent Moon in between. The red star sitting to the left of Saturn is the supergiant star Antares, known as the beating heart of the scorpion. Saturn and Antares quickly drift towards the western horizon, passing Mercury on the 21st.


The Taurids is an old meteor stream that is visible throughout spring and generally peaks during the first week of November. The meteors are often described as being bright, slow moving and with the occasional colourful fireball. There are two branches to the shower one appearing near the star cluster Pleiades and the other near the red star Aldebaran. Generally around 10 meteors per hour can be seen, but every few years meteor activity increases, particularly with brighter meteors and more fireballs. Taurus rises in the north-east around 10pm and is visible until sunrise.

The Leonids occur from the 13th to the 20th, with a peak on the morning of the 18th. The Leonids is associated with Comet Tempel-Tuttle that orbits the Sun every 33 years. The comet reached perihelion (closest approach to the Sun) in February 1998, and in the following years the Leonids were a spectacular sight; worldwide thousands of meteors were seen per hour. In the years since then the shower has settled back to its usual rate of around 15 meteors per hour. The Leonids will appear to come from the direction of Leo, the lion, which can be found rising in the north-east around 4am. They are fast meteors that leave lots of trains. Some of the brighter meteors can produce trains that last for several minutes.

Stars & Constellations

Scorpius and Sagittarius are low in the south-west after sunset and will gradually disappear into the twilight. They make way for the summer constellations of Taurus, the bull and Orion, the hunter that are rising in the east.

The Southern Cross is now upside down with the Two Pointers to the right and the bright star Canopus to the left.

In the north, it's possible to see the most distant object visible to the unaided eye, the Andromeda Galaxy. From dark country skies this magnificent spiral galaxy can be seen as a faint smudge just above the northern horizon, sitting below and to the right of the square of Pegasus.

International Space Station

The ISS orbits the Earth every 90 minutes at an average distance of 400 km. From Earth, the ISS appears as a bright star that steadily moves across the sky. It can often be seen from Melbourne, for example at:

8:28pm - 8:30pm, Friday 4th November.

The Station will first appear low in the south-west and travel through the Southern Cross before disappearing in the south.

Predictions of when to see the ISS can be obtained from the Heaven's Above website.

On this Day

1st 1977, Chiron, an unusal object in orbit between Saturn and Uranus that is classified as both a comet and an asteroid, is discovered.

2nd 2000, William Shepard (USA), Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko (USSR) became the first residents of the ISS.

3rd 1957, Laika (the dog) became the first animal in space on-board Sputnik 2 (USSR).

7th 1631, A transit of Mercury is observed for the first time by Pierre Gassendi.

11th 1572, Tycho Brahe observed a supernova and showed that it is amongst the stars, proving that the heavens can change.

12th 1981, Columbia (USA) became the first spacecraft to be flown twice.

13th 1971, Mariner 9 (USA) became the first spacecraft to orbit another planet - Mars.

16th 1974, the first intentional interstellar radio message was sent into space from the Arecibo Observatory towards the M13 star cluster, 25 000 light years away (USA/Puerto Rico).

18th 1989, COBE (USA/ESA) the satellite that discovered the remnants of the 'Big Bang' was launched.

21st 1783, J. de Rozier (France) made the first manned balloon flight.

26th 1965, France became the third nation to launch a satellite.

27th 1971Mars 2's probe (USSR) became the first craft to impact Mars.

28th 1967, Jocelyn Bell (UK) discovered the first known pulsar, initially named LGM1 for "little green men".

29th 1961Enos' became the first chimpanzee in space on-board Mercury 5 (USA).

29th 1967, Australia became the fourth country to lauch a satellite with WRESAT-1.

30th 1609, Galileo Galilei studied the Moon with a telescope for the first time.

30th 1954, Elizabeth Hodges (USA) is hit by a 5kg meteorite in Alabama, one of the few documented instances of such an incident.