A Comet, 3 Meteor Showers, And A Lunar Eclipse – Exciting Astronomy Events In November 2020. - Science And Nature

Nov 2, 2020

A Comet, 3 Meteor Showers, And A Lunar Eclipse – Exciting Astronomy Events In November 2020.

October was a great month not only for sky gazers but also for science enthusiasts. It had seven meteor showers, the closest approach of Uranus and Mars, and a rare Halloween Blue Moon to the end of the month. Besides these natural events, there was a lot of progress in science, as we saw in this monthly review of discoveries. Let’s see what the penultimate month of the year has in store for us.

November 1: Asteroid 8 Flora at Opposition

Asteroid 8 Flora is the seventh brightest asteroid known to us. On November 1, it will be at the opposition. In celestial mechanics, an opposition takes place when the object, the Sun, and the Earth comes in a straight line with the Earth in the middle. Around the same time, the object makes its closest approach to the Earth. An opposition is usually the best time to watch a celestial object.

On this occasion, 8 Flora will pass within 0.877 AU of us, reaching a peak brightness of magnitude 8.1. Nonetheless, even at its brightest, 8 Flora, in Cetus, is a faint object beyond the reach of the naked eye; binoculars or a telescope of moderate aperture are needed.

November 8: Mercury At Dichotomy

Just like the Moon, Mercury also shows phases as seen from the Earth. On November 8, Mercury will be half-lit as it reaches its intermediate phase – its dichotomy. Around the same time, it reaches its furthest from the Sun. Mercury shines brightly at mag – 0.5 in the morning sky in the constellation of Virgo.

November 8: C/2020 M3 (ATLAS) Reaches Its Brightest

On November 8, comet C/2020 M3 (ATLAS) will reach its brightest. It will lie at a distance of 1.28 AU from the Sun, and at a distance of 0.36 AU from the Earth. It will be visible in the morning sky, becoming accessible a couple of hours before midnight in the constellation of Orion. Since its apparent magnitude is +9.0, you will need a telescope to watch this comet.

November 10: Mercury Reaches Its Highest Point In The Morning Sky

Just a couple of days after its dichotomy, the tiniest planet of the solar system will reach its highest point in the morning sky. However, it will be challenging to spot the planet because of its low altitude and proximity to the Sun. It will climb at its peak altitude of 8° above the horizon at sunrise.

On the same day, Mercury will reach its greatest elongation west. This means, it’s the best day to watch the planet in the morning sky as in the coming months, its altitude will drop till the planet reaches its superior conjunction in December 2020, when it will be completely lost in the glare of the Sun.

November 12: Northern Taurid Meteor Shower

The first meteor shower of November will be active from 20 October to 10 December, producing its peak rate of meteors around 12 November. The Northern Taurids is an annual meteor shower that takes place when the Earth passes through the debris of the asteroid 2004 TG10.

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As the name suggests, its radiant, the point from where all the meteors appear to originate, lies in the constellation of Taurus. The shower is expected to produce its best display about an hour after midnight when the radiant is well up in the sky. At its peak, the shower can produce up to 5 meteors per hour. The shower will peak close to the new moon, and so moonlight will present minimal interference. These space apps will help you to locate the radiant quickly.

November 13: Conjunction Of The Moon And Venus

The 27-day old Moon and Venus will share the same right ascension, with the Moon passing 3°04′ to the north of Venus. The Moon will be at mag -10.1, and Venus at mag -4.0, both in the constellation Virgo. Venus is the brightest planet in the night sky, brighter than any other star.

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Image: Dominic Ford, in-the-sky

The pair will be too widely separated to fit within the field of view of a telescope but will be visible to the naked eye or through a pair of binoculars.

November 14: Conjunction Of The Moon And Mercury

The Moon and Mercury will share the same right ascension, with the Moon passing 1°43′ to the north of Mercury. The Moon will be at mag -9.0, and Mercury at mag -0.7, both in the constellation Virgo.

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Image: Dominic Ford, in-the-sky

The pair will be too widely separated to fit within the field of view of a telescope but will be visible to the naked eye or through a pair of binoculars.

November 17: Leonid Meteor Shower

The second meteor shower of the month will be active between 6 November and 30 November, reaching its peak activity on 17 November. The radiant of the Leonid meteor shower lies in the constellation of Leo. The radiant will reach its highest point in the sky after sunrise so the best time to watch the shower is shortly before dawn.

The shower can produce up to 15 meteors per hour. You don’t need any telescope to watch the meteor shower. Just find a dark place away from the city lights, and give your eyes at least 30 minutes to adapt to the darkness. Use these space apps to locate the radiant easily.

November 19: Conjunction Of The Moon, Jupiter, And Saturn

Jupiter and Saturn are getting closer and closer each day. On December 21, i.e. on the day of the great conjunction, the two gas giants will appear extremely close to each other in the night sky. This is a rare event that takes place once in 20 years. You can read about this event in detail in this article.

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Image: Dominic Ford, in-the-sky

They are close together in the sky as seen from the Earth. On November 19, the Moon will pass close to the duo. Look for Jupiter and Saturn shining brightly in the south-west after sunset, as shown in the illustration above. The brighter one is Jupiter.

November 26: Conjunction Of The Moon And Mars

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Image: Dominic Ford, in-the-sky

After a close date with Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn, the Moon will pass close to the red planet. The Moon will be 10 days old, in the constellation of Cetus. Mars will be shining brightly at mag -1.3 in the constellation of Pisces. Can you still notice the red hue of the planet?

November 28: November Orionid Meteor Shower

The last meteor shower of the month will peak on November 28. It’s a weak shower producing around 3 meteors per hour. Its radiant lies in the constellation of Orion.

November 30: Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

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One of the most awaited astronomy events in November 2020

The flagship celestial event of November 2020 will take place on the last day of the month: the Penumbral Lunar Eclipse.

The Sun, the Earth, and the Moon will be imperfectly aligned as the Moon passes through the Earth’s shadow (penumbra) between 07:33 UTC and 11:54 UTC. The eclipse will be visible at any location where the Moon is above the horizon at the time, including from Oceania, the Americas, Eastern, and Southeast Asia, and Northern Europe. The detailed map of the eclipse is given below:

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Image: Dominic Ford, in-the-sky

Since it’s a penumbral lunar eclipse, the entire lunar disk will remain illuminated. However, its brightness will decrease. On this occasion 82% of the Moon’s face will pass within the Earth’s penumbra at the moment of greatest eclipse, and so a modest reduction in the Moon’s brightness may be perceptible.

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