Jupiter – the second-brightest planet after Venus – adorns the western sky at dusk and nightfall. Venus lurks below Jupiter nearly all month long, until these two dazzling beauties meet up for a conjunction on November 24, 2019. By the month’s end, Venus will have moved above Jupiter in the evening sky.
Jupiter pops out at dusk – brighter than any star – and stays out until early evening at mid-northern latitudes (mid-evening at temperate latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere). Not sure which one is Jupiter? See the moon in Jupiter’s vicinity for several days, centered on or near Halloween and then again on or near November 27.
Need more confirmation? Find a bright object you think is Jupiter, steady your binoculars – maybe sit down and anchor them on your knees, or prop your elbows on a fence railing – and aim them at that very bright light. If it is Jupiter, at least one or more of its four largest moons should pop into view.
At mid-northern latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere, Jupiter appears in the southwest sky at dusk. In early November, Jupiter sets around 7 to 8 p.m. (8 to 9 p.m. daylight saving time). By the month’s end, Jupiter sets at nightfall, around 6 p.m.
At temperate latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere, the king planet stays out till around 10 p.m. in early November, and by late November, Jupiter sets at nightfall, or around 8 p.m.
Saturn. After you find Jupiter at dusk and nightfall, use it to find another evening planet, Saturn. Saturn isn’t as bright as Jupiter, but ranks with the 1st-magnitude stars, that is, with our sky’s brightest stars. Hold your fist at arm’s length. Saturn is roughly two fist-widths to the east of (or above) Jupiter.
Because Saturn is the only bright-looking “star” to occupy this part of the sky, you should find it pretty easily. One hint: Saturn appears a golden world to the eye alone. You need a telescope to see its rings.
You won’t mistake Saturn for Jupiter. Jupiter is significantly brighter. The king planet Jupiter ranks as the fourth-brightest celestial object after the sun, moon and Venus, outshining Saturn by about 10 times. What’s more, at nightfall and early evening in November 2019, Jupiter shines well to the west of Saturn.
At mid-northern latitudes, Saturn plunges below the horizon around 9 p.m. (10 p.m. daylight saving time) in early November. Near the month’s end, Saturn sets around 7 to 8 p.m.
At temperate latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere, in early November, Saturn sinks below the horizon near the midnight hour. (Midnight in this usage means midway between sunset and sunrise.) By the month’s end, Saturn sets around 9 to 10 p.m.
Venus – the brightest planet – climbs out of the glare of evening dusk throughout November 2019, becoming more prominent in the evening sky toward the end of this month. Venus starts the month below Jupiter, but watch for Venus to soar upward day by day while Jupiter sinks downward. These two dazzling worlds will meet up for a close-knit conjunction on November 24, 2019, as shown on the sky chart below. By the month’s end, Venus hovers over Jupiter, as she reclaims her stature as the evening “star.”
At mid-northern latitudes in early November, Venus sets about one hour after sunset; but by the month’s end, that’ll increase to nearly two hours.
At temperate latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere, Venus sets about 1 1/2 hours after the sun in early November, and some two hours after sunset by the month’s end.
Watch for the young waxing crescent moon to pair up with Venus on or near November 28, as shown on the chart above.
Mercury shifts from the evening sky to the morning sky on November 11, 2019. Most of the time, as seen from Earth, Mercury swings to the north or south of the sun as its transitions over to the morning sky at inferior conjunction (see diagram below). But not this time! Mercury passes directly in front of the sun, to show itself as a small black dot crossing the solar disk. You need an optical aid and proper eye protection to safely watch this transit of Mercury.
From southerly latitudes, it might be possible to catch Mercury after sunset in early November; and, from northerly latitudes, to view Mercury before sunrise during the last week or two of November. Watch for the waning crescent moon to pair up with Mercury around November 24 or 25, as shown on the sky chart below.
Where is Mars? Sitting in the glow of morning twilight, modestly-bright Mars slowly climbs out of dawn’s glare throughout November. Mars is more easily seen from the Northern Hemisphere and southern tropics than at temperate latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere. At mid-northern latitudes, Mars rises about two hours before the sun in early November, and by the month’s end, rises some 2 1/2 hours before.
At temperate latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere, Mars comes up about one hour before the sun in early November, and about 1 1/2 hours before sunrise at the month’s end.
Watch for the old waning crescent moon to couple up with Mars on or near November 24, as shown on the above sky chart.
What do we mean by bright planet? By bright planet, we mean any solar system planet that is easily visible without an optical aid and that has been watched by our ancestors since time immemorial. In their outward order from the sun, the five bright planets are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. These planets actually do appear bright in our sky. They are typically as bright as – or brighter than – the brightest stars. Plus, these relatively nearby worlds tend to shine with a steadier light than the distant, twinkling stars. You can spot them, and come to know them as faithful friends, if you try.
Bottom line: In November 2019, a lineup of three planets – Saturn, Jupiter and Venus – adorns the sky at dusk/nightfall, with Saturn at top and Venus at bottom. Day by day, Venus climbs upward toward Jupiter, until Venus and Jupiter meet up for a conjunction on November 24. Mercury crosses the sun’s disk on November 11. Throughout the month, Mars climbs out of the glare of sunrise. Click here for recommended almanacs; they can help you know when the planets rise and set in your sky.
Bruce McClure has served as lead writer for EarthSky's popular Tonight pages since 2004. He's a sundial aficionado, whose love for the heavens has taken him to Lake Titicaca in Bolivia and sailing in the North Atlantic, where he earned his celestial navigation certificate through the School of Ocean Sailing and Navigation. He also writes and hosts public astronomy programs and planetarium programs in and around his home in upstate New York.