Venus is the brightest planet, and it’s now back in the east before sunrise. Each day throughout November 2018, this blazing beauty of a planet will rise sooner before sunrise and will brighten all the while. Although Venus will be a fixture of the morning sky until mid-August 2019, it’ll shine at its brightest in late November and early December 2018, as the morning “star.”
Venus only entered the morning sky on October 26, 2018. So in early November, Venus will still be rather low in the eastern sky just before sunrise. Find an unobstructed eastern horizon, and, if you have binoculars, bring them along. Venus will be higher up and easier to view in the morning sky as the month progresses.
Look for the waning crescent moon in the vicinity of Venus before sunrise November 4, 5 and 6, as depicted on the chart above.
At mid-northern latitudes, Venus rises roughly one hour before sunrise by around November 4. By the month’s end, Venus will rise some three hours before the sun.
At temperate latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere, Venus rises about one hour before sunup on or near November 6. By late November, Venus will rise two hours before the sun.
Jupiter is nominally in the evening sky this month, but, for us in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s very near the western horizon at sundown. Day by day, Jupiter falls closer to the setting sun, and sets sooner after the sun. By late November 2018, Jupiter will have passed over into the morning sky.
Jupiter stays out longer after sunset in the Southern Hemisphere. That’s because the ecliptic – pathway of the sun, moon and planets – hits the evening horizon at a steeper angle than at comparable latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere.
For instance, at mid-northern latitudes (United States, mainland Europe, Japan), Jupiter sets about one hour after the sun in early November and then sets with the sun near the month’s end. In contrast, at temperate latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere (Cape Town, South Africa, and southern Australia), Jupiter sets about 1 1/2 hours after the sun in early November and with the sun near the month’s end.
If you live in the Southern Hemisphere or northern tropics, let the slender waxing crescent moon guide your eye to Jupiter (and Mercury) for several evenings, centered on or around November 9. On the other hand, if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, you might have a tough time seeing Jupiter around that time … but you may catch Mercury, as shown on the second chart below. Start watching around November 8 or 9 (charts below).
Use Mars to find Saturn in November 2018. Although Mars continues fading in brightness this month, it remains bright and beautiful, shining more brilliantly than a 1st-magnitude star throughout November 2018. In November, Mars transits – reaches its highest point in the sky – around dusk/nightfall in the Northern Hemisphere, and around sunset in the Southern Hemisphere. Once you see Mars, look for Saturn way below Mars and quite low in the southwest sky.
Click here for a recommended sky almanac providing you with the transit times for Mars.
From mid-northern latitudes, Saturn stays out until around 8 p.m. standard time in early November. By the month’s end, Saturn will set around 6 p.m. Mars sets around midnight, all month long.
From temperate latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere, Saturn sets around 10 to 11 p.m. in early November and around 9 p.m. in late November. Mars stays out until after midnight throughout the month.
You can tell Mars from Saturn because Mars has a reddish color and Saturn looks golden. Binoculars show their colors better than the eye alone.
Both Mars and Saturn are slowly dimming throughout the month. Because Mars is dimming at a faster rate than Saturn is, Mars appears nearly three times brighter than Saturn at the beginning of the month, yet only somewhat more than 1 1/2 times brighter by the month’s end.
Mercury, the innermost planet of the solar system, is an evening planet (at least nominally) for most of the month in November 2018. Mercury’s greatest elongation falls on November 6, 2018, but the Southern Hemisphere has the big advantage over the Northern Hemisphere for spotting Mercury. Even so, try your luck at catching the young moon with Mercury after sunset around November 8, 9 and 10, as shown on the sky chart above.
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 2018, two planets shine in the evening sky all month long: Mars and Saturn. Venus lights up the eastern sky before sunrise. Mercury and Jupiter for the most part are lost in the glare of evening dusk, but might be possible to see early in the month, low in evening twilight. Click here for recommended almanacs; they can help you know when the planets rise, transit 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.