Primary Moon Phases – November 2021!

Hey, Sky Fans!

Okay, so, what’s the deal, are we supposed to hang the lights now? I saw candy canes and “Happy New Year!” hats on the shelves at the supermarket last week. I draw the line at Halloween, but that’s all behind is now. I hope yours was a Whopper and was Mounds of fun. But, here we are, at the start of November now, so let’s get to it.

And now the moment you’ve been waiting for, it’s the Moon’s primary phases for November 2021!

The Moon’s Primary Phases for November 2021!
  • November 4: New Moon
  • November 11: First quarter
  • November 19: Full Moon
  • November 27: Third / Last quarter

We’re in the best part of the year for watching the skies now. The Great Andromeda Galaxy (Messier 31) is still around, though it is getting up into neck-ache territory, and before we know it, winter’s bright lights will start filing back into the night. Capella, one of my favorites, in Auriga the charioteer, is already back. Plus, the Pleaides and Hyades clusters are climbing the night, too. It won’t be long before it’s Orion season.

So, let’s see. In the early part of the month, the Moon’s out of the picture. It’s waning for the first couple of days, then new on the 4th, and it’s probably not really out from the Sun’s glare until the 6th (binoculars will help) or maybe even the 7th, depending on when you look. If you care about these sorts of things — and if you do, I think we really need to have a talk — that new Moon happens at the closest part of its orbit to us; a… sigh… a super new Moon. Like I said, let’s get you through this.

Don’t forget to set your clock back on the 7th, as Daylight Saving Time finally (finally!) ends. It’s time to knock it off with this, isn’t it?

On the 7th, though, the Moon will occult Venus, but it’s mostly visible in east Asia, and it’ll be the 8th at the time. Occult is a word that means “to block out.” So, people in that part of the world will see the Moon slide between their eyes and Venus. For the rest of us, though, look for the second rock in the western sky after sundown. We’ll see a gorgeous conjunction of it and the Moon on the 7th, and then the Moon jumps to the other side of the planet on the 8th. Venus is great for lookin’-at these day. It was at its maximum elongation — it’s farthest from the Sun from our point of view — just a few days ago at the end of October, so it’s surprisingly high in the sky and visible deeper into the evening than you might expect.

Next, on the 9th, through 12th, let’s watch the Moon slide past Saturn and then Jupiter. The 11th, gives us another gorgeous Moon-planet conjunction, first quarter below and Jupiter above. With binoculars, let’s see if we can spot Jupiter’s giant “Galilean” moons. Ganymede, Io, Callisto, and Europa look like four infinitely tiny dots lined up along the planet’s midsection. Each of these is about the same size as the planet Mercury, so if we can spot them, we get an idea of what Mercury looks like from 500 million miles / 775 million km away.

From there, the Moon waxes through a bunch of sky that doesn’t have a lot going on. On the 17th, it’ll point the way, so with binoculars maybe you can look at Uranus. Though, if you know what you’re doing, there’s no reason to wait for the Moon. By the by, Uranus is at opposition on the 4th. That means it’s directly opposite the Sun in our sky, and is around its nearest, fullest, and brightest.

For my sky-watching dime, the 19th is the night this month. The full Moon crosses between the Pleiades cluster (above) and the Hyades (below), both in Taurus. Take a minute here to try to get a feel for what we’re looking at. The Moon’s the closest thing to us, about 239,000 miles / 300,000 km away. The light we see took about a second and a half to get from the Moon to our eyes. Then, beyond that, the bright red star at the top of the Hyades’s V is Aldebaran. It’s not actually part of the cluster, but instead, it’s in front of it from our point of view. It’s about 65 light years away. The rest of the cluster is about 150 light years. Then the Pleiades is about 450 light years; three times farther. It’s tough, but can you imagine this in three dimensions?

What’s more is we have a missed-it-by-that-much lunar eclipse very early in the morning on the 19th US time. Lunar eclipses are the ones when the Moon falls into Earth’s shadow and turns a gorgeous red as sunlight filtered through our atmosphere falls on it. Around where I live, the eclipse won’t even start until 1am or so, and maximum eclipse is at about 4am. So… you do you.

With this, it stars this season’s first trip across the Winter Hexagon. The Hexagon, as we’ve talked about tons of times before (and I have no doubt we will again), is an enormous asterism (an unofficial group of stars) that is so big that it takes six days for the Moon to make it across. The Moon won’t make it out the other side until the 23rd, when it’s alongside Pollux, the brightest star in Gemini, the twins.

Last quarter happens near Regulus, in Leo the lion very early the night after the US’s Thanksgiving. Last quarter rises around midnight, so it won’t be until the early mornings before you can see it. Chanukah starts the night of the 28th, if you’re celebrating, too, I hope it’s a great one.

From there, it’s the home stretch as we head back into the early crescents to start December.

These really are great nights to look up. I hope you will this month. Thanks for stopping by and clear skies, everyone!

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