Night Sky with Dhara Patel

The Taurid meteor shower, photographed in California in 2015

By DHARA PATEL
Astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich

With the clocks going back and the nights becoming longer, stargazing can begin in the early evening and carry on late into the night.

Heading into November the constellation of Taurus climbs into the eastern sky in the early evening. The red giant star Aldebaran is the 14th brightest star in our sky – marking the “eye of the bull”.

As your eyes become dark-adapted, you will easily see its red colour. It is joined by the waning gibbous moon on November 6 and, if you look further above the horizon from Aldebaran, you may also be able to find the Seven Sisters or the Pleiades – a cluster of seven stars as seen with the naked eye – but grab a pair of binoculars or a telescope to reveal many more in the young open cluster of stars.

Look for Mars in the constellation of Virgo in the predawn sky – look eastwards before the Sun rises. By the end of the month Mars will be beside the star Spica – the brightest in the constellation of Virgo.

There will be a rare opportunity to spot Jupiter and Venus in conjunction on November 13

Closer to the horizon you may also be able to spot the planets of Venus and Jupiter and there is a rare opportunity to see these planets in conjunction on the morning of November 13.

A conjunction is the apparent meeting of two objects in the sky and although both planets can be seen with just your eyes (Venus will be the brighter of the two), they are also close enough to be seen in the same field of view through a telescope.

Venus and Jupiter will be very close to the horizon in the pre-dawn sky so you will need to head to an open space with a clear view of the horizon.

The Northern Taurid meteor shower earlier in the month may not showcase many meteors but the peak of the Leonids meteor shower on the night of November 17/early morning of  November 18 could provide much more striking activity.

This meteor shower is associated with the Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle and in the past has shown amazing activity of thousands of meteors per hour.

For 2017, the rate is likely to be about 15 meteors an hour but some meteors leave persistent trains making them easier to spot.

With the Moon in its new Moon phase, the viewing conditions should be favourable so head out after midnight to spot some meteors.

Events at the Royal Observatory

Silver-Screen Science Fiction: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Every month cult and blockbuster sci-fi movies are screened in the planetarium at the Royal Observatory Greenwich. After each film an astronomer talks about the science fact and fiction behind the movie. For information on future screenings visit www.rmg.co.uk

Date: Saturday, November 11
Venue: Peter Harrison Planetarium, Royal Observatory, Greenwich
Time: 6.45pm-9.30 pm
Admission: £10 adults, £7 children, £8.50 concessions, 10 per cent off for members

An evening with the stars

Join astronomers for an evening of stargazing at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, featuring the largest historic telescope in the UK and the state-of-the-art digital planetarium. These evenings run throughout the winter months. Check out all the available dates at www.rmg.co.uk

Dates: November 17, 18, 24 and 25
Venue: Peter Harrison Planetarium and Historic Royal Observatory
Times: 5:25pm-7.25pm, 5.30pm-7.30pm, 6.45pm-8.45pm, 6.50pm to 8.50pm
Admission: £20 adults, £14 children, £17 concessions, 10 per cent off for members