Sunrise and Sunset Times

From the U.S. Naval Observatory

Sun rises at 7:30 a.m. and sets at 5:59 p.m. on the 1st EDT

Sun rises at 7:03 a.m. and sets at 4:37 p.m. on the 30th EST

Moon’s phases in November

New Moon on the 7th.

Full “Beaver Moon” on the 23rd.

Stars and constellations

With the clocks set back to Eastern Standard Time in early November, the sky becomes dark enough to see bright stars and constellations by around 5:30 p.m. Looking toward the west at around 8 p.m., we find that the Summer Triangle of Vega, Deneb and Altair is still fairly high up but getting steadily lower with each passing week.

But it is the stars of autumn that are in their full glory during the evening hours of November.

One of the most celebrated of these is the Great Square of Pegasus, consisting of four stars, Alpheratz, Markab, Scheat and Algenib, and which stands high in the south around 8 p.m. EST. Alpheratz is actually the Alpha star of neighboring Andromeda but was “borrowed” to complete the square. Andromeda’s three brightest stars — Alpheraz, Mirach and Almaak — plus Alpha Persei (Mirfak) form an arc that connects to the Great Square of Pegasus to form a gigantic dipper, which has the same basic shape as the Little Dipper but is much larger in size. Exactly below the Great Square’s western edge in the south is the constellation Pisces Austrinus, the Southern Fish, which contains the only first magnitude star in the autumn sky, whitish Fomalhaut.

Well below and to the left (east) of the Great Square is Cetus, the Whale (or Sea Monster). Cetus is the fourth largest constellation in the sky. Its two brightest stars lie at opposite ends of the constellation: Diphda, or Deneb Kaitos (“the whale’s tail”), at its southwestern side and Menkar (“the nose”), or Alpha Ceti, on its northeastern side. Diphda and Menkar are cooler, much larger and more luminous than the Sun. They are classed as orange and red giant stars, respectively.

High in the northeast we find another signature autumn constellation: the unmistakable “W” shape (which, as the sky rotates, is gradually flipping into an “M” shape) of the constellation Cassiopeia. Cassiopeia, like the spring group Ursa Major, is a far northern, circumpolar constellation. It never sets, as seen from latitudes north of about 30 degrees, which includes nearly all of the United States and Canada and much of Europe and Asia. Cassiopeia contains no first magnitude stars, but it does contain a number of moderately bright ones, including Alpha (also known by its proper name, Shedir), which marks the lower right corner of the “W.” Beta (also known as Caph) is the upper right point of the “W,” and Gamma marks the center of the “W.”

Rising in the northeast, below Cassiopeia, is Perseus, representing the hero of mythology who rode the winged horse Pegasus and rescued the maiden Andromeda from sea monster Cetus; all of these characters are represented as constellations in the autumn sky.

Winter begins officially next month, but a few winter stars can be previewed on November nights. Low in the east is the reddish star Aldebaran, the brightest star of Taurus, the Bull. Also part of Taurus is the famous Pleiades cluster, a compact group of stars shaped like a miniature dipper. Low in the northeast to the left of Aldebaran is the bright yellow-white star Capella (meaning “little she goat”), situated in the constellation of Auriga.

Naked-eye planets in the evening and morning sky

Mercury reaches its greatest evening elongation on Nov. 6, but its low elevation will make it hard to spot in the west after sunset. Mercury vanishes into the glow of dusk by the middle of November and reaches inferior conjunction with the Sun on the 27th.

After a long stay in the evening sky from spring through early autumn, Venus reached inferior conjunction with the Sun on Oct. 26, passing nearly between Earth and Sun. As November opens, Venus has deftly shifted into the morning sky, rising nearly half an hour before the Sun on the 1st. Venus then soars, and by Thanksgiving morning, it is rising about three hours before the Sun at about 4 a.m. There is no mistaking this magnificent beacon, as it outshines all other nighttime objects except for the Moon. A telescope or even strong binoculars will reveal Venus’s distinctly crescent phase.

Jupiter reaches the end of its evening run this month; it sets by about 7 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on the 1st, or only about one hour after the Sun. By mid-month, Jupiter has become lost in the glow of dusk; it reaches conjunction with the Sun on the 26th, but then it reappears in the dawn sky next month.

As November opens, Saturn resembles a moderately bright cream-colored star low in the southwest after sunset; it sets by around 9:15 p.m. EDT. By month’s end, Saturn is setting by 6:30 p.m. EST, or only two hours after the Sun. Saturn’s residence in the evening sky will come to an end next month.

Orangish Mars is up in the south-southwest at nightfall; it transits the meridian by 8 p.m. EDT on Nov. 1 and by around 6 p.m. EST on the 30th. Mars’s brightness continues to wane as Earth pulls away from it, but even at the end of November, it is still brighter than nearly all of the brightest true stars, such as Vega and Capella, and it remains a beautiful sight through a telescope. Mars sets shortly before midnight EST for most of November.

The Leonid Meteor Shower is an annual event which peaks in the early morning hours of Nov. 17, appearing to emanate from the constellation Leo, which will be rising in the east just before midnight. The Moon’s phase will be only two days after first quarter and so conditions will be favorable to see the fainter meteors after 1 a.m.

Information on lunar phases and rise/set times of Sun and planets is obtained from the U.S. Naval Observatory Data Services at usno.navy.mil/astronomy. Additional information comes from "The Astronomical Almanac (2016-2020)" by Richard J. Bartlett (Stars ‘n Stuff Publishing, 2015). For more information on the night sky, visit the Widener Observatory Stargazing website at widener.edu/stargazing. A set of free sky maps can be obtained at skymaps.com.

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