Meteor showers will be the theme of November, but the final astronomical event of the month will steal the spotlight.
A trio of meteor showers will grace the night sky throughout November, but the best astronomical event of the month will be saved for last and might just be worth waking up in the middle of the night to see.
October featured a pair of meteor showers, but viewing them was a challenge for stargazers. Clouds obscured the sky across much of North America during the Draconids, while the full Hunter’s Moon made it difficult to watch the Orionids.
November’s meteor showers will bring more opportunities to catch a glimpse of a shooting star and even an incredibly bright fireball.
A bunching of stars known as the Pleiades star cluster will also be visible in the eastern sky shortly after nightfall throughout November. This bunching of stars is also known as the Seven Sisters and is associated with the approaching winter season, according to EarthSky.
The Pleiades can be seen on almost any night that it is clear, but to see the top celestial events of the month, you will need to mark these events in your calendar:
- Taurid meteor shower
When: Early November
The first two meteor showers in November are not particularly strong, but they might still be worth a view on a cloud-free night in the first half of the month.
The Southern Taurid meteor shower will peak during the first week of November, followed by the Northern Taurids, which will peak a week later.
Both showers have broad peaks rather than peaking on one specific night and only offer around five meteors per hour. However, both showers are known for their spectacular fireballs.
“When the two showers are active simultaneously in late October and early November, there is sometimes a notable increase in the fireball activity,” the American Meteor Society (AMS) explained.
Like many meteor showers, some meteors will start to appear after nightfall, but the best time to view the Taurids will be after midnight, local time. Onlookers do not need to look in any specific direction either as meteors and fireballs could streak anywhere in the sky.
- Leonid meteor shower
When: Nov. 17-18
The third meteor shower of November could prove to be the most active as the Leonids peak on the night of Wednesday, Nov. 17, into the early morning of Thursday, Nov. 18.
“The Leonids are best known for producing meteor storms in the years of 1833, 1866, 1966, 1999, and 2001,” the AMS said. During these outbursts, hourly rates ranged from 1,000 to 100,000 meteors per hour, creating some of the most mesmerizing displays in recent history.
Unfortunately, an outburst like that is not anticipated this year, with only 10 to 15 meteors per hour expected.
Similar to the Orionids, a nearly full moon will shine on the peak night for the Leonids, but some shooting stars could still be seen as meteors associated with the Leonids tend to be brighter than those from other meteor showers throughout the year.
- Partial Lunar Eclipse
When: Nov. 19
The third week of November will conclude with one of the top astronomy events in all of 2021 as an impressive lunar eclipse unfolds in the sky over North America.
This will be the first time that a partial or total lunar eclipse has been visible across all of North America since Jan. 20, 2019. There have been several penumbral lunar eclipses visible over the continent since 2019, but penumbral eclipses can be underwhelming and are often difficult to notice.
During the upcoming eclipse, 97% of the moon will pass through Earth’s dark inner shadow. This will make it more impressive than most partial lunar eclipses and means it will fall just short of being a total lunar eclipse when 100% of the moon passes through Earth’s inner shadow.
Folks hoping to watch the eclipse unfold will need favorable weather and perhaps a strong cup of coffee as it will take place in the middle of the night.
November’s partial lunar eclipse will be a preview of what’s to come in 2022. A total lunar eclipse will be visible in the eastern U.S. in May, followed by a total lunar eclipse for the western U.S. in November.