What to See in the Night Sky for November 2021

From dueling meteor showers to a blood-red full moon, these cooler evenings are hot with celestial events.

man looking up at night sky

Preserved Light Photography / Getty Images

As October winds down, it takes with it spooky pumpkins, fall leaves, and the hope of any remaining warm weather, so it's time to bundle up and turn our attention to the crisp month of November. What can we expect from the night sky during our transition to winter? Grab a cup of hot chocolate, shake out that scarf, and let's look at a few of the highlights.

Dark Skies Follow November’s New Supermoon (Nov. 4) 

A new Moon will bring excellent dark sky conditions to help kick off November, reaching its peak on Nov. 4 at 5:15 PM EDT. Interestingly, this new Moon is one of only two "supermoons" for 2021, so-called when a full or new Moon occurs during the Moon’s closest approach to Earth. While full supermoons are a marvel to see rise into the night sky, this new supermoon will be invisible (owing to a new Moon’s passage between the Earth and Sun) and will usher in several days of beautiful dark nights for other celestial events to shine.

Uranus at Opposition (Nov. 4)

The seventh planet from the Sun and roughly four times larger than Earth, Uranus will reach opposition on Nov. 4. That evening it will be at its biggest and brightest for the year and, thanks to excellent dark sky conditions from the new supermoon, may even be visible to the unaided eye. Train your eyes, binoculars, or telescope on the constellation Aires all night long to see if you can spot this icy blue giant

Gain an Extra Hour with the End of Daylight Saving Time (Nov. 7)

Yes, the biannual switch between Daylight Saving Time and Standard Time is believed by many to be an outdated and terribly inconvenient idea. But if you want to put a positive spin on the upcoming "fallback" slated for much of the United States on Nov 7. at 2 a.m. EDT, how about an extra hour of sleeping—or stargazing?

The return of Standard Time means the sun will rise a little earlier, which is good news for early birds, but not so great if you like to see the sun when you leave the office for the day. We know it's not as appealing as an extra hour of sleep, but perhaps we can tempt you with a few meteor showers this month?

View the Peak of the Taurids Meteor Shower (Nov. 11-12)

This month is full of night sky doubleheaders. First up are the Taurid fireballs, also known as "Halloween fireballs" in some space nerd corners. According to Space.com, though the showers last from roughly Oct. 20 to Nov. 30, the best time to catch them in all their fiery action is the evening of Nov. 11-12.

The shower, remnants from the comet Encke, is known less for its volume of shooting stars and more for how exceptionally bright they are. (See the video above for some examples.) Despite an expected showing of fewer than 12 meteors per hour, these fireballs are well worth the time it might take to observe them. As a bonus, the new Moon on Nov. 4 should give us a week or so of dark skies, making it easier to see these unusually bright meteors.

Welcome Back Orion the Hunter (Mid-Nov.)

Hidden below the horizon since the start of summer, the classic constellation “Orion the Hunter” will make its return to the colder night skies this month. 

One of the most recognizable constellations, ranking right up there with the Big and Little Dipper, Orion is easy to spot thanks to his “belt.” It consists of the three bright stars—Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka. Orion’s right shoulder is represented by the star Betelgeuse, one of the brightest in the night sky that's poised to deliver a future spectacle. According to scientists, Betelgeuse is a dying star which will experience a supernova explosion sometime over the next 10,000 years. When that happens, the light show will be seen from Earth, potentially even outshining the light of the full Moon and visible during the day!

Catch the Zippy Leonid Meteor Shower (Nov. 17)

Produced by dust streams left behind by comet Tempel-Tuttle, a periodic comet that will return in 2031, the Leonids are a moderate meteor shower with a peak display of about 10-15 meteors per hour. The showers occur through most of November, but the night of peak activity this year is Nov. 17. Like other meteor showers, this one will be best viewed after midnight. Turn your gaze toward the constellation Leo the Lion, where the shooting stars appear to emanate.

It's worth noting that the Leonids are responsible for some of the most spectacular meteor showers ever witnessed by man. Every 33 years, which is the orbital period of the parent comet, Earth passes through young debris trails that can spark as many as 1,000 meteors per hour. The last one, in 2001, featured hundreds per hour. The one in 1966? Downright magical.

"Meteorites began to appear by 10:30 p.m. There were about three or four every five minutes," recalled skywatcher Christine Downing, one of many who wrote in to NASA to share their experiences. "At the time that seemed extraordinary, but by 12:30 a.m. it was raining stars over the entire sky. We were in a dark, desert valley bowl, rimmed by mountains; the Sierras were in the west. By 2 a.m. it was a blizzard. There was the unnerving feeling that the mountains were being set on fire. Falling stars filled the entire sky to the horizon, yet it was silent. If these Leonids had been hail, we wouldn't have been able to hear each other. If they had been a show of fireworks, we would have been deaf."

Witness a Near-Total Lunar Eclipse and a “Frosty” Full Blood Moon (Nov. 19) 

This month’s full Moon, also called the “frost moon,” reaches its peak on the morning of Nov. 19 at 3:59 a.m. EDT and includes a near-total lunar eclipse. Starting at about 1 a.m. on the east coast, the Earth’s shadow will begin to slowly creep across the Moon’s surface, reaching peak eclipse around 4 a.m. At this point, the Moon will glow an eerie reddish color, with about 97% of its surface fully eclipsed by Earth’s shadow. 

"Lunar eclipses ... reflect our world," astronomer and podcaster Pamela Gay tells Space.com. "A blood-colored moon is created [by] ash from fires and volcanoes... dust storms and pollution all filtering sunlight as it scatters around our world.”

Catch Ceres, the Largest Object in the Asteroid Belt, with Some Binoculars (Nov. 26)

Discovered in 1801 and originally considered a planet, the nearly 600-mile-wide Ceres has since been classified as a dwarf planet and is the largest object residing in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. 

On Nov. 26 Ceres will be at opposition to Earth and, despite being only a quarter of the size of our moon, will be visible through binoculars. While the 26th brings it closest to Earth, viewing conditions will likely be best at the beginning of the month, thanks to dark skies from the new Moon. Look for it in the Hyades star cluster in the constellation Taurus.