As October closes 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.
Grab an extra hour of stargazing with Daylight Saving Time (Nov. 4)
Yes, Daylight Saving Time is believed by many to be an outdated and terribly inconvenient idea. If you want to put a positive spin on the upcoming "fall back" slated for much of the United States on Nov 4. at 2 a.m. EDT, how about an extra hour of stargazing? We know it's not as sexy as an extra hour of sleep, but perhaps we can tempt you with a certain meteor shower?
View the first peak of the Taurids meteor shower (Nov. 4-5)
A Taurid firebal and aurora in 2015 light up the night sky over the state of Washington. (Photo: Rocky Raybell/Flickr)
If you're looking for something to do with your extra hour of night sky on the evening of Nov. 5, grab a blanket and try to spot some Taurid fireballs. According to EarthSky, the Southern Taurids meteor shower, which runs from Sept. 25 to Nov. 25, will peak from Nov. 4 to 5. The shower, remnants from comet Encke, is known less for its volume of shooting stars and more for how exceptionally bright they are. Despite an expected showing of less than 10 meteors per hour, these fireballs are well worth the time it might take to observe them. As a bonus, the moon will be in its waning crescent phase, allowing for near-optimal conditions to pick out even the faintest Taurids.
Welcome the New Moon (Nov. 7)
Devil's Tower and the Milky Way in a frame from a time-lapse video shot by photographer David Kingham. (Photo: David Kingham/Flickr)
With the moon located on the same side of the Earth as the sun, the evening of Nov. 7 will offer the perfect opportunity to scope out some distant galaxies, meteors, comets, or just kick back and gaze at the beauty of the Milky Way.
Flyby of the 'Halloween Asteroid' (Nov. 11)
Back in 2015, in the early morning hours of Oct. 31, telescopes around the world set their sights on a 2,000-foot-wide rock passing within 302,000 miles of Earth. While such a close flyby was disconcerting, the near-Earth asteroid also had another remarkable quality: a shape that, when viewed from a certain perspective, appeared akin to a human skull. While officially named 2015 TB145, researchers later nicknamed the eerie visitor the "Halloween asteroid."
On Nov. 11, this creepy rock will once more make a return visit past Earth. In addition to being overdue on the Halloween side of things, it will also keep a comfortable distance away; coming no closer than 24 million miles from our planet. No less eerie, astronomers now believe the Halloween asteroid is all that remains of a dead comet; its volatiles long stripped away during numerous passes around the sun.
View the second peak of the Taurids meteor shower (Nov. 12-13)
If you miss the peak of the first Taurids, don't despair. A second peak will take place on the evening of Nov. 12 to 13. (Photo: Channone Arif/Flickr)
If catching some extra sleep because of the time change took priority during the first Taurids display, you could always try again for the sequel. Called the Northern Taurids, these fireballs are essentially a second stream of debris left over from Encke. The meteor shower generally runs from Oct.12 to Dec. 2 and peaks on the evening of Nov 12. Like the previous showing, this one is all about catching fireballs. You can expect about seven per hour, with the waxing crescent moon setting early in the evening to allow for unspoiled views.
Catch the zippy Leonids meteor shower (Nov. 17)
The Leonids meteor shower will peak on the evening of Nov. 17. (Photo: Jeff Wallace/Flickr)
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 15 to 20 shooting stars. Like other meteor showers, this one will be best viewed after midnight. Turn your gaze towards 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 2:00 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."
Marvel at the full Beaver Moon (Nov. 23)
November's full moon has several names including the Beaver Moon, Frost Moon and Hunter Moon. (Photo: Niks Freimanis/Flickr)
November's full moon will rise on the morning of the 23rd at 12:39 a.m. EDT. Early American colonists commonly referred to this full moon as the Beaver Moon, after the time of year when beavers were most active and traps were set. American Indians named it the Frost Moon, after the season's first frozen evenings. The Māori of New Zealand in the Southern Hemisphere took the opposite approach and described it as a moon heralding the return of summer.
Editor's note: This story has been updated since it was first published in November 2017.