Backyard Observatory

You Can See 5 Bright Planets in November. Here's When & How to Spot Them All.

Take a trip through the solar system in a single night.

stargazing november 2020
Photo by MARIANA SUAREZ/AFP via Getty Image

This November will provide an opportunity for you to leave the house and see all five of the bright planets visible with the naked eye from Earth. In fact, there are nights when, with a little hustle, you can see every one of them.

Those planets are, of course, Mercury, Venus , Mars , Jupiter , and Saturn . They’re not all sitting in the sky at the same time, but stargazers will find that they are all visible within a single night, as long as you’re a bit accommodating to Mercury, which is arguably the hardest to spot of the lot. Here's how you can see each of those five planets this month.

How to see Mercury

Mercury, owing to its proximity to the sun and where it sits from our vantage point, can be tricky to spot. It’s only ever visible for brief windows around sunset or sunrise. Right now, close to the planet’s greatest elongation west, you can spy it in the early morning hours about an hour before sunrise.

Mercury is, however, tricky to see in part because it doesn't rise very high in the sky. At its highest in November, according to In the Sky , it'll reach just 17 degrees above the horizon. If you have trouble finding it, you'll see it just below Venus. Or you could use a mobile app like Sky View Lite to help locate the small planet.

How to see Venus

Venus is currently spending time as the morning star , only visible in the early morning hours. It'll rise at 4 am on November 10 and stay visible until sunrise. (The times will change throughout the month. In the Sky's rising and setting times can help you know when to look.)

Venus is the brightest planet in Earth’s sky, so it’s easy to spot even if you're looking from a city. Stars and planets are always going to be easier to see and more brilliant to look at when stargazing with a dark sky overhead. Many of the planets are, however, bright enough to see even with the light pollution you'll face in most cities. 

The planet's brightness makes it a splendid sight with the naked eye, but if you can spy it through a telescope, you’ll get an extra surprise. Because of its positioning, the planet goes through phases like the moon. If you can look at it through a telescope, you’ll see it as a crescent. 

How to see Mars

Mars hit opposition in mid-October. That was the brightest it will be in 2020 and for many years to come. For that month, it was even brighter than Jupiter, making it the fourth brightest object in Earth’s sky behind the sun, moon, and Venus. 

However, in November, it has dimmed a little and is no longer brighter than Jupiter. Still, it’s a great time to train your eyes on the planet because it’s sitting in the sky longer than any other planet, and it’s glowing a beautiful ruddy red. You'll find it rising in the west at sunset and hanging around until almost 4 am on November 10. 

How to see Jupiter and Saturn

Jupiter and Saturn have been trailing each other through the sky for months, heading toward their Great Conjunction in December. They’re sitting almost side by side with Jupiter slightly lower and brighter. They aren’t out for all that long anymore, but you'll find them for a few hours after sunset, rising in the southern sky and moving westward through the night.

Jupiter will be visible right at sunset, with Saturn emerging a little later as the glare of the sun fades away. On November 10, you'll find Jupiter staying out until almost 9 pm and Saturn until 9:15 pm. By November 26, that window has shrunk, with Jupiter setting at 8:04 pm and Saturn setting at 8:18 pm.

Get to know your friendly neighborhood planet this month. They're out there. 

Ready to go stargazing?

Here are all the best stargazing events that you can get out and see this month or you could stay in a stream the northern lights from home. If you're just getting started, check out our guide to astronomy for beginners or easy stargazing road trips from big US cities

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Dustin Nelson is a Senior Staff Writer at Thrillist. Follow Dustin Nelson on Twitter.