In their outward order from the sun, the five visible planets are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Three of them appear in the November evening sky and the other two in the morning sky. Our feature chart shows Saturn in the eastern sky before dawn.
The evening sky gives us the planets Mercury, Venus and Jupiter. Try catching Mercury and Venus first because these two worlds sit low in the sky at dusk and follow the sun beneath the horizon about one hour after sunset (at mid-northern latitudes). Click here for a sky chart.
Jupiter will be the easiest of all the planets to see. The king planet blazes far brighter than any star and is found fairly low in the east at dusk and nightfall. Jupiter ranks as the fourth brightest celestial body to light up the heavens, after the sun, moon and Venus, so you should have no trouble spotting Jupiter. Whereas Venus sets soon after sunset in November, Jupiter stays out till the wee hours of the morning.
Jupiter swings highest in the sky at late evening and sits low in the western sky before dawn. As Jupiter sets in the west, look for Saturn to rise directly opposite of Jupiter in the east an hour or two before sunrise. Golden Saturn shines close to the constellation Virgo’s brightest star, Spica, and should make for a fine color contrast in binoculars.
As for Mars, the red planet rises at or after midnight, and swings highest in the sky at dawn. Ruddy Mars couples up closely with the constellation Leo’s brightest star, blue-white Regulus, to display another stunning contrast of color between a planet and a first-magnitude star.
The middle part of the month may well present your best chance to see the five visible planets in the November 2011 night sky.