Like an oncoming car, the cosmos appears to have its brights on this month.

Mars and Venus present a treat to sky gazers in November, marking two memorable points of light at opposite ends of the sky. Mars reaches its brightest point early in the month and will be easy to find even while in the city. See our neighboring red planet now because it will not be this brilliant until 2018.

Look for Mars in the eastern sky after dark, as it is a brilliant, unmistakable orange-red. You can find it in the south after midnight, and you can see it in the western sky in the early morning hours.

Officially, the red planet reaches opposition on Monday, which means that from Earth's point of view, Mars is opposite from the sun. In other words, when the sun sets in the west, Mars rises in the east. Interestingly, the nearly full moon and Mars rise together Nov. 14.

The full moon -- and that can mean any full moon -- is always opposite the sun. By Thanksgiving, Mars sets earlier and rapidly becomes dimmer.

Facing south, when night arrives and Mars begins to enter stage left, Venus is exiting stage right. Find Venus deep in the south-southwestern sky at dark. While Mars has a distinctly orange-red tint, Venus is a very bright white.

Saturn rises in the east-northeast around 11:30 p.m. now, and by mid-month the great ringed planet will ascend the eastern heavens in the 10 p.m. hour. You can find this gaseous, giant planet in the constellation Cancer.

Jupiter races through the morning sky just ahead of the rising sun in the east-southeast. In the middle of the month, this gaseous giant planet rises about 6 a.m., and by month's end climbs the eastern horizon about 5:15 a.m. It's should be easy to see from the city.

The fleet Mercury follows Jupiter toward the end of the month and makes a cameo appearance ahead of the rising sun. Look for it hugging the horizon. This is not a good year for the reliable mid-November Leonid meteors, which are likely to be washed out by the moon.

Down-to-Earth Events

Today: Just as Mars reaches its brightest, the National Park Service and the National Capital Astronomers host this season's last "Exploring the Sky" event at Rock Creek Park, near the Nature Center, in the field south of Military and Glover roads NW. 7 p.m. Information, (202) 895-6070;; or

Today: See Mars and other cosmic things with astronomer Sean O'Brien of the National Air and Space Museum at Sky Meadows State Park, near Paris, Va., 5 to 11 p.m. Parking $4. Information, 540-592-3556;

Today: Astronomer Ed Shaya describes "The Future Planet Finders" at the University of Maryland Observatory open house, College Park. Scope the heavens afterward, weather permitting. 8 p.m. Information, 301-405-6555;

Nov. 12: Astronomer Lucy McFadden examines the Deep Impact mission at the National Capital Astronomers meeting. It will be held at the University of Maryland Observatory, College Park. 7:30 p.m. Information,

Nov. 13: Flying planes over Mars? Physicist Mike Summers discusses the concept of the Mars glider at the Northern Virginia Astronomy Club meeting. Room 80, Enterprise Hall at George Mason University. 7 p.m. Information,

Nov. 16-18: National Geography Awareness Week celebrates geographical literacy. See what Earth looks like from beyond terra firma at an event, "Looking at Earth -- From Above," at the National Air and Space Museum, Gallery 110, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Information, 202-633-1000,

Nov. 19: Get a long look at SpaceShipOne, the recent winner of the Ansari X-Prize that promotes the development of low-cost, efficient craft for space tourism. At the National Air and Space Museum, Gallery 100, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Information, 202-633-1000,

Nov. 19: Learn how astrolabes, the original astronomical computer, work at the Montgomery College Planetarium, Takoma Park. Parking available in the faculty lot. 7 p.m. Information, 301-650-1463,

Nov. 20: Astronomer Barbara Mattson lectures on "Dark Energy: A Modern Science Mystery," at the University of Maryland Observatory open house, College Park. View the heavens afterward through a telescope, weather permitting. 8 p.m. Information, 301-405-6555,

Blaine Friedlander can be reached at