Astronomy News for the Month of November 2013

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An Open Invitation

For amateur radio and scanner enthusiasts, when in the Denver metro area, please join the Colorado Astronomy Net on the Rocky Mountain Radio League 146.94 MHz repeater on Tuesday nights at 7PM local time.

Special Notice to Denver, CO residents and visitors to the area:

The Plains Conservation Center in Aurora hosts Full Moon Walks every month weather permitting on or near the night of the full Moon. Visit The Plains Conservation Center for more information and directions.

Also S&S Optika hosts Backyard Star Parties in Littleton several times a month, weather permitting. Come down and enjoy the fun and check out their fine selection of optical instruments.

 Excerpts from JPL mission updates are provided as a public service as part
of the JPL Solar System Ambassador/NASA Outreach program.

For special JPL programs and presentations in your area visit the JPL Solar System Ambassador website.
(Click on the logo to link to the JPL SSA homepage.)

In this Newsletter...

Background screen credits: NGC5775 - Imaged March 21/22, 2001 using the 16" Kitt Peak Visitors Center telescope as part of the Advanced Observing Program.

The Month At-A-Glance
A calendar displaying the daily astronomical events.


The Moon



Moon/Planet Pairs

For reference: The Full Moon subtends an angle of 0.5°.

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The Planets & Dwarf Planets

Planetary Reports generated by "TheSky" software. These reports provide predicted data for the planets for the first of each month for the current year. The rise and set times for the Sun and the Moon for each day of the month are also included in the reports.

(All times are local unless otherwise noted.)

Planetary Highlights for November - "The month of the comet has finally arrived. The long-awaited predawn appearance of Comet ISON (C/2012 S1), potentially one of the brightest such objects in many decades, no doubt will leave many observers bleary-eyed as they go about their normal daytime tasks.

The solar system's planets surely will take a backseat to the comet, but they also offer plenty to celebrate. Mercury enjoys its best morning appearance of 2013. It passes near both Saturn and ISON late this month. While Mars and Jupiter put on their best shows after midnight, Venus dominates the early evening sky. Finally, although the comet may win this month's grand prize for magnificence, a November 3 total solar eclipse in Africa has to rank a close second." Astronomy Magazine, November 2013, p. 36.

Mercury - Is in inferior conjunction with the Sun on the 1st. Mercury is stationary on the 10th. Mercury is at greatest western elongation (19° above the eastern horizon) on the 17th. Mercury is visible, low on the eastern horizon about 30 minutes before sunrise after the first week of November. Mercury rises about 7:35 a.m. on the 1st and about 6:46 a.m. by month's end. Mercury is in the constellation of Libra shining at magnitude -0.4 on the 15th.
Venus - Is at greatest eastern elongation (47° east of the Sun) on the 1st. Venus sets about 8:23 p.m. on the 1st and about 8:29 p.m. by month's end. Look for Venus in the early evening towards the west-southwest. Venus will be easy to spot among the stars of the constellation Sagittarius shining at magnitude -4.7.
Earth - Daylight Savings Time ends at 2:00 a.m. local time on the 3rd for most of the United States.
Mars - Rises at 2:31 a.m. on the 1st and about 1:56 a.m. by month's end. Look for Mars in the east before sunrise. Mars moves from the constellation of Leo into Virgo this month shining at magnitude 1.4.
Jupiter - Is stationary on the 7th. Jupiter rises at 10:21 p.m. on the 1st and about 8:18 p.m. by month's end. Look for Jupiter in the late evening and early morning skies after midnight. Jupiter is in the constellation of Gemini shining at magnitude -2.5.
Saturn - Is in conjunction with the Sun on the 6th. Saturn will not be visible until late in the month in the early morning sky before sunrise. Saturn rises at 7:48 a.m. on the 1st and about 6:07 a.m. by month's end. Saturn is in the constellation of Libra shining at magnitude 0.6.
Uranus - Sets at 5:05 a.m. on the 1st and about 3:04 a.m. by month's end. Uranus is visible almost all night long. Spot Uranus with binoculars or a small telescope. Uranus is in the constellation of Pisces shining at magnitude 5.8.
Neptune - Is stationary on the 13th. Neptune sets at 2:02 a.m. on the 1st and about 12:04 a.m. by month's end. Neptune can be spotted to the west in the early and late evening skies before midnight. Neptune is in the constellation of Aquarius shining at magnitude 7.9.

Dwarf Planets

Ceres - Has returned to the morning skies rising at 4:58 a.m. on the 1st and about 3:00 a.m. by month's end. Ceres is in the constellation of Virgo shining at magnitude 8.8.
Pluto - Sets at 9:45 p.m. on the 1st and about 7:51 p.m. by month's end. Pluto is in the constellation of Sagittarius shining at magnitude 14.2.

As always, good luck at spotting Neptune, Ceres and Pluto, a large telescope and dark skies will be needed.

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Astronomical Events

Meteor Showers

  • The Leonids - The duration of this shower covers the period of Nov. 14-20. Maximum occurs on Nov. 17. The maximum hourly rate typically reaches 10-15, but most notable are periods of enhanced activity that occur every 33 years - events that are directly associated with the periodic return of comet Tempel-Tuttle. During these exceptional returns, the Leonids have produced rates of up to several thousand meteors per hour. The Leonids are swift meteors, which are best known for leaving a high percentage of persistent trains.

    For more information about Meteor Showers, visit Gary Kronk's Meteor Showers Online web page.

  • Comets

  • Comet "Comet ISON (C/2012 S1) should be a fine target through binoculars and telescopes before dawn and an easy, if not spectacular, naked-eye object late in the month. The comet races from Leo, through Virgo, and into Libra as it heads toward its closest approach to the Sun on November 28. Along the way, it passes Virgo’s brightest star, Spica, on the 17th and 18th. The following week, it appears near Mercury and Saturn. For complete comet coverage, visit" Astronomy Magazine, November 2013, p. 43.

    Elements and Ephemeris for C/2012 S1 (ISON)

  • For information, orbital elements and ephemerides on observable comets, visit the Observable Comets page from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

    For more information about Comets, visit Gary Kronk's webpage.

  • Eclipses

  • A total solar eclipse occurs on the 3rd over the Atlantic Ocean across equatorial Africa on the 3rd. The east coast of the US may see a partial eclipse. Check out for more information.

  • Observational Opportunities

  • Observe Venus, in the early evening sky in the west-southwest.
  • Check out Neptune and Uranus in the evening skies.
  • Catch Jupiter, and Mars in the morning after midnight.
  • Get up early before sunrise to see Comet ISON.
  • Asteroids

    (From west to east)
    • Iris is in the constellation of Aquarius.
    • Julia is in the constellation of Pegasus.
    • Massalia is in the constellation of Aries.
    • Kleopatra is at opposition on the 16th in the constellation of Taurus
    • Bamberga is in the constellation of Gemini.
    • Pallus is in the constellation of Hydra.
    • Vesta is in the constellation of Virgo.

    • Information about the Minor Planets can be found at the Minor Planet Observer website.

    IOTA Logo

  • Information on various occultations can be found by clicking the IOTA logo.
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    Planetary/Lunar Exploration Missions

    (Excerpts from recent JPL mission updates)
    Cassini - October 28, 2013
    Senkyo Through the Clouds

    ( Full-Res: PIA17134)

    "The Cassini spacecraft once again dons its special infrared glasses to peer through Titan's haze and monitor its surface. Here, Cassini has recaptured the equatorial region dubbed "Senkyo." The dark features are believed to be vast dunes of hydrocarbon particles that precipitated out of Titan's atmosphere.

    Titan, Saturn's largest moon, is 3,200 miles (5,150 kilometers) across. For more on Senkyo, see Saturn's View of Titan.

    This view looks toward Saturn-facing hemisphere of Titan. North on Titan is up and rotated 4 degrees to the left. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on June 16, 2013 using a spectral filter sensitive to wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 938 nanometers."

    Raw images are available at

    Cassini Imaging Team

    For the latest mission status reports, visit Cassini Mission Status web page. The speed and location of the spacecraft along its flight path can be viewed on the Present Position webpage.

    New Horizons - October 25, 2013
    On the Path to Pluto, 5 AU and Closing

    "Pluto isn't quite the next exit on New Horizons' voyage through the outer solar system, but the destination is definitely getting closer. Today the NASA spacecraft speeds to within five astronomical units (AU) of Pluto - which is less than five times the distance between the Earth and the sun, or about 460 million miles.

    "It's exciting to be closing in on the Pluto system," says Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colo. "The encounter begins in January 2015 - just over 14 months from now. You can really feel the energy level rising on this mission!"

    Since launch in January 2006, New Horizons has covered more than 2.7 billion miles (4.4 billion kilometers) - about 85 percent of its journey - putting it in an exclusive club of deep-space explorers that includes NASA's Pioneer 10, Pioneer 11, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. In fact, the next milepost on New Horizons' path comes next summer, when it crosses the orbit of Neptune on Aug. 25 - exactly 25 years after Voyager 2 made its historic exploration of that giant planet. When New Horizons arrives at Pluto on July 14, 2015, it will have traveled farther than any spacecraft ever has to reconnoiter its prime target."

    LORRI Looks Back

    New Horizons gallery

    Find New Horizons in the iTunes App Store here.

    For more information on the New Horizons mission - the first mission to the ninth planet - visit the New Horizons home page.

    Dawn - September 27, 2013
    Dawn Reality-Checks Telescope Studies of Asteroids

    Full image and caption

    "Tantalized by images from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based data, scientists thought the giant asteroid Vesta deserved a closer look. They got a chance to do that in 2011 and 2012, when NASA's Dawn spacecraft orbited the giant asteroid, and they were able to check earlier conclusions. A new study involving Dawn's observations during that time period demonstrates how this relationship works with Hubble and ground-based telescopes to clarify our understanding of a solar system object.

    "Since the vast majority of asteroids can only be studied remotely by ground-based and space-based facilities, confirming the accuracy of such observations using in-situ measurements is important to our exploration of the solar system," said Vishnu Reddy, the lead author of a paper published recently in the journal Icarus. Reddy is based at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Ariz., and the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany."

    Dawn's Virtual Flight over Vesta

    A gallery of images can be found online.

    For more information on the Dawn mission, visit the Dawn home page.

    MESSENGER - September 10, 2013
    1,000th Featured Image from MESSENGER Posted on the Project's Web Gallery

    "The MESSENGER project is celebrating the posting today of the 1,000th featured image from Mercury. The Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) team has posted a new image to the MESSENGER website approximately once per business day since March 29, 2011, when the first image obtained from orbit about the innermost planet was made public.

    Today's image is a collage comprised entirely of earlier featured images. "I thought it sensible to produce a collage for the 1,000th web image because of the sheer volume of images the team has already posted, as no single picture could encompass the enormous breadth of Mercury science covered in these postings," explained MESSENGER Fellow Paul Byrne, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. "Some of the images represent aspects of Mercury's geological characteristics, and others are fun extras, such as the U.S. Postal Service's Mercury stamp. The '1,000' superimposed on the collage is a reminder of the major milestone the team has reached in posting 1,000 featured images -- and even a motivation to post 1,000 more."

    "During this two-year period, MESSENGER's daily web image has been a successful mechanism for sharing results from the mission with the public at large," said Nancy Chabot, MDIS Instrument Scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). Chabot has been leading the release of web images since MESSENGER's first flyby of Mercury, in January 2008."

    The MESSENGER app is available for download from iTunes.

    For more information on the MESSENGER mission, visit the MESSENGER home page.

    Pack Your Backpack

    Calling all explorers! Tour JPL with our new Virtual Field Trip site. Stops include Mission Control and the Rover Lab. Your guided tour starts when you select a "face" that will be yours throughout the visit. Cool space images and souvenirs are all included in your visit.

    Past, Present, Future and Proposed JPL Missions -

    Visit JPL's mission pages for current status.

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    Mars Missions

    Be A Martian

    Mars website mobile version is here!

    Mars on the Go! NASA Be A Martian Mobile App
    If you want the latest news as it happens, try our Be A Martian app.
    Download on Mobile Devices
    Android | iPhone | Windows Phone

    JMARS is an acronym that stands for Java Mission-planning and Analysis for Remote Sensing. It is a geospatial information system (GIS) developed by ASU's Mars Space Flight Facility to provide mission planning and data-analysis tools to NASA's orbiters, instrument team members, students of all ages, and the general public.

    Mars Science Laboratory - Curiosity - October 29, 2013

    NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover Approaches 'Cooperstown'

    "NASA's Mars rover Curiosity completed its first two-day autonomous drive Monday, bringing the mobile laboratory to a good vantage point for pictures useful in selecting the next target the rover will reach out and touch.

    When it drives autonomously, the rover chooses a safe route to designated waypoints by using its onboard computer to analyze stereo images that it takes during pauses in the drive. Prior to Monday, each day's autonomous drive came after a segment earlier that day that was exactly charted by rover team members using images sent to Earth. The Sunday-Monday drive was the first time Curiosity ended an autonomous driving segment, then continued autonomously from that same point the next day.

    The drives brought Curiosity to about 262 feet (about 80 meters) from "Cooperstown," an outcrop bearing candidate targets for examination with instruments on the rover's arm. The moniker, appropriate for baseball season, comes from a named rock deposit in New York. Curiosity has not used its arm-mounted instruments to examine a target since departing an outcrop called "Darwin" on Sept. 22. Researchers used the arm's camera and spectrometer for four days at Darwin; they plan to use them on just one day at Cooperstown."

    To follow the Mars Curiosity rover and NASA on Foursquare, visit: and

    For information about NASA's partnership with Foursquare, visit:

      Mars Rover Landing - Free for the Xbox (requires Kinect)

      Visit the Mars Science Laboratory page.

    Mars Exploration Rover Mission (Spirit and Opportunity) - October 30, 2013

    SPIRIT UPDATE: Spirit Remains Silent at Troy - sols 2621-2627, May 18-24, 2011:

    "No communication has been received from Spirit since Sol 2210 (March 22, 2010).

    More than 1,300 commands were radiated to Spirit as part of the recovery effort in an attempt to elicit a response from the rover. No communication has been received from Spirit since Sol 2210 (March 22, 2010). The project concluded the Spirit recovery efforts on May 25, 2011. The remaining, pre-sequenced ultra-high frequency (UHF) relay passes scheduled for Spirit on board the Odyssey orbiter will complete on June 8, 2011.

    Total odometry is unchanged at 7,730.50 meters (4.80 miles)."

    OPPORTUNITY UPDATE: Seeking the Sun's Rays as Winter Approaches - sols 3467-3472, Oct. 24, 2013-Oct. 30, 2013 :

    "Opportunity is ascending the northern edge of 'Solander Point' at the rim of 'Endeavour Crater.' The rover is maintaining favorable northerly tilts for improved energy production as winter approaches.

    On Sol 3467 (Oct. 24, 2013), Opportunity bumped 4.3 feet (1.3 meters) towards the outcrop called 'Waratah.' The next sol had the rover use the robotic arm to collect a Microscopic Imager (MI) mosaic of the surface target, called 'Baobab,' and then place the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) on the same for a multi-sol integration. On Sol 3471 (Oct. 29, 2013), Opportunity continued the ascent up Solander heading toward another energy 'lily pad,' driving about 95 feet (29 meters) nearly due south, and collecting a set of post-drive Panoramic Camera (Pancam) and Navigation Camera (Navcam) panoramas. On the following sol, the rover continued driving with a nearly 33 feet (10-meter) drive toward another energy lily pad.

    As of Sol 3472 (Oct. 30, 2013), the solar array energy production was 299 watt-hours with an atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.510 and a solar array dust factor of 0.488.

    Total odometry is 23.93 miles (38.51 kilometers)."

    Landing sites

    Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page.

    Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - October 22, 2013
    Mars Crater May Actually Be Ancient Supervolcano

    "Scientists from NASA and the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Ariz., have identified what could be a supervolcano on Mars-the first discovery of its kind.

    The volcano in question, a vast circular basin on the face of the Red Planet, previously had been classified as an impact crater. Researchers now suggest the basin is actually what remains of an ancient supervolcano eruption. Their assessment is based on images and topographic data from NASA's Mars Odyssey, Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft, as well as the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter."

    All of the HiRISE images are archived here.

    More information about the MRO mission is available online.

    Mars Odyssey Orbiter - May 08, 2013
    Mars As Art Lands At Dulles Airport

    "The majestic beauty of the Red Planet is featured in a vivid collection of images taken by Mars spacecraft, now on exhibit at Dulles airport in Washington, DC through November 30."

    See the Mars As Art Gallery

    Dulles Airport Full News Release

    Global Martian Map

    "A simulated fly-through using the newly assembled imagery is available online.

    The fly-through plus tools for wandering across and zooming into the large image are at THEMIS."

    Daily Mars Odyssey THEMIS Images
    Can be found at the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) website.

    The Odyssey data are available through a new online access system established by the Planetary Data System.

    Visit the Mars Odyssey Mission page.

    Mars Missions Status

    New Mars missions are being planned to include several new rover and sample collection missions. Check out the Mars Missions web page and the Mars Exploration page.

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    Links and Other Space News

    (If you have a link you would like to recommend to our readers, please feel free to submit it.)

    Green Laser

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    Astronomical Lexicon

    Definitions of astronomical terms. Many of the astronomical terms used in this newsletter are defined here.

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    UT Logo

    Read the Universe Today Newsletter by clicking on the logo.

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    Acknowledgments and References

    Much of the information in this newsletter is from Astronomy® Magazine (Kalmbach Publishing), JPL mission status reports, the Internet, "Meteor Showers - A descriptive Catalog" by Gary W. Kronk, Sky & Telescope web pages, and other astronomical sources that I have stashed on my bookshelves.

    The author will accept any suggestions, constructive criticisms, and corrections. Please feel free to send me any new links or articles to share as well. I will try to accommodate any reasonable requests. Please feel free to send questions, comments, criticisms, or donations to the email address listed below. Enjoy!

    More Acknowledgements and References

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