Astronomy News for the Month of November 2016

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For amateur radio operators and scanner enthusiasts, when in the Denver metro area, please join the Colorado Astronomy Net on the Rocky Mountain Radio League's 146.94 MHz and 449.825 MHz repeaters. The RMRL 146.94 repeater is also linked with the WB0WDF Cripple Creek 447.400 MHz repeater and Allstar nodes 28298, 28299 and 29436. We are also linked via Echolink, links are k0jsc-r and canoncty. More information on the WB0WDF repeater links and Allstar nodes and Echolinks can be found at The net meets on Tuesday nights at 7 P.M. Mountain Time (US).

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 Excerpts from JPL mission updates are provided as a public service as part
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For special JPL programs and presentations in your area visit the JPL Solar System Ambassador website.
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In this Newsletter...

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

03 day moon

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 as well as meteor shower radiants are also included in the reports. These reports have been optimized for the Denver, Colorado location, however, the times will be approximate for other locations on Earth.

(All times are local unless otherwise noted.)

Planetary Highlights for November

With the skies getting darker, earlier for those of us in the northern hemisphere, November nights will bring us excellent views of most of the solar system's major planets. Jupiter remains a morning object. The others, Venus, Mars and Saturn, can easily be spotted soon after sunset. Though you will need a small telescope, Neptune and Uranus are also visible in the early evening skies. Look for the Leonids meteor shower peaking around mid-month.


Is lost in the evening twilight glow until mid-month. Look for Mercury during the last week of November in the evening sky. Mercury sets at around 5:39 p.m. by month's end. Mercury moves from the constellation of Libra into Sagittarius this month shining at magnitude -0.5 on the 30th.


Sets at 7:54 p.m. on the 1st and about 7:36 p.m. by month's end. Look for Venus in the early evening towards the south-western horizon this month. On the evening of the 2nd, look for Venus, Saturn, a thin crescent Moon and Antares, just above the southwest horizon about 30 minutes after sunset. Venus moves from the constellation of Ophiuchus into Sagittarius shining at magnitude -4.1.


Daylight Saving Time ends at 2:00 a.m. local time on the 6th for most of the United States and several other countries.


Sets at 10:42 p.m. on the 1st and about 11:38 p.m. by month's end. Look for Mars about an hour or so after sunset to the south. Mars moves from the constellation of Sagittarius into Capricornus shining at magnitude 0.5.


Rises about 5:07 a.m. on the 1st and about 2:37 a.m. by month's end. Look for Jupiter in the early morning to the east-southeast before sunrise. Jupiter is in the constellation of Virgo shining at magnitude -1.7.


Sets at 7:55 p.m. on the 1st and about 5:10 p.m. by month's end. Look for Saturn towards the southwest just ahead of Mars in the evening sky. Saturn is rapidly approaching the western horizon as the month progresses, so try to view Saturn earlier in the month before it begins to be lost in the evening twilight glow. Saturn is in the constellation of Ophiuchus shining at magnitude 0.5.


Rises at 5:06 p.m. on the 1st and about 2:05 p.m. by month's end. Uranus is visible almost all night long this month. Uranus is in the constellation of Pisces shining at magnitude 5.7.


Rises at 3:25 p.m. on the 1st and about 12:27 p.m. by month's end. Neptune is visible in the early evening until the very early hours of the morning. Neptune is in the constellation of Aquarius shining at magnitude 7.9.

Dwarf Planets


Rises at 6:08 p.m. on the 1st and about 2:49 p.m. by month's end. Ceres, like Neptune, is visible in the early evening until the very early hours of the morning as long as you have nice dark skies. Ceres is in the constellation of Cetus shining at magnitude 7.8.


Sets at 10:05 p.m. on the 1st and about 7:10 p.m. by month's end. Look to the southwest, between Mars and Venus, to spot Pluto in the evening skies. 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.

    Unfortunately, a waning gibbous Moon will wash out many faint meteors, but you may still be able see some of the brighter ones.

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

    Meteor Scatter (or Meteor burst communications) - "is a radio propagation mode that exploits the ionized trails of meteors during atmospheric entry to establish brief communications paths between radio stations up to 2,250 kilometres (1,400 mi) apart." Tune your shortwave or your HF amateur radio to 54.310 MHz SSB and see if you can hear any pings.

  • Comets

    Comet Johnson (C/2015 V2) is making it's first appearance to the inner solar system this month. Comet Johnson is expected to glow around 12th magnitude as it passes through the constellation of Canes Venatici.

  • 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

    Solar Eclipses

  • No solar eclipse activity this month.

    Lunar Eclipses

  • No lunar eclipse activity this month.
  • Observational Opportunities

  • Observe Venus, Saturn and Mars in the early evening after sunset.
  • Try to observe Uranus, Neptune and Ceres after the skies darken to the southwest.
  • Look for Jupiter towards the southeast before sunrise.
  • Try to spot some of the Leonid meteors streaking through the night sky around mid month.

  • Asteroids

    (From west to east)
    • Melpomene is in the constellation of Cetus.
    • Eurynome is at opposition on the 3rd in the constellation of Cetus.
    • Vesta is in the constellation of Cancer.

    • 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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    Subscriber Gallery

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    Member Meteor Sightings

    This is a new section where I will post meteor, fireball, etc sightings that have been published on the American Meteor Society's web site. I want to make this an active section of the web pages and newsletter and would like to publish the links to member sightings. If you have any published sightings, please provide me with the links and I will post them here for all to enjoy.

    Event ID Date/Time Location Observer Link
    3587-2015 2015-11-22 17:38 MST CO Kevin S 3587aw
    3829-2015 2015-12-05 18:06 MST Highlands Ranch, CO Burness A 3829a
    3871-2015 2015-11-13 01:55 MST CO Charles N 3871a

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    Planetary/Lunar Exploration Missions

    (Excerpts from recent JPL mission updates)
    Juno - October 25, 2016
    NASA's Juno Mission Exits Safe Mode, Performs Trim Maneuver - Mission Status Report

    Full Article & Images

    "NASA's Juno spacecraft at Jupiter has left safe mode and has successfully completed a minor burn of its thruster engines in preparation for its next close flyby of Jupiter.

    Mission controllers commanded Juno to exit safe mode Monday, Oct. 24, with confirmation of safe mode exit received on the ground at 10:05 a.m. PDT (1:05 p.m. EDT). The spacecraft entered safe mode on Oct. 18 when a software performance monitor induced a reboot of the spacecraft's onboard computer. The team is still investigating the cause of the reboot and assessing two main engine check valves."

    More information on the Juno mission is available at:

    The public can follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter at:

    Cassini - October 27, 2016
    Spooky Saturn

    Full Article & Images

    "Like any extended family, the Cassini mission enjoys holiday traditions - such as transforming our homepage into a spooky landscape for Halloween.

    This year - the mission's last Halloween - we offer a tongue-in-cheek preview of Cassini's Grand Finale, a series of 22 spectacular dives between Saturn's cloud tops and innermost rings ending in September 2017 with a plunge into the planet."

    The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

    Raw images are available at

    More information about Cassini is available at the following sites:

    Cassini Imaging Team - Archives from Dec. 2015 and earlier.

    New Horizons - October 18, 2016
    Partly Cloudy on Pluto?

    Full Article & Images

    "Pluto's present, hazy atmosphere is almost entirely free of clouds, though scientists from NASA's New Horizons mission have identified some cloud candidates after examining images taken by the New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager and Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera, during the spacecraft's July 2015 flight through the Pluto system. All are low-lying, isolated small features-no broad cloud decks or fields - and while none of the features can be confirmed with stereo imaging, scientists say they are suggestive of possible, rare condensation clouds."

    It's always Pluto Time somewhere, and NASA wants to see your view.

    What is Pluto?

    On Video: How Do We Get to Pluto? Practice, Practice, Practice

    Part I: The Encounter Begins
        - Small mp4 (38 MB, 640x360)
        - Large mp4 (116 MB, 1280x720)

    Part II: Passing Pluto
        - Small mp4 (34 MB, 640x360)
        - Large mp4 (102 MB, 1280x720)"

    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 01, 2016
    NASA Discovers "Lonely Mountain" on Ceres Likely a Salty-Mud


    "An isolated mountain near the equator of the dwarf planet Ceres resembles a volcanic dome, according to new observations from NASA's Dawn mission. Like the "Lonely Mountain" Erebor in J.R.R. Tolkien's mythology, Ahuna Mons on Ceres was once occupied by a dragon, but one that "breathed" ice, not fire. The mountain likely formed as a salty-mud volcano. Instead of molten rock, salty-mud volcanoes, or "cryovolcanoes," release frigid, salty water sometimes mixed with mud."

    Take a tour of weird Ceres!

    "Visit a 2-mile-deep crater and a 4-mile-tall mountain in the video narrated by mission director Marc Rayman. Get your red/blue glasses ready for the finale - a global view of the dwarf planet in 3D."

    Ceres Topographic Globe Animation

    Ion propulsion isn't something found only in science fiction. Ion engines are a real deal and drive NASA's Dawn spacecraft, en route to dwarf planet Ceres. Big things do come in small packages.

    Dawn's Virtual Flight over Vesta

    Ceres Fly By

    A gallery of images can be found online.

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

    MESSENGER - May 30, 2016
    The MESSENGER mission is officially ended but there is a lot to learn about the planet closest to our Sun. Visit the new, updated MESSENGER website:


    for resources, to learn, and to explore.

    Video Animation

    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.

    Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics

    "The Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU) began in 1948, a decade before NASA. We are the world's only research institute to have sent instruments to all eight planets and Pluto. LASP is an affiliate of CU-Boulder AeroSpace Ventures, a collaboration among aerospace-related departments, institutes, centers, government labs, and industry partners."

    MAVEN - October 19, 2016
    MAVEN Observes Ups and Downs of Water Escape from Mars

    Full Article & Images

    "After investigating the upper atmosphere of the Red Planet for a full Martian year, MAVEN has determined that escaping water does not always go gently into space.

    Sophisticated measurements made by a suite of instruments on the MAVEN spacecraft revealed the ups and downs of hydrogen escape-and therefore water loss. The escape rate peaked when Mars was at its closest point to the sun and dropped off when the planet was farthest from the sun. The rate of loss varied dramatically overall, with 10 times more hydrogen escaping at the maximum."

    Visit LASP and MAVEN for more information.

    Mars Science Laboratory - Curiosity - October 28, 2016
    Curiosity Mission Updates

    Full article & Images

    "Sol 1503: Simple Plan

    Everything went well in yesterday's plan, with our drive taking us 25 meters farther along our "Mt. Sharp Ascent Route." We started the day with some challenges caused by connectivity issues with team members outside of the US, particularly the ChemCam team. They were able to get at least one computer connected to JPL, however, so we were able to plan without too much trouble overall."

    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 18, 2016

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

    "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: Preparations for an Attempt to Image Mars Arrival - sols 4522-4527, October 12, 2016-October 18, 2016: :

    "Opportunity is located at the feature called 'Spirit Mound' on the rim of Endeavour Crater, the first science waypoint of the 10th extended mission.

    The rover is continuing the in-situ (contact) investigation of several targets in this area. The rover is also preparing for the imaging of the ESA Schiaparelli Entry, Descent and Landing Demonstrator Module (EDM).

    Several practice images with the Panoramic Camera (Pancam) were tried over several sols. On Sol 4522 (Oct. 12, 2016), in addition to several practice images, Opportunity used the robotic arm to investigate the surface target called 'Jefferson City.' The rover collected a Microscopic Imager (MI) mosaic and then placed the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) on the target. Later on Sol 4524 (Oct. 14, 2016), the rover offset the APXS relative to the initial target for further integration. Selective Pancam panoramas and targeted 13-filter images were also collected. On Sol 4527 (Oct. 18, 2016), the rover bumped just over a meter to some new targets.

    The rover will stay put for the next few sols as the Schiaparelli EDM entry, decent and landing occurs. Opportunity will attempt the imaging of the landing on Sol 4528 (Oct. 19, 2016). (Update information indicates that the lander did not come into view of the camera, however.)

    As of Sol 4527 (Oct. 18, 2016), the solar array energy production is 506 watt-hours with an atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.909 and an improved solar array dust factor of 0.743.

    Total odometry is 26.99 miles (43.44 kilometers)."

    Landing sites

    Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page.

    Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - October 27, 2016
    Further Clues to Fate of Mars Lander, Seen From Orbit

    Full article & Image

    "The most powerful telescope orbiting Mars is providing new details of the scene near the Martian equator where Europe's Schiaparelli test lander hit the surface last week.

    An Oct. 25 observation using the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows three impact locations within about 0.9 mile (1.5 kilometers) of each other."

    New Gravity Map Gives Best View Yet Inside Mars:

    Simulated Flyover of Mars Canyon Map

    This animation simulates a flyover of a portion of a Martian canyon detailed in a geological map produced by the U.S. Geological Survey and based on observations by the HiRISE camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The landforms include a series of hills called Candor Colles.

    All of the HiRISE images are archived here.

    More information about the MRO mission is available online.

    Mars Odyssey Orbiter - August 23, 2016
    Test for Damp Ground at Mars' Seasonal Streaks Finds None

    Full Article and Images

    "Seasonal dark streaks on Mars that have become one of the hottest topics in interplanetary research don't hold much water, according to the latest findings from a NASA spacecraft orbiting Mars.

    The new results from NASA's Mars Odyssey mission rely on ground temperature, measured by infrared imaging using the spacecraft's Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS). They do not contradict last year's identification of hydrated salt at these flows, which since their 2011 discovery have been regarded as possible markers for the presence of liquid water on modern Mars. However, the temperature measurements now identify an upper limit on how much water is present at these darkened streaks: about as much as in the driest desert sands on Earth.

    When water is present in the spaces between particles of soil or grains of sand, it affects how quickly a patch of ground heats up during the day and cools off at night."

    Video - What might it look like if you were walking around on Mars?

    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.

    Journey to Mars - September 02, 2016
    InSight - Revealing the Heart of Mars
    NASA Approves 2018 Launch of Mars InSight Mission

    "InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) is a NASA Discovery Program mission that will place a single geophysical lander on Mars to study its deep interior.

    NASA is moving forward with a spring 2018 launch of its InSight mission to study the deep interior of Mars, following final approval this week by the agency's Science Mission Directorate."

    Learn more about the InSight Mission.

    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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    Astronomy 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

    Colorado Astronomy Links

    Radio Astronomy Links

    Other Astronomy Links

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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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