Astronomy News for the Month of November 2020

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 Excerpts from JPL mission updates are provided as a public service as part
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In this Newsletter...

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

"A spectacular fireball lights up the Michigan sky in this 2018 shot. Fast-moving Leonid meteors may leave similar trains of ionized gas in the sky when the shower peaks this month." Astronomy Magazine, p. 32, November 2020.
Tony Hebert

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

11 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 "TheSkyX" 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 seven major planets on display, this month is a busy time for observers. Jupiter and Saturn continue their dramatic pairing in the southern sky. Mars remains near its peak and begins its retreat from Earth; catch it early in the month while you can. Neptune is near a bright star, while Uranus remains in a sparse region of sky and is up all night. The predawn sky hosts Venus and Mercury, a treat for early risers.

The window for observing Jupiter and Saturn is narrowing. In early November, the planets set an hour before midnight. Four weeks later, they're gone by 9:30 P.M. local time. The longer nights afford an early start — the best time to begin observing is as soon as twilight starts and the Sun has gone down." Astronomy Magazine, November 2020, P. 32.


Is stationary on the 3rd. Mercury is at greatest western elongation (19°) on the 10th. Mercury rises at 5:21 a.m. on the 1st and about 6:11 a.m. by month's end. Look for Mercury low to the east about 30 minutes to an hour before sunrise during the month. Mercury moves from the constellation of Virgo into Libra shining at magnitude -0.7 on the 15th.


Rises at 3:36 a.m. on the 1st and about 4:42 a.m. by month's end. Look for Venus in the east before sunrise. Venus moves from the constellation of Virgo into Libra shining at magnitude -3.9 on the 15th.


Daylight Saving Time ends for most of the U.S. on November 1st at 2 a.m. local time.


Sets at 4:36 a.m. on the 1st and about 2:45 a.m. by month's end. Mars is stationary on the 15th. Mars can be viewed almost all night long. Mars is still near its best viewing for the year but dims quickly during the month. Look for Mars high in the east soon after sunset. Mars is in the constellation of Pisces shining at magnitude -1.7 on the 15th.


Sets at 9:28 p.m. on the 1st and about 7:55 p.m. by month's end. Look for Jupiter soon after sunset to the southwest. Jupiter will be one of the first objects to be spotted to the southwest once the Sun sets. Jupiter is in the constellation of Sagittarius shining at magnitude -2.1.


Sets at 9:53 p.m. on the 1st and about 8:06 p.m. by month's end. As with Jupiter, look for Saturn in the evening sky after sunset to the southwest. Saturn is in the constellation of Sagittarius shining at magnitude 0.6.


Rises at 4:48 p.m. on the 1st and around 2:46 p.m. by month's end. Uranus is visible in the evening almost night long. Look to the south-southeast soon after sunset to spot Uranus. Uranus is in the constellation of Aries shining at magnitude 5.7.


Sets at 2:18 a.m. on the 1st and about 12:19 a.m. by month's end. Neptune is stationary on the 29th. Neptune can be spotted to the south once the skies darken. Neptune is in the constellation of Aquarius shining at magnitude 7.9.

Dwarf Planets


Sets at 12:18 a.m. on the 1st and around 10:46 p.m. by month's end. Ceres can be spotted to the southwest soon after sunset. Ceres is in the constellation of Aquarius shining at magnitude 8.9.


Sets at 9:32 p.m. on the 1st and around 7:36 p.m. by month's end. Pluto now precedes Jupiter and Saturn by a few minutes. Pluto is in the constellation of Sagittarius shining at magnitude 14.8.

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.

    Prospects for the shower are good since the Moon will not interfere. The best time to observe the Leonids will be between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. local time for the duration of the shower.

    Meteor Shower Radiant Report

    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. Try other frequencies as well... 6m FT8 digital - 50.313 Mhz & 50.276 Mhz, JP-65 digital mode and the carrier frequencies of the lower VHF bands for TV channels 2, 3 & 4.

    Meteor Rx How-To by Terry Bullett (WØASP)

  • Comets

  • "The early evening comet cruise continues. Unlike the narrow loops of most icy visitors, Comet 88P/Howell's 5.5-year orbit is nestled between that of Mars and Jupiter. Like Mars after opposition, it runs on the racetrack just outside ours, barely losing speed. As a bonus for northerners, Howell climbs higher in the sky, thanks to Earth's tilt.

    Ensure you're set up early with an unobstructed southwest horizon. As time ticks past nautical twilight, Howell is only 20° high. The dark sky window opens for one hour on November 4th, but widens thereafter. At midmonth, it glides 3.5° beneath gas giants Jupiter and Saturn at almost 1° per day. By the 18th, the Moon's light becomes an issue once again." Astronomy Magazine, November 2020, P.38.

  • 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

  • Look for Mercury in the early morning sky all month.
  • Look for Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Mars and Uranus in the late evening and early morning.
  • Look for Comet Howell in the early evening.
  • Look for Venus in the morning before sunrise.

  • Asteroids

    (From west to east)
    • Parthenope is in constellation of Pisces.
    • Papagena is in constellation of Cetus.
    • Flora is at opposition on the 1st in constellation of Cetus.
    • Psyche is in the constellation of Taurus.
    • Eunomia is in the constellation of Cancer.
    • Vesta is in the constellation of Leo.
    • Juno is in conjunction with the Sun on the 8th.

    • 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

    In this section 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 CO Burness A 3829a
    3871-2015 2015-11-13 01:55 MST CO Charles N 3871a
    986-2020 2020-02-21 22:20 MST CO Lukas S 986
    3716-2020 2020-07-24 23:22 MST CO Lukas S 3716

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    Planetary/Lunar Exploration Missions

    (Excerpts from recent JPL mission updates)

    JPL Latest News
    The Latest from Space

    JPL Latest News

    November 2, 2020
    NASA Contacts Voyager 2 Using Upgraded Deep Space Network Dish

    Full Article & Images

    "The only radio antenna that can command the 43-year-old spacecraft has been offline since March as it gets new hardware, but work is on track to wrap up in February.

    On Oct. 29, mission operators sent a series of commands to NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft for the first time since mid-March. The spacecraft has been flying solo while the 70-meter-wide (230-foot-wide) radio antenna used to talk to it has been offline for repairs and upgrades. Voyager 2 returned a signal confirming it had received the "call" and executed the commands without issue."

    Read the latest news and discoveries from JPL's dozens of active space missions exploring Earth, the solar system and worlds beyond.

    Past, Present, Future and Proposed JPL Missions.

    For special JPL programs and presentations in your area visit the JPL Solar System Ambassador web site.

    Juno - October 27, 2020
    Juno Data Indicates 'Sprites' or 'Elves' Frolic in Jupiter's Atmosphere

    Full Article & Images

    "An instrument on the spacecraft may have detected transient luminous events — bright flashes of light in the gas giant's upper atmosphere.

    New results from NASA's Juno mission at Jupiter suggest that either "sprites" or "elves" could be dancing in the upper atmosphere of the solar system's largest planet. It is the first time these bright, unpredictable and extremely brief flashes of light — formally known as transient luminous events, or TLE's — have been observed on another world. The findings were published on Oct. 27, 2020, in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.

    Scientists predicted these bright, superfast flashes of light should also be present in Jupiter's immense roiling atmosphere, but their existence remained theoretical. Then, in the summer of 2019, researchers working with data from Juno's ultraviolet spectrograph instrument (UVS) discovered something unexpected: a bright, narrow streak of ultraviolet emission that disappeared in a flash."

    Images from NASA's JunoCam.

    More information on the Juno mission is available at: Juno and Mission Juno.

    The public can follow the Juno mission on Facebook and Twitter.

    New Horizons - August 27, 2020
    Pluto Crater Named for New Horizons Pathfinder Tom Coughlin

    Full Article & Images

    "In nearly four decades as an engineer and manager at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, Tom Coughlin was known for leading teams through tough assignments with dedication, enthusiasm and just the right amount of humor. And in the early 2000s he applied all of those traits as the proposal manager and first project manager for New Horizons, helping to shepherd the fledgling mission from design through flight confirmation.

    Now, Coughlin is being honored for those roles with a tribute on the very world New Horizons was built to explore. Coughlin crater is one of four newly named features on the surface of Pluto, which New Horizons flew past in July 2015."

    New Horizons gallery

    Find New Horizons in the iTunes App Store.

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

    TESS - October 26, 2020
    New NASA Posters Feature Cosmic Frights for Halloween

    Full Article & Images

    "The eye-catching posters depict some of the universe's most mysterious astronomical phenomena with artistic flair. With Halloween just around the corner, NASA has released its latest Galaxy of Horrors posters. Presented in the style of vintage horror movie advertisements, the new posters feature a dead galaxy, an explosive gamma ray burst caused by colliding stellar corpses, and ever-elusive dark matter."

    For more information on the TESS mission, visit the Latest Tess Stories page.

    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 Daily Weather Report

    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 combines all aspects of space exploration through our expertise in science, engineering, mission operations, and scientific data analysis. As part of CU, LASP also works to educate and train the next generation of space scientists, engineers and mission operators by integrating undergraduate and graduate students into working teams. Our students take their unique experiences with them into government or industry, or remain in academia to continue the cycle of exploration.

    LASP is an affiliate of CU-Boulder AeroSpace Ventures, a collaboration among aerospace-related departments, institutes, centers, government labs, and industry partners."

    LASP/MAVEN - September 14, 2020
    LASP scientist determine that volcanic ash may have a bigger impact on the climate than we thought

    Full Article & Images

    "When volcanos erupt, these geologic monsters produce tremendous clouds of ash and dust--plumes that can blacken the sky, shut down air traffic and reach heights of roughly 25 miles above Earth's surface.

    A new study led by the University of Colorado Boulder suggests that such volcanic ash may also have a larger influence on the planet's climate than scientists previously suspected."

    Visit LASP and MAVEN for more information.

    Mars 2020 - Perseverance - October 27, 2020
    NASA's Perseverance Rover Is Midway to Mars

    Full Article & Images

    "Sometimes half measures can be a good thing — especially on a journey this long. The agency's latest rover only has about 146 million miles left to reach its destination.

    NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission has logged a lot of flight miles since being lofted skyward on July 30 — 146.3 million miles (235.4 million kilometers) to be exact. Turns out that is exactly the same distance it has to go before the spacecraft hits the Red Planet's atmosphere like a 11,900 mph (19,000 kph) freight train on Feb. 18, 2021.

    "At 1:40 p.m. Pacific Time today, our spacecraft will have just as many miles in its metaphorical rearview mirror as it will out its metaphorical windshield," said Julie Kangas, a navigator working on the Perseverance rover mission at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. "While I don't think there will be cake, especially since most of us are working from home, it's still a pretty neat milestone. Next stop, Jezero Crater." "

    Learn more about the upcoming Mars 2020 (Perseverance) mission.

    Mars Science Laboratory - Curiosity - August 3, 2020
    8 Martian Postcards to Celebrate Curiosity's Landing Anniversary

    Full Article & Images

    "NASA's Curiosity Mars rover has seen a lot since Aug. 5, 2012, when it first set its wheels inside the 96-mile-wide (154-kilometer-wide) basin of Gale Crater. Its mission: to study whether Mars had the water, chemical building blocks, and energy sources that may have supported microbial life billions of years ago.

    Curiosity has since journeyed more than 14 miles (23 kilometers), drilling 26 rock samples and scooping six soil samples along the way as it revealed that ancient Mars was indeed suitable for life. Studying the textures and compositions of ancient rock strata is helping scientists piece together how the Martian climate changed over time, losing its lakes and streams until it became the cold desert it is today."

    Follow the Mars Curiosity rover on Foursquare.

    For information about NASA's partnership with Foursquare.

      Mars Rover Landing - Free for the Xbox 360 (requires Kinect)

      Visit the Mars Science Laboratory page.

    Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - October 1, 2020
    AI Is Helping Scientists Discover Fresh Craters on Mars

    Full Article & Image

    "It's the first time machine learning has been used to find previously unknown craters on the Red Planet.

    Sometime between March 2010 and May 2012, a meteor streaked across the Martian sky and broke into pieces, slamming into the planet's surface. The resulting craters were relatively small — just 13 feet (4 meters) in diameter. The smaller the features, the more difficult they are to spot using Mars orbiters. But in this case — and for the first time — scientists spotted them with a little extra help: artificial intelligence (AI)."

    All of the HiRISE images are archived here.

    More information about the MRO mission is available online.

    Mars Odyssey Orbiter - June 8, 2020
    Three New Views of Mars' Moon Phobos

    Full Article and Images

    "Three new views of the Martian moon Phobos have been captured by NASA's Odyssey orbiter. Taken this past winter and this spring, they capture the moon as it drifts into and out of Mars' shadow.

    The orbiter's infrared camera, the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS), has been used to measure temperature variations across the surface of Phobos that provide insight into the composition and physical properties of the moon. Further study could help settle a debate over whether Phobos, which is about 16 miles (25 kilometers) across, is a captured asteroid or an ancient chunk of Mars that was blasted off the surface by an impact."

    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 - InSight - Revealing the Heart of Mars - October 16, 2020
    NASA InSight's 'Mole' Is Out of Sight

    Full Article and Images

    "NASA's InSight lander continues working to get its "mole" — a 16-inch-long (40-centimeter-long) pile driver and heat probe — deep below the surface of Mars. A camera on InSight's arm recently took images of the now partially filled-in "mole hole," showing only the device's science tether protruding from the ground.

    Sensors embedded in the tether are designed to measure heat flowing from the planet once the mole has dug at least 10 feet (3 meters) deep. The mission team has been working to help the mole burrow to at least that depth so that it can take Mars' temperature.

    The mole was designed so that loose soil would flow around it, providing friction against its outer hull so that it can dig deeper; without this friction, the mole just bounces in place as it hammers into the ground. But the soil where InSight landed is different than what previous missions have encountered: During hammering, the soil sticks together, forming a small pit around the device instead of collapsing around it and providing the necessary friction."

    Interactive selection of raw images taken by the cameras aboard InSight.

    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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