Astronomy News for the Month of November 2017


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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 k0jsc.com. 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...


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.


"On December 1, 2008, a crescent Moon stood to the left of Jupiter
while brilliant Venus hung below the other two. The three solar system
objects meet again in the predawn sky November 16."
Alan Dyer


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


10 day moon

The Moon

Phases

Apogee/Perigee

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

"The focus of backyard skygazers this month shifts from the evening to the morning sky. The predawn scene features a spectacular conjunction between Venus and Jupiter, the night sky's two brightest points of light. And though Mars pales in comparison, the Red Planet climbs higher before dawn as it embarks on its best show in more than a decade.

The evening sky boasts appearances from the other four planets. Mercury and Saturn shine brightly in the southwestern sky after sunset, while Uranus and Neptune reach their peak altitudes before midnight. All four make tempting targets through binoculars and telescopes." Astronomy Magazine, November 2017, p. 36.

Mercury

Is at greatest eastern elongation (22°) on the 23rd. Mercury sets at 6:33 p.m. on the 1st and about 5:45 p.m. by month's end. Mercury is visible in the evening sky after sunset. Look for Mercury low on the western horizon about 30 minutes after sunset. Mercury moves from the constellation of Libra into Sagittarius this month shining at magnitude -0.2 on the 30th.

Venus

Rises at 6:03 a.m. on the 1st and about 6:15 a.m. by month's end. Look for Venus shining brightly in the early morning hours before sunrise. Venus descends toward the eastern horizon as the month progresses. Venus and Jupiter pass within 0.3° of each other on the 13th. Venus moves from the constellation of Virgo into Libra shining at magnitude -3.9.

Earth

Daylight Saving Time ends at 2 a.m. local time on the 5th for the United States. Move your clocks back one hour.

Mars

Rises at 4:42 a.m. on the 1st and about 3:18 a.m. by month's end. Look to the southeast to spot Mars is in the constellation of Virgo shining at magnitude 1.8.

Jupiter

Rises at 7:05 a.m. on the 1st and about 4:40 a.m. by month's end. Jupiter joins Venus and Mars in the morning sky this month and is in conjunction with Venus on the 13th. Jupiter moves from the constellation of Virgo into Libra shining at magnitude -1.7.

Saturn

Sets at 8:35 p.m. on the 1st and about 5:50 p.m. by month's end. Saturn can be spotted soon after sunset low towards the west-southwest. Catch Saturn early in the month before it disappears into the evening twilight glow. Saturn moves from the constellation of Ophiuchus into Sagittarius shining at magnitude 0.5.

Uranus

Rises at 5:17 p.m. on the 1st and about 2:16 p.m. by month's end. Uranus rises early enough in the evening/afternoon that by the time the skies darken after sunset, Uranus will easily be visible towards the south through a good pair of binoculars. Uranus is in the constellation of Pisces shining at magnitude 5.7.

Neptune

Is stationary on the 22nd. Neptune sets at 2:46 a.m. on the 1st and about 11:44 p.m. by month's end. Neptune precedes Uranus through the heavens by about an hour and a half. By the time the skies darken, Neptune will be high in the south and easily visible with a small telescope. Neptune is in the constellation of Aquarius shining at magnitude 7.9.

Dwarf Planets

Ceres

Rises at 12:54 a.m. on the 1st and about 9:19 p.m. by month's end. Ceres is best viewed after midnight towards the southeast. Ceres moves from the constellation of Cancer into Leo shining at magnitude 8.3.

Pluto

Sets at 10:12 p.m. on the 1st and about 7:18 p.m. by month's end. Pluto may be too low in the sky to be easily visible this month but if you have access to a dark sky site you might be able to spot Pluto very low to the west-southwest. Pluto is in the constellation of Sagittarius shining at magnitude 14.3.

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.

    This year, the Leonids peak under a moonless sky before dawn.

    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.

  • Comets

  • Comet PANSTARRS (C/2016 R2) is passing through the constellation of Orion heading west on a line along Orion's belt. The best time to spot this comet will be during the last two weeks of the month. An 8 inch telescope (or larger) and dark skies will be required to spot this 10th to 11th magnitude fuzzball.

  • 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 Cometography.com webpage.

  • Eclipses

    Solar Eclipses

  • No solar eclipse activity this month.

    Lunar Eclipses

  • No lunar eclipse activity this month.
  • Observational Opportunities

  • Enjoy Saturn, Uranus and Neptune in the evening skies after sunset.
  • Look for Jupiter, Venus and Mars in the morning skies before sunrise.
  • Try to observe some of the Leonids during mid-month.
  • Try to spot Comet PANSTARRS in Orion.

  • Asteroids

    (From west to east)
    • Iris is in the constellation of Aries.
    • Nysa is at opposition on the 3rd in the constellation of Cetus.
    • Pallas is in the constellation of Eridanus.
    • Dembowska is in the constellation of Auriga.
    • Massalia is in the constellation of Gemini.
    • Flora is in the constellation of Gemini.

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

    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)
    JPL Latest News
    The Latest from Space

    JPL Latest News

    Prolific Earth Gravity Satellites End Science Mission
    October 27, 2017

    Full Article & Images

    "An unexpectedly strong blast from the Sun hit Mars this month, observed by NASA missions in orbit and on the surface.

    "After more than 15 productive years in orbit, the U.S./German GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) satellite mission has ended science operations. During their mission, the twin GRACE satellites have provided unprecedented insights into how our planet is changing by tracking the continuous movement of liquid water, ice and the solid Earth.

    GRACE made science measurements by precisely measuring the distance between its twin satellites, GRACE-1 and GRACE-2, which required that both spacecraft and their instruments be fully functional. Following an age-related battery issue on GRACE-2 in September, it became apparent by mid-October that GRACE-2's remaining battery capacity would not be sufficient to operate its science instruments and telemetry transmitter. Consequently, the decision was made to decommission the GRACE-2 satellite and end GRACE's science mission."

    "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 - September 6, 2017
    Jupiter's Auroras Present a Powerful Mystery

    Full Article & Images

    "Scientists on NASA's Juno mission have observed massive amounts of energy swirling over Jupiter's polar regions that contribute to the giant planet's powerful auroras - only not in ways the researchers expected.

    Examining data collected by the ultraviolet spectrograph and energetic-particle detector instruments aboard the Jupiter-orbiting Juno spacecraft, a team led by Barry Mauk of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland, observed signatures of powerful electric potentials, aligned with Jupiter's magnetic field, that accelerate electrons toward the Jovian atmosphere at energies up to 400,000 electron volts. This is 10 to 30 times higher than the largest auroral potentials observed at Earth, where only several thousands of volts are typically needed to generate the most intense auroras -- known as discrete auroras -- the dazzling, twisting, snake-like northern and southern lights seen in places like Alaska and Canada, northern Europe, and many other northern and southern polar regions."

    NASA's JunoCam website can be visited at:

    https://www.missionjuno.swri.edu/junocam

    More information on the Juno mission is available at: http://www.nasa.gov/juno

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

    Cassini - October 30, 2017
    The North

    Full Article & Images
    Photojournal: PIA21351

    "Reflected sunlight is the source of the illumination for visible wavelength images such as the one above. However, at longer infrared wavelengths, direct thermal emission from objects dominates over reflected sunlight. This enabled instruments that can detect infrared radiation to observe the pole even in the dark days of winter when Cassini first arrived at Saturn and Saturn's northern hemisphere was shrouded in shadow.

    Now, 13 years later, the north pole basks in full sunlight. Close to the northern summer solstice, sunlight illuminates the previously dark region, permitting Cassini scientists to study this area with the spacecraft's full suite of imagers."

    Raw images are available at http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/photos/raw/index.cfm.

    More information about Cassini is available at the following sites:
    http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov

    http://www.nasa.gov/cassini

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

    New Horizons - September 7, 2017
    First Official Pluto Feature Names

    Full Article & Images

    "The International Astronomical Union (IAU), the internationally recognized authority for naming celestial bodies and their surface features, approved names of 14 surface features on Pluto in August 2017. The names were proposed by NASA's New Horizons team following the first reconnaissance of Pluto and its moons by the New Horizons spacecraft in 2015."

    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 - October 26, 2017
    Dawn Finds Possible Ancient Ocean Remnants at Ceres

    Full Article & Images

    "Minerals containing water are widespread on Ceres, suggesting the dwarf planet may have had a global ocean in the past. What became of that ocean? Could Ceres still have liquid today? Two new studies from NASA's Dawn mission shed light on these questions.

    The Dawn team found that Ceres' crust is a mixture of ice, salts and hydrated materials that were subjected to past and possibly recent geologic activity, and that this crust represents most of that ancient ocean. The second study builds off the first and suggests there is a softer, easily deformable layer beneath Ceres' rigid surface crust, which could be the signature of residual liquid left over from the ocean, too." A gallery of images can be found online.

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

    MESSENGER

    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:

    UNLOCKING THE MYSTERIES OF PLANET MERCURY
    for resources, to learn, and to explore.

    (Click Link above for Full Article & Images)

    TOP 10 SCIENCE RESULTS AND TECHNOLOGY INNOVATIONS

    "After more than 10 years in operation, the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft impacted the surface of Mercury on April 30, 2015, at a speed of more than 3.91 kilometers per second (8,750 miles per hour), marking the end of operations for the hugely successful Mercury orbiter. At the MESSENGER Nears End of Operations media and public event, scientists and engineers discussed the mission's accomplishments, providing the top 10 scientific discoveries, as well as the technological innovations that grew out of the mission."

    The MESSENGER app is available for download from iTunes.

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

    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, 2017
    MAVEN Finds Mars Has a Twisted Tail

    Full Article & Images

    "An unexpectedly strong blast from the Sun hit Mars this month, observed by NASA missions in orbit and on the surface.

    "Mars has an invisible magnetic "tail" that is twisted by interaction with the solar wind, according to new research using data from MAVEN.

    MAVEN is in orbit around Mars gathering data on how the Red Planet lost much of its atmosphere and water, transforming from a world that could have supported life billions of years ago into a cold and inhospitable place today. The process that creates the twisted tail could also allow some of Mars' already thin atmosphere to escape to space, according to the research team."

    Visit LASP and MAVEN for more information.

    Mars Science Laboratory - Curiosity - October 27, 2017
    Sol 1858-1860: A Working Weekend

    Full Article & Images

    "Following a series of setbacks this week, Curiosity is on track to have a productive, albeit stationary, weekend. Monday's communication issue and Wednesday's possible difficulties in delivering the "Ogunquit Beach" sample to the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument have given the science team a series of headaches as we try to make progress along Vera Rubin Ridge. Even yesterday, the team discovered an error with the left Mastcam data transfer that has marked the instrument temporarily SICK and is preventing us from acquiring new data from it until sometime after this weekend's plan. Nonetheless, the team is optimistic moving into the weekend, and has planned a really nice suite of observations."

    To follow the Mars Curiosity rover and NASA on Foursquare, visit: http://www.foursquare.com/MarsCuriosity and http://www.foursquare.com/NASA

    For information about NASA's partnership with Foursquare, visit:http://www.nasa.gov/connect/foursquare.html.

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

      Visit the Mars Science Laboratory page.

    Mars Exploration Rover Mission (Spirit and Opportunity) - October 17, 2017

    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: Opportunity Spends the Week Imaging - sols 4876 - 4882, Oct. 11, 2017 - Oct. 17, 2017:

    "Opportunity is continuing her winter exploration of "Perseverance Valley" on the west rim of Endeavour Crater.

    Although winter conditions are constraining activity, rover energy production has improved slightly, and more of the earlier relay passes from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter are helping, as well. Opportunity has been able to avoid having to dedicate any sols to battery recharging.

    The rover spent seven consecutive sols, Sols 4876 to 4882 (Oct. 11 to Oct. 17, 2017), collecting Panoramic Camera (Pancam) panoramas of the subject, called "La Bajada," totaling over 40 color stereo image pairs. Also, on Sol 4876 (Oct. 11, 2017), Opportunity was able to support an evening atmospheric argon measurement with the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS).

    As of Sol 4882 (Oct. 17, 2017), the solar array energy production was 358 watt-hours with an atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.506 and an improved solar array dust factor of 0.558.

    Total odometry is 27.98 miles (45.04 kilometers)."

    Landing sites

    Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page.

    Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - October 6, 2017
    Mars Study Yields Clues to Possible Cradle of Life

    Full Article & Image

    "The discovery of evidence for ancient sea-floor hydrothermal deposits on Mars identifies an area on the planet that may offer clues about the origin of life on Earth.

    A recent international report examines observations by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) of massive deposits in a basin on southern Mars. The authors interpret the data as evidence that these deposits were formed by heated water from a volcanically active part of the planet's crust entering the bottom of a large sea long ago."

    MARS RECONNAISSANCE ORBITER HIRISE IMAGES
    All of the HiRISE images are archived here.

    More information about the MRO mission is available online.

    Mars Odyssey Orbiter - October 4, 2017
    Examining Mars' Moon Phobos in a Different Light

    Full Article and Images

    "NASA's longest-lived mission to Mars has gained its first look at the Martian moon Phobos, pursuing a deeper understanding by examining it in infrared wavelengths.

    The Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) camera on NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter observed Phobos on Sept. 29, 2017. Researchers have combined visible-wavelength and infrared data to produce an image color-coded for surface temperatures of this moon, which has been considered for a potential future human-mission outpost."

    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 - October 3, 2017
    Another Chance to Put Your Name on Mars

    Full Article and Images

    "When it lands on Mars in November of 2018, NASA's InSight lander will be carrying several science instruments -- along with hundreds of thousands of names from members of the public.

    In 2015, nearly 827,000 people signed up to add their names to a silicon microchip onboard the robotic spacecraft. NASA is now adding a second microchip, giving the public another chance to send their names to Mars.

    New submissions will be accepted through Nov. 1, 2017, at the following link:

    https://mars.nasa.gov/syn/insight

    "Mars continues to excite space enthusiasts of all ages," said Bruce Banerdt, the InSight mission's principal investigator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "This opportunity lets them become a part of the spacecraft that will study the inside of the Red Planet."

    This fly-your-name opportunity comes with "frequent flier" points reflecting an individual's personal participation in NASA's exploration of Mars. These points span multiple missions and multiple decades. Participants who sent their names on the previous InSight opportunity in 2015 can download a "boarding pass" and see their "frequent flier" miles.

    As part of this frequent flier program, a chip carrying the names of 1.38 million people also flew aboard the first flight of NASA's Orion spacecraft in 2014. NASA is building Orion to carry astronauts to deep space destinations that will enable future missions to Mars."

    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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    FH

    Keep looking UP!
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