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Number Won 2015. 10. 3. 05:35
Oct. 2, 2015

 

What's Up - October 2015

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What's Up for October. Ten amazing sights in the sky!

Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. To celebrate the 100th episode of 'What's Up,' I want to share with you some of my favorite celestial things. Luckily, October is a great month to see them all!

Number 10: As the sun sets, watch its color. The thick atmosphere absorbs most colors of sunlight, but red light is absorbed the least. Rarely, green flashes can be seen just above the sun's edge just as the last sliver of the disk disappears below the horizon.

Number 9: Just after sunset, turn around and face east. You'll soon see a dark shadow move up from the horizon and gradually cover the pinkish sky. This is called the Earth Shadow or the Belt of Venus. Earth itself is blocking the sunlight.

Number 8: Also just after sunset--or before dawn--you may see rays of sunlight spread like a fan. These are crepuscular rays, formed when sunlight streams through gaps in the clouds or mountains.

Number 7: The bright flowing lights of the aurora borealis, or northern lights, are the result of collisions between gaseous particles in Earth's atmosphere and charged particles released from the sun. The different colors you can see are due to the type of gas being struck by particles of the solar wind. Yellow-green aurorae and red aurorae are produced by oxygen molecules. And purple or blue is from nitrogen. You can find out when and where to expect aurorae at the Space Weather Prediction Center.

Number 6: The Andromeda Galaxy is one of the few galaxies you can actually see with your naked eye. In October, look nearly overhead after sunset. The galaxy is more than twice the apparent width of the moon.

Number 5: Mid-October are excellent nights to view the features on the moon, such as the Sea of Tranquility and the site of the 1969 Apollo 11 landing.

Number 4: This month the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission target, Comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko, is still bright enough for experienced astronomers to pick out in a dark sky. on October 9, you may be able to spot it in the east near the crescent moon and Venus.

Number 3: There are meteor showers galore this month. on the 9th: the faint, slow-moving Draconids. on the 10th: the slow, super-bright Taurids. And on the 21st: the swift and bright Orionids from the dust of Comet Halley.

Number 2: on October 28, you'll find a tight grouping of Jupiter, Venus and Mars in the eastern sky before sunrise.

And number 1: I'll end this list with my very favorite astronomical sight, the Zodiacal light. It's a faint triangular glow seen from a dark sky after sunset or before sunrise. What we're seeing is sunlight reflecting off dust grains that circle the sun in the inner solar system. These dust grains travel in the same plane--called the ecliptic--as the moon and planets as they journey across our sky.

You can find NASA tools and resources for armchair astronomy and solar system and deep sky observing at solarsystem.nasa.gov/StarToolBox.

And you can learn about all of NASA's missions at www.nasa.gov.

That's all for this month. I'm Jane Houston Jones.

Last Updated: Oct. 2, 2015
Editor: Tony Greicius

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What's Up for September. A total eclipse of the harvest moon! Hello and welcome! I'm Jane Houston Jones from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. on the evening of September 27th, observers in North and South America will see a long total lunar eclipse--lasting 72 minutes. This eclipse is also visible in Europe and Africa.

It's the night of the harvest moon--the full moon closest to the September equinox. "Equinox" is derived from the Latin for "equal night." So day and night on the 27th will be roughly of equal length, and the sun will rise exactly in the east and set exactly in the west.

Sometimes a full moon is called a "supermoon"--a term coined just a few years ago. A supermoon is a new or full moon which occurs when the moon is at or near its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit. There are 4 to 6 supermoons every year on average, so they're not unusual. You won't really be able to see the difference between this full moon and any other one with your eyes. It'll only be about 7% larger. The moon is 221,000 miles from Earth this month, as opposed to the average distance of 239,000 miles.

The partial lunar eclipse begins at 9:07 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. It will last a little more than an hour, and observers can watch as, crater by crater, the moon is engulfed in Earth's shadow. West Coast viewers take note: when the eclipse begins, the moon won't have risen yet for you. The total eclipse begins at 10:11 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time and also lasts for more than an hour, ending at 11:23 p.m. The moon's reddish color you'll see is caused by sunlight refracting through Earth's atmosphere on its way to light the moon's surface. This month the moon skims Earth's shadow, just as it did in the April lunar eclipse. In April the north pole appeared a bit brighter during totality. This time, the southern pole will appear a bit brighter, a bit like a partial eclipse. Then it's the whole show in reverse order, ending at 12:27 a.m. on the East Coast and 9:27 p.m. on the West Coast.

When you're not eclipse watching, catch Mercury, Saturn, Neptune and Pluto in the evening sky, Uranus and Neptune at midnight, and Venus, Mars and Jupiter in the predawn sky. Finally, you can still get a great view of our Milky Way spanning the sky from southwest to northeast--if you can escape to a dark location.

You can learn about all of NASA's missions at www.nasa.gov

That's all for this month. I'm Jane Houston Jones.

Last Updated: Sept. 2, 2015
Editor: Tony Greicius

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What's Up for August. The best Perseid meteor shower in years! And view all the current and former planets this month!

Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

August's Perseid meteor shower peaks just after midnight on a moonless mid-August night. It should put on a great show this year. A good number of meteors should be visible near Perseus every night from late July through August 24. However, you'll see fewer meteors before and after the peak. Look towards the familiar constellations Cassiopeia and Perseus in the northeast. They rise soon after sunset, but you'll want to wait til they are higher in the sky to see the most meteors. The best meteor watching hour is 4 a.m. Eastern or 1 a.m. Pacific time on the morning of August 13, when up to 100 meteors per hour may be visible from a dark sky.

There's also a chance to spot all the planets, plus former planets Pluto, Ceres, Vesta, Juno and Pallas this month! But you'll have to observe from dusk to dawn.

Start right after sunset and find Jupiter low on the western horizon. Venus and Mercury will be near Jupiter, but you'll need binoculars and a good, flat western horizon to see them. You can also see Venus before sunrise at the end of the month. The asteroid Juno is also near Mercury, but will require a telescope to see.

Saturn will be easy to see a little higher in the southwestern sky until after midnight.

You'll need a telescope to track down Pluto, but it's not really that difficult. It's in the same area that it was last month, near Sagittarius in the south-southeast sky. It's fun to observe Pluto over two nights and see its movement against the background stars, just as Clyde Tombaugh did when he discovered it in 1930.

Another dwarf planet, Ceres, is not too far away from Pluto. It's also in the constellation Sagittarius. Look low in the southeastern sky. At midnight the asteroid Pallas can be spotted in the constellation Hercules in the western sky.

Uranus and Neptune require a wake-up call! Early in the morning in the eastern sky use binoculars to spot Uranus--the easier of the two to see. Look for Neptune in the southeast sky. Neptune requires a telescope.

Vesta is in the constellation Cetus the whale in the eastern pre-dawn sky.

That just leaves Mars to round out the historical planet tour this month. It's visible an hour before sunrise, but you'll need binoculars to see it. Mars observers, you'll have plenty of time between now and the end of 2016 to view the red planet. Month by month, it rises earlier and looms larger in the eyepiece.

You can learn more about NASA's journey to Mars, New Horizons' flyby of Pluto last month and all of NASA's missions at www.nasa.gov.

That's all for this month. I'm Jane Houston Jones.

Last Updated: Aug. 5, 2015
Editor: Tony Greicius

What's Up for April. A total lunar eclipse!

Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

On April 4 be on the lookout for a total lunar eclipse.

A lunar eclipse takes place on the night of a full moon, when the moon is on the opposite side of Earth from the Sun and the moon passes into Earth's shadow. This can occur only when the Sun, Earth and moon are all aligned. An eclipse begins when the moon first moves into the less-dense part of Earth's shadow--what astronomers call the penumbra--then into the deepest shadow--or umbra.

The April 4 lunar eclipse covers the Pacific and can be seen from parts of Australia, New Zealand and eastern Asia to the western parts of North America. Here are the times for the various stages of the lunar eclipse on the West Coast of the United States. on the East Coast the eclipse begins near dawn, and the moon will set before the eclipse has ended. The total eclipse--the brief phase when the entire surface of the moon is obscured--will last about 12 minutes. For those on the West Coast, the eclipse will end at 6:45 in the morning.

Later in April you can enjoy other ways of seeing the moon. It pairs with the Pleiades and Venus on the 20th and 21st and passes below bright Jupiter on the 25th to the 27th.

Another sky treat this month is the Lyrid meteor shower, which peaks in the early morning of April 23. The constellation Lyra, the point in the sky where the meteors appear to radiate from, will be above the horizon before midnight and high overhead by dawn local time for Northern Hemisphere observers. You'll see more meteors when the radiant is higher: between 4 a.m. and dawn. Based on observations from the past two years, you can expect to see 15 to 20 meteors per hour. Perhaps more!

Information about our solar system objects can be found at solarsystem dot nasa dot gov.

And you can learn about all of NASA's missions at w w w dot nasa dot gov.

That's all for this month. I'm Jane Houston Jones.

Last Updated: July 31, 2015
Editor: Tony Greicius

What's Up for March. A total solar eclipse in the North Atlantic and tips to prepare for the next U.S. eclipse.

Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Total eclipses of the sun have puzzled and amazed observers since ancient times. An eclipse occurs when one celestial body appears to partially or totally block the light from another celestial object--as seen from a specific location. Solar eclipses can only occur during the new moon, when the moon is between Earth and the Sun--and the Earth, moon and sun form a straight line.

There are 4 kinds of solar eclipses: total, partial, annular and hybrid.

A total solar eclipse--like the one this month and the one visible in parts of the U.S. in 2017--can only be seen from within a narrow track called the "path of totality" where the moon completely blocks our view of the sun's disk. The cone-shaped shadow of the moon becomes narrower as it extends towards Earth. Therefore the path of totality is narrow, typically 10,000 miles long but only about 100 miles wide.

The only total solar eclipses visible in the U.S. in the last 40 years were in 1979, visible in the northwest part of the country, and 1991, visible in Hawaii.

The Babylonians and ancient Chinese were able to predict solar eclipses as early as 2500 B.C. But it wasn't until 1605 that astronomer Johannes Kepler made a scientific observation of a total solar eclipse. More than a century later, Edmund Halley predicted the timing and path of a total solar eclipse that took place on May 3, 1715.

That's why amateur astronomers like me are traveling to the March 20 eclipse in the Faroe Islands, far out in the North Sea, hundreds of miles from Iceland, Norway and the U.K.

The best place to find out about all eclipses and where they are visible is at: eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov

And you can learn about all of NASA's missions at: www.nasa.gov

That's all for this month. I'm Jane Houston Jones.

Last Updated: July 31, 2015
Editor: Tony Greicius

What's Up for February. Planetary pairs, just in time for Valentine's Day.

Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

If you wake up early mid-month, you'll see the moon glide by Saturn in the South-Southeast an hour before dawn. Keep looking over the next two mornings and you'll see the crescent moon bookend Mercury very close to the horizon.

And those are not the only meetups between solar system bodies this month. Venus, traditional goddess of love, attracts Mars though their closest encounter happens a week after Valentine's Day, on the 21st. on the 21st, the two planets are just half a degree apart; that's the width of the moon.

Even through modest modern telescopes, today's astronomers have a view that would have stunned Galileo. In 1609 Galileo learned of the invention of the telescope and began to make his own. Over the next months and years, he observed the moon, Venus, Mars, Saturn, several star clusters, sunspots on the sun, and Jupiter.

This is the very best month to observe Jupiter! It reaches opposition on February 6 and is visible all month long. Jupiter's moons perform their ballet just as they did when Galileo observed them in 1610. Using modern telescopes, you'll be able to see the moons pass in front of and behind one another as they march across the planet, casting tiny shadows.

It's also a great month the view the Main Belt asteroid Juno through telescopes. You'll find it near the pretty collection of stars known as the Beehive Cluster.

You can learn more about the history of the solar system and discoveries at solarsystem.nasa.gov.

And you can learn about all of NASA's missions at www.nasa.gov.

That's all for this month. I'm Jane Houston Jones.

Last Updated: July 31, 2015
Editor: Tony Greicius

Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Jupiter's moons are putting on an amazing show this month. The orbital path of the moons is tilting edge-ion to the Earth and the sun. This lineup makes it possible to watch the moons pass in front of each other, an occultation, or pass through another moon's shadow, an eclipse, and even cast tiny black shadows onto Jupiter!

Jupiter rises by 10:30 p.m. at the beginning of the month and by 8:30 at the end of the month. Even through the smallest telescope or binoculars you should be able to see the two prominent belts on either side of Jupiter's equator and the four Galilean moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

Jupiter's Great Red Spot is challenging to spot now and it has actually shrunk to less than half the size of historical observations. It was 25,500 miles in diameter in the late 1800's. The Voyager spacecraft measured it to be 14,500 miles across in 1979. And recent Hubble telescope observations have found it to be 10,250 miles across. And it's shrinking by 580 miles per year.

On the night of January 23 and the morning of the 24th, three moons and their shadows cross the disk of Jupiter. If you want to try to see their shadows, you'll want to start looking through telescopes at 10 p.m. Eastern time. At 10:11 p.m. the first shadow--of Callisto—appears, followed by Io's shadow at 11:35 and Europa's at 1:27 a.m. Then for 25 minutes, until 1:52 a.m., the three black shadows will appear on the planet's disk at the same time. This triple shadow transit won't happen again until 2032.

There's one more treat in store for Jupiter observers this same morning. Io is eclipsed by Calisto's shadow, beginning at 12:41 a.m. Eagle-eyed observers will see Io dim in brightness about 10 minutes later, then resume its brightness in another 10 minutes.

You can learn more about all the bodies of our solar system and discoveries we've made there at: solarsystem.nasa.gov.

And you can learn about all of NASA’s missions at: www.nasa.gov.

That’s all for this month. I’m Jane Houston Jones.

Last Updated: July 31, 2015
Editor: Martin Perez

What's Up for December. More meteor showers and plenty of planets.

Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

If the weather marred your meteor watching in November, don't worry. The December Geminids and Ursids offer up two more chances to see meteor showers this year. The constellation Gemini, namesake of the Geminids and location of the meteor shower radiant, is easy to spot above Orion, high in the southern sky. Look for the most Geminids--even before midnight--on the peak nights of December 13-14th and 14th-15th.

A week later, under darker new moon conditions, look for the Ursids radiating from the bowl of Ursa Minor, or the Little Dipper. The best time to view this shower is from after midnight until dawn on December 22nd and 23rd.

Start the month with a pretty view of the moon near the Pleiades star cluster on December 4th and 5th. Look east a few hours after sunset. You can't miss the two objects. Then, set your alarm clock for an hour before sunrise and catch Jupiter above the moon on December 11th through the 13th in the southwest sky. Jupiter rises in the Eastern sky by about 10 p.m. and it's visible until dawn.

From the 18th to the 20th, look southeast a little closer to sunrise to catch the slender crescent moon near Saturn.

Three more planets grace the evening sky. Venus is below the moon, near the horizon, on the 23rd. Mars is below the moon on the 25th. And Mercury peeks over the horizon on New Year's Eve.

Uranus and Neptune are among the stars of the constellations Aquarius and Pisces in the southern sky. You'll need a telescope to spot Neptune, but you just might find blue-green Uranus through binoculars as soon as it's dark after sunset.

Finally, there are two comets to try for through telescopes. Comet Siding Spring in Ophiucus and Comet PanSTARRS in Sculptor. Try looking in the early evening. Both are low on the western horizon.

You can learn more about all the solar system bodies at solarsystem.nasa. gov. And you can learn about all of NASA's missions at www. nasa. gov.

That's all for this month. I'm Jane Houston Jones.

Last Updated: July 31, 2015
Editor: Tony Greicius

What's Up for November? Comets and meteor showers! Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Long ago, humans thought that comets could predict the future. Now we know that comets hold the fingerprints of the past: the history of the early solar system. They may also provide clues into the origin of life--on Earth and perhaps on other worlds.

The international Rosetta mission, with NASA participation, is investigating a comet's physical characteristics, composition and behavior as the comet journeys toward the sun. Rosetta's lander Philae is scheduled to land on Comet C-G as early as November 12th and transmit data from the surface about the comet's composition.

November's twin meteor showers feature the slow Taurids and the swift Leonids.

The Taurids are the debris of Comet 2/P Encke, visible from mid-October into December. Look in the direction of Cetus and Taurus in the eastern sky.

The faint and swift Leonids peak on the 17th and 18th and follow the path of Comet 55/P Tempel-Tuttle. In 1866 Ernest Temple and Horace Tuttle discovered a faint comet orbiting the sun every 33.2 years, the reason that every 33 years the November meteor shower is stronger than usual. Leo rises near midnight and sets near sunrise, so the best time to look is between midnight and dawn. I'll be out counting the Leonids, armed with a comfortable chair and a blanket, and I hope you will, too.

Almost 100 years before my first meteor counting mission, American astronomer Dorothea Klumpke became the first woman airborne meteor observer. She observed 15 Leonids that night in 1899 from her balloon 1600 feet above the French countryside.

You can learn more about Rosetta and Comet C-G at: sci.esa.int/rosetta and rosetta.jpl.nasa.gov

And you can calculate the Leonid and Taurid rates at your location at: leonid.arc.nasa.gov/estimator.html

And you can learn about all of NASA’s missions at: www.nasa.gov

That’s all for this month. I’m Jane Houston Jones.

Last Updated: July 31, 2015
Editor: Tony Greicius

What's up for October. A total lunar eclipse. A partial solar eclipse. And Mars meets a comet.

Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Mars and Comet Siding Spring are moving closer to each other this month. on October 19, the comet and the planet pass within 81,000 miles of one another. You may be able to spot the comet leading up to--and after--the 19th. But from the U.S., you'll need an unobstructed view of the south-southwestern horizon just after sunset. Try spotting Mars first. It's to the upper left of the orange star Antares, near the horizon at about 7:30 p.m. local time. Then, use your binoculars to scan for the comet. Even through amateur telescopes, Comet Siding Spring may be just too faint to see. Even if it's not visible at your location, the comet will be visible to our missions currently at Mars. And we hope to get back images.

Set your alarm clock for an after-midnight wakeup on the morning of October 8. The moon enters Earth's deep shadow for the second lunar eclipse of the year at 2:15 a.m. on the west coast of North America. That's 5:15 on the east coast. The total phase will begin at 3:15 a.m. on the west coast, or 6:15 on the east coast.

Two weeks later, from North America, a partial solar eclipse will be visible in the late afternoon. on the east coast, the sun sets before the eclipse reaches its maximum, but observers will see a dramatic partial eclipse. The deepest eclipse, where the moon's silhouette extends nearly all the way across the sun, will be visible far to the north in the Canadian Arctic. on the west coast, the dark silhouette will cover about half the sun in the late afternoon. The eclipse is not visible in Maine, Massachusetts or Rhode Island. Remember: Never look directly at the sun during an eclipse--or any time.

You can learn more about solar and lunar eclipses at:

eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov

And you can learn all about Comet Siding Spring's encounter with Mars at:

mars.nasa.gov/comets/sidingspring

That's all for this month. I'm Jane Houston Jones.

Last Updated: July 31, 2015
Editor: Tony Greicius

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Jane Houston Jones: What's Up for February.  See all the planets, plus mission updates from comet and asteroid missions Dawn and Rosetta. Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

In the evening sky, Mercury and Jupiter are visible to the unaided eye, but you'll need binoculars or telescopes to spot Uranus and Neptune. Mars rises before midnight, joining Jupiter as they gracefully arc from east to west. Spot Mercury and Venus in the southeast sky before dawn, and Mars and Saturn higher in the morning sky.

Sound: Whoosh

Jones: Both Ceres and Vesta are just a telescope nudge apart from one another this month. Look for the pair in the early morning between the bright stars Arcturus and Spica. They'll both be close to Mars.

The Dawn mission is on its way to orbit the dwarf planet Ceres in 2015. Recently, observations by the Herschel Space Observatory found that Ceres has a thin water vapor atmosphere and is spewing jets of water out into space.

Sound: Whoosh

Jones: There are a few good comets observable this month, but you'll need a telescope to see them.

ESA, the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft, is going through check-outs as it gets ready to chase its comet target, Comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko. NASA's three science instruments aboard Rosetta are the ultraviolet imaging spectrograph, Alice, the Microwave Instrument for Rosetta Orbiter, MIRO, and the Ion and Electron Sensor, IES.  Rosetta--an orbiter and lander--is flying beyond the main asteroid belt. The European lander, called "Philae," will obtain the first images taken from the surface of a comet, and will provide the first analysis of a comet's composition by drilling into the surface. The Rosetta mission continues--after it drops off the lander--by tracking with the comet as its coma and tail develop during its trip around the sun.

You can see the latest on the Dawn and Rosetta missions, and all of NASA's missions at www. nasa. gov.

That's all for this month. I'm Jane Houston Jones.

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Last Updated: July 31, 2015
Editor: Tony Greicius

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Jane Houston Jones: What's Up for January. Jupiter at opposition. Venus at conjunction. A Juno mission update. And the Quadrantid meteor shower. Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The giant planet Jupiter puts on its best appearance in over a year this month. on January 5 it reaches opposition, when Jupiter, the Earth and the sun are in a straight line with the Earth in the middle. Jupiter's average distance from the Earth is 5.2 A U or 483 million miles. But at opposition it's only 4.2 A U or 391 million miles away.

NASA's Juno spacecraft flew by Earth in October to get the gravitational boost it would need in order to reach Jupiter in July 2016. Several Juno science instruments made observations during the approach to Earth, including the Advanced Stellar Compass, JunoCam and Waves. During the flyby, amateur radio operators around the world said 'hi' to Juno in Morse Code. And the spacecraft actually heard their greeting.

Sound: Beeps.

Sound: Whoosh.

Jones: The only object brighter than Jupiter this month is Venus. This month Venus shines at magnitude minus 4 point 4, and it sets an hour after sunset. Through binoculars or telescopes you'll see an amazingly-thin crescent until the planet disappears at inferior conjunction, when Venus is directly between the Earth and the sun on January 11. Venus will return as the bright morning 'star' at dawn a week later.

Sound: Whoosh.

Jones: The January Quadrantid meteor shower peaks on January third and fourth. The Quadrantids have a very sharp peak, which means the meteors are visible for only several hours near dawn, instead of several days. Look in the northeast, between and below the Big and Little Dippers and the bright star Arcturus. This shower isn't named for the modern constellation in which it appears, but for the constellation's original name: Quadrans Muralis. You can see the latest from the Juno mission and learn about all of NASA's missions at www.nasa.gov.

That's all for this month. I'm Jane Houston Jones.

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Last Updated: July 31, 2015
Editor: Luis Espinoza

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Jane Houston Jones: What's Up for December. Bright planets, a Comet ISON status report plus wintery starry sights. Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Observers definitely saw Comet ISON brighten and change in November.

If the comet survived perihelion, its closest approach to the sun, it will be visible both before dawn and after sunset this month. It will appear higher in the sky at dawn than at sunset, providing a better chance to see it. During the second half of December, Comet ISON should fade rapidly as it moves north. It will be closest to Earth in its orbit on December 26.

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Jones: You may have noticed a very bright 'star' in the western sky. That's Venus! Venus shines at its very brightest, magnitude -4.9 this month. It sets about 3 hours after sunset at the beginning of the month and one and a half hours after sunset at the end of the month. This is a great month to view the dramatic changes in the apparent diameter and phases of Venus as it races towards its conjunction with the sun. The first observations of the phases of Venus were made by Galileo in 1610!

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Jones: Mars continues to grow brighter and rises near midnight, and Jupiter rises earlier in the evening, heralding the best viewing season for Jupiter watchers.

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Jones: The beautiful Geminid meteor shower will only slightly be marred by moonlight on the night of December 13 and 14. The radiant lies near Gemini with brilliant Jupiter above and the constellation Orion below. From a dark sky, but even from the city, the mighty hunter Orion is easily visible in the southeast sky. Take a look at Orion's shoulder star, red Betelgeuse and its knee star, blue Rigel and the Orion Nebula.

You can see the latest images of Comet ISON from space telescopes and worldwide amateurs at

http://www.isoncampaign.org and http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/ISON.

And you can see space images and learn about all of NASA's missions at http://www.nasa.gov.

That's all for this month. I'm Jane Houston Jones.

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Last Updated: July 31, 2015
Editor: Tony Greicius

Jane Houston Jones: What's Up for November? MAVEN launches to Mars and Comet ISON should be visible before dawn.

Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

MAVEN, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission, will explore the planet's upper atmosphere, ionosphere and their interactions with the sun and solar wind.

A 2013 launch allows mission scientists to collect data on Mars' atmosphere and how it's being lost to space at an active time in the 11-year solar cycle.

MAVEN will also relay data from the Curiosity and Opportunity rovers back to Earth as needed. The rovers are presently supported by Mars Odyssey, launched in 2001, and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, launched in 2005.

Sound effect: whoosh.

Jones: on November 27 Mars is a pretty sight, two-thirds of the way from the horizon to overhead. And the crescent moon is nearby.

Amateur astronomers and astrophotographers have used Mars as a signpost to find Comet ISON in the dawn sky for the last month. Comet viewing this month will occur an hour before dawn, so plan your viewing spot and set an alarm clock for a wake-up call.

Sound effect: clock ringing.

Jones: In early November Comet ISON may not have reached visibility to the unaided eye, but it will be easy to spot in backyard telescopes.

In mid-November the comet passes near Virgo's bright white star Spica. Both objects will appear about 20 to 25 degrees above the horizon, 45 minutes before sunrise.

Comet ISON is racing towards the sun at 5 degrees a day. To spot it, you'll need to be able to see the southeast horizon just before dawn.

On the 24th ISON passes near Saturn and Mercury only 10 degrees above the horizon. It should have an impressive tail facing away from the sun.

On November 25th and 26th Saturn and Mercury appear even closer together--less than one moon diameter between them.

On the 28th Comet ISON passes less than one solar diameter from the sun's surface. Will it live up to predictions? Remember never to look directly at the sun. You can damage your eyes.

You can see collections of images of the comet at: solarsystem dot nasa dot gov slash ISON and at NASA's Comet ISON Observing Campaign website: w w w dot isoncampaign dot org. And you can read about all of NASA's missions, including MAVEN, at: w w w dot nasa dot gov.

That's all for this month. I'm Jane Houston Jones.

Music.

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology
 

Last Updated: July 31, 2015
Editor: Tony Greicius

Jane Houston Jones: What's Up for October. Juno's Earth flyby, International Observe the Moon Night
and how to view the moon's far side.

Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Jones: on October 9 at 3:21 p.m. Eastern time, or 19:21 Universal Coordinated Time, NASA's Juno spacecraft performs a close flyby of Earth. At closest approach, Juno will come to within 347 miles or 559 kilometers of our planet's surface.

This flyby will provide a gravity assist to the spacecraft, allowing it to pick up the extra speed it needs in order to get to its destination: the giant planet Jupiter.

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Jones: October 12 is International Observe the Moon Night, and the moon will be visible before sunset.

It's a night dedicated to encouraging people to look up and take notice of our nearest neighbor.

As the moon sets in the west at midnight, Jupiter is just rising in the East.

On the 25th you'll find Jupiter above the moon. Most people think we see the same 50 per cent of the lunar surface every month.

But a gentle wobble of the moon in the Earth's sky lets us peek at an additional 9 per cent of the moon's surface.

This wobble, or libration, lets us occasionally see a bit around the east and west limb of the moon and over the north and south poles.

This phenomenon becomes apparent when viewing Mare Frigoris in the north and Mare Crisium on the moon's east limb over time

Catch a glimpse of the far side's Mare Orientale on the western limb near the first of the month. It's the youngest impact crater on the moon.

Mare Marginis, Smithii and Australe are all visible after dark on the 11th through the 13th.Try spotting them through any size telescope during International Observe the Moon Night.

You can read about all of NASA's missions, including lunar missions and Juno, at w w w dot NASA dot gov.

That's all for this month. I'm Jane Houston Jones.

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology

Last Updated: July 31, 2015
Editor: Tony Greicius

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Jane Houston Jones: What's Up for September. A nighttime lunar launch, comet ISON is spotted again, and the moon meets up with Saturn, Venus, Mars and Jupiter.

Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

NASA's LADEE mission, the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, is scheduled for a night launch on September 6 at 11:27 p.m. Eastern time from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on the eastern shore of Virginia. LADEE will orbit the moon to gather information about the lunar atmosphere, conditions near the surface and environmental influences on lunar dust. It'll take 30 days to travel to the moon, followed by 30 days for checkout and 100 days for science operations.

Comet ISON was recovered in mid-August and imaged using an 11-inch telescope. There have been other observations of the comet, but it's still to early to predict ISON's behavior. So stay tuned!

On September 27 Comet ISON will be very close to Mars. The comet is coming directly over Mars in its orbit. An orbiter and a rover on Mars will be looking to image ISON as it passes near the planet.

Here's what's visible in the night sky this month. You can find Mars and Jupiter in the eastern dawn sky.

On September first, second and third the moon can be found near Jupiter and Mars. on the 7th and 8th the moon pairs up with Saturn and Venus in the southwest sky just after sunset. And on September 16 Venus is directly below Saturn.

Early next month NASA's Juno spacecraft will perform a close flyby of Earth on October 9, stealing a tiny bit of Earth's orbital momentum to get the boost it needs to reach Jupiter in 2016. Juno may be visible with binoculars to observers near Capetown, South Africa.

You can read about all of NASA's missions, including LADEE and Juno, at w w w dot nasa dot gov.

That's all for this month. I'm Jane Houston Jones.

Music.

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology

Last Updated: July 31, 2015
Editor: Tony Greicius

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Jane Houston Jones: What's Up for August. The Perseids and a Comet ISON update.
Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
If you've never seen a meteor shower, the summer Perseids are a great introduction.
Meteor showers are the colorful debris of a comet or sometimes the debris of a fragmented asteroid.
When a comet nears the sun, its icy surface heats up and releases clouds of gas and dirt
forming a tail of debris that can stretch for millions of miles.
As Earth passes near this dusty tail, some of the small dust particles hit our atmosphere and burn up
creating great celestial fireworks for us to enjoy.
The Perseids, the most popular meteor shower of the year, will peak Monday, August 12.
The meteor shower radiates from the constellation Perseus, which rises in the northeast after sunset.
Just follow the Milky Way from the south to the north to find it.
You'll see some Perseids all month long, before and after midnight.
But you'll see the greatest number of meteors after midnight on Sunday and Monday mornings
on either side of the shower's peak.
With clear, dark skies up to 100 meteors per hour are projected.
But even if you don't see hundreds, you'll see plenty of fast, bright Perseids.
Music.
Jones: Comet ISON, which was visible at a very faint magnitude 15 point 5 from January through May
is expected to be visible through small telescopes in late August.
It should be visible low in the predawn sky, in the constellation Cancer near M 44, the Beehive Cluster.
How bright will it be? Will its debris create its own meteor shower?
Stay tuned for more news in the coming months.
You can read more about small bodies such as comets and asteroids at
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/asteroidwatch.
And you can read about all of NASA's missions at http://www.nasa.gov.
That's all for this month. I'm Jane Houston Jones.
Music.

Last Updated: July 31, 2015
Editor: Luis Espinoza

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Jane Houston Jones: What's Up for July. Wave at Saturn as the Cassini spacecraft takes a picture of Earth.

Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Saturn is well-placed for viewing this month, revealing its northern hemisphere and a ring tilt open to 17 degrees. And July is a great month to spot Saturn's third-largest moon Iapetus.

Only July 15 and 16 you'll be able to spot our moon near Saturn.

This month Earth is also well-placed for observation by NASA's Cassini spacecraft which has been orbiting the Saturn system since July of 2004. Earth will shine from beyond the rings of Saturn while Cassini takes a mosaic of the planet and its rings on July 19. It'll take 3 hours for Cassini to snap portraits of the entire Saturn system. Then, scientists on Earth will assemble the images into a single mosaic. Earth's portrait session will last only about 15 minutes, from 2:27 to 2:42 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time or from 21:27 to 21:42 Coordinated Universal Time.

Cassini will see a crescent Earth from 898 million miles or 1.44 billion kilometers. That's when you can wave at Saturn and be part of the one-pixel portrait of Earth framed by Saturn's rings. For participants in North and South America, Saturn will be above the daytime Eastern horizon as the image is being taken.

But you won't be able to see the planet until it's dark. After dark you'll have no trouble locating Saturn. It's between the moon and Venus.

You can check out our time zone table to see what time the picture will be taken in your part of the world.

The light representing your wave will have an 80-minute trip to the open shutters on Cassini's cameras. Send images of you and your friends and family waving at Saturn or any Saturn-related pictures to our flickr page, or use the hashtag #Waveatsaturn on Facebook and Twitter.

You can read about when and where to wave on the Cassini mission's Wave at Saturn web page and read blogs by members of the Cassini team at: Saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/news/waveatsaturn.

And you can read about all of NASA's missions, including Cassini, at www.nasa.gov.

That's all for this month. I'm Jane Houston Jones.

Music.

Last Updated: July 31, 2015
Editor: Tony Greicius

What's Up for June. A planetary trio at sunset plus asteroids you can see.

Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The month begins with a gorgeous trio of planets: Mercury, Venus and Jupiter, low on the west-northwest horizon.As the month progresses, Jupiter slips into the sunset while Mercury and Venus rise higher in the sky.

Asteroid 1998 QE2, which safely passed by Earth on May 31,is visible in the night skies only through medium sized or larger telescopes.

Amateur astronomers looking towards the constellations Libra and Ophiucus the first week of June can watch it move about the diameter of a full moon in an hour and a half.

On June 11 we might witness the return of a rare meteor shower called the Gamma Delphinids radiating from the tiny dolphin-shaped constellation Delphinus. The best part of the sky to watch is usually an area about 30 degrees away from the radiant point of the shower.

The first four asteroids ever discovered: Ceres, Vesta, Pallas and Juno are all visible this month and are all about magnitude 8 or 9, requiring binoculars or telescopes.These four are Main Belt asteroids. That means they orbit only in the area between Mars and Jupiter so they pose no threat to Earth.

Ceres and Vesta can be found near the stars of the constellation Gemini.

Pallas is only visible from the Southern Hemisphere before dawn this month.

Juno can be found among the stars of Aquarius, as can asteroid Bamberga.

Asteroid 324 Bamberga is the 15th-largest asteroid as measured by its diameter, but it was one of the last large asteroids to be discovered nearly a hundred years after the first four were discovered in the early 1800's.

Wrap up the month with a trip out of town. By month-end the moon will not rise until midnight, and you'll have a great view of the Milky Way rising in the East, spanning the sky from horizon to horizon.

You can read about asteroid news and features at jpl.nasa.gov/asteroidwatch.

And you can learn about all of NASA's missions at www.nasa.gov.

That's all for this month. I'm Jane Houston Jones.  

Last Updated: July 31, 2015
Editor: Gary Daines

What's Up for May. Spring constellations yield science targets you can see.

Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

May is a great month to see a lovely collection of constellations with your own eyes and view objects studied by NASA spacecraft and telescopes.

Use the moon to help locate the constellations this month.

On May 13 the crescent moon is between the 'feet' of the Gemini twins. The stars Pollux and Castor mark the heads of the twins.

The Eskimo Nebula, studied by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, is a fine object to view through small telescopes.

From the 14th through the 17th the moon passes the pretty Beehive Cluster located in the Y-shaped constellation Cancer.

The first planets to be found orbiting sun-like stars in a star cluster were found in the Beehive by NASA-funded astronomers using the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Arizona.

On the 18th and 19th you'll find the moon near the paws of Leo the Lion.

A trio of Leo galaxies have been extensively studied by many telescopes, including the European Southern Observatory's Visual Survey Telescope.

This trio -- M-65, M-66 and NGC-3628 -- is a popular target for amateur astrophotographers, too.

On the 22nd you'll find the moon near the V-shaped constellation Virgo -- and Saturn.

The Palomar telescope observed a chain of galaxies in the heart of the Virgo Cluster, another popular, but challenging, amateur astronomer target called Markarian's Chain.

Nearby are the constellations Cygnus and Lyra, home to the Kepler Habitable Planet Search Grid, where the smallest Habitable Zone planets were just discovered in April.

You can see a collection of space images taken by NASA telescopes at www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages.

And you can learn about all of NASA's missions at www.nasa.gov.

That's all for this month. I'm Jane Houston Jones.
 

Last Updated: July 31, 2015
Editor: Gary Daines
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