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November 2017 Skies
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by Dick Cookman
Highlights: Comet Journal, Martian Landers, Meteor Showers, Planet Plotting, November Moon
Focus Constellations: Auriga, Perseus, Cassiopeia, Andromeda, Pegasus, Cygnus, Lyra, Cepheus, Draco, Ursa Minor, Ursa Major, Lynx, Camelopardalis
Comet C/2017 O1 (ASASSN) moves northward at 8th magnitude through Camelopardalis in November. It passed perihelion on October 14th and was closest to Earth on October 18th. It is now retreating from the Sun and will get dimmer in 2018.
Opportunity is at "Perseverance Valley” on the western rim of "Endeavor Crater", the 14 mile wide crater located on "Meridiani Planum". The rover has been dealing with low solar energy levels which limit energy available for exploration. In lieu of visiting new locations, Opportunity is conducting surface chemistry surveys in the immediate area. Moving about 59 feet (18 meters) to a nearby subject designated “La Bajada” allowed collection of over 40 color stereo-image pairs of the surroundings and positioned the rover in a better orientation for collection of solar energy. As of Sol 4882 (Oct. 17, 2017), the rover reached total travel on Mars of 27.98 miles (45.04 kilometers). Solar array energy production has risen from a low of 283 to 358 watt-hours per sol since Sol 4854 (Sept. 19th).
Upon reaching the summit of Vera Rubin Ridge on September 13th, Curiosity embarked on examination of the exposed bedrock surface. On the 20th, the rover headed south-southeast toward a series of stepped layers, stopping occasionally to obtain chemical and morphological data from adjacent rock exposures. On the 25th, an arm malfunction set back plans for a couple of sols. When it was working again, examination of the geometry of the bedrock layering and crosscutting veins continued.
On September 30th, a major breakthrough transpired when mission scientists finally were preparing for delivery of a Bagnold Dunes sample to the CheMin X-ray Diffractometer. The arm’s drill feed mechanism has been stuck since December, 2016, almost 180 sols, obviating possibilities of sample drilling and analysis. The original design involved placing the stabilizers on either side of the drill bit on the target rock surface and extending the drill forward with the motorized feed mechanism to penetrate the rock. Failure of the feed mechanism necessitated going to a non-existent plan B, so mission scientist were forced to come up with a work-around.
On October 17th, after planning and preparing for resumption of the drilling program, preload tests of the rover’s drill ensued as the arm was utilized to place the drill on the ground and guide the drill into the rock while taking measurements of sideways forces with the force/torque sensors. With this method, Curiosity’s twin at JPL on Earth has successfully delivered drill samples to its laboratory instrument.
The rover has been able to collect some chemical composition information during the last six months without drilling. In addition to the thousands of color images that it takes every year, its instruments are able to discern mineral properties and mineral chemistry by enhanced observation. Special light filters help in identification of minerals by their appearance under differing light colors, and the spectrometer sorts light from the mineral surfaces into thousands of wavelengths extending well into the infrared and ultraviolet parts of the spectrum, providing a means of chemical identification. The Mast Camera (Mastcam) accomplishes the former and the Chemistry and Camera Instrument (Chemcam) is utilized for the latter. The Chemcam can observe either solar light reflected by the mineral or zap the specimen with its laser in order to observe the resulting light. Vera Rubin Ridge was designated as a target due to satellite and surface observations of rocks exhibiting an assortment of colors inviting detailed examination with these instruments. Immediate targets include some nodular purple bedrock and a white-gray vein about 20 meters away.
Meteor Showers in November include the Southern and Northern Taurids which peak on the 5th and 12th respectively at about 5 meteors per hour in dark skies. The Leonids follow during the dark skies of the new moon phase on the 17th through 19th, and the Alpha Monocerotids are active from the 25th through the 30th. The latter is a minor shower that produced a storm of over 400 meteors per hour in 1995, and the Leonids have stormed numerous times in the last few hundred years. The storm in 1833 may have exceeded 100,000 meteors per hour, and typical showers from the debris from Comet Tempel-Tuttle are limited to 10 to 40 meteors per hour. Storms in 1866, 1900, 1966, and 1999 produced thousands of meteors per hour.
Morning planets include Venus (-3.8) in Virgo and Libra, Mars (+1.8 to +1.7) in Virgo, and Jupiter (-1.5 to -1.6) in Virgo and Libra. Jupiter was at conjunction with the Sun on October 26th and rises in the glow of sunrise during November. Its elongation from the Sun is 4.8° on the 1st and increases to 27.7° by the 30th. Venus rises before dawn and is 16.8° from the Sun at sunrise on the 1st. It descends into the glow of sunrise during November and is 9.6° from the Sun at month’s end. Venus and Jupiter are in close proximity during November and are less than a degree apart on the 13th. The waning crescent Moon is near the two planets in the middle of the month.
Mercury (-0.3 to +0.1) moves through Libra, Scorpius, Ophiuchus, and into Sagittarius in the evening skies of November. Saturn (+0.5) in Ophiuchus and Sagittarius rises during the morning and sets after sunset. It is about 45° from the Sun on the 1st and drops to 19° on the 30th. The waxing crescent Moon passes Mercury and Saturn on the 20th. Uranus (+5.7) is in Pisces, and Neptune (+7.9) is in Aquarius. Uranus and Neptune rise before the Sun and set during the wee hours in November. The waxing gibbous Moon passes Uranus on the 2nd and again on the 30th. It is near Neptune on the 27th.
|Sun||Virgo||-26.8||New Moon||6:42AM EST||11/18|
|-0.3 to +0.1||Max East Elongation||7:00PM EST||11/23|
|Venus||Virgo, Libra||-3.8||Jupiter 0.26° SSW||3:00AM EST||11/13|
|Mars||Virgo||+1.8 to +1.7|
|Jupiter||Virgo, Libra||-1.5 to -1.6||Venus 0.26° NNE||3:00AM EST||11/13|
The New Moon of November is on the 18th at 6:42AM EST. It is the beginning of Lunation 1174 which ends 29.65 days later with the New Moon of Dec. 18th at 1:30AM EST. The Full Moon of November in Taurus occurs at 1:23AM EDT on the 4th. The November Moon is known as the “Frosty Moon ”. The Celts called it the “Dark Moon”, and the Colonial Americans called it the “Beaver Moon”. Chinese refer to it as the “White Moon”, and it was the “Snow Moon” in Medieval England. Anishinaabe (Odawa and Ojibwe) people in northern Michigan recognize it as “Baashkaakodin-Giizis (Freezing Moon).
Lunar Perigee (closest to Earth) is 224,587 miles or 56.67 Earth radii on the 5th at 7:21PM EST. Apogee (maximum orbital distance) occurs on the 21st at 2:00PM EST when it is at 252,359 miles (63.68 Earth radii).
|Planet||Constellation||Magnitude||Moon Passage||Moon Phase||Moon Age|
|Sun||Libra||-26.8||6:42AM EST 11/18||New||0 days|
|Mercury||Ophiuchus||-0.3||6.8°N, 6:00AM EST, 11/20||Waxing Crescent||1.97 days|
|Venus||Libra||-3.8||3.8°NNE, 3:00 AM EST, 11/17||Waning Crescent||28.49 days|
|Mars||Virgo||+1.8||3.0°NNE, 10:00PM EST, 11/14||Waning Crescent||26.20 days|
|Jupiter||Libra||-1.5||3.9°NNE, 7:00PM EST, 11/16||Waning Crescent||28.16 days|
|Saturn||Sagittarius||+0.5||3.0°N, 8:00PM EST, 11/20||Waxing Crescent||2.55 days|
|Uranus||Pisces||+5.7||3.5°SSE, 11:00PM EDT, 11/2|
4.1°SSE, 7:00AM EST, 11/30
|Neptune||Aquarius||+7.9||1.1°SSE, 1:00PM EST, 11/27||Waxing Gibbous||9.26 days|
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