JPL Tells Us What's Up for November: Planets, an Asteroid, a Comet and the Leonids

Published : Sunday, November 4, 2018 | 6:29 AM

Here’s a preview of the month (celestially-speaking)  from Jane Houston Jones at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in a monthly show called “What’s Up.”

Jones, who works as a science writer and podcaster at JPL performing planetary mission outreach, has been presenting the show for 12 years. Next month’s episode her final segment. Jones is retiring November 30 “to be a cosmic storyteller,” she says.

“You can’t miss bright Venus in the predawn sky. It appears next to Spica, Virgo’s brilliantly white star, all month.

You can catch Saturn at sunset this month. On the 11th the crescent Moon is less than 2 degrees (or 4 Moon widths) away from the ringed planet.

For Northern Hemisphere observers, Jupiter is visible at sunset for the first week of November. But then it becomes lost to view on November 26th as it reaches solar conjunction. “Solar conjunction” is when the Sun is directly in between Earth and another planet. Next month Jupiter will reappear as a morning planet.

Mars has its own meetup with the Moon. It continues to be brightly visible in the evening sky. As it moves farther from Earth in its orbit, it will fade in magnitude and shrink in apparent size. Mars will be easy to see on November 26th, when NASA’s Insight mission lander touches down on the Red Planet.

Asteroid 3 Juno, the third asteroid ever discovered, but only the 11th brightest, is visible in telescopes this month, shining at magnitude 7.5.

Comet 46P, also at magnitude 7.5, may brighten to naked eye visibility. Observers in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres should be able to see it.

Finally, the Leonid meteor shower peaks November 17th as dust from comet 55P Tempel-Tuttle passes close to Earth. The Leonids are best seen after midnight your local time, once the Moon has set. You should also be able to see some Leonids on the 18th, 19th and 20th. The maximum for any of these nights is only 10 Leonids per hour.

Next month we’ll wrap up the year and I’ll wrap up 12 years writing and presenting What’s Up. A new presenter will resume the series in January.”

You can catch up on all of NASA’s current-and future-missions at

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