Catch two meteor showers in November while you're out spotting the gas giants. And don't miss the opening act from Venus in the morning hours.
Jane Houston Jones: What's Up for November? Venus in the morning, gas giants in the evening and meteors after midnight.
Hello and welcome! I'm Jane Houston Jones at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. If your skies are clear this month, you're in for some real treats!
Venus is up first ... literally. Start looking for our nearest planetary neighbor just before dawn. You'll be treated to a very slender crescent. On the fifth, two crescents rise 35 minutes before dawn: first Venus and then the Moon. By the 15th, the crescent Venus widens to 10% of the planet's disk. And by month end, it's 25 percent lit. Galileo captured sketches of the changes in the appearance of Venus 400 years ago.
Jupiter reigns supreme again in November. You can really see the light and dark bands of clouds on the planet.
Uranus and Neptune are both easy to see through a telescope, too.
Comets are storytellers, preserving the stuff from which our solar system's family was born. November 4 marks the EPOXI spacecraft's flyby of comet Hartley 2. Last month offered the best time to view this comet.
The bright and slow Taurid meteor shower peaks the first two weeks of November. You'll only see about 5 of the distinctive Taurids per hour.
November's more famous shower is the Leonids. The faint and swift Leonids peak on the 17th and 18th. Wait until the moon sets in the hours before dawn for your best chance of seeing them.
NASA's Year of the Solar System missions will shed light on our solar system family's birth story. The Cassini Solstice mission is making new discoveries about the mini-solar system at Saturn, complete with a disk of rings and moons orbiting the dynamic gas giant. JUNO launches in 2011 and will seek to understand the origin and evolution of Jupiter.
Learn more about this month's Year of the Solar System resources at http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/yss
And you can learn all about NASA's missions at www.nasa.gov
That's all for this month. I'm Jane Houston Jones.