See all the planets, plus mission updates from comet and asteroid missions Dawn and Rosetta.


Music. 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.


View all Videos