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Observatory Corner: Nov. 13


There’s a change in the weather coming! Next week we are looking at possibly having four clear nights in a row (Monday through Thursday). During the first half of the night, before 10 p.m., several star clusters and galaxies, such as the Pleiades and the Andromeda galaxy, will be visible. The Andromeda galaxy is the brightest and closest galaxy object in our night sky and if viewed under the right conditions, can be seen without the aid of telescopes or binoculars. Jupiter will be visible during the later half of observing hours and the Great Red Spot will be visible Tuesday and Thursday. This red spot is a giant storm in Jupiter’s upper atmosphere that was discovered 400 years ago. This storm has been shrinking in size and drifts laterally across the planet. Also, in the last half of the night you may be able to view the Orion Nebula, which is, in my opinion, one of the brightest and most visually pleasing nebuli visible from our local dome.

In the next couple of days NASA is planning on launching its next Mars bound spacecraft, MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution). MAVEN’s mission is to sample the upper atmosphere of Mars in order to better understand the history of the water on Mars. By putting the satellite into an elliptical orbit, MAVEN will be able to take samples of the upper atmosphere and shed light on how the loss of the upper atmosphere has affected the water on Mars.