This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, November 28th, and Thursday, November 29th, written by Louis Suarato.
The 72% illuminated, waning gibbous Moon rises Wednesday night at 9:01.. The Moon will reach its Last Quarter phase at 7:19 p.m. on Thursday. Look for Taurus’ brightest star, Regulus, 3 degrees below the Moon on Wednesday. Saturn will be only be a few degrees above the southwestern horizon at astronomical twilight, when the Sun is between 12 and 18 degrees below the horizon. Mars is the most easily visible planet in the night sky. Look about 40 degrees, or four fists at arm’s length, above the southern horizon around 6 p.m. for the red planet.
This week, NASA landed the newest rover on Mars after traveling for six and a half months at an average speed of 6,625 miles per hour. Mars’ atmosphere is only 1 % of Earth’s, providing very little friction to slow down any spacecraft. That is one of the reasons only 40% of any mission to land a spacecraft on Mars by any agency has been successful. The name of the new lander is InSight, and its mission will be the first robotic rover to study the interior of Mars, and determine how rocky planets form.
On November 28, 1964, NASA launched the spacecraft Mariner 4 from Cape Kennedy, Florida. Marina 4 reached Mars on July 14, 1965, and during its flyby, became the first to take close-up photos of the planet.. Mariner 4 flew as close as 6.118 miles to the Martian surface, taking 22 photos, of 1% of the planet. The photos took 4 days to transmit to Earth.
Venus adorns the pre-dawn sky, rising at 3:49 a.m. in Virgo. Spica is to Venus’ upper right, and higher to Venus’ upper left, is Arcturus. The Last Quarter Moon can be seen high above Venus, very close to Regulus. Look over the western horizon for Orion and its brightest stars, Betelgeuse and Rigel, and its clearly distinguishable belt of three stars, Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka. This asterism is also known as the “Three Sisters, or “Three Kings”. Sirius, “the Dog Star”, brightest in Canis Major, and brightest in our sky, can be found by following Orion’s belt to the left.