NASA/JPL | What’s Up for Nov. 2014: European Lander Soon to Reach Comet
Twin meteor showers feature the slow Taurids and the swift Leonids while Rosetta’s lander Philae is scheduled to land on Comet C-G and transmit data from the surface about the comet’s composition.
What’s Up for November? Comets and meteor showers! Hello and welcome. I’m Jane Houston Jones from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Long ago, humans thought that comets could predict the future. Now we know that comets hold the fingerprints of the past: the history of the early solar system. They may also provide clues into the origin of life–on Earth and perhaps on other worlds.
The international Rosetta mission, with NASA participation, is investigating a comet’s physical characteristics, composition and behavior as the comet journeys toward the sun. Rosetta’s lander Philae is scheduled to land on Comet C-G as early as November 12th and transmit data from the surface about the comet’s composition.
November’s twin meteor showers feature the slow Taurids and the swift Leonids.
The Taurids are the debris of Comet 2/P Encke, visible from mid-October into December. Look in the direction of Cetus and Taurus in the eastern sky.
The faint and swift Leonids peak on the 17th and 18th and follow the path of Comet 55/P Tempel-Tuttle. In 1866 Ernest Temple and Horace Tuttle discovered a faint comet orbiting the sun every 33.2 years, the reason that every 33 years the November meteor shower is stronger than usual. Leo rises near midnight and sets near sunrise, so the best time to look is between midnight and dawn. I’ll be out counting the Leonids, armed with a comfortable chair and a blanket, and I hope you will, too.
Almost 100 years before my first meteor counting mission, American astronomer Dorothea Klumpke became the first woman airborne meteor observer. She observed 15 Leonids that night in 1899 from her balloon 1600 feet above the French countryside.
You can learn more about Rosetta and Comet C-G at: sci.esa.int/rosetta and rosetta.jpl.nasa.gov
And you can calculate the Leonid and Taurid rates at your location at: leonid.arc.nasa.gov/estimator.html
And you can learn about all of NASA’s missions at: www.nasa.gov
That’s all for this month. I’m Jane Houston Jones.