Jane Houston Jones: What's Up for September. A nighttime lunar launch, comet ISON is spotted again, and the moon meets up with Saturn, Venus, Mars and Jupiter.
Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
NASA's LADEE mission, the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, is scheduled for a night launch on September 6 at 11:27 p.m. Eastern time from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on the eastern shore of Virginia. LADEE will orbit the moon to gather information about the lunar atmosphere, conditions near the surface and environmental influences on lunar dust. It'll take 30 days to travel to the moon, followed by 30 days for checkout and 100 days for science operations.
Comet ISON was recovered in mid-August and imaged using an 11-inch telescope. There have been other observations of the comet, but it's still to early to predict ISON's behavior. So stay tuned!
On September 27 Comet ISON will be very close to Mars. The comet is coming directly over Mars in its orbit. An orbiter and a rover on Mars will be looking to image ISON as it passes near the planet.
Here's what's visible in the night sky this month. You can find Mars and Jupiter in the eastern dawn sky.
On September first, second and third the moon can be found near Jupiter and Mars. On the 7th and 8th the moon pairs up with Saturn and Venus in the southwest sky just after sunset. And on September 16 Venus is directly below Saturn.
Early next month NASA's Juno spacecraft will perform a close flyby of Earth on October 9, stealing a tiny bit of Earth's orbital momentum to get the boost it needs to reach Jupiter in 2016. Juno may be visible with binoculars to observers near Capetown, South Africa.
You can read about all of NASA's missions, including LADEE and Juno, at w w w dot nasa dot gov.
That's all for this month. I'm Jane Houston Jones.
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology
Page Editor: Tony Greicius