NASA Podcasts

What's Up for November 2011?
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What's Up for November: magnetospheres and a Mars rover launch.

Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Every magnet generates a magnetic field. And several objects in our solar system generate their own magnetic fields.

The magnetic field of a planet extends into space and is called a magnetosphere. The sun, Earth, Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune all have them.

Earth's magnetosphere shields us from the constant barrage of high energy particles that the sun emits -- the solar wind. A magnetosphere protects our atmosphere and oceans, which would otherwise gradually erode into space.

Mars' lack of a magnetosphere may partly be responsible for the thinness of its atmosphere and absent oceans.

This month the Mars Science Laboratory, also known as the Curiosity rover, launches on a 23-month mission to Mars.

Curiosity will study Mars' habitability using the most advanced suite of instruments for scientific studies ever sent to the Martian surface. The rover will analyze samples scooped from the soil and drilled from the rocks, along with many other activities.

If you stay up late, you'll be able to see the red planet this month. Red-orange Mars will be in Leo near the blue-white star Regulus.

Jupiter rules the skies this month. You can't see its magnetosphere, but if you could, its apparent size from Earth would fill a space bigger than the full moon.

While Earth's magnetosphere is dominated by its interaction with the sun and the solar wind, Jupiter's is driven largely by the planet's fast rotation.

This month try looking for both Mercury and Venus, low on the southwestern horizon just after sunset during the first part of the month.

Finally, this is a great time to check out the sun and see sunspots. But only through a safe solar telescope.

You can learn about Mars missions at

And you can learn about all of NASA's missions at

That's all for this month. I'm Jane Houston Jones.

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