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November 2016: Crashing harder than Schiaparelli.

November 2016

Crashing harder than Schiaparelli. In the show this time, we talk to Dr. Laura Spitler repeating fast radio burst, Ian Evans rounds up the latest news, and we find out what we can see in the November night sky from Ian Morison and Claire Bretherton.

The News

In the news this month: The Schiaparelli Lander, The Lyman Alpha Blob, and More galaxies than we thought.

Interview with Dr. Laura Spitler

Dr. Laura Spitler is a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, who specialises in the study of radio transients- time variable sources in the radio sky. She talks to us today about a discovery which represents a significant step in our understanding of a particular class of radio transients known as Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) which have the potential to shed light on the matter distribution in the universe. After discovering an FRB in 2012 using the Aricebo telescope in Puerto Rico, Dr. Spitler has been tirelessly probing the area in which it was found, and in early 2016 reported multiple reocurrences of the original outburst. In this interview Dr. Spitler tells us about why FRBs are exciting many in the transient astronomy research community, explains how a repeating burst may shed light on the origins of these short but powerful sources of emission, and may even answer a listener question or two!

The Night Sky

Northern Hemisphere

Ian Morison tells us what we can see in the northern hemisphere night sky during November 2016.

The Planets


Southern Hemisphere

Claire Bretherton from the Space Place at Carter Observatory in New Zealand speaks about the southern hemisphere night sky during November 2016.

Kia ora, and welcome to the November Jodcast from Carter Observatory in Wellington, New Zealand.

As Scorpius/ Te Matau a Maui sets in the west, his arch enemy, and our summer constellation, Orion rises towards the east along with Taurus and Canis Major. The bright star Antares, which marks the heart of the Scorpion, is also known as Rehua to Maori. It represents one of the four Pou, or pillars, that hold Ranginui, the sky father up in the sky. It sits just above the south western horizon at around 11pm at the beginning of the month. These four pou form the basis of a celestial compass, a map of the night sky that was used to navigate the vast oceans of our planet and bring our ancestors to Aotearoa/ New Zealand.

The other three pou are marked by Matariki (the Pleiades), Tautoru (the belt of Orion) and Takurua (Sirius), which line up along the eastern horizon. Matariki supports one of Rangi's shoulders and marks the rising point of the Sun at the winter solstice. Takurua (Sirius) supports the other shoulder and is the closest bright star to the Sun's rising point at the summer solstice. These two stars represent the extent of the Sun's movement throughout the year. In between, rising directly east, is Tautoru, or the belt of Orion, marking the rising point of the Sun at the time of the equinox.

Stretching from Scorpius around to Orion is Te Waka o Tamareriti, or Tamarereti's canoe, which lines up along the horizon in our evening sky. The front of the canoe is marked by the tail of Scorpius, with the sting representing the beautifully carved wood that adorns the prow. The star at the end of the Scorpion's curving tail marks the place where the bow meets the water, whilst the bright, orange star, Antares, marks the crest of a wave as the great waka glides through the waters of the Milky Way.

The Southern cross marks the anchor, Te Punga and the pointers, alpha and Beta Centauri are the anchor line, Te Taura. The key seasonal markers of Takurua (Sirius) and Rehua (Antares) are on either side.

Orion marks the stern of the canoe, with the elaborately carved stern post rising all the way up from red Betelgeuse to bluish Rigel. A tall mast rises from the waka all the way to Achernar, high in the south, which, at magnitude 0.46, is the brightest start in the southern constellation of Eridanus, the river, and the tenth brightest in the night sky.

A little below Achernar are two small fuzzy patches of light, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, which mark the waka's sails.

One story tells of Tamarereti sailing across the sky in his waka with all the stars in kete or baskets. He places the key seasonal and navigational stars in their correct positions in the sky, but finds he has lots of smaller stars left over. So he capsizes his waka spilling all the smaller stars into the sky forming Te Ika Roa, or the Milky Way. Another story tells of Tamareriti scattering bright pebbles in the dark, lightless sky to help guide his way home. The pebbles became the stars and the wake of his waka formed the Milky Way.

The sky we see in the mid-evening in October/November each year is, in fact, the same sky we see just before sunrise around June, the time we celebrate Matariki, or Māori New Year. It is said that the bright star Canopus, or Atutahi (the ariki or high chief of the heavens), pulls up the anchor at the start of the year starting the waka in motion. During the year you can track the progress of Tamarereti's waka as it moves across the sky, one day at a time.

Canopus is the second brightest star in the night time sky, with a magnitude of -0.74, and the brightest in the southern constellation of Carina. It is a white F-type supergiant with a mass around 10 times that of our Sun. It can be seen midway up the south eastern evening sky this month.

Saturn can still be found in our evening skies at the start of the month, just to the right of Antares, and setting around 9:30, but it will disappear into the evening twilight by months end. Venus starts November just above the pair, but continues to move eastwards against the background stars, rising through Sagittarius over the second half of the month. On the 17th, you'll find it right at the tip of the lid of the upside down teapot asterism. Venus will be setting around 3 hours and 20 minutes after the Sun throughout November.

Mars is higher still, and continues to hold its position well, moving from Sagittarius through Capricorn, and setting after midnight.

Mercury also makes an appearance this month. On the 20th it moves between Saturn and Antares forming a line of similar brightness "stars" along the dusk horizon, before continuing to move up away from the pair. Unfortunately, Mercury's evening appearance this month will not be as favourable as that of August this year, as Mercury will set before twilight ends.

Look out for the Leonid meteor shower, which peaks around the 17th of the month, when the Earth passes through the trail of dust and debris left behind by the comet Temple-Tuttle. Whilst normally a reliable but fairly quiet meteor shower, observers have noticed that roughly every 33 years the number of meteors observed during the shower show a marked increase as the Earth passes through the denser parts of the cometary debris trail.

Sadly, the 2016 shower is not expected to reach these high levels, with a predicted maximum of around 10-20 meteors per hour, and with a bright 18 day old Moon in the sky, there will be significant interference to hamper our viewing.

The radiant of the shower, from which the meteors appear to originate, is located in the constellation of Leo, which rises only a couple of hours before the Sun in our morning sky. The best time to observe the Leonids is about 2-3 hours before sunrise on the mornings around the peak.

Wishing you clear skies from the team here at Space Place at Carter Observatory.

Odds and Ends

Show Credits

News:Ian Evans
Interview:Dr. Laura Spitler and Charlie Walker
Night sky:Ian Morison and Claire Bretherton
Presenters:George Bendo, Naomi Asabre Frimpong, Fiona Healey and Jake Morgan
Editors:Benjamin Shaw, Claire Bretherton, Xiaojin Liu, Jake Morgan and Charlie Walker
Segment Voice:Iain McDonald
Website:Parvin Mansour, Charlie Walker and Stuart Lowe
Producer:Parvin Mansour and Charlie Walker
Cover art:Model of Schiaparelli, Lander of ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter Projekt 2016, seen at ESOC in Darmstadt, Germany CREDIT: Wikimedia Commons

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