Mercury emerges from the glare of the sun during the last week of November and can be seen low in the east-southeast predawn sky.
Brilliant Venus shines as the "Morning Star" low in the southeastern predawn sky.
Mars remains low in the southwest evening sky soon after sunset.
Jupiter rises in the east-northeast early evening sky. If you want to view its cloud bands and moons through a telescope, wait several hours for it to rise higher in order to minimize atmospheric turbulence.
Saturn comes into view from behind the sun during the second half of the month. Look for it to the lower left of brilliant Venus. On the mornings of Nov. 26-28, Venus and Saturn appear very close before sunrise.
Daylight saving time ends at 2 a.m. Nov. 4 for most of the country.
The annual Leonid Meteor Shower will peak on the night of Nov. 17-18. The best time to watch for these meteors will be between midnight and dawn on this night. Usually, an average of about 40 meteors per hour can be seen from a dark observing site.
"Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature's inexorable imperative."
- H. G. Wells
There is so much that we don't understand about our own planet. In many ways, we know more about the exterior of other planets in the solar system than we do about the ocean floor that makes up more than 70 percent of Earth's surface. Twelve men have walked on the moon, but only three have gone roughly 7 miles below the waves to the deepest part of the ocean, the Challenger Deep at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Exotic creatures known as extremophiles live in many of the harshest environments found on Earth. The following places represent some of Earth's extremes, and several regions harbor the harshest conditions for life on our planet:
The peak of Mount Everest, in the Himalaya mountain range, is the highest point above sea level on Earth. At that altitude, the air contains only about one-third of the oxygen compared to the amount at sea level. High winds are the norm at the summit, many times reaching hurricane force. While the temperature can sink to -100 degrees Fahrenheit, climbers are very happy when it hangs right around zero degrees. These horrendous conditions for life will continue to deteriorate over time since the entire Himalaya range continues to be forced upward several inches each year as the tectonic plate below slowly shifts northward.
The deepest point on the Earth's surface lies on the floor of the Pacific Ocean at the southern end of the Mariana Trench. Lying at a depth of just over 36,000 feet, the pressure was measured to be 1,099 times that at the surface. The Canadian film director James Cameron made a dive to that region in March of this year. He didn't notice any living creatures over an inch long at those depths, just some tiny shrimplike amphipods.
The coldest place on Earth is thought to be Vostok Station, Antarctica, a Russian research outpost located 800 miles from the South Pole at an altitude of 11,444 feet. A temperature of minus 126.6 degrees F was recorded there in 1983. It is considered one of the most godforsaken regions on the planet.
The hottest land region on Earth is, on average, the Lut Desert in Iran. In 2005, an infrared detector on a Landsat satellite measured a surface temperature of 159.3 degrees F in that immediate area. It's an extremely dry, rocky, fairly dark-colored site that easily absorbs solar radiation.
By far the driest area on Earth is a region in Antarctica called the Dry Valleys. It is estimated that this place has not seen rain for approximately 2 million years. Nearby mountains block seaward flowing ice from reaching these valleys. Contributing to the unique conditions are the powerful katabatic winds that roar down from the mountains as gravity forces the cold, dense air to travel at speeds of up to 200 mph. The air is heated as it descends at that speed, evaporating any trace of moisture. Scientists regard these extremely dry and cold valleys as the closest of any of Earth's environments to the planet Mars.
The wettest place on land is Mawsynram, India, with a yearly average rainfall of nearly 40 feet. Most of that rain falls during the monsoon season when enormous amounts of warm, moist air are forced up and over the nearby Khasi Hills. This forces the moisture to condense and fall as rain. According to the "Guinness Book of World Records," this location received 83.3 feet of rain in 1985.
The lowest point on any land mass is the Dead Sea, on the edge of the Judean Desert. It is 1,385 feet below sea level. Because the amount of water evaporating from it is more than the amount that flows into it, the salt concentration is greater here than in any other body of water in the world. This high salinity prevents the existence of most creatures in the lake, although several types of bacteria and one species of algae have adapted to that brutal environment.
The world's largest natural reef is the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Stretching for over 1,600 miles, it is one of the seven wonders of the natural world and is the only living thing on Earth visible from space. More than 1,500 fish species live on the reef, and well over 215 species of birds can be found there.
When asked about the world's longest mountain range, most people mention the Andes, which stretch for 4,300 miles. However, there is an underwater mountain range that is much, much longer. The Mid-Ocean Ridge extends along over 40,000 miles on the sea floor of five oceans. This global landmark crisscrosses our planet, similar to the stitches on a baseball. It has formed over millions of years by the slow movement of Earth's tectonic plates. Because this enormous ridge is the site of increased volcanic activity, many hydrothermal vents are formed that allow some microbes, certain shrimp, tubeworms and other extremophiles to thrive under fantastically harsh conditions.
Editor's note: This monthly guide to the stars is from the Marshall Martz Memorial Astronomical Association, the Southern Tier Astronomy Recreation Society and The Post -Journal. For further information, contact the M.M.M.A.A. at www.martzobservatory.org or S.T.A.R.S. at www.UpStateAstro.org/stars/stars.html