[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Letter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 1 Jan 2007 08:07:34 -0800 (PST)

                IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                         January 2007


The International Association for Astronomical Studies provides this newsletter 
as a service for
interested persons in the Denver Metro area. The astronomical data presented 
here is not only
useful in Colorado but in other parts of the world as well.


This newsletter is published on the World Wide Web at 
http://bfa3.home.att.net/astro.html - The
Home of KI0AR - and is received nationally and internationally.


An Open Invitation - For amateur radio and scanner enthusiasts, when in the 
Denver metro area,
please join the Colorado Astronomy Net on the Rocky Mountain Radio League 
repeater on a frequency
of 146.94 MHz on Tuesday nights at 7 PM local time.


Special Notice to Denver, CO area residents and visitors to the area: The 
Plains Conservation
Center in Aurora hosts Full Moon Walks every month weather permitting on or 
near the night of the
full Moon. Visit http://www.plainsconservationcenter.org for more information 
and directions.


Excerpts from JPL mission updates are provided as a public service as part of 
the JPL Solar System
Ambassador / NASA Outreach program.


In This Newsletter...

* The Moon
* The Planets
* Astronomical Events
* Planetary/Lunar Exploration Missions
* Web Sites of Interest
* Acknowledgments and References
* Subscription Information


The Moon

* New Moon on the 18th.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 25th.
* Full Moon on the 3rd.
* Last Quarter Moon on the 11th.

* Apogee on the 10th, 251,242 mi. from Earth.
* Perigee on the 22nd, 227,997 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* Jupiter passes 5 deg. north of Antares on the 4th.
* The Moon passes 0.9 deg. north of Saturn on the 6th.
* The Moon passes 1.2 deg. north of Regulus on the 6th.
* The Moon passes 1.1 deg. south of Spica on the 11th.
* The Moon passes 0.5 deg. south of Antares on the 15th.
* The Moon passes 6 deg. south of Jupiter on the 15th.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. south of Mars on the 16th.
* Venus passes 1.4 deg. south of Neptune on the 18th.
* The Moon passes 2 deg. south of Neptune on the 20th.
* The Moon passes 0.8 deg. south of Venus on the 20th.
* The Moon passes 0.4 deg. north of Uranus on the 22nd.

The Planets & Dwarf Planets
Planetary Reports generated by "TheSky" software. 
(http://bfa3.home.att.net/planrpts.html)  These
reports provide predicted data for the planets for the first of each month for 
the current year.
The rise and set times for the Sun and the Moon for each day of the month are 
also included in the
(All times are local unless otherwise noted.)

* Planetary Highlights for January - Venus has returned to the evening skies 
this month. On the
1st, Venus is about 6 degrees above the western horizon and sets about a half 
hour after the Sun;
however, Venus will climb higher in the evening sky as the month progresses. 
Mercury will join
Venus toward the end of January. Uranus and Neptune are still lingering in the 
evening sky but set
shortly after Venus does. Soon after Venus sets, Saturn will be rising in the 
evening sky making
it visible for most of the night. Jupiter and Mars can be spotted in the early 
morning skies
before sunrise.

* Mercury - Is in superior conjunction with the Sun on the 7th. Mercury will 
return to the evening
sky by the 22nd. Mercury sets around 6:41 pm by the end of the month. Mercury 
shines at magnitude

* Venus - Has returned to the evening sky and can be spotted low on the western 
horizon shortly
after sunset. Venus sets about 5:56 pm on the 1st and about 7:13 pm by month's 
end. Venus shines
at magnitude -3.9.
* Earth - Is at perihelion (91.4 million miles from Sun) at 3 pm EST on the 3rd.

* Mars - Can be spotted in the early morning sky shortly before sunrise this 
month. Mars rises at
5:48 am on the 1st and about 5:26 am by month's end. Mars shines at magnitude 
* Jupiter - Is also visible in the early morning sky rising about an hour or so 
ahead of Mars this
month. Jupiter rises at 4:58 am on the 1st and about 3:21 am by month's end. 
Jupiter is in the
constellation of Scorpius and shines at magnitude -1.8.

* Saturn - As Saturn approaches opposition in February, this planet dominates 
most of the evening
sky this month. Saturn rises around 8:14 pm on the 1st and about 5:57 pm by 
month's end. Saturn is
in the constellation of Leo and shines at a magnitude of 0.1.

* Uranus - Can be spotted in the early evening but try to catch Uranus early in 
the month. Uranus
sets about 9:47 pm on the 1st and about 7:48 pm by month's end. Uranus is in 
the constellation of
Aquarius and shines at magnitude 5.9.

* Neptune - Has nearly disappeared from the evening sky this month and will be 
difficult to spot
through the twilight low later in the month. Neptune sets about 7:50 pm on the 
1st and about 5:50
pm by month's end. Neptune is in the constellation of Capricornus this month. 
Neptune shines at a
magnitude of 8.0.

Dwarf Planets

* Ceres - Sets at 8:38 pm on the 1st and about 7:36 pm by month's end. Ceres is 
in the
constellation of Capricornus shining at magnitude 9.3.

* Pluto - Has returned to the morning sky. Pluto rises about 6:01 am on the 1st 
and about 4:00 am
by month's end. Pluto is in the constellation of Ophiuchus. Pluto shines at 
magnitude 14.0. As
always, good luck at spotting this one.


Astronomical Events

Meteor Showers
* The Quadrantids - This meteor shower is generally visible between December 28 
and January 7,
with a very sharp maximum of 45 to 200 meteors per hour occurring during 
January 3 and 4. The
meteors tend to be bluish and possess an average magnitude of about 2.8.

* Comet 4P/Faye is in the constellation of Cetus shining at 10th magnitude will 
be difficult to
spot from within a city. A small telescope should be able to resolve this fuzzy 
ball. 4P/Faye sets
around 2:32 am on the 1st, so it will be fairly high in the southeast when 
darkness falls. It sets
about 1:32 am by the end of the month.

* For information, orbital elements and ephemerides on observable comets visit 
the Observable
Comets page from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

* For more information about Comets and Meteor Showers, visit Gary Kronk's 
Comets & Meteors
Showers web page at http://comets.amsmeteors.org/.

* No eclipse activity this month.

* Information on various occultations can be found at
http://lunar-occultations.com/iota/iotandx.htm, the International Occultation 
Timing Association's
(IOTA) web site.

Asteroids (From west to east)
* Iris is in the constellation of Taurus.
* Nysa is in the constellation of Gemini.
* Melpomeme is at opposition on the 23rd in the constellation of Cancer.
* Massalia is at opposition on the 29th in the constellation of Cancer.
* Vesta is in the constellation of Libra.

* Information about the Minor Planets can be found at 
http://www.minorplanetobserver.com the Minor
Planet Observer web site.


Planetary/Lunar Exploration Missions
(Excerpts from recent mission updates)

* Cassini - December 28, 2006 - Cassini Wraps Up Year with Titan Flyby

"Cassini wrapped up the year with a Titan rendezvous on Dec. 28, which measured 
Titan's gravity
field in search for a potential subsurface ocean. Raw images are now available."

Cassini Imaging Team's website - http://ciclops.org.

For the latest mission status reports, visit 
http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/home/index.cfm.  The speed
and location of the spacecraft can be viewed on the "Present Position" web page.

* New Horizons - December 15, 2006 - New Horizons Among 'Best of What's New'

"Popular Science magazine has put New Horizons on its annual "Best of What's 
New" list, which
honors the year's most outstanding breakthrough products and technologies. The 
mission was among
the 100 new products and innovations selected from hundreds examined by the 
magazine, and one of
12 selected in the Aviation & Space category."

For more information on the New Horizons mission - the first mission to the 
ninth planet - visit
the New Horizons home page: http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/ for more information about 
the mission.

* Past, Present, Future and Proposed JPL Missions - 

* For special JPL programs and presentations in your area visit the JPL Solar 
System Ambassador
web site at http://www2.jpl.nasa.gov/ambassador/index.html.

Mars Missions

* Mars Global Surveyor - December 06, 2006 -
NASA Images Suggest Water Still Flows in Brief Spurts on Mars

"NASA photographs have revealed bright new deposits seen in two gullies on Mars 
that suggest water
carried sediment through them sometime during the past seven years.

"These observations give the strongest evidence to date that water still flows 
occasionally on the
surface of Mars," said Dr. Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars 
Exploration Program,

Image of the Week
December 06, 2006

The following new image taken by the Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) on the Mars 
Global Surveyor
spacecraft is now available:

* Present-Day Impact Cratering and Gully Activity on Mars (Released 06 December 

All of the Mars Global Surveyor images are archived here:

Every six months, a new suite of MGS MOC data are archived with the NASA 
Planetary Data System
(PDS - http://pds.jpl.nasa.gov/).

Information about how to submit requests is online at the Mars Orbiter Camera 
Target Request Site,
at http://www.msss.com/plan/intro "

The newly released MOC images can be seen in the MOC Gallery 
(http://www.msss.com/moc_gallery/), a
web site maintained by Malin Space Science Systems, the company that built and 
operates MOC for
the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and NASA.

Mars Global Surveyor was launched in November 1996 and has been in Mars orbit 
since September
1997. It began its primary mapping mission on March 8, 1999. Mars Global 
Surveyor is the first
mission in a long-term program of Mars exploration known as the Mars Surveyor 
Program that is
managed by JPL for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, DC.  Malin Space 
Science Systems
(MSSS) and the California Institute of Technology built the MOC using spare 
hardware from the Mars
Observer mission. MSSS operates the camera from its facilities in San Diego, 
CA. The Jet
Propulsion Laboratory's Mars Surveyor Operations Project operates the Mars 
Global Surveyor
spacecraft with its industrial partner, Lockheed Martin Astronautics, from 
facilities in Pasadena,
CA and Denver, CO. 

Visit the MGS pages at http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mgs/index.html.  There are over 
200,000 images of
Mars from the MGS, check out the newest images of the surface of Mars at

* Mars Odyssey Orbiter ? No new news since August 16, 2006 - 
NASA Findings Suggest Jets Bursting From Martian Ice Cap

"Every spring brings violent eruptions to the south polar ice cap of Mars, 
according to
researchers interpreting new observations by NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter. 

Jets of carbon dioxide gas erupting from the ice cap as it warms in the spring 
carry dark sand and
dust high aloft. The dark material falls back to the surface, creating dark 
patches on the ice
cap, which have long puzzled scientists. Deducing the eruptions of carbon 
dioxide gas from under
the warming ice cap solves the riddle of the spots. It also reveals that this 
part of Mars is much
more dynamically active than had been expected for any part of the planet."

"A simulated fly-through using the newly assembled imagery is available online 

The fly-through plus tools for wandering across and zooming into the large 
image are at

Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) web site: (http://themis.asu.edu/)

December 25-29, 2006

* Northern Tracks (Released 25 December 2006)

* Ascraeus Mons (Released 26 December 2006)

* Crater Floor (Released 27 December 2006)

* Erosion (Released 28 December 2006)

* Slope Streaks (Released 29 December 2006)

 All of the THEMIS images are archived here:

The Odyssey data are available through a new online access system established 
by the Planetary
Data System at: http://starbrite.jpl.nasa.gov/pds/";

Visit the Mars Odyssey Mission page at 

* Mars Exploration Rover Mission (Spirit and Opportunity) - 
December 22, 2006

Spirit Status: Spirit Tests New Computer Smarts, Studies Rocks and Terrain - 
sol 1051-1057,
December 22 3, 2006

"Spirit is healthy and conducting scientific analysis of a rock target known as 
"Palma." During
the past week, Spirit tested some new software sequences, including a "watch 
for dust devil"
command and an automatic placement command.

On the rover's 1052nd Martian day, or sol, of exploring Mars (Dec. 18, 2006), 
Spirit ran part of
the dust devil watch, acquiring six images during the process, but did not run 
the dust-devil
detection part of the program. Rover handlers planned to rerun the test on sol 
1058 (Dec. 24,

On sol 1053 (Dec. 19, 2006), Spirit terminated a test run of a command sequence 
for autonomous
placement of the rover's robotic arm on a scientific target. The sequence 
involved touching a
target with the Mössbauer spectrometer, changing tools to the microscopic 
imager and suspending it
10 centimeters (4 inches) above the target, changing tools to the 
alpha-particle X-ray
spectrometer, and placing the alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer on the target. 
Spirit made
preparations to run the test again on a new target on the same day that some 
Earthlings celebrate
as Christmas Eve."

Opportunity Status: Opportunity Continues to Look for Entry Point into 
'Victoria Crater' - sol
1029-1037, December 22, 2006

"Opportunity is healthy and continues to gather data in search of a potential 
future entry point
into "Victoria Crater." The rover is traversing the crater rim near an alcove 
known as "Bottomless
Bay," assessing whether it might eventually serve as an entry point, and 
collecting images of the
crater's interior cliffs.

On Dec. 17, 2006, the rover's 1030th sol, or Martian day on Mars, Opportunity 
began testing
software to enable autonomous placement of the robotic arm and scientific 
instruments on targets
of scientific interest.

Between sols 1029 (Dec. 16, 2006) and 1034 (Dec. 21, 2006), Opportunity drove 
41 meters (135

Landing sites link -http://marsoweb.nas.nasa.gov/landingsites/

Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page at  

* Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - December 13, 2006 - NASA Spacecraft 
Read Layered Clues to
Changes on Mars

"Layers on Mars are yielding history lessons revealed by instruments flying 
overhead and rolling
across the surface. 

Some of the first radar and imaging results from NASA's newest Mars spacecraft, 
the Mars
Reconnaissance Orbiter, show details in layers of ice-rich deposits near the 
poles. Observed
variations in the layers' thickness and composition will yield information 
about recent climate
cycles on the red planet."

More information about the mission is available online at 

* Mars Missions Status - New Mars missions are being planned to include several 
new rover and
sample collection missions. Check out the Mars Missions web page:
http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/ and the Mars Exploration page: 


Links and Other Space News
(If you have a link you would like to recommend to our readers, please feel 
free to submit it.)

* "TheSky" Software - http://www.bisque.com

* A Short Guide to Celestial Navigation - 

* Astronomical Lexicon - http://bfa3.home.att.net/astrolex.html
Many of the astronomical terms used in this newsletter are defined here.

* Astronomy Picture of the Day - 

* Celestron Telescopes - http://www.celestron.com/c2/index.php - New beta 

* Cloudbait Observatory, Guffey Colorado - http://www.cloudbait.com  - Submit 
your fireball
reports here. Interesting, knowledgeable site.

* Comet Observation Home Page - http://encke.jpl.nasa.gov/

* The Constellations and Their Stars -
Good site for finding out more about the 88 constellations and their associated 

* Denver Astronomical Society - http://www.denverastrosociety.org

* Distant Suns - http://www.distantsuns.com/
Desktop Astronomy package for PCs.

* Eric's Black Sun Eclipse website - 

* Groovy Adventures - http://www.groovyadventures.com
Unique adventures and vacations including astronomy related vacations.

* JPL Solar System Ambassador Program - 

* JPL Solar System Experience - 

* Meade Advanced Products Users Group - http://www.mapug-astronomy.net/ - 
Mapug-Astronomy Topical
Archive & information resource, containing a massive 335 page archive of 
discussions about Meade
equipment, and much more: observatories, observing lists, permanent piers, 
equatorial wedges,
remote operations, software, eyepieces, etc.

* My Stars Live - http://www.mystarslive.com/
Interactive Star Chart

* NASA Science News - http://science.nasa.gov/ 

* Northern Colorado Astronomical Society - http://ncastro.org/

* Our Solar System - http://pauldunn.dynip.com/solarsystem/
This is an excellent site to learn about our solar system.

* Sangre Stargazers - http://sangrestargazers.skymtn.com/ - New astronomy club 
in the Wet Mountain
Valley of Custer County (about 45 miles due west of Pueblo, CO.)

* Sky and Space - http://www.skyandspace.com.au/public/home.ehtml
Astronomy from Down Under - The Southern Hemisphere's first astronomy and space 

* Space.com - http://space.com
Interesting space and astronomy articles.

* Space.com - Sky Watch Calendar - 

* Spaceflight Now - http://spaceflightnow.com/

* The Daytona Beach News-Journal - Space News Page - 

* The Solar System in Pictures - http://www.the-solar-system.net and a map of 
the moon -

* Universe Today - http://www.universetoday.com


Acknowledgments and References

Much of the information in this newsletter is from "Astronomy Magazine" 
(Kalmbach Publishing), JPL
mission status reports, the Internet, "Meteor Showers - A Descriptive Catalog" 
by Gary W. Kronk,
Sky & Telescope web pages (S&T), and other astronomical sources that I have 
stashed on my book

The author will accept any suggestions, constructive criticisms, and 
corrections. Please feel free
to send me any new links or articles to share as well. I will try to 
accommodate any reasonable
requests. Please feel free to send questions, comments, criticisms, or 
donations to the email
address listed below. Enjoy!


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Keep looking UP!
73 from KI0AR

Created by Burness F. Ansell, III

COO, Director of Aerospace Technologies, IAAS
JPL Solar System Ambassador, Colorado
Last modified: December 31, 2006

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