[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 1 Mar 2005 19:45:23 -0800 (PST)

            IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                        March 2005


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


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 Star Parties the third Saturday of
every month weather permitting. 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...

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



* New Moon on the 10th.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 17th.
* Full Moon on the 25th.
* Last Quarter Moon on the 3rd.

* Perigee on the 7th, 225,702 mi. from Earth.
* Apogee on the 19th, 251,560 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 0.8 deg. north of Antares on the
* The Moon passes 5 deg. south of Mars on the 6th.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. north of Neptune on the 7th.
* The Moon passes 3 deg. south of Mercury on the 11th.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. north of Saturn on the 19th.
* The Moon passes 1.0 deg. south of Jupiter on the
* The Moon passes 0.7 deg. north of Antares on the

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 reports.
(All times are local unless otherwise noted.)

* Mercury - Is at greatest eastern elongation (18
deg.) on the 12th. Mercury is in inferior conjunction
on the 29th. Look for Mercury low in the west soon
after sunset this month. Mercury shines at magnitude
-1.4 on the 1st dimming to magnitude 0.0 on the 15th.

* Venus - Is in superior conjunction on the 30th.
Venus is not visible this month.

* Earth - Vernal equinox is at 7:33 am EST on the

* Mars - Appears briefly in the early morning sky this
month. Mars rises about 3:52 am on the 1st and about
3:09 am by month's end. Mars moves from the
constellation of Sagittarius into Capricornus this
month. Mars shines at magnitude 1.1.

* Jupiter - Rises at 8:42 pm on the 1st and 6:23 pm by
month's end. Jupiter is in the constellation of Virgo.
Jupiter shines at magnitude -2.4.

* Saturn - Is high overhead by the time the Sun sets
in the evening this month. Saturn sets around 4:14 am
on the 1st and about 2:11 am by month's end. Saturn is
in the constellation of Gemini. Saturn shines at a
magnitude of 0.0.

* Uranus - Has returned to the early morning sky but
may be extremely difficult to spot in the twilight
glow in the first couple of weeks of the month. Uranus
rises at 6:27 am on the 1st and about 4:29 am by
month's end. Uranus is in the constellation of
Aquarius and shines at a magnitude of 5.9.

* Neptune - Has also returned to the early morning sky
this month. Neptune rises at 5:28 am on the 1st and
about 3:29 am by month's end. Neptune is in the
constellation of Capricornus and shines at a magnitude
of 8.0.

* Pluto - Rises about 1:48 am on the 1st and about
11:42 pm by month's end. Pluto is in the constellation
of Ophiuchus. Pluto shines at magnitude 13.9. As
always, good luck at spotting this one.

Astronomical Events

Meteor Showers
* There are some minor meteor showers this month but
none that produce rates much higher than 2-5 per hour,
except the Gamma Normids that extend over the period
of March 11 to 21, with the maximum occurring on March
16. The maximum rate reaches about 5-9 meteors per

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

* Comet C/2004 Q2 (Machholz) passes near the North
Star, Polaris this month into Draco. Comet Machholz
has dimmed to 6th magnitude but since it is near the
pole it should be fairly easy to spot with binoculars.
Comet Machholz is best viewed during the first three
weeks. The tail should also be visible and appear to
point towards the bowl of the Big Dipper. 

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

* No eclipse activity this month.

Asteroids (From west to east)
* Vesta is in the constellation of Pisces.
* Flora and Herculina are in the constellation of
* Pallas is at opposition on the 22/23rd in the
constellation of Virgo.
* Hygiea is at opposition on the 26/27th in the
constellation of Virgo.
* Amphitrite is at opposition on the 30th in the
constellation of Virgo.
* Ceres is in the constellation of Libra.
* Irene 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 - February 24, 2005 -
NASA's Cassini Spacecraft Continues Making New Saturn
"NASA's Cassini spacecraft continues making new and
exciting discoveries. New findings include wandering
and rubble-pile moons; new and clumpy Saturn rings;
splintering storms and a dynamic magnetosphere. 
"For the last seven months it has been a nonstop,
science-packed mission. It has been a whirlwind, and
already we have many new results," said Dr. Dennis
Matson, Cassini project scientist at NASA's Jet
Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif."

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.

* Deep Impact - February 11, 2005 -
Deep Impact Deep Space Burn

"On Friday, February 11, NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft
successfully performed the mission's first trajectory
correction maneuver to aim it for its encounter with
Comet Tempel 1 this July. Deep Impact launched from
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on January

For the latest mission status reports, visit
http://www.nasa.gov/deepimpact and

* Genesis - No new news since January 31, 2005 - 
"Genesis Principal Investigator Donald Burnett was all
smiles this past holiday season thanks to Johnson
Space Center's (JSC) Curation team, delivering
portions of the jolly ol' Sun for analysis here on

Burnett received several 5-7 mm-sized wafer fragments,
as did Co-Investigators at JSC, early December 2004. 

Co-Investigators at Washington University in St. Louis
received a cut piece of the Polished Aluminum
Collector on Jan. 4, 2005. This was the first delivery
supporting the "early science return" activity that
will establish solar isotopic and elemental abundances
of noble gases." 

The latest status reports can be read at
Find out more about the Genesis mission at
http://genesismission.jpl.nasa.gov/ and
http://genesis.jpl.nasa.gov/html/index.shtml. Visit
"Where Is Genesis Now? at

* Stardust - February 7, 2005 -    
"This month [February] marks a special birthday for
Stardust. Launched on a Delta 2 rocket on February 7,
1999, Stardust has now spent 6 years in space.
Encountering Comet Wild 2 in January 2004, Stardust is
on schedule to return the comet samples to Earth in
January 2006."

Stardust LPSC 2004 Abstracts -
"Abstracts of the Stardust science results from the
Comet Wild 2 encounter are now available here (Adobe
Acrobat reader required):

For more information on the Stardust mission - the
first ever comet sample return mission - please visit
the Stardust home page: http://stardust.jpl.nasa.gov
for more information about the mission.

* Galaxy Evolution Explorer - (GALEX) - 
The GALEX Image Gallery is available at

What's New: http://www.galex.caltech.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

Mars Missions

* Mars Global Surveyor - January 24, 2005
Opportunity Rover As Seen From Orbit


"The tracks made by the rover on the sandy surface of
Meridiani Planum are not quite as visible from orbit
as are the tracks made in Gusev Crater by the MER-A
rover, Spirit. The dustier surface at the Spirit site
increases the contrast between the tracks and the
surrounding surfaces. Indeed, some parts of the track
made by Opportunity are not visible in this image.
Sunlight illuminates the scene from the left, the 100
meter scale bar equals about 109 yards, and north is
toward the top."

* Mars Global Surveyor Images - 

February 17-23, 2005

"The following new images taken by the Mars Orbiter
Camera (MOC) on the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft
are now available:

* Crater in Acidalia (Released 17 February 2005)

* Sedimentary Rocks in Melas (Released 18 February

* December's Dunes (Released 19 February 2005)

* Inverted Channel (Released 20 February 2005)

* Ganges Landslides (Released 21 February 2005)

* Mars at Ls 160 Degrees (Released 22 February 2005)

* Iani Sedimentary Rocks (Released 23 February 2005)

All of the Mars Global Surveyor images are archived

Every six months, a new suite of MGS MOC data are
archived with the NASA Planetary Data System (PDS-

Information about how to submit requests is online at
the new 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 has begun its eighth year
orbiting the red planet. MGS reached Mars on 12
September 1997. The first MOC images were obtained on
15 September 1997." Visit the MGS pages at
http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mgs/index.html. There are
over 134,000 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 25,
2004 - Mars Odyssey Begins Overtime After Successful
Mission -
"NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter begins working overtime
today after completing a prime mission that discovered
vast supplies of frozen water, ran a safety check for
future astronauts, and mapped surface textures and
minerals all over Mars, among other feats.

"Odyssey has accomplished all of its mission-success
criteria," said Dr. Philip Varghese, project manager
for Odyssey at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory,
Pasadena, Calif. The spacecraft has been examining
Mars in detail since February 2002, more than a full
Mars year of about 23 Earth months. NASA has approved
an extended mission through September 2006."


February 21-25, 2005

* THEMIS Images as Art #41 (Released 21 February 2005)

* THEMIS Images as Art #42 (Released 22 February 2005)

* THEMIS Images as Art #43 (Released 23 February 2005)

* THEMIS Images as Art #44 (Released 24 February 2005)

* THEMIS Images as Art #45 (Released 25 February 2005)

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) - February 28, 2005 -

Spirit Status:
Spirit Taking in 'Tennessee Valley' - sol 402-407,
February 28, 2005

"Spirit has spent the last 70 sols climbing up the
"Columbia Hills" to reach "Larry's Lookout," a point
on "Cumberland Ridge." Having accomplished the trek up
to Larry's Lookout, Spirit is getting into position to
shoot a panorama of the "Tennessee Valley" located
below. Spirit is still in excellent health."

Opportunity Status:
Opportunity Gets New Flight Software - sol 374-379,
February 22, 2005

"Opportunity received a software tuneup that should
improve its mobility capabilities. With the new load
on board, Opportunity booted into it and began an
initial checkout. After a short test drive with
promising results, there remains more checkout to do
before blessing the load and having the rover's sister
craft, Spirit, boot up the new software. Atmospheric
opacity has been stable, with tau around 0.9. Solar
power is still relatively plentiful and Opportunity
continues to be in excellent health."

Landing sites link

Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page 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: http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/


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 -
Many of the astronomical terms used in this newsletter
are defined here.

* Astronomy Picture of the Day -

* Comet Observation Home Page -

* Denver Astronomical Society -

* 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 -

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

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

* Northern Colorado Astronomical Society -

* Our Solar System -
This is an excellent site to learn about our solar

* Sky and Space -
Astronomy from Down Under - The Southern Hemisphere's
first astronomy and space magazine.

* 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
- http://www.moon-phases.com/

* 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 shelves.

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: March 1, 2005

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