[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 31 Aug 2011 19:27:38 -0700 (PDT)

IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
September 2011

The International Association for Astronomical Studies provides this newsletter 
as a service for interested persons worldwide.

This newsletter is published on the World Wide Web at 
http://www.ki0ar.com/astro.html - The Home of KI0AR - and is received 
nationally and internationally. A PDF formatted downloadable version of the 
newsletter is at http://www.ki0ar.com/current_nl.pdf.

This newsletter is now available as an iTunes podcast. Visit 
http://www.apple.com, download and install iTunes (for either Mac or Windows). 
Search for "IAAS" and subscribe to the podcast. You may also go to 
http://www.ki0ar.com/astro.html and click on the Subscribe/RSS link. Update 
your iPod or mp3 player and listen to the newsletter at your leisure. Since 
this is a new feature, comments and constructive criticisms are greatly 

An Open Invitation - For amateur radio operators and scanner enthusiasts, when 
in the Denver metro area, please join the Colorado Astronomy Net on the Rocky 
Mountain Radio League's (http://rmrl.hamradios.com/) 146.94 MHz repeater on 
Tuesday nights at 7 P.M. 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 Month At-A-Glance at http://www.ki0ar.com/ataglance.html
A calendar displaying the daily astronomical events.

The Moon

* First Quarter Moon occurs on the 4th.
* Full Moon occurs on the 12th.
* Last Quarter Moon occurs on the 20th.
* New Moon occurs on the 27th.

* The Moon is at Apogee on the 15th, 252,317 miles from Earth.
* The Moon is at Perigee on the 27th, 222,176 miles from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* Mercury passes 0.7° north of Regulus on the 8th.
* Mars passes 6° north of Pollux on the 9th.
* The Moon passes 6° north of Neptune on the 10th.
* The Moon passes 6° north of Uranus on the 13th.
* The Moon passes 5° north of Jupiter on the 16th.
* The Moon passes 5° south of Mars on the 23rd.

For reference: The Full Moon subtends an angle of 0.5°.

The Planets & Dwarf Planets
Planetary Reports are generated by "TheSky" software. 
(http://www.ki0ar.com/planrpts.html) These reports provide predicted data for 
the planets on 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. These reports have been optimized for the Denver, Colorado 
location, however, the times will be approximate for other locations on Earth.

(All times are local unless otherwise noted.)
* Planetary Highlights for September - Look for Saturn in the early evening 
skies. Venus returns to the evening sky as Saturn departs. Pluto, Neptune, 
Ceres, Uranus and Jupiter follow in the early and late evening. Mars and 
Mercury are visible before sunrise. The Earth reaches the Autumnal Equinox, 
starting the fall season in the northern hemisphere and the spring season in 
the southern hemisphere.

* Mercury - Is at greatest western elongation (18° above the eastern horizon) 
on the 3rd. Mercury is in superior conjunction on the 28th. Mercury rises about 
4:59 a.m. on the 1st and rises about 7:06 a.m. by month's end. Look for Mercury 
in the morning sky during the first two weeks of September. Mercury moves from 
the constellation of Leo into Virgo this month shining at magnitude 0.1.

* Venus - Will return to the evening sky by the end of the month. Look for 
Venus setting about 25 minutes after the Sun during the last week of September. 
Venus sets about 7:15 p.m. by month's end. Venus is in the constellation of 
Virgo shining at magnitude -3.9 on the 30th.

* Earth - The Autumnal Equinox occurs on the 23rd at 5:05 a.m. EDT.

* Mars - Rises at 2:16 a.m. on the 1st and about 1:49 a.m. by month's end. Mars 
moves from the constellation of Gemini into Cancer this month shining at 
magnitude 1.4.

* Jupiter - Rises at 10:00 p.m. on the 1st and about 7:57 p.m. by month's end. 
Jupiter dominates the mid to late evening sky as it is the brightest object in 
the sky during these cool autumn evenings. Jupiter is in the constellation of 
Aries this month shining at magnitude -2.7.

* Saturn - Sets at 9:05 p.m. on the 1st and about 9:05 p.m. by month's end. By 
the time the Sun sets, Saturn is sitting just a few degrees above the western 
horizon. On the 1st, look about 20° to the right of the crescent Moon to find 
Saturn. Saturn is in the constellation of Virgo shining at magnitude 0.8.

* Uranus - Reaches opposition on the 25th, rising as the Sun sets. Uranus rises 
at 8:25 p.m. on the 1st and about 6:24 p.m. by month's end. Uranus is also at 
its best and brightest at this time. Uranus is in the constellation of Pisces 
shining at magnitude 5.7.

* Neptune - Rises at 7:01 p.m. on the 1st and about 5:01 p.m. by month's end. 
Neptune still appears near its best for the year. Look for Neptune about 30° to 
the southeast around 9 p.m. local and then around midnight when Neptune reaches 
its peak altitude. Neptune is in the constellation of Aquarius shining at 
magnitude 7.8.

Dwarf Planets
* Ceres - Is at opposition on the 16th, rising as the Sun sets. Ceres rises at 
9:21 p.m. on the 1st and about 7:08 p.m. by month's end. Ceres moves from the 
constellation of Cetus into Aquarius this month shining at magnitude 7.7.

* Pluto - Sets at 1:36 a.m. on the 1st and about 11:33 p.m. by month's end. 
Pluto is in the constellation of Sagittarius shining at magnitude 14.0.

As always, good luck at spotting these two, a large telescope and dark skies 
will be needed.

Astronomical Events

Meteor Showers
* No significant meteor shower activity this month, but you can expect to see 
from 1 to 6 meteors per hour early in the month.

* For more information about Meteor Showers, visit Gary Kronk's Meteor Showers 
Online web page at http://meteorshowersonline.com/.

* Comet C/2009 P1 Garradd should provide excellent viewing for the fall months. 
Comet Garradd is expected to reach 7th magnitude and be visible through 
backyard telescopes under dark skies passing through the constellation of 
Sagitta into Hercules this 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, visit Gary Kronk's Cometography.com web 
page at http://cometography.com/.

* No eclipse activity this month.

Observational Opportunities
* Comet Garradd passes near the Coathangar asterism (Cr 399) on the 2nd and 3rd.
* Uranus is at its best on the 25th.

Asteroids (From west to east)
* Vesta is in the constellation of Capricornus.
* Nausikaa is at opposition on the 1st in the constellation of Aquarius.
* Euterpe is in the constellation of Pisces.
* Amphitrite is in the constellation of Aries.
* Eunomia is in the constellation of Perseus.

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

* Information on various occultations can be found at 
http://lunar-occultations.com/iota/iotandx.htm , the International Occultation 
Timing Association's (IOTA) web site.
Planetary/Lunar Exploration Missions
(Excerpts from recent mission updates)

* Cassini - August 26, 2011
Cassini Closes in on Saturn's Tumbling Moon Hyperion

"NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured new views of Saturn's oddly shaped moon 
Hyperion during its encounter with this cratered body on Thursday, Aug. 25. Raw 
images were acquired as the spacecraft flew past the moon at a distance of 
about 15,500 miles (25,000 kilometers), making this the second closest 

Hyperion is a small moon -- just 168 miles (270 kilometers) across. It has an 
irregular shape and surface appearance, and it rotates chaotically as it 
tumbles along in orbit. This odd rotation prevented scientists from predicting 
exactly what terrain the spacecraft's cameras would image during this flyby.

However, this flyby's closeness has likely allowed Cassini's cameras to map new 
territory. At the very least, it will help scientists improve color 
measurements of the moon. It will also help them determine how the moon's 
brightness changes as lighting and viewing conditions change, which can provide 
insight into the texture of the surface. The color measurements provide 
additional information about different materials on the moon's deeply pitted 

The latest raw images of Hyperion are online at:

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 - August 16, 2011
The PI’s Perspective: Visiting Four Moons, in Just Four Years, for All Mankind

"In June and July, members of the New Horizons science team, using the Hubble 
Space Telescope, discovered and confirmed that Pluto has a fourth moon! The new 
satellite, provisionally called P4, is fainter and therefore likely much 
smaller, than either Nix or Hydra or Charon – Pluto’s other three known moons. 
For comparison, while Charon is about as wide as the U.S. state of Colorado, 
Nix and Hydra are closer to the width of Vermont, and P4 is likely to be no 
wider across than Boulder County, Colorado.
New Horizons remains healthy and on course, now approximately 21 times as far 
from the Sun as the Earth is – well on its way, between the orbits of Uranus 
and Neptune."

New Horizons gallery http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/gallery/sciencePhotos/.

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/.

* Dawn - August 11, 2011
NASA's Asteroid Photographer Beams Back Science Data

"The Dawn spacecraft has completed a graceful spiral into the first of four 
planned science orbits during the spacecraft's yearlong visit to Vesta. The 
spacecraft started taking detailed observations on Aug. 11 at 9:13 a.m. PDT 
(12:13 a.m. EDT), which marks the official start of the first 
science-collecting orbit phase at Vesta, also known as the survey orbit.

Survey orbit is the initial and highest orbit, at roughly 1700 miles (2700 
kilometers) above the surface, which will provide an overview or "big picture" 
perspective of the giant asteroid."

For more information on the Dawn mission, visit the Dawn home page: 

* MESSENGER - August 15, 2011
MESSENGER Co-Investigator Elected Fellow of the Geological Society of America

"MESSENGER Co-Investigator Louise Prockter has been elected a fellow of the 
Geological Society of America (GSA). Established in 1888, the GSA — comprised 
of about 25,000 members — seeks to foster the quest for understanding the 
Earth, planets, and life; catalyze new scientific ways of thinking about 
natural systems; and support the application of geoscience knowledge and 
insight to human needs, aspirations, and Earth stewardship.

To become a fellow, an honor reserved for less than 3 percent of the national 
society’s members, honorees must be nominated by an existing GSA fellow in 
recognition of distinguished contributions to the geosciences and approved by 
the entire GSA senate.

Prockter "is deserving of this recognition because of her high standing in the 
scientific community, contributions to major spacecraft missions, the 
significance of her planetary geology research, her leadership of scientific 
teams, and her service through editorships, peer review panels, and as a GSA 
officer in the Planetary Geology Division," wrote NASA Geophysicist Herbert V. 
Frey, in the nomination letter he submitted."

For more information on the MESSENGER mission, visit the MESSENGER home page: 

* Pack Your Backpack
Calling all explorers! Tour JPL with our new Virtual Field Trip site. Stops 
include Mission Control and the Rover Lab. Your guided tour starts when you 
select a "face" that will be yours throughout the visit. Cool space images and 
souvenirs are all included in your visit.
+ http://virtualfieldtrip.jpl.nasa.gov/ ;
* 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 Odyssey Orbiter - No new news since December 15, 2010
NASA's Odyssey Spacecraft Sets Exploration Record on Mars

"PASADENA, Calif., -- NASA's Mars Odyssey, which launched in 2001, will break 
the record Wednesday for longest-serving spacecraft at the Red Planet. The 
probe begins its 3,340th day in Martian orbit at 5:55 p.m. PST (8:55 p.m. EST) 
on Wednesday to break the record set by NASA's Mars Global Surveyor, which 
orbited Mars from 1997 to 2006.

Odyssey's longevity enables continued science, including the monitoring of 
seasonal changes on Mars from year to year and the most detailed maps ever made 
of most of the planet. In 2002, the spacecraft detected hydrogen just below the 
surface throughout Mars' high-latitude regions. The deduction that the hydrogen 
is in frozen water prompted NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander mission, which confirmed 
the theory in 2008. Odyssey also carried the first experiment sent to Mars 
specifically to prepare for human missions, and found radiation levels around 
the planet from solar flares and cosmic rays are two to three times higher than 
around Earth."

Global Martian Map: http://www.mars.asu.edu/maps/?layer=thm_dayir_100m_v11.

"A simulated fly-through using the newly assembled imagery is available online 
at http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mars/missions/odyssey/20060313.html.

The fly-through plus tools for wandering across and zooming into the large 
image are at http://themis.asu.edu/.";

Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) web site: 

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) - August 24, 2011

SPIRIT UPDATE: Spirit Remains Silent at Troy - sols 2621-2627, May 18-24, 2011:

"No communication has been received from Spirit since Sol 2210 (March 22, 2010).

More than 1,300 commands were radiated to Spirit as part of the recovery effort 
in an attempt to elicit a response from the rover. No communication has been 
received from Spirit since Sol 2210 (March 22, 2010). The project concluded the 
Spirit recovery efforts on May 25, 2011. The remaining, pre-sequenced 
ultra-high frequency (UHF) relay passes scheduled for Spirit on board the 
Odyssey orbiter will complete on June 8, 2011.

Total odometry is unchanged at 7,730.50 meters (4.80 miles)."

OPPORTUNITY UPDATE: Opportunity Studies Rocks on Crater Rim - sols 2690-2696, 
August 18-24, 2011:

"Opportunity is less than 500 meters (0.31 miles) from "Spirit Point," the 
first landfall on the rim of Endeavour crater.

The rover drove four times in the last week on Sols 2663, 2664, 2667 and 2668 
(July 22, 23, 26 & 27, 2011), totaling over 460 meters (0.29 miles) of drive 
distance. The right-front wheel currents remain behaved. On Sol 2669 (July 28, 
2011), Opportunity paused in her driving to collect a microscopic imager (MI) 
mosaic of the surface and an overnight alpha particle X-ray spectrometer (APXS) 
spectrum of exposed outcrop. The rover also performed a diagnostic test of the 
MI poker. The results of that test will be received later today. The plan ahead 
is more driving.

As of Sol 2668 (July 27, 2011), solar array energy production was 413 
watt-hours with an atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 1.01 and a solar array dust 
factor of 0.587.

Total odometry is 32,973.44 meters (32.97 kilometers, 20.49 miles)."

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

Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page at

* Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - August 04, 2011
NASA Spacecraft Data Suggest Water Flowing on Mars

"PASADENA, Calif. -- Observations from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have 
revealed possible flowing water during the warmest months on Mars.

"NASA's Mars Exploration Program keeps bringing us closer to determining 
whether the Red Planet could harbor life in some form,î NASA Administrator 
Charles Bolden said, ìand it reaffirms Mars as an important future destination 
for human exploration."

Dark, finger-like features appear and extend down some Martian slopes during 
late spring through summer, fade in winter, and return during the next spring. 
Repeated observations have tracked the seasonal changes in these recurring 
features on several steep slopes in the middle latitudes of Mars' southern 

"The best explanation for these observations so far is the flow of briny 
water," said Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona, Tucson. McEwen is the 
principal investigator for the orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science 
Experiment (HiRISE) and lead author of a report about the recurring flows 
published in Thursday's edition of the journal Science."


All of the HiRISE images are archived here:

More information about the MRO 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.)

* Astronomy A-Go-Go - http://astronomy.libsyn.com/
In the car, at work or under the night time sky astronomy goes where you go! 
(This page has not been updated since September 2010)

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

* A Short Guide to Celestial Navigation - http://www.celnav.de/ ;

* Astrogirl Homepage - http://www.astrogirl.org ;

* Astronomical Lexicon - http://www.ki0ar.com/astrolex.html ;
Many of the astronomical terms used in this newsletter are defined here.

* Astronomy Picture of the Day - http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/astropix.html ;

* Black Hole Encyclopedia - http://blackholes.stardate.org/ Excellent site from 
StarDate - University of Texas McDonald Observatory 

* 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.

* The Constellations and Their Stars - 
http://www.astro.wisc.edu/~dolan/constellations/constellations.html ;
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 -
http://www.ericsblacksuneclipse.com ;

* Green Laser - http://www.greenlaser.com
If you're looking for a reasonably priced laser pointer that is great for 
astronomy work, visit this site.

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

* The International Dark-Sky Association - http://www.darksky.org
To preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark 

* JPL Solar System Ambassador Program -

* JPL Solar System - http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/solar_system/ ;

* 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/ ;

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

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

* Skymaps.com - http://www.skymaps.com/

* Skywatch Sightings from NASA - 
http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/realdata/sightings/ ;
This site gives you the best times to watch the ISS pass over or near your 

* Southern Colorado Astronomical Society - http://www.scasastronomy.info/

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

* Space.com - Sky Watch Calendar -
http://www.space.com/spacewatch/sky_calendar.html ;

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

* "SpaceRef.com" - http://www.spaceref.com/ - SpaceRef's 21 news and reference 
web sites are designed to allow both the novice and specialist alike to explore 
outer space and Earth observation.
This site includes links to planetary updates such as Mercury Today, Venus 
Today, Earth Today, Moon Today, Mars Today, Jupiter Today, Saturn Today, Pluto 
Today, etc.

* Stellarium - http://www.stellarium.org
Free, downloadable planetarium/astronomy software.

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

* Wikisky - http://www.wikisky.org
WIKISKY is a non-commercial project. The main purpose of WIKISKY is to 
consolidate astronomical, astrophysical and other information about different 
space objects and astrophysical facts.

Acknowledgments and References

Much of the information in this newsletter is from "Astronomy Magazine" 
(Kalmbach Publishing), JPL mission status reports, "Meteor Showers - A 
Descriptive Catalog" by Gary W. Kronk 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: August 31, 2011

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