[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 31 Mar 2006 20:56:33 -0800 (PST)

                IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                           April 2006


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 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...

* 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 27th.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 5th.
* Full Moon on the 13th.
* Last Quarter Moon on the 20th.

* Apogee on the 9th, 251,997 mi. from Earth.
* Perigee on the 25th, 226,013 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 4 deg. north of Mars on the 3rd.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. north of Saturn on the 6th.
* The Moon passes 0.3 deg. north of Spica on the 13th.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. south of Jupiter on the 15th.
* The Moon passes 0.2 deg. south of Antares on the 17th.
* Venus passes 0.3 deg. north of Uranus on the 18th.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. south of Neptune on the 22nd.
* The Moon passes 1.2 deg. south of Uranus on the 23rd.
* The Moon passes 0.5 deg. south of Venus on the 24th.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. north of Mercury on the 26th.

The 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 March - "April's shorter, warmer nights make 
observing the planets a
distinct pleasure after winter's cold. The ecliptic now slants at a steep angle 
relative to the
western horizon after sunset, and the winter constellations are disappearing 
fast into the Sun's
glow. Taurus the Bull carries with it Mars, which appears as a 1st-magnitude 
"star" near the
equally bright Aldebaran.
  Saturn looks spectacular early in the evening, and Jupiter takes over closer 
to midnight. With
dawn coming a minute earlier each day, you'll need to be an early riser to 
catch the jewel-like
brilliance of Venus low in the east-southeast. Invisible to the casual observer 
but nice targets
for those using optical aid, Uranus and Neptune lurk near Venus." (from 
Astronomy Magazine, April
2006, p. 58)

* Mercury - Is at greatest western elongation (28 deg. above the eastern 
horizon) on the 8th.
Mercury shines at magnitude 0.3 on this date and even though it continues to 
brighten to magnitude
-0.6 by month's end, it descends deeper into the morning twilight glow making 
it more difficult to
spot. Mercury rises at 04:47 am on the 1st and about 5:25 am by month's end.

* Venus - Rises about 3:48 am on the 1st and about 4:20 am by month's end. 
Venus passes through
the constellation of Aquarius and shines at magnitude -4.1.
* Earth ? N/A.

* Mars - Sets about 12:24 am on the 1st and about 12:39 am by month's end. Mars 
is in the
constellation of Taurus this month. Mars shines at magnitude 1.3.

* Jupiter - Can be spotted in the late evening sky this month. Jupiter rises at 
9:12 pm on the 1st
and about 7:57 pm by month's end. Jupiter is in the constellation of Libra. 
Jupiter shines at
magnitude -2.5.

* Saturn ? Is stationary on the 5th. Saturn sets around 3:02 am on the 1st and 
about 2:06 am by
month's end. Saturn is in an excellent position for evening viewing. Saturn is 
in the
constellation of Cancer. Saturn shines at a magnitude of 0.2.

* Uranus - Can be found in the morning sky near Venus this month. Uranus rises 
about 4:40 am on
the 1st and about 3:45 am by month's end. Uranus is in the constellation of 
Aquarius and shines at
magnitude 5.9.

* Neptune - Rises about 3:37 am on the 1st and about 2:40 am by month's end. 
Neptune is in the
constellation of Capricornus this month. Neptune shines at a magnitude of 7.9.

* Pluto - Rises about 11:55 pm on the 1st and about 10:56 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

Astronomical Events

Meteor Showers
* The Lyrid Meteor Shower - The Lyrids are typically visible between April 16 
and 25. Maximum
occurs during April 21-22. Although the maximum rate is about 10, there have 
been instances during
the last 200 years when rates were near or over 100 per hour. The average 
magnitude of the meteors
is near 2.4 and the speed is described as rapid. About 15% of the meteors leave 
persistent trains.

* "Comet scientists and amateur astronomers alike eagerly await the return of 
73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3." (Astronomy Magazine, April 2006, p.61) Comet 73P 
passes through the
constellations of Boötes, Corona Borealis and Hercules this month, possibly 
brightening to 7th
magnitude by the end of the month. Comet 73P has also split into several 
pieces, read the March 24
NASA Science News story at 

* 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)
* Juno is in the constellation of Orion.
* Vesta is in the constellation of Gemini.
* Metis is in the constellation of Leo.
* Herculina is in the constellation of Ophiuchus.
* Pallas is in the constellation of Aquarius.

* 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 - March 29, 2006 - Cassini Finds 'Missing Link' Moonlet Evidence in 
Saturn's Rings

"Scientists with NASA's Cassini mission have found evidence that a new class of 
small moonlets
resides within Saturn's rings. There may be as many as 10 million of these 
objects within one of
Saturn's rings alone.
The moonlets' existence could help answer the question of whether Saturn?s 
rings were formed
through the break-up of a larger body or are the remnants of the disk of 
material from which
Saturn and its moons formed.
"These moonlets are likely to be chunks of the ancient body whose break-up 
produced Saturn's
glorious rings," said Joseph Burns of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., a 
co-author of the

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 - March 29, 2006 - New Horizons Payload Gets High Marks on Early 

"In-flight checks of the New Horizons science payload are going well, as six of 
the seven
instruments on board have completed tests proving they survived launch and 
demonstrated their
basic functionality.

Over the past month, spacecraft controllers at the Johns Hopkins Applied 
Physics Laboratory (APL)
flipped the "on" switches for Ralph, Alice, LORRI, SWAP, PEPSSI and the Student 
Dust Counter and
confirmed that the instruments' thermal control systems work, their computer 
processors boot up
and run the correct code, and they can receive commands and send telemetry (or 
status data) back
to Earth. In addition, both the Alice and SWAP instruments have opened the 
aperture doors that
protected them from contamination on Earth and during launch. The PEPSSI and 
Ralph aperture doors
will be opened later this spring; LORRI's door will be opened in early fall. 
(The dust counter and
radio science experiment, named REX, do not have such doors.)

The team will complete the set of initial instrument checkouts in mid-April 
when it conducts
similar exercises with REX, which is incorporated into the electronics of the 
communications system."

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.

* Stardust - March 13, 2006 -
NASA's Stardust Findings May Alter View of Comet Formation

"Samples from comet Wild 2 have surprised scientists, indicating the formation 
of at least some
comets may have included materials ejected by the early sun to the far reaches 
of the solar

Scientists have found minerals formed near the sun or other stars in the 
samples returned to Earth
by NASA's Stardust spacecraft in January. The findings suggest materials from 
the center of the
solar system could have traveled to the outer reaches where comets formed. This 
may alter the way
scientists view the formation and composition of comets.

"The interesting thing is we are finding these high-temperature minerals in 
materials from the
coldest place in the solar system," said Donald Brownlee, Stardust principal 
investigator from the
University of Washington, Seattle."

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.

* 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 - No new news since January 03, 2006 -
MGS locates Spirit - 

"Shortly before Spirit's Martian anniversary, the Mars Orbiter Camera acquired 
an image centered
on the rover's location at that time in the "Columbia Hills."

* Mars Global Surveyor Images - March 23-29, 2006

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

* Tyrrhena Tongue (Released 23 March 2006)

* Upland Impact (Released 24 March 2006)

* South Polarscape (Released 25 March 2006)

* Arabia Bridal Veils (Released 26 March 2006)

* Raising Dust (Released 27 March 2006)

* Mars at Ls 25 Degrees (Released 28 March 2006)

* Terra Sirenum Gullies (Released 29 March 2006)

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 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 completed 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 200,000 images of Mars 
from the MGS, check
out the newest images of the surface of Mars at 

* Mars Odyssey Orbiter ? March 13, 2006 - 
Years of Observing Combined Into Best-Yet Look at Mars Canyon

"A new view of the biggest canyon in the solar system, merging hundreds of 
photos from NASA's Mars
Odyssey orbiter, offers scientists and the public an online resource for 
exploring the entire
canyon in detail.

This canyon system on Mars, named Valles Marineris, stretches as far as the 
distance from
California to New York. Steep walls nearly as high as Mount Everest give way to 
numerous side
canyons, possibly carved by water. In places, walls have shed massive 
landslides spilling far out
onto the canyon floor.

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

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/)

March 20-24, 2006

* Cloud Tops (Released 20 March 2006)

* Sabis Vallis (Released 21 March 2006)

* Channel Chaos (Released 22 March 2006)

* Summer Storm (Released 23 March 2006)

* More Clouds (Released 24 March 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) - March 31, 2006 -

Spirit Status: Difficult progress with five-wheel drive - sol 790-797, Mar 31, 

"NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter resumed communication-relay support of the Mars 
Exploration Rovers on
March 25, 2006. Spirit executed drives on sols 792 and 794 (March 26 and 27), 
but has been having
trouble making progress given the current terrain and driving conditions. The 
team is developing
new drive strategies for five-wheel driving in the test facility at the Jet 
Propulsion Laboratory.
The new techniques for turning the rover to face waypoints are proving 
successful on Mars, but
soft soil and inclines in Spirit's current location make uphill progress 
difficult to achieve. At
the end of the week, the team decided to stop trying to advance along a route 
Spirit had been
attempting in recent sols and, instead, to drive back downhill a few meters and 
then begin a
different route toward a north-facing slope for surviving the Martian winter.

Right-front wheel status

Diagnostic tests run on the drive motor for Spirit's right-front wheel at 
various voltage levels
resulted in no motion. These tests were consistent with results in the test 
facility, and they
indicate an open connection in the motor. As a result, the team has precluded 
further use of this
motor, so Spirit will continue driving with five wheels."

Opportunity Status: Continuing the Move Away from 'Erebus' - sol 762-770, Mar 
27, 2006

"Opportunity is healthy and making progress away from "Erebus Crater." This 
week the rover drove
nearly 180 meters (591 feet)."

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

Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page at  

* Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - March 24, 2006 -
NASA's New Mars Orbiter Returns Test Images

"The first test images of Mars from NASA's newest spacecraft provide a 
tantalizing preview of what
the orbiter will reveal when its main science mission begins next fall. 

Three cameras on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter were pointed at Mars at 
8:36 p.m. PST
Thursday, while the spacecraft collected 40 minutes of engineering test data. 
The cameras are the
High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, the Context Camera and the Mars 
Color Imager."

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 - 

* 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 - 

* 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.

* 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: March 31, 2006

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