[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 31 Jan 2005 14:09:10 -0800 (PST)

            IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                      February 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 8th.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 15th.
* Full Moon on the 23rd.
* Last Quarter Moon on the 2nd.

* Perigee on the 7th, 222,802 mi. from Earth.
* Apogee on the 19th, 252,156 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 1.1 deg. north of Antares on the
* The Moon passes 4 deg. south of Mars on the 5th.
* The Moon passes 1.3 deg. north of Antares on the
* Venus passes 1.0 deg. south of Neptune on the 14th.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. north of Saturn on the 20th.
* The Moon passes 1.2 deg. south of Jupiter 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 in superior conjunction on the 14th.
Mercury makes a brief appearance in the evening sky at
the end of the month. Mercury shines at magnitude -1.5
on the 28th.

* Venus - Has disappeared into the pre-dawn twilight
glow and is not visible this month.

* Earth - N/A.

* Mars - Appears briefly in the early morning sky this
month. Mars rises about 4: 18 am on the 1st and about
3:52 am by month's end. Mars can be found just above
the constellation of Sagittarius this month. Mars
shines at magnitude 1.3.

* Jupiter - Is stationary on the 2nd. Jupiter rises at
10:38 pm on the 1st and 8:42 pm by month's end.
Jupiter is in the constellation of Virgo. Jupiter
shines at magnitude -2.3.

* Saturn - Is visible for the most evening this month.
Saturn sets around 06:09 am on the 1st and about 04:14
am by month's end. Saturn is in the constellation of
Gemini. Saturn shines at a magnitude of -0.2.

* Uranus - Is in conjunction with the Sun on the 25th.
Uranus has disappeared into the evening twilight glow
and is not visible this month.

* Neptune - Is in conjunction with the Sun on the 3rd.
Neptune has disappeared into the evening twilight glow
and is not visible this month.

* Pluto - Rises about 3:36 am on the 1st and about
1:48 am 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 a few minor meteor showers this month but
none that produce rates much higher than 2-5 per hour.

* 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 through Cassiopeia
toward the pole this month. Having dimmed slightly to
5th magnitude or so, Comet Machholz is best viewed
during the first two weeks of the month through
binoculars. The Moon may obscure the finer details
later in the month. Dark skies are still required to
be able to pick out the dust and ion tails.

* 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 in the constellation of Virgo.
* Ceres is in the constellation of Libra.
* Juno is in conjunction with the Sun on the 24th.
* 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 - January 18, 2005-
Huygens Landed with a Splat
"Although Huygens landed on Titan's surface on 14
January, activity at ESA's European Space Operations
Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany, continues at a
furious pace. Scientists are still working to refine
the exact location of the probe's landing site.

While Huygens rests frozen at -180 degrees Celsius on
Titan's landscape, a symbolic finale to the
engineering and flight phase of this historic mission,
scientists have taken little time off to eat or sleep.

They have been processing, examining and analysing
data, and sometimes even dreaming about it when they
sleep. There's enough data to keep Huygens scientists
busy for months and even years to come."

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 - January 12, 2005 -
Deep Impact Launched and Flying Toward Date With a

"NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft began its 431 million
kilometer (268 million mile) journey to comet Tempel 1
today at 1:47:08 p.m. EST. 

Data received from the spacecraft indicate it has
deployed and locked its solar panels, is receiving
power and achieved proper orientation in space. Data
also indicate the spacecraft has placed itself in a
safe mode and is awaiting further commands from Earth.

Deep Impact mission managers are examining data
returns from the mission. Further updates on the
mission will be posted to
http://www.nasa.gov/deepimpact and

Deep Impact is comprised of two parts, a "fly-by"
spacecraft and a smaller "impactor." The impactor will
be released into the comet's path for a planned
collision on July 4. The crater produced by the
impactor is expected to be up to the size of a
football stadium and two to 14 stories deep. Ice and
dust debris will be ejected from the crater, revealing
the material beneath."

* 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 - No new news since June 17, 2004 - NASA
Spacecraft Reveals Surprising Anatomy Of A Comet - 
"Findings from a historic encounter between NASA's
Stardust spacecraft and a comet have revealed a much
stranger world than previously believed. The comet's
rigid surface, dotted with towering pinnacles,
plunging craters, steep cliffs, and dozens of jets
spewing violently, has surprised scientists. 

"We thought Comet Wild 2 would be like a dirty, black,
fluffy snowball," said Stardust Principal Investigator
Dr. Donald Brownlee of the University of Washington,
Seattle. "Instead, it was mind-boggling to see the
diverse landscape in the first pictures from Stardust,
including spires, pits and craters, which must be
supported by a cohesive surface."

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 - No new news since September
27, 2004
Rover Tracks Seen from Orbit 

"Wheel tracks left by NASA's Mars Exploration Rover
Spirit, and even the rover itself, are visible in this
image from the Mars Orbiter Camera on NASA's Mars
Global Surveyor orbiter. North is up in this image.
The tracks and rover are in the area south of a crater
informally named "Bonneville," which is just southeast
of the center of the image. The orbiter captured this
image with use of an enhanced-resolution technique
called compensated pitch and roll targeted
observation. It took the picture on March 30, 2004, 85
Martian days, or sols, after Spirit landed on Mars.
The rover had driven from its landing site to the rim
of Bonneville and was examining materials around the
crater's rim."

* Mars Global Surveyor Images - 

January 20-26, 2005

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

* Dark Polar Dunes (Released 20 January 2005)

* Becquerel's Sediment (Released 21 January 2005)

* North Polar Dunes (Released 22 January 2005)

* Layers Below Arsia (Released 23 January 2005)

* Opportunity Rover As Seen From Orbit (Released 24
January 2005)

* Mars at Ls 145 Degrees (Released 25 January 2005)

* Chryse "Alien Head" (Released 26 January 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."


January 24-28, 2005

* Ice Surfaces In False Color (Released 24 January

* Polar Layers in False Color (Released 25 January

* Dusty Crater In False Color (Released 26 January

* Sand Sea in False Color (Released 27 January 2005)

* A Frosty Rim In False Color (Released 28 January

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 30, 2004 -

Spirit Status:
Spirit at 'Peace' - sol 367-373, January 24, 2005

"Spirit is healthy, but reduced sunlight has been
reaching the rover through the atmosphere due to a
possible dust storm identified from orbital data.
Despite limited energy during the period from sol 367
through sol 373, Spirit made good progress by driving
about 20 meters (66 feet) closer to top of "Cumberland
Ridge." Spirit is investigating a rock called "Peace."

Opportunity Status:
Opportunity Continues on the Plains After Marking One
Year on Mars - sol 353-359, January 28, 2005

"After spending 25 sols at the heat shield and nearby
meteorite, Opportunity has completed its investigation
of both and has started a long migration south. The
rover is currently heading for a small crater called
"Argo." Dust storms in the vicinity of Meridiani
Planum appear to be settling down, and solar power has
stabilized. On Jan. 24, 2005, the rover team
celebrated Opportunity's first anniversary (one Earth
year) on Mars. The rover continues to be in excellent
health for its long drives out on the plains of

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: January 31, 2005

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