[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 29 Apr 2008 21:17:30 -0700 (PDT)

                IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                          May 2008


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. A MS Word 
formatted downloadable
version of the newsletter is at http://bfa3.home.att.net/current_nl.doc. 


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
(http://rmrl.hamradios.com/) repeater on a frequency of 146.94 MHz on Tuesday 
nights at 7 PM local


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 5th.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 11th.
* Full Moon on the 19th.
* Last Quarter Moon on the 27th.

* Perigee on the 5th, 222,309 mi. from Earth.
* Apogee on the 20th, 252,527 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 3 deg. north of Uranus on the 1st.
* The Moon passes 3 deg. north of Mercury on the 6th.
* The Moon passes 8 deg. north of Aldebaran on the 10th.
* The Moon passes 0.2 deg. north of Mars on the 10th.
* The Moon passes 1.2 deg. south of Regulus on the 12th.
* The Moon passes 3 deg. south of Saturn on the 12th.
* The Moon passes 0.2 deg. south of Antares on the 20th.
* Mercury passes 1.5 deg. north of Ceres on the 21st.
* The Moon passes 2 deg. south of Jupiter on the 24th.
* The Moon passes 0.6 deg. south of Neptune on the 26th.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. north of Uranus on the 29th.


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 May - The first week of May brings the peak of the 
Eta Aquarid Meteor
Shower unhindered by moonlight. Mercury returns to the evening sky, Mars is 
prominent in Gemini
and Saturn is high in the south soon after sunset. Jupiter rises after midnight 
at the beginning
of the month and as the month progresses, will rise before midnight by month's 
end. Uranus and
Neptune rise in the early morning hours.

* Mercury - Is about as good as it gets this month. Mercury is at greatest 
eastern elongation (22
deg above the western horizon) on the 13th. Mercury is visible soon after 
sunset. Look for Mercury
low in the west. Mercury sets about 9:23 pm on the 1st and about 8:54 pm by 
month's end. Mercury
is in the constellation of Taurus and shines at magnitude -0.9 on the 1st 
dimming to magnitude 0.4
on the 15th.

* Venus - Has disappeared into the morning twilight glow and will be difficult 
if not impossible
to spot this month.

* Earth - N/A.

* Mars - Is at aphelion (154.9 million miles from the Sun) on the 12th. Mars 
passes through the
Beehive cluster (M44) between 21st and 23rd. Mars sets about 1:38 am on the 1st 
and about 12:26 am
by month's end. Mars passes from the constellation of Gemini into Cancer this 
month shining at
magnitude 1.4. 

* Jupiter - Is stationary on the 9th. Jupiter rises at 1:11 am on the 1st and 
about 11:03 pm by
month's end. Jupiter continues to climb higher in the southeast in the morning 
sky, returning to
the evening sky by month's end. Jupiter is in the constellation of Sagittarius 
shining at
magnitude -2.5.

* Saturn - Is stationary on the 3rd. Saturn sets around 3:24 am on the 1st and 
about 1:24 am by
month's end. Saturn is high in the evening sky after the Sun sets and is 
visible for most of the
night. Saturn shines at magnitude 0.6 in the constellation of Leo.

* Uranus - Rises at 4:01 am on the 1st and about 2:01 am by month's end. Uranus 
is in the
constellation of Aquarius shining at magnitude 5.9.

* Neptune - Rises at 2:51 am on the 1st and about 12:45 am by month's end. 
Neptune is in the
constellation of Capricornus shining at magnitude 7.9.

Dwarf Planets

* Ceres - Sets about 9:31 pm on the 1st and about 8:33 pm by month's end. 
Mercury passes within
1.5 deg. of Ceres on the 20th and 21st. Ceres is in the constellation of Taurus 
and shines at
magnitude 8.8.

* Pluto - Rises about 11:17 pm on the 1st and about 9:12 pm by month's end. 
Pluto shines at
magnitude 13.9 in the constellation of Sagittarius. As always, good luck at 
spotting this one, a
large telescope and very dark skies will be needed.


Astronomical Events

Meteor Showers
* The Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower - This shower is visible during the period of 
April 21 to May 12.
It reaches maximum on May 5. During the period of greatest activity hourly 
rates usually reach 20
for observers in the northern hemisphere and 50 for observers in the southern 

* For more information about Meteor Showers, visit Gary Kronk's Meteor Showers 
Online web page at

* Comet C/2006 Q1 (McNaught) passes through the constellation of Hydra shining 
at 11th magnitude
this month. This comet will be difficult to spot from within the city with any 
telescopes smaller
than about 10 inches in diameter. However, those living in rural, dark sky 
areas should be able to
spot this one soon after sunset in telescopes as small as 6 inches.

* 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

* 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 Corvus.
* Daphne is in the constellation of Virgo.

* 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 - April 15, 2008
NASA Extends Cassini's Grand Tour of Saturn

"PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA is extending the international Cassini-Huygens 
mission by two years. The
historic spacecraft's stunning discoveries and images have revolutionized our 
knowledge of Saturn
and its moons.

Cassini's mission originally had been scheduled to end in July 2008. The 
newly-announced two-year
extension will include 60 additional orbits of Saturn and more flybys of its 
exotic moons. These
will include 26 flybys of Titan, seven of Enceladus, and one each of Dione, 
Rhea and Helene. The
extension also includes studies of Saturn's rings, its complex magnetosphere, 
and the planet

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 - No new news since February 28 2008
Memories of Jupiter

"A year ago, New Horizons was flying through the heart of the Jupiter system, 
gradually picking up
speed and systematically gathering spectacular data on the solar system?s 
largest planet and its
closest moons. The results of that spectacular flyby have since been featured 
on thousands of
electronic and printed pages, including a special issue of the journal Science 
in October 2007.

New Horizons scientists recently took a new look at one of the more memorable 
images from the
Jupiter collection: that of the erupting volcano Tvashtar on the moon Io. Taken 
through two of the
four filters in the sensitive Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera, the picture 
shows the reddish
colors of the plume deposits surrounding the base of the volcano - a view we 
hadn?t seen in
earlier pictures. Check it out in the 'New Horizons gallery'

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 - No new news since December 18, 2007
NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Begins Interplanetary Cruise Phase

"NASA's Dawn spacecraft has successfully completed the initial checkout phase 
of the mission and
begun its interplanetary cruise phase, which is highlighted by nearly 
continuous thrusting of its
ion propulsion system. Dawn is on an 8-year, 3-billion mile journey to asteroid 
Vesta and dwarf
planet Ceres."

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

* MESSENGER - April 28, 2008
Mercury Features Receive New Names

"The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has approved new names for features 
on Mercury and
agreed on a new theme for fossae on the planet. These newly christened features 
were discovered
from images taken by the MESSENGER spacecraft during its first flyby of Mercury 
in January.

The IAU is the internationally recognized authority for assigning designations 
to surface features
on celestial bodies. "We are very pleased with how quickly the IAU has 
responded to the need to
name many of the prominent landforms on Mercury first seen in MESSENGER 
images," says MESSENGER
Principal Investigator Sean Solomon of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. 
'The Science Team
has just submitted our first scientific papers on the flyby observations, and 
this prompt action
by the IAU has meant that we are able to refer to these features by their 
formal names.'"

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 

* 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 March 20, 2008
NASA Mission Finds New Clues to Guide Search for Life on Mars

"PASADENA, Calif. - NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter has found evidence of salt 
deposits. These
deposits point to places where water once was abundant and where evidence might 
exist of possible
Martian life from the Red Planet's past.

A team led by Mikki Osterloo of the University of Hawaii, Honolulu, found 
approximately 200 places
on southern Mars that show spectral characteristics consistent with chloride 
minerals. Chloride is
part of many types of salt, such as sodium chloride or table salt. The sites 
range from about a
square kilometer (0.4 square mile) to 25 times that size."

"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/)

April 21-25, 2008

* Coprates Chasma (Released 21 April 2008)

* Elysium Fossae (Released 22 April 2008)

* Aeolis Landslides (Released 23 April 2008)

* Rim Channels (Released 24 April 2008)

* Montevallo Crater (Released 25 April 2008)

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) -
April 23, 2008

Spirit Status: Spirit Still "Sitting Pretty" for This Time of Year - sol 
1517-1524, April 09-16,

"Despite a slight increase in atmospheric opacity caused by dust, Spirit is 
still enjoying
higher-than-expected energy levels for this time of year. Solar array input has 
been approximately
240 watt-hours per Martian day, or sol (100 watt-hours is the amount of energy 
needed to light a
100-watt bulb for one hour).

Clear skies have had the unfavorable effect, however, of causing a drop in 
temperatures at the
surface of Mars, increasing the bitter cold experienced by Spirit's rover 
electronics module.
Nighttime temperatures are creeping closer to the point where they will trigger 
the survival
heaters, which draw a large amount of power. A much more desirable strategy is 
to keep Spirit
awake long enough each day to keep the electronics module sufficiently warm 
with heat from normal
operations, providing more time for science observations. "Awake time" vs. 
heating time is just
one of the many trade-offs the team makes each day to keep Spirit going through 
the Martian

Opportunity Status: Opportunity Reverses Path - sol 1498-1504, April 10-17, 2008

"During the past week, Opportunity celebrated another major milestone by 
reaching 1,500 sols
(Martian days) of continuous exploration of the red planet!

Meanwhile, Opportunity continued to execute a "toe dip" stategy of driving 
forward a short
distance and backing up again to characterize the sandy terrain beneath the 
rover's wheels. While
driving toward the promontory known as "Cape Verde" in the rim of "Victoria 
Crater," Opportunity
experienced wheel slippage of more than 90 percent. The rover also experienced 
high tilt during
the backward part of the drive. Following a series of adjustments to both 
slippage and tilt
limits, Opportunity's front wheels had begun to dig into the terrain. At that 
point, the rover's
handlers decided to concentrate on driving backward to extract the rover's 
front wheels and
prevent them from digging further into the sand. Making slow and steady 
progress, as of sol 1502
(April 15, 2008), Opportunity had driven backward 24 centimeters (9.5 inches) 
with no errors,
giving rover drivers hope that the rover would soon be out of the sand.

Opportunity's handlers implemented a "Stow/Go/Unstow" strategy of unstowing the 
robotic arm after
each day's drive to avoid having the arm in the stow position during thermal 
cycling (overnight
temperature changes). This freed the arm for full use of its scientific tools 
in the event of a
cold-induced motor failure. On sol 1502 (April 15, 2008), while attempting to 
unstow the arm,
Opportunity experienced a stall in the joint that controls shoulder position. 
The nature of the
stall appeared to be different from previous stalls in the same joint (known as 
Joint 1). On sol
1504 (April 17, 2008), the rover's handlers directed Opportunity to run a 
diagnostic test of
movement in the robotic arm. While moving the joint, Opportunity experienced 
another stall.
Investigation of this anomaly is expected to continue for the remainder of this 

Opportunity is healthy and all subsystems are performing as expected, with the 
exception of the
investigation of the robotic arm. Immediate plans call for continued focus on 
getting out of the
sand and resolving the robotic-arm anomaly."

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

Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page at

* Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - April 09, 2008
NASA Spacecraft Images Mars Moon in Color and in 3D

"PASADENA, Calif. ? A new stereo view of Phobos, the larger and inner of Mars' 
two tiny moons, has
been captured by a NASA spacecraft orbiting Mars.

The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) on NASA's Mars 
Reconnaissance Orbiter took
two images of Phobos 10 minutes apart on March 23. Scientists combined the 
images for a stereo

"Phobos is of great interest because it may be rich in water ice and 
carbon-rich materials," said
Alfred McEwen, HiRISE principal investigator at the Lunar and Planetary 
Laboratory at the
University of Arizona, Tucson."

More information about the mission is available online at 

* Phoenix Mars Lander Mission - April 10, 2008
NASA Spacecraft Fine Tunes Course for Mars Landing

"PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA engineers have adjusted the flight path of the 
Phoenix Mars Lander,
setting the spacecraft on course for its May 25 landing on the Red Planet.

"This is our first trajectory maneuver targeting a specific location in the 
northern polar region
of Mars," said Brian Portock, chief of the Phoenix navigation team at NASA's 
Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The mission's two prior trajectory maneuvers, 
made last August and
October, adjusted the flight path of Phoenix to intersect with Mars.

NASA has conditionally approved a landing site in a broad, flat valley 
informally called "Green
Valley." A final decision will be made after NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter 
takes additional
images of the area this month."

Visit the Phoenix Mars Lander Mission pages 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.)

* *** NEW *** "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
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.

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

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

* Astrogirl Homepage -

* 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.

* 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 -

* 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, CO.)

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

* 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 

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

* Space.com - Sky Watch Calendar -

* Spaceflight Now - http://spaceflightnow.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

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: April 29, 2008

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