[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 1 May 2003 20:36:48 -0700 (PDT)

            IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                         May 2003


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 


In This Newsletter...

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



* New Moon on the 1st and 31st.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 9th.
* Full Moon on the 15th.
* 3rd Quarter Moon on the 22nd.

* Apogee on the 1st, 252,606 mi. from Earth.
* Perigee on the 15th, 222,109 mi. from Earth.
* Apogee on the 28th, 252,381 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 3 deg. north of Saturn on the 5th.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. north of Jupiter on the 8th.
* Mars passes 2 deg. south of Neptune on the 13th.
* The Moon passes 3 deg. south of Mars on the 21st.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. south of Uranus on the 22nd.
* Mercury passes 2 deg. south of Venus on the 27th.
* The Moon passes 2 deg. north of Mercury on the 28th.
* The Moon passes 0.1 deg. north of Venus on the 28th.


(All times are local unless otherwise noted.)
Planetary Reports generated by "TheSky" software 

* Mercury - Is in inferior conjunction on the 7th. 
Mercury transits the sun on the 7th. This transit will

be visible in the eastern hemisphere. However, the 
last minutes of the transit will be visible to viewers

along the east coast of the U.S. inland to about Lake 
Erie. Those of us west of the Mississippi will not see

any of this planetary transition across the face of 
the Sun.

* Venus - Rises about 5 am and is visible low on the 
horizon in the early morning sky just before sunrise. 
Venus shines at magnitude -3.9.

* Earth - See eclipses. Lunar eclipse on the 15th. 
Annular solar eclipse on the 31st.

* Mars - Is visible in the early morning sky in the 
east before sunrise. Mars rises about 2:00 am. Mars 
can be found in the constellation of Capricornus. Mars

shines at magnitude 0.0 on the 1st and brightens to -
0.6 magnitude by the end of the month.

* Jupiter - Sets around 2:20 am about the same time 
that Mars is rising. Jupiter can be found just to the 
east of the center of the constellation of Cancer the 
Crab. Jupiter shines at magnitude -2.0.

* Saturn - Sets around 11:30 pm on the 1st but sets 
about an hour after sunset by month's end. Take a good

look at Saturn this month for in June, Saturn will 
pass into the Sun's glare and then behind and no 
longer be visible for a while. Saturn is located in 
the constellation of Taurus the Bull. Look to the 
south-southwest soon after sunset to spot Saturn. 
Saturn shines at magnitude 0.1.

* Uranus - Rises about 3:17 am on the 1st and about 
two hours earlier by month's end. Uranus is in the 
constellation of Aquarius. Uranus shines at magnitude 

* Neptune - Rises 2:21 am on the 1st and about two 
hours earlier by month's end. Neptune is in the 
constellation of Capricornus. Neptune shines at 
magnitude 7.9.

* Pluto - Pluto is located just to the east of the 
constellation of Ophiuchus and rises about 10:20 pm 
and about two hours earlier by month's end. Pluto 
shines at magnitude 13.8. As always, good luck at 
spotting this one.


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 hemisphere.

* 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 RX14 LINEAR rises in the east with the 
constellation of Leo the Lion. Comet LINEAR is in an 
orbit between Mars and Jupiter. Comet RX14 LINEAR is 
shining at a magnitude of 12 now requires very dark 
sky conditions and a minimum of an 8 to 10 inch 
telescope to spot this comet as it heads away from the


* For information, orbital elements and ephemerides on

observable comets visit the Observable Comets page 
from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics 

* Total lunar eclipse on the evening of the 15th 
(morning of the 16th), visible in the Americas.
* Annular solar eclipse on the 31st, visible north of 
the Arctic Circle, covering Greenland, Iceland to 
northern Scotland.

* Metis is at opposition on the 21st.

* 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)

* Genesis - April 25, 2003 - 
"The Genesis spacecraft continues its mission 
collecting solar wind material expelled from the Sun. 
Telemetry from the Genesis spacecraft indicates the 
spacecraft is in overall good health and as of the 
morning of April 25, the spacecraft was about 1.371 
million kilometers (.852 million miles) from Earth. 

Recent solar activity has called for the 'high solar 
speed' collector array to be deployed 100% of the 
time. There are three collector arrays aboard Genesis 
that are exposed to, or hidden from, the solar wind. 
One collector array for each of the three solar wind 
regimes. Which collector array is exposed is 
determined by the data received by sensitive ion and 
electron monitors located on the spacecraft's 
equipment deck. These monitors scrutinize the solar 
wind passing by the spacecraft and relay this 
information to the onboard computer, which in turn 
commands the collector arrays to deploy and retract as


The latest status reports can be read at 
l. 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 

* Galileo - April 09, 2003 - Galileo Discovers Objects

Near Jupiter's Inner Moon Amalthea - 
"NASA's Galileo spacecraft serendipitously discovered 
seven to nine space rocks near Jupiter's inner moon 
Amalthea when Galileo flew past that moon five months 

Galileo detected the objects as bright flashes seen by

its star scanner, an onboard telescope used to 
determine the spacecraft's orientation by sighting 
stars. Information from the star scanner was recorded 
onto Galileo's tape recorder during the flyby and 
transmitted to Earth in subsequent months. Experts at 
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., 
are analyzing the data to estimate the sizes of the 
objects, which may be anywhere from gravel to stadium-
size rocks." Read the latest news at 

* Cassini - April 23, 2003 - 
"The most recent spacecraft telemetry was acquired 
from the Goldstone tracking station on Wednesday, 
April 23. The Cassini spacecraft is in an excellent 
state of health and is operating normally.?

The Command and Data Subsystem (CDS) Flight Software 
(FSW) checkout activities continued this week with 
Instrument Expanded Block (IEB) exercises for the 
Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVIS), Imaging 
Science Subsystem (ISS), Visual and Infrared Mapping 
Spectrometer (VIMS), and Cosmic Dust Analyzer (CDA). 
Also performed were a CDS Version 9 telemetry mode 
checkout and a demonstration of the ability to enable 
and disable critical controllers via sequenced 
commands. Real time commands were sent to the 
spacecraft to turn off the UVIS high voltage power 
supplies, clear Attitude Control high water marks, and

clear the CDS error logs. The checkout activities will

complete this week with an optical navigation test."

"For the multinational Cassini-Huygens mission, NASA 
provided the large Cassini spacecraft, which will 
begin orbiting Saturn July 1, 2004, and the European 
Space Agency provided the Huygens probe, which will 
parachute into the atmosphere of Titan, Saturn's 
largest moon, on Jan. 14, 2005." For the latest 
mission status reports, visit 
http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/cassini/english/. The speed

and location of the spacecraft can be viewed on the 
"Present Position" web page. 

* Stardust - April 25, 2003 - 
"Stardust exited its 'solar conjunction period' on 
April 18. Solar conjunction period is the interval of 
time where the Sun obscures the line of sight between 
Earth and the spacecraft, making it virtually 
impossible to transmit radio signals between the two.

The Stardust team enjoyed two periods of 
communications with the spacecraft in the past week. 
Telemetry relayed from the spacecraft indicates it is 
healthy and all subsystems continue to operate 

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) - April 28, 2003

- Galaxy Evolution Explorer On Its Way - "NASA's 
Galaxy Evolution Explorer spacecraft was successfully 
launched today from a Pegasus XL rocket released by an

L-1011 aircraft off the coast of Florida's Cape 
Canaveral Air Station at 7:59:57 a.m. Eastern Daylight

Time (4:59:57 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time).

The mission features an orbiting telescope that will 
observe millions of galaxies across 10-billion years 
of cosmic history. Its findings may help astronomers 
determine when the chemical elements originated and 
the stars we see today first blossomed."

For more information on the GALEX mission - please 
visit the GALEX home page: 
http://www.galex.caltech.edu/ for more information 
about the mission.

* Deep Space 1 - This spacecraft was retired on Dec. 
18, 2001. Check out http://nmp.jpl.nasa.gov/ds1/ to 
learn more about what this mission accomplished.

* Pluto-Kuiper Express 
* Europa Orbiter 
* Solar Probe 
* Many of NASA's future exploration missions are 
currently being examined. To find out more about these

discovery/exploration missions check out the web page 
at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/ice_fire//whatsnew.htm for 
more information.

Mars Missions 

* Mars Global Surveyor - April 04, 2003 - 
"The Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera 
(MOC) is now well into its third martian year of daily

global weather monitoring and high resolution imaging 
from its nearly-circular, nearly-polar "mapping" 
orbit. The spacecraft began orbiting Mars in September

1997, and began its mapping activities in March 1999. 
The mission is currently planned to operate through 
September 2004.

Twice a year, after an intensive data validation 
effort designed to insure that the most complete and 
accurate version of each image is identified and 
processed, six month's worth of MOC data are archived 
with NASA's Planetary Data System (PDS). This month, 
the MOC team has completed archiving the 11,664 images

obtained between February and July 2002 (mission 
subphases E13 - E18)."

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 is now in its sixth 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 100,000 images of Mars from the MGS, check out 
the newest images of the surface of Mars at 

* Mars Odyssey Orbiter - April 11, 2003 - Mars Rover 
Landing Sites Chosen -
"NASA has selected the two landing sites for the Mars 
Exploration Rovers, and the winners are Gusev crater 
and Meridiani Planum. THEMIS data was extensively used

in the landing site selection process. Onboard each 
rover will be one of our instruments (MiniTES) from 
Arizona State University. The twin rovers are due to 
touchdown on Mars next January 4 and January 25, 

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 - April 11, 2003 - 
MARS - "NASA has chosen two scientifically compelling 
landing sites for twin robotic rovers to explore on 
the surface of Mars early next year. The two sites are

a giant crater that appears to have once held a lake, 
and a broad outcropping of a mineral that usually 
forms in the presence of liquid water. 

Each Mars Exploration Rover will examine its landing 
site for geological evidence of past liquid water 
activity and past environmental conditions hospitable 
to life."

Launch: May/July 2003
Landing: January 2004
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://marsweb.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

* Comet Observation Home Page - 

* The Daytona Beach News-Journal - Space News Page - 

* JPL Solar System Ambassador Program - 

* Space.com - Sky Watch Calendar - 

* Eric's Black Sun Eclipse website - 

* Astronomical Lexicon - 
Many of the astronomical terms used in this newsletter

are defined here.

* Astronomy Picture of the Day - 

* The Solar System in Pictures - http://www.the-solar-
system.net and a map of the moon - http://www.moon-

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

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

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

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

* Northern Colorado Astronomical Society - 

* Denver Astronomical Society - 

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

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


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
Last modified: May 01, 2003

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