[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 1 May 2005 18:54:07 -0700 (PDT)

            IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                        May 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 16th.
* Full Moon on the 23rd.
* Last Quarter Moon on the 1st and 30th.

* Apogee on the 14th, 251,407 mi. from Earth.
* Perigee on the 26th, 226,329 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 5 deg. south of Neptune on the 1st.
* The Moon passes 3 deg. south of Mars on the 2nd.
* The Moon passes 3 deg. south of Uranus on the 3rd.
* The Moon passes 3 deg. north of Mercury on the 6th.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. north of Saturn on the 13th.
* Mars passes 1.2 deg. south of Uranus on the 14th.
* The Moon passes 0.4 deg. south of Jupiter on the
* The Moon passes 0.8 deg. north of Antares on the
* The Moon passes 5 deg. south of Neptune on the 28th.
* The Moon passes 3 deg. south of Uranus on the 30th.
* The Moon passes 0.5 deg. south of Mars on the 31st.

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 - "Northern Hemisphere observers might
glimpse Mercury during the first 2 weeks of May. Your
best bet comes the morning of the 6th, when a waning
crescent Moon lies near the planet. Mercury stands 3
deg. to the lower right of the slender crescent as
they rise shortly after 5 A.M. local daylight time,
just an hour before sunrise. Mercury shines at
magnitude 0.0, but you'll need an eastern horizon
clear of obstructions to spot it." (From p. 59,
Astronomy, May 2005)

* Venus - Is visible in the evening sky once again.
Look to the west soon after sunset to spot Venus in
the constellation of Taurus. Venus sets at 8:34 pm on
the 1st and 9:40 pm by month's end. Venus shines at
magnitude -3.7.

* Earth - N/A.

* Mars - Appears briefly in the early morning sky this
month. Mars rises about 3:14 am on the 1st and about
2:09 am by month's end. Mars is in the constellation
of Aquarius this month. On the 15th, Mars and Uranus
can be spotted in the same binocular field of view.
Mars shines at magnitude 0.5.

* Jupiter - Rises at 5:08 pm on the 1st and 2:57 pm by
month's end. Jupiter is in the constellation of Virgo.
Jupiter shines at magnitude -2.3.

* Saturn - Can be found in the southwest in the early
evening. Sun sets in the evening this month. Saturn
sets around 1:18 am on the 1st and about 11:22 pm by
month's end. Saturn is in the constellation of Gemini.
Saturn shines at a magnitude of 0.2.

* Uranus - Rises at 3:35 am on the 1st and about 1:35
am by month's end. Uranus is in the constellation of
Aquarius and shines at a magnitude of 5.9.

* Neptune - Rises at 2:33 am on the 1st and about
12:27 am by month's end. Neptune is in the
constellation of Capricornus and shines at a magnitude
of 7.9.

* Pluto - Rises about 10:43 pm on the 1st and about
8:38 pm by month's end. Pluto is in the constellation
of Ophiuchus. 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.

* For observers in South America, the Moon occults
Jupiter on the evening of the 19th.

* The Moon occults Antares on the evening of the 23
(early morning on the 24th) for most of North America.
See the following table for cities and times of
disappearances and reappearances.

City             Disappearance      Reappearance
Boston            4:23 am EDT       not visible
Chicago           3:02 am CDT       4:00 am CDT
Denver            1:27 am MDT       2:34 am MDT
Los Angeles      11:56 pm PDT       1:16 am PDT
Miami             4:23 am EDT       5:37 am EDT
New Orleans       3:01 am CDT       4:17 am CDT
San Francisco    11:50 pm PDT       1:06 am PDT
Seattle          11:57 pm PDT       1:02 am PDT
Tucson           12:11 am MST       1:33 am MST

* 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) crosses the handle of the
Big Dipper into Canes Venatici this month. Comet
Machholz has dimmed to 9th magnitude making it a bit
more difficult to spot with binoculars; however, a
small telescope should be able to pick out Comet
Machholz on a dark night.

* 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)
* Pallas is between the constellation of Leo and Coma
* Ceres is at opposition on the 9th. Ceres is in the
constellation of Libra.
* Irene is at opposition on the 17/18th. Irene is in
the constellation of Libra.
* Iris is in the constellation of Ophiuchus.
* Melpomene is in the constellation of Ophiuchus.
* Vesta is in conjunction with the Sun on the 10th.

* 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 27, 2005 -
Cassini Captures Swiss-Cheese Look of Saturn Moon
(Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

"An image of Saturn's small moon, Epimetheus
(epp-ee-MEE-thee-uss), was captured by the Cassini
spacecraft in the closest view ever taken of the
pockmarked body.

Epimetheus is irregularly shaped and dotted with
soft-edged craters. The many large, softened craters
on Epimetheus indicate a surface that is several
billion years old. The moon shares an orbit with
another of Saturn's small moons, Janus. The two dance
in a planetary tango as they move in almost identical
orbits, exchanging orbits every four years, instead of
colliding. Both play a role in creating intricate
waves in Saturn's rings; both have densities
significantly lower than that of solid ice, suggesting
they may be "rubble piles" held together by gravity.
At 116 kilometers (72 miles) across, Epimetheus is
slightly smaller than Janus at 181 kilometers (113
miles) across. Spectra of Epimetheus from the Cassini
visual infrared mapping spectrometer indicate that the
moon is mostly water ice.

The new Epimetheus image is available 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.

* Deep Impact - April 27, 2005 -
Deep Impact Spots Quarry 
"Sixty-nine days before it gets up-close-and-personal
with a comet, NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft
successfully photographed its quarry, comet Tempel 1,
at a distance of 39.7 million miles. The image, taken
on April 25, 2005, is the first of many comet
portraits Deep Impact will take leading up to its
historic comet encounter on July 4."

For the latest mission status reports, visit
http://www.nasa.gov/deepimpact and

* Genesis - April 20, 2005 - 
"Scientists have closely examined four Genesis
spacecraft collectors, vital to the mission's top
science objective, and found them in excellent shape,
despite the spacecraft's hard landing last year.

Scientists at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC) in
Houston removed the four solar-wind collectors from an
instrument called the concentrator. The concentrator
targets collected solar-oxygen ions during the Genesis
mission. Scientists will analyze them to measure
solar-oxygen isotopic composition, the
highest-priority measurement objective for Genesis.
The data may hold clues to increase understanding
about how the solar system formed."

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 - April 06, 2005 -
NASA Teams Receive National Recognition 

"NASA accomplishments in aviation and aerospace were
honored at Aviation Week and Space Technology's 48th
Annual Aerospace Laurels Awards. Laurel honorees were
nominated by the editors of the aerospace magazine for
"extraordinary individual and team accomplishments in
the global aviation, aerospace and defense

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 March 24,
PDS MAP-A-PLANET MARS MOLA data available. Create your
own customized map of Mars. Visit

* Mars Global Surveyor Images - 

April 21-27, 2005

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

* Hills and Flows (Released 21 April 2005)

* Valley near Ceraunius (Released 22 April 2005)

* Groovy Dunes (Released 23 April 2005)

* Collapse Pits (Released 24 April 2005)

* Cratered Isidis Plain (Released 25 April 2005)

* Mars at Ls 193 Degrees (Released 26 April 2005)

* Meridiani Complexity (Released 27 April 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 - April 07, 2004 - Happy
Anniversary Odyssey!

"Four years ago on April 7, 2001, the mechanics,
scientists, secretaries, and family members of the
Odyssey orbiter team said a final farewell to their
creation and hello to Mars. Don't miss the video, "An
Odyssey of Exploration,"
for the ground-breaking accomplishments since launch."


April 25-29, 2005

* Southern Kasei Vallis (Released 25 April 2005)

* Alluvial Fans in Kasei Vallis (Released 26 April

* Islands in Kasei Vallis (Released 27 April 2005)

* Rejoining Flows (Released 28 April 2005)

* Water Flow Evidence in Kasei Vallis (Released 29
April 2005)

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 29, 2005 -

Spirit Status:
Spirit Drives to 'Methuselah' - sol 456-462, April 21,

"Spirit has had a great week. The rover has completed
some soil studies, taken lots of images, done a little
driving, and captured a dust devil image with its
panoramic camera. Late in the week, Spirit drove over
to a piece of outcrop called "Methuselah." Spirit is
healthy and doing fine!"

Opportunity Status:
Subhead - sol 443-446, April 29, 2005

"Opportunity used the spectrometers on its arm to
examine the soil where the rover stayed for six sols,
then resumed driving on sol 446. However, the drive
ended after 40 meters when Opportunity was crossing a
dune and dug into it. Engineers are using a test rover
to evaluate options for getting off the dune."

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: May 1, 2005

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