[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 1 May 2006 14:00:20 -0700 (PDT)

                IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                          May 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 7th, 251,389 mi. from Earth.
* Perigee on the 22nd, 229,043 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 4 deg. north of Mars on the 2nd.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. north of Saturn on the 4th.
* The Moon passes 0.3 deg. north of Spica on the 10th.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. south of Jupiter on the 12th.
* The Moon passes 0.1 deg. south of Antares on the 14th.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. south of Neptune on the 19th.
* The Moon passes 1.0 deg. south of Uranus on the 21st.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. north of Venus on the 24th.
* The Moon passes 3 deg. north of Mars on the 30th.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. north of Saturn on the 31st.

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 May - Jupiter takes center stage this month reaching 
opposition early
in the month. Jupiter shines the brightest and appears the largest for the year 
this month. Saturn
and Mars still appear in the early evening hours while the outermost gas giants 
grace the early
morning hours before sunrise. Venus follows close behind. Mercury makes brief 
appearances in the
morning sky before dawn in the early part of the month then swings behind the 
sun only to reappear
in the evening sky by the end of the month. However, the real show is Comet
73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 expected to brighten to about 2nd magnitude this 
month and has broken
into several fragments as well. Due to it's position, Comet 73P is best viewed 
after midnight.

* Mercury - Appears low in the morning sky very early in the month, rising 
about 30 minutes before
the Sun. Mercury is in superior conjunction on the 18th, passing behind the Sun 
and reappears late
in the month in the evening setting about 45 minutes after the Sun during the 
last few days of
May. Mercury rises about 5:25 am on the 1st, shining at a magnitude of -0.6. 
Mercury sets about
9:44 pm on the 31st and shines at magnitude -1.2.

* Venus - Is still visible in the morning sky before sunrise. Venus rises about 
4:20 am on the 1st
and about 3:49 am by month's end. Venus passes through the constellation of 
Pisces and shines at
magnitude -3.9.
* Earth ? N/A.

* Mars - Sets about 12:39 am on the 1st and about 11:44 pm by month's end. Mars 
is in the
constellation of Gemini this month. Mars shines at magnitude 1.6.

* Jupiter - Is at opposition on the 4th, rising as the Sun sets. Jupiter is 
visible for the entire
evening hours and is at its best for the year. Jupiter rises at 7:57 pm on the 
1st and about 5:37
pm by month's end. Jupiter is in the constellation of Libra and shines at 
magnitude -2.5.

* Saturn ? Sets around 2:06 am on the 1st and about 12:07 am by month's end. 
Saturn is still in an
excellent position for evening viewing. Saturn is in the constellation of 
Cancer. Saturn shines at
a magnitude of 0.3.

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

* Neptune - Rises about 2:40 am on the 1st and about 12:35 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 10:56 pm on the 1st and about 8:51 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 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 

* Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 brightens to 2nd magnitude this month making 
it visible even
through city lights. Comet 73P passes through the constellations of Hercules, 
Lyra, Cygnus,
Pegasus and Pisces this month. Comet 73P is best seen after midnight due to its 
relative position
to the Earth. This comet though is best seen under dark sky conditions away 
from city lights. Take
a pair of good binoculars to appreciate this one. Comet 73P has also split into 
more than 33
pieces, read the April 29, 2006 Channel 9 News item "Hubble captures a 
shattering comet" 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)
* Vesta is in the constellation of Gemini.
* Flora is at opposition on the 18th and is in the constellation of Libra.
* Herculina is in the constellation of Scutum.
* Eunomia is in the constellation of Capricornus.
* Hebe is in the constellation of Aquarius just to the north of Eunomia.
* Ceres is just to the east of the constellation of Capricornus.

* 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 30, 2006 - Cassini to Fly by Smog-Cloaked Titan

"Cassini's powerful radar, which can see through Titan's many haze layers, will 
image across an
optically-bright, continent-size region of Titan known as Xanadu on April 30, 
2006. It is unclear
whether Xanadu is a mountain range, giant basin, smooth plain, or a combination 
of all three."

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 - April 28, 2006 - New Horizons in Space: The First 100 Days

"April 29 marks another milestone in New Horizons? historic journey to Pluto - 
the spacecraft's
100th day of flight. "It's been a good flight so far, and we're working to keep 
it that way," says
New Horizons Mission Operations Manager Alice Bowman, of the Johns Hopkins 
Applied Physics
Laboratory in Laurel, Md."

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 - No new news since 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 - April 14-20, 2006

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

* Broken, Tilted Rocks (Released 14 April 2006)

* Incomplete Puzzle (Released 15 April 2006)

* Out of Steam (Released 16 April 2006)

* Gullied Crater (Released 17 April 2006)

* Mars at Ls 39 Degrees (Released 18 April 2006)

* Martian Blanket (Released 19 April 2006)

* Olympica Fossae (Released 20 April 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 ? April 07, 2006 - 
2001 Mars Odyssey Turns 5 - 4/7/06

"NASA's 2001 Mars Odyssey celebrates five years of exploration, returning 
spectacular images of
features rarely seen on Earth and paving the way for future missions."

"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 21-28, 2006

* Feature of the Week: Chasma Boreale

* Dust Slides (Released 21 April 2006)

* Clouds (Released 24 April 2006)

* Dunes (Released 25 April 2006)

* Memnonia Edge (Released 26 April 2006)

* Lava Flow (Released 27 April 2006)

* Dust Slides (Released 28 April 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) - April 29, 2006 -

Spirit Status: Spirit Studies New Terrain - sol 812-819, Apr 21, 2006

"Spirit remains healthy and is enjoying the winter sun on Mars. This week, 
Spirit began acquiring
a full-color, high-resolution, 360-degree panorama nicknamed the "McMurdo Pan." 
The panorama
campaign will take a few weeks because of power and data limitations. In 
addition, Spirit
conducted a scientific study of a soil target called "Mawson" using instruments 
on the rover's
robotic arm.

All the rock and soil targets in this area are being named after Antarctic 
research stations and

Opportunity Status: Opportunity Hits 800 Sol Mark! - sol 796-803, Apr 29, 2006

"Opportunity is healthy and making good progress towards "Victoria Crater," 
with just under 1,400
meters (.86 mile) to go. The team spent several days this week setting up for 
some robotic arm
work over the weekend, provided there is a good piece of outcrop in the work 
volume. Opportunity
will continue driving next week."

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

Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page at  

* Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - April 13, 2006 -
Mars Cameras Debut as NASA Craft Adjusts Orbit

"Researchers today released the first Mars images from two of the three science 
cameras on NASA's
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. 

Images taken by the orbiter's Context Camera and Mars Color Imager during the 
first tests of those
instruments at Mars confirm the performance capability of the cameras. The test 
images were taken
from nearly 10 times as far from the planet as the spacecraft will be once it 
finishes reshaping
its orbit. Test images from the third camera of the science payload were 
released previously."

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 - 

* 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.

* 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 - 

* 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/

* Our Solar System - http://pauldunn.dynip.com/solarsystem/
This is an excellent site to learn about our solar system.

* 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 

* 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: May 01, 2006

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