[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 31 Jul 2007 19:59:10 -0700 (PDT)

                IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                         August 2007

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Excerpts from JPL mission updates are provided as a public service as part of 
the JPL Solar System
Ambassador / NASA Outreach program.

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In This Newsletter...

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

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The Moon

Phases:
* New Moon on the 12th.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 20th.
* Full Moon on the 28th.
* Last Quarter Moon on the 5th.

* Perigee on the 3rd, 229,218 mi. from Earth.
* Apogee on the 18th, 251,418 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* Mercury passes 6 deg. south of Pollux on the 1st.
* The Moon passes 2 deg. north of Uranus on the 1st.
* The Moon passes 6 deg. north of Mars on the 6th.
* The Moon passes 0.7 deg. south of Antares on the 21st.
* The Moon passes 6 deg. south of Jupiter on the 21st.
* Mars passes 5 deg. north of Aldebaran on the 23rd.
* The Moon passes 1.4 deg. south of Neptune on the 27th.
* The Moon passes 2 deg. north of Uranus on the 29th.


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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
reports.
(All times are local unless otherwise noted.)

* Planetary Highlights for August - "Jupiter rules, meteors flare, and the Moon 
turns red. Venus
and Saturn slip into evening twilight early this month. Jupiter then rules as 
the only naked-eye
planet, visible low in the south as darkness falls. Midmonth brings one 
observing highlight - the
Perseid meteor shower peaks. Another treat comes near month's end - the year's 
second total lunar
eclipse." (Astronomy Magazine, August 2007, p. 44)

* Mercury - Is in superior conjunction on the 15th. During the first few days 
of August, look for
Mercury in the east just before sunrise. Mercury will disappear in the twilight 
glow after the
first week. Mercury will return to the evening sky by the end of the month, 
though it will still
be in the twilight glow. Mercury rises about 4:44 am and shines at magnitude 
-1.1 on the 1st.
Mercury sets around 8:09 pm and shines at magnitude -0.5 at the end of the 
month.
 
* Venus - Is in inferior conjunction on the 17th. Venus rapidly descends into 
the evening twilight
glow early this month. Venus sets about 8:50 pm and shines at magnitude -4.4 on 
the 1st. Venus
will return to the morning sky by month's end, rising about 4:59 am on the 31st 
shining at
magnitude -4.4. Venus is in the constellation of Leo.
 
* Earth - N/A.

* Mars - Rises at 12:49 am on the 1st and about 11:53 pm by month's end. Mars 
is in the
constellation of Taurus and shines at magnitude 0.4.
 
* Jupiter - Dominates the evening sky this month. Jupiter sets at 1:42 am on 
the 1st and about
11:39 pm by month's end. Jupiter is in the constellation of Scorpius and shines 
at magnitude -2.3.

* Saturn - Is in conjunction with the Sun on the 21st. Like Venus, Saturn also 
disappears into the
evening twilight glow very early this month. Saturn sets around 9:04 pm on the 
1st shining at
magnitude 0.6. Saturn will return to the morning sky next month. Saturn is in 
the constellation of
Leo.

* Uranus - Is visible in the evening sky. Uranus rises about 9:51 pm on the 1st 
and about 7:46 pm
by the end of the month. Uranus is in the constellation of Aquarius and shines 
at a magnitude of
5.7.

* Neptune - Is at opposition with the Sun on the 13th, rising as the Sun sets. 
Neptune appears at
its best for the year. Neptune rises at 8:39 pm on the 1st and about 6:35 pm by 
month's end.
Neptune is in the constellation of Capricornus and shines at magnitude 7.8.

Dwarf Planets

* Ceres - Rises about 12:00 am on the 1st and about 10:18 pm by the end of the 
month. Ceres is in
the constellation of Cetus and moves into the constellation of Taurus during 
the month. Ceres
shines at magnitude 9.0.

* Pluto - Sets about 3:13 am on the 1st and about 1:09 am by month's end. Pluto 
is in the
constellation of Sagittarius. Pluto shines at magnitude 13.9. As always, good 
luck at spotting
this one.

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Astronomical Events

Meteor Showers
* The Northern Delta Aquarids extends from July 16 to September 10. Maximum 
occurs on August 13.
The hourly rates reach a high of 10.

* The Perseids meteor shower is generally visible between July 23 and August 
22. Maximum occurs
during August 12/13. The hourly rate typically reaches 80, although some years 
have been as low as
4 and as high as 200. The meteors tend to be very fast, possess an average 
magnitude of 2.3 and
leave persistent trains. The best time to observe this meteor shower this year 
will be in the
early morning hours of August 13 before sunrise for North American observers. 
Science@NASA Feature
- "Great Perseids" 
(http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2007/11jul_greatperseids.htm?list173350)

Comets
* Comet LINEAR (C/2006 VZ) passes through the constellation of Virgo passing 
many galaxies of
comparable brightness. Comet VZ shines at magnitude 11 for northern observers.

* For information, orbital elements and ephemerides on observable comets visit 
the Observable
Comets page from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
(http://cfa-www.harvard.edu/iau/Ephemerides/Comets/index.html).

* For more information about Comets and Meteor Showers, visit Gary Kronk's 
Comets & Meteors
Showers web page at http://comets.amsmeteors.org/.

Eclipses
* A total lunar eclipse occurs on the 28th. This will be an early morning 
eclipse for observers in
the Americas. The umbral eclipse begins about 4:51 am EDT. Mideclipse is at 
6:37 am EDT. The
umbral eclipse ends about 8:24 am EDT. Observers on the west coast will get the 
best views in the
early morning hours before sunrise. 

Occultations
* 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 Scorpius.
* Harmonia is at opposition on the 3rd in the constellation of Capricornus.
* Prokne is at opposition on the 19th in the constellation of Aquarius.
* Pallas is in the constellation of Pegasus.
* Flora is in the constellation of Taurus.
* Eunomia is in the constellation of Auriga.

* Information about the Minor Planets can be found at 
http://www.minorplanetobserver.com the Minor
Planet Observer web site.

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Planetary/Lunar Exploration Missions
(Excerpts from recent mission updates)

* Cassini - July 27, 2007 - Mimas and the Shepherds
Full-Res: PIA08993(http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA08993)

"The shepherd moons Prometheus and Pandora drive the quirky F ring in its 
circuit of Saturn, while
Mimas lurks in the distance. 

This view looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings from about 22 
degrees above the
ringplane. 

The image was taken in visible green light with the Cassini spacecraft 
wide-angle camera on May
23, 2007 at a distance of approximately 1.7 million kilometers (1.1 million 
miles) from Saturn.
Image scale is about 106 kilometers (66 miles) per pixel."

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.
(http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/operations/present-position.cfm)

* New Horizons - July 12, 2007 - Good Morning, New Horizons!

"Early this morning, New Horizons operators gently awakened the spacecraft from 
the two-week 'nap'
that marked the mission's first operational step into hibernation mode.

Signals from New Horizons that it had come out of its electronic slumber ñ 
during which the
guidance and control system and most science instruments were powered off ñ 
came through NASA's
Deep Space Network and reached mission operators at the Johns Hopkins Applied 
Physics Laboratory
(APL) in Laurel, Md., just before 2 a.m. EDT. The spacecraft was 550 million 
miles from Earth,
cruising toward the outer solar system at nearly 46,000 miles (74,000 
kilometers) per hour."

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.

* 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 
visit.
+http://virtualfieldtrip.jpl.nasa.gov

* Past, Present, Future and Proposed JPL Missions - 
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/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 

All of the Mars Global Surveyor images are archived here:
http://www.msss.com/mars_images/moc/index.html";

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 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.

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
http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mgs/msss/camera/images/.

* Mars Odyssey Orbiter ? No new news since May 02, 2007 - 
Sharp Views Show Ground Ice On Mars Is Patchy And Variable

"Using observations by NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter, scientists have discovered 
that water ice lies
at variable depths over small-scale patches on Mars.

The findings draw a much more detailed picture of underground ice on Mars than 
was previously
available. They suggest that when NASA's next Mars mission, the Phoenix Mars 
Lander, starts
digging to icy soil on an arctic plain in 2008, it might find the depth to the 
ice differs in
trenches just a few feet apart. The new results appear in the May 3, 2007, 
issue of the journal
Nature."

"A simulated fly-through using the newly assembled imagery is available online 
at
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mars/missions/odyssey/20060313.html. 

The fly-through plus tools for wandering across and zooming into the large 
image are at
http://themis.asu.edu.";

MARS ODYSSEY THEMIS IMAGES
Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) web site: (http://themis.asu.edu/)

July 23-27, 2007

* Dust Devil Tracks (Released 23 July 2007)
  http://themis.asu.edu/zoom-20070723a

* Changing Winds (Released 24nJuly 2007)
  http://themis.asu.edu/zoom-20070724a

* Dunes in Hellas (Released 25 July 2007)
  http://themis.asu.edu/zoom-20070725a

* Odd Texture (Released 26 July 2007)
  http://themis.asu.edu/zoom-20070726a

* Dust Devil Tracks (Released 27 July 2007)
  http://themis.asu.edu/zoom-20070727a

 All of the THEMIS images are archived here:
http://themis.la.asu.edu/latest.html

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 
http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/odyssey/index.html.

* Mars Exploration Rover Mission (Spirit and Opportunity) - 
July 16, 2007

Spirit Status: Spirit Examines Rocks Possibly Formed In Volcanic Gases or Hot 
Springs - sol
1247-1252, July 16, 2007

"Spirit is healthy after driving to a cluster of rock fragments known as 
"Innocent Bystander" (so
named because Spirit accidentally ran over it when another rock, "Virginia 
Bell," was the intended
target. The aim had been to crush Virginia Bell to expose a fresh surface for 
examination). 

It was a fortuitous encounter, though, because indications are that Innocent 
Bystander may have
been formed by either a fumarole or hot spring. A fumarole is a vent in the 
Earth's surface that
emits steam and volcanic gases. Volcanic gases leach the original rock and 
leave silica-rich rock
behind. If Innocent Bystander was created in a hot spring environment, then it 
could be siliceous
sinter, a kind of silica-rich rock that precipitates directly from water. 

Spirit had a solar-array dust-cleaning event on the rover's 1,252nd day, or 
sol, of Martian
exploration (July 12, 2007). Even though Tau, a measurement of atmospheric 
opacity caused by dust,
has been trending upward for the past several days, Spirit's solar power levels 
have risen
slightly due to wind-related cleaning of the solar panels."

Opportunity Status: Opportunity Waiting for Dust to Settle - sol 1220-1225, 
July 13, 2007

"Due to extensive dust storms in Mars' southern hemisphere causing record 
atmospheric opacity
levels, Opportunity is currently experiencing its lowest power levels to date. 
The tau measurement
as of sol 1225 is 4.12, resulting in a mere 280 watt-hours of array energy. A 
tau measurement of
5.0 would result in approximately 150 watt-hours. If tau begins to approach 
5.0, the team will
have to begin deleting communications windows in order to conserve energy and 
keep from draining
the batteries.

On sol 1223 Opportunity successfully recovered from the robotic arm joint stall 
that occurred on
sol 1217.

When the dust settles, Opportunity will drive approximately 30 meters (98.4 
feet) south along the
edge of "Duck Bay" to position itself at its "Victoria Crater" entry point!"

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

Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page at  
http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/home/index.html.

* Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - July 25, 2007 - 
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Status Report

"NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter resumed normal operations on July 24, with 
all instruments
operating and gathering data. Over the last few days, engineers rebooted the 
spacecraft to clear a
software error, and then performed normal procedures to restart and verify the 
health of all
spacecraft and instrument systems. All systems are operating normally."

More information about the mission is available online at 
http://www.nasa.gov/mro.

* 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/

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Links and Other Space News
(If you have a link you would like to recommend to our readers, please feel 
free to submit it.)

* 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 
location.

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

* Astrogirl Homepage - 
http://www.astrogirl.org

* 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 - 
http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/astropix.html

* Celestron Telescopes - http://www.celestron.com/c2/index.php - New beta 
website

* Cloudbait Observatory, Guffey Colorado - http://www.cloudbait.com  - Submit 
your fireball
reports here. Interesting, knowledgeable site.

* The Constellations and Their Stars -
http://www.astro.wisc.edu/~dolan/constellations/constellations.html
Good site for finding out more about the 88 constellations and their associated 
stars.

* Denver Astronomical Society - http://www.denverastrosociety.org

* Distant Suns - http://www.distantsuns.com/
Desktop Astronomy package for PCs.

* Eric's Black Sun Eclipse website - 
http://www.ericsblacksuneclipse.com

* Groovy Adventures - http://www.groovyadventures.com
Unique adventures and vacations including astronomy related vacations.

* JPL Solar System Ambassador Program - 
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/ambassador/front.html

* JPL Solar System - 
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/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 
magazine.

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

* Space.com - Sky Watch Calendar - 
http://www.space.com/spacewatch/sky_calendar.html

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

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

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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
ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx

COO, Director of Aerospace Technologies, IAAS
JPL Solar System Ambassador, Colorado
Last modified: July 31, 2007



       
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