[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 30 Jun 2008 21:07:04 -0700 (PDT)

                IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                          July 2008

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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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                   ***** ATTENTION *****
This newsletter has been moved to a new web site. Email subscribers will 
continue to receive the newsletter as usual but the link 
(http://bfa3/home.att.net/astro.html ) will no longer work. Please change your 
link to http://www.ki0ar.com/astro.html. Thank you for your continued support.

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This newsletter is published on the World Wide Web at 
http://www.ki0ar.com/astro.html  - The Home of KI0AR - and is received 
nationally and internationally. A MS Word formatted downloadable version of the 
newsletter is at http://www.ki0ar.com/current_nl.doc .

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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 (http://rmrl.hamradios.com/ ) repeater on a frequency of 146.94 
MHz on Tuesday nights at 7 P.M. 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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New Feature - The Month At-A-Glance at http://www.ki0ar.com/ataglance.html 
I've added a link to a calendar displaying the daily astronomical events. 
Comments appreciated.

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The Moon

Phases:
* New Moon on the 2nd.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 10th.
* Full Moon on the 18th.
* Last Quarter Moon on the 25th.

* Perigee on the 1st, 223,391 mi. from Earth.
* Apogee on the 14th, 251,936 mi. from Earth.
* Perigee on the 29th, 226,106 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 8 deg. north of Mercury on the 1st.
* The Moon passes 3 deg. south of Mars on the 6th.
* The Moon passes 3 deg. south of Saturn on the 6th.
* Mars passes 0.7 deg. south of Saturn on the 11th; best for North America on 
the 10th.
* The Moon passes 0.3 deg. south of Antares on the 14th.
* The Moon passes 3 deg. south of Jupiter on the 17th.
* The Moon passes 0.9 deg. north of Neptune on the 20th.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. north of Uranus on the 22nd.

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The Planets & Dwarf Planets
Planetary Reports generated by "TheSky" software. 
(http://www.ki0ar.com/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 June - "Jupiter, the solar system's largest planet, 
reaches opposition this month, which means the giant world is at its best and 
brightest all night. Mars chases Saturn above the western horizon in early 
evening, and the pair enjoys a fine conjunction mod-month. Then, around 
midnight, the "binocular planets" rise - first Neptune, then, an hour later, 
Uranus." From Astronomy Magazine, July 2008, p. 40

* Mercury - Reaches greatest western elongation (22 degrees above the eastern 
horizon) on the 1st. Mercury is visible in the pre-dawn sky early in the month. 
Mercury reaches superior conjunction on the 29th. Mercury is in the 
constellation of Taurus early in the month shining at magnitude 0.4.

* Venus - Has returned to the evening sky this month but sets only about a half 
hour after the Sun sets early in the month (8:58 p.m. on the 1st) and less than 
an hour after the Sun sets by month's end (8:59 p.m. on the 31st). Wait until 
next month to get a good look at Venus. Venus is in the constellation of Cancer 
shining at magnitude -3.9.

* Earth - Is at aphelion (94.5 million miles from the Sun) on the 4th.

* Mars - Is in conjunction with Saturn on the 10th. Follow Mars and Saturn 
along with the Moon for the first 2 weeks of July. Spectacular camera, 
binocular and telescopic views await as all 3 of these bodies converge. Mars 
sets at 11:13 p.m. on the 1st and about 9:56 p.m. by month's end. Mars is in 
the constellation of Leo shining at magnitude 1.6.

* Jupiter - Is at opposition on the 9th, rising as the Sun sets. Jupiter is at 
its best for the year and is visible all night long. Jupiter rises at 8:54 p.m. 
on the 1st and about 6:38 p.m. by month's end. Jupiter is in the constellation 
of Sagittarius shining at magnitude -2.7.

* Saturn - This is the last chance to see Saturn in the evening sky as this 
planet will soon be lost in the twilight glow. Saturn will be in conjunction 
with Mars on the 10th. Saturn sets around 11:27 p.m. on the 1st and about 9:33 
p.m. by month's end. Saturn can be spotted low in the southwest soon after 
sunset. Saturn shines at magnitude 0.8 in the constellation of Leo.

* Uranus - Rises at 12:00 a.m. on the 1st and about 9:57 p.m. by month's end. 
Uranus is in the constellation of Aquarius shining at magnitude 5.8.

* Neptune - Rises at 10:47 p.m. on the 1st and about 8:43 p.m. by month's end. 
Neptune is in the constellation of Capricornus shining at magnitude 7.9.

Dwarf Planets

* Ceres – Returns to the morning sky later in the month. Ceres rises about 3:22 
a.m. by month’s end. Ceres is in the constellation of Gemini shining at 
magnitude 8.7.

* Pluto - Rises about 7:11 p.m. on the 1st and about 5:07 p.m. 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.

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Astronomical Events

Meteor Showers
* The Southern Delta Aquarids - This meteor shower has a duration of July 14 - 
August 18. Maximum hourly rates of 15-20 occur on July 27.

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

* For more information about Meteor Showers, visit Gary Kronk's Meteor Showers 
Online web page at http://meteorshowersonline.com/ .

Comets
* "Comet C/2007 G1 (LINEAR) is easy to corner but tough to see as July opens. 
Simply point your scope at the bright globular cluster M4 (NGC 6121), near the 
bright star Antares in Scorpius, and you're there." Astronomy Magazine, July 
2008, p. 46. Shining at magnitude 11.9, this comet definitely presents a dark 
sky challenge for 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, visit Gary Kronk's Cometography.com web 
page at http://cometography.com/ .

Eclipses
* No eclipse activity this month.

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)
* Juno is in the constellation of Ophiuchus.
* Vesta is in the constellation of Cetus.
* Pallas is in the constellation of Eridanus.

* 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 - June 28, 2008
Cassini to Earth: 'Mission Accomplished, but New Questions Await!'

"PASADENA, Calif.-NASA's Cassini mission is closing one chapter of its journey 
at Saturn and embarking on a new one with a two-year mission that will address 
new questions and bring it closer to two of its most intriguing targets-Titan 
and Enceladus.

On June 30, Cassini completes its four-year prime mission and begins its 
extended mission, which was approved in April of this year.

Among other things, Cassini revealed the Earth-like world of Saturn's moon 
Titan and showed the potential habitability of another moon, Enceladus. These 
two worlds are primary targets in the two-year extended mission, dubbed the 
Cassini Equinox Mission. This time period also will allow for monitoring 
seasonal effects on Titan and Saturn, exploring new places within Saturn's 
magnetosphere, and observing the unique ring geometry of the Saturn equinox in 
August of 2009 when sunlight will pass directly through the plane of the rings."

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 - June 8, 2008
New Horizons Ventures Beyond Saturn’s Orbit

"New Horizons crossed the orbit of Saturn on June 8, passing yet another 
interplanetary milepost on its voyage to Pluto and the icy environs of the 
Kuiper Belt.

Spinning in healthy, electronic hibernation, New Horizons reached a distance of 
10.06 astronomical units (about 935 million miles or 1.5 billion kilometers) 
from the Sun at 10:00 universal time, becoming the first spacecraft to journey 
beyond Saturn’s orbit since Voyager 2 passed the ringed planet nearly 27 years 
ago. In fact, Voyager 1 and 2, at the edge of the Sun’s heliosphere some 100 AU 
away, are the only spacecraft operating farther out than New Horizons.

New Horizons reached Saturn's distance just two years and four months after 
launch - by far a faster transit to Saturn than any previous spacecraft. 
(Voyager 1, the previous record holder, made the trip in approximately three 
years and two months.)"

New Horizons gallery http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/gallery/sciencePhotos/ .

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: 
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/dawn/main/index.html .

* MESSENGER - No new news since May 30, 2008
The Mastermind behind MESSENGER's Trajectory Honored for Efforts

"Jim McAdams, the MESSENGER mission design lead engineer, was named the 2008 
Engineer of the Year by the Baltimore Section, American Institute of 
Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). Each spring, this chapter of AIAA honors 
those in the aerospace community who have made significant contributions during 
the previous year.

McAdams of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in 
Laurel, Md., 'optimized the trajectory and maneuver schedule, designing one of 
the most challenging planetary missions in history,' said APL's Tom Strikwerda, 
who on May 28 presented the award: a plaque and a 24-inch-high trophy that 
McAdams will keep until passing it on to the next winner a year from now. 

Because Mercury lies deep within the Sun's gravity well, travel to the planet 
requires an extremely large velocity change. A spacecraft traveling to Mercury 
speeds up as it falls toward the Sun; so MESSENGER's trajectory had to be 
designed to most effectively utilize the gravitational pull of Venus and 
Mercury to achieve most of the required velocity change."

For more information on the MESSENGER mission, visit the MESSENGER home page: 
http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/ .

* 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 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 
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/ )

June 16-27, 2008

* Clouds (Released 16 June 2008)
  http://themis.asu.edu/zoom-20080616a 

* Channel and Graben (Released 17 June 2008)
  http://themis.asu.edu/zoom-20080617a 

* Collapse (Released 18 June 2008)
  http://themis.asu.edu/zoom-20080618a 

* Lava Channel (Released 19 June 2008)
  http://themis.asu.edu/zoom-20080619a 

* Polar Dunes (Released 20 June 2008)
  http://themis.asu.edu/zoom-20080620a 

* Polar Dunes (Released 23 June 2008)
  http://themis.asu.edu/zoom-20080623a 

* Mix of Textures (Released 24 June 2008)
  http://themis.asu.edu/zoom-20080624a 

* Lyot Crater Dunes (Released 25 June 2008)
  http://themis.asu.edu/zoom-20080625a 

* Olympus Mons (Released 26 June 2008)
  http://themis.asu.edu/zoom-20080626a 

* Cerulli Channels (Released 27 June 2008)
  http://themis.asu.edu/zoom-20080627a 

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) -
June 12, 2008

Spirit Status: New Tricks for an Old Rover - sol 1574-1579, June 6-12, 2008

"To conserve energy and protect one of the on-board spectrometers, spacecraft 
operators have established the first major change to planning for the Mars 
Exploration Rover mission since the end of the primary mission, which lasted 
for 90 days in early 2004.

Spirit's scientists have declared that their highest priority for the winter is 
preserving the miniature thermal emission spectrometer, an instrument that 
identifies minerals in rocks from a distance. To do this, the rover heats the 
instrument overnight and into the morning of every sol. These heaters have been 
running longer as winter temperatures have dropped and are now averaging about 
55 watt-hours per sol."

Opportunity Status: Bustin' Loose! - sol 1551-1557, Jun 04-10, 2008

"Opportunity finally escaped the Martian sand and backed up onto solid rock 
inside "Victoria Crater." Driving backward on Martian day, or sol, 1557 (June 
10, 2008), the rover successfully moved the last of its six wheels up over a 
rocky ledge. The successful maneuver freed Opportunity to follow another route 
that will bring the rover closer to the cliff known as "Cape Verde." From 
there, the rover will collect high-resolution, panoramic images of rock layers 
in the promontory.

Also this week, the rover engineering team had the honor of hosting 
Houston-area Congressman and Mars exploration enthusiast John Culberson. The 
congressman participated in the planning of sols 1557 and 1558 (June 10-11, 
2008). Culberson even helped design a science observation of the cobble 
informally named "Barnes" in honor of Virgil E. Barnes, former emeritus 
professor of geological sciences at The University of Texas at Austin."

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 - June 25, 2008
NASA Spacecraft Reveal Largest Crater in Solar System

"PASADENA, Calif. -- New analysis of Mars' terrain using NASA spacecraft 
observations reveals what appears to be by far the largest impact crater ever 
found in the solar system.

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Global Surveyor have provided 
detailed information about the elevations and gravity of the Red Planet's 
northern and southern hemispheres. A new study using this information may solve 
one of the biggest remaining mysteries in the solar system: why does Mars have 
two strikingly different kinds of terrain in its northern and southern 
hemispheres? The huge crater is creating intense scientific interest.

The mystery of the two-faced nature of Mars has perplexed scientists since the 
first comprehensive images of the surface were beamed home by NASA spacecraft 
in the 1970s. The main hypotheses have been an ancient impact or some internal 
process related to the planet's molten subsurface layers. The impact idea, 
proposed in 1984, fell into disfavor because the basin's shape didn't seem to 
fit the expected round shape for a crater. The newer data is convincing some 
experts who doubted the impact scenario."

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

* Phoenix Mars Lander Mission - June 27, 2008
Phoenix Scrapes to Icy Soil in Wonderland

"NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander scraped to icy soil in the "Wonderland" area on 
Thursday, June 26, confirming that surface soil, subsurface soil and icy soil 
can be sampled at a single trench.

Phoenix scientists are now assured they have a complete soil-layer profile in 
Wonderland's "Snow White" extended trench.

By rasping to icy soil, the robotic arm on Phoenix proved it could flatten the 
layer where soil meets ice, exposing the icy flat surface below the soil. 
Scientists can now proceed with plans to scoop and scrape samples into 
Phoenix's various analytical instruments. Scientists will test samples to 
determine if some ice in the soil may have been liquid in the past during 
warmer climate cycles.

It's another encouraging step to meeting Phoenix mission goals, which are to 
study the history of Martian water in all its phases and determine if the 
Martian arctic soil could support life."

Visit the Phoenix Mars Lander Mission pages at 
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/phoenix/main/index.html .

* 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.)

* **NEW** Southern Colorado Astronomical Society - 
http://www.scasastronomy.info/  

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

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

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

* Astronomical Lexicon - http://www.ki0ar.com/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.

* 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.

* 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/ 

* "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 observation.
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.

* 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: June 29, 2008


      

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