[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 31 Aug 2007 17:00:28 -0700 (PDT)

                IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                         September 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 11th.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 19th.
* Full Moon on the 26th.
* Last Quarter Moon on the 3rd.

* Apogee on the 15th, 252,054 mi. from Earth.
* Perigee on the 27th, 223,332 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 1.2 deg. north of the Pleiades on the 3rd.
* The Moon passes 6 deg. north of Mars on the 4th.
* The Moon passes 0.2 deg. north of Regulus on the 8th.
* The Moon passes 0.8 deg. south of Saturn on the 8th.
* The Moon passes 0.7 deg. south of Antares on the 18th.
* Mercury passes 0.09 deg. north of Spica on the 22nd.
* The Moon passes 1.9 deg. north of Uranus on the 25th.


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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 September ? Jupiter dominates the evening skies this 
month followed
shortly by two other gas giants, Neptune and Uranus. Mars dominates the early 
morning hours and
Venus returns to the morning sky. A partial solar eclipse will be visible for 
observers south of
the border, specifically, South America and Antarctica.

* Mercury ? Has returned to the evening sky this month, though it will still be 
buried in the
evening twilight glow. Mercury will be at greatest eastern elongation (26 deg. 
above the western
horizon) on the 29th. Mercury sets about 8:09 pm on the 1st and about 7:30 pm 
by month's end.
Mercury shines at magnitude -0.1 on the 15th and dims slightly to magnitude 0.0 
on the 30th.
 
* Venus - Has returned to the morning sky this month. Venus reaches greatest 
brilliance (magnitude
-4.8) on the 23rd. Venus rises about 4:59 am on the 1st and about 3:28 am 
month's end shining at
magnitude -4.8. Venus is in the constellation of Leo.
 
* Earth - The Autumnal equinox occurs at 5:51 am EDT on the 23rd.

* Mars - Rises at 11:53 pm on the 1st and about 10:56 pm by month's end. Mars 
is in the
constellation of Taurus and shines at magnitude 0.1.
 
* Jupiter - Dominates the evening sky this month. Jupiter sets at 11:39 pm on 
the 1st and about
9:54 pm by month's end. Jupiter can be found low in the southern sky in the 
constellation of
Scorpius and shines at magnitude -2.1.

* Saturn - Has returned to the morning sky this month though remains low on the 
eastern horizon
and may be difficult to spot until later in the month. Saturn rises around 5:42 
am on the 1st and
about 4:02 am by month's end. Saturn shines at magnitude 0.7.  Saturn is in the 
constellation of
Leo.

* Uranus - is at opposition on the 8th, rising about the same time the Sun 
sets. Uranus is at its
best for the year. Uranus rises about 7:46 pm on the 1st and about 5:45 pm by 
month's end. Uranus
is in the constellation of Aquarius and shines at a magnitude of 5.7.

* Neptune - Still precedes Uranus by about an hour and is visible in the 
evening sky. Neptune
rises at 6:35 pm on the 1st and about 4:46 pm by month's end. Neptune is in the 
constellation of
Capricornus and shines at magnitude 7.8.

Dwarf Planets

* Ceres - Rises about 10:18 pm on the 1st and about 8:24 pm by month's end. 
Ceres is in the
constellation of Taurus. Ceres shines at magnitude 9.0.

* Pluto - Sets about 1:09 am on the 1st and about 11:07 pm by month's end. 
Pluto is in the
constellation of Sagittarius. Pluto shines at magnitude 14.0. As always, good 
luck at spotting
this one.

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Astronomical Events

Meteor Showers
* Aurigid Outburst may occur on the morning of the 1st. "This month's minor 
Alpha Aurigid meteor
shower may give some observers a brief blast of activity. According to SETI 
Institute meteor
expert Peter Jenniskens, Earth will run into the dust trail from C/1911 N1 
(Kiess), a long-period
comet. The encounter will create a 2-hour meteor outburst peaking at 4:36 A.M. 
PDT September 1.

The timing favors western North America and Hawaii. A waning gibbous Moon 
(76-percent lit) will
wash out all but the brightest meteors.

Comet Kiess released the dust trail when it last rounded the Sun in 83 B.C. 
Jenniskens predicts as
many as 3 Aurigid meteors a minute during the outburst.

The meteors appear to radiate from a point near the bright star Alpha Aurigae 
(better known as
Capella), hence the shower's name." (Astronomy Magazine, September 2007, p. 65)

Comets
* 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 partial solar eclipse occurs on the 11th. The Moon's shadow will fall over 
Antarctica and
South America. 

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.
* Pallas is at opposition on the 2nd in the constellation of Aquarius.
* Urania is at opposition on the 3rd in the constellation of Aquarius.
* Thyra is at opposition on the 5th in the constellation of Pegasus.
* Flora is in the constellation of Taurus.
* Eunomia is in the constellation of Gemini.

* 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 - August 2, 2007 - Cassini Finds Possible Origin of One of Saturn's 
Rings

"PASADENA, Calif. -- Cassini scientists may have identified the source of one 
of Saturn's more
mysterious rings. Saturn's G ring likely is produced by relatively large, icy 
particles that
reside within a bright arc on the ring's inner edge.

The particles are confined within the arc by gravitational effects from 
Saturn's moon Mimas.
Micrometeoroids collide with the particles, releasing smaller, dust-sized 
particles that brighten
the arc. The plasma in the giant planet's magnetic field sweeps through this 
arc continually,
dragging out the fine particles, which create the G ring."

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 - August 13, 2007 - Meet the New Horizons Pluto Pals!

"New Horizons wasn?t the only voyage launched on January 19, 2006 ? this week 
we welcome the
?Pluto Pals? to the New Horizons team, five kids who were born on the same day 
our spacecraft
embarked on its historic journey the outer solar system.

The idea for the club came to New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern 
last year as he
scanned news coverage of the spacecraft?s launch. ?I saw a fantastic Florida 
Today image of two
boys watching the launch,? he said. ?It made me think it would be fun to follow 
some children who
would grow up during our 9 _-year trip to Pluto.?

This past January ? just as the spacecraft was about to take its own cautious 
first steps through
the Jupiter system ? Stern and the New Horizons Education and Public Outreach 
team put out a call
for those who were born or turned 10 on launch day. Five toddlers were selected 
and you can see
their ?photo albums ? on the New Horizons Web site at
http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/education/plutoPals/.";

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/)

August 20-24, 2007

* Crater Modification (Released 20 August 2007)
  http://themis.asu.edu/zoom-20070820a

* Polar Textures (Released 21 August 2007)
  http://themis.asu.edu/zoom-20070821a

* Windstreaks (Released 22 August 2007)
  http://themis.asu.edu/zoom-20070822a

* Not Quite Round (Released 23 August 2007)
  http://themis.asu.edu/zoom-20070823a

* Landslides (Released 24 August 2007)
  http://themis.asu.edu/zoom-20070824a

 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) - 
August 23, 2007

Spirit Status: Spirit Tries to Coax Dust from Microscopic Imager - sol 
1288-1294, August 23, 2007

"For the first time since arriving on Mars in 2004, Spirit attempted to remove 
dust from the
microscopic imager in a "blobs away" campaign to help the rover recover from a 
series of dust
storms. The rover remained healthy as the Gusev Crater region continued to 
emerge from the recent
storms. Gloominess caused by suspended dust in the atmosphere remained high but 
continued its
downward trend. Dust falling out of the atmosphere continued to accumulate on 
the solar panels,
limiting power gains from decreasing atmospheric opacity, known as Tau.

Between the rover's 1,288th and 1,291st Martian days, or sols, of exploration 
(Aug. 18 and Aug.
21, 2007), Tau values went down from 3.2 to 3.0. During the same time, the 
accumulation of dust on
the solar arrays rose from 0.664 to 0.640 (a dust factor of 1.0 corresponds to 
a perfectly clean
array). Solar energy on sol 1291 (Aug. 21, 2007) was 313 watt-hours (100 
watt-hours is what it
takes to light a 100-watt bulb for 1 hour). 

The "blobs away" campaign, designed to dump dust from the surface of the 
microscopic imager lens,
involved repeatedly taking images, opening and closing the dust cover, pointing 
the instrument
slightly upward at an angle of 20 degrees (with the hinge down to avoid dumping 
caked dust on the
lens), and taking more images and opening and closing the dust cover. Improved 
image quality after
the procedure indicated that either some dust fell out or simply moved around. 
Dust
decontamination efforts continue.

Spirit acquired microscopic images of mobile surface ripples and a soil target 
nicknamed "Norma
Luker" on Sol 1291 (Aug. 21 2007). Despite dust motes on the lens, the images 
were useful to the
science team.

Engineers were investigating the cause of a failed transmission on sol 1292 
(Aug. 22, 2007), in
which planned activities did not get on board the spacecraft. Potential causes 
being investigated
included an uplink glitch or interference from a simultaneous uplink to the 
Mars Reconnaissance
Orbiter.

Spirit "drove" 42 centimeters (16 _ inches) to a new position. Weekend plans 
called for the first
multi-meter drive toward the elevated plateau known as "Home Plate" as well as 
test transmissions
to the European Mars Express orbiter in support of next year's arrival of the 
Phoenix spacecraft
now en route to Mars.

Martian weather reports as of Aug. 22 indicated a lull in afternoon storm 
activity on the red
planet, with no new storm activity visible within a few thousand kilometers of 
either Mars rover
site. Skies remained dusty and were expected to continue to clear slowly."

Opportunity Status: Brightening Skies Bolster Opportunity - sol 1256-1265, Aug 
23, 2007

"Opportunity is healthy and remains perched near the rim of "Victoria Crater." 
The rover was on a
low-power schedule that alternated between a 3-sol plan and a 4-sol plan.

Tau (atmospheric opacity) has begun to stabilize this week at around 3.7, 
resulting in solar array
energy between 230-240 watt hours. Therefore in the upcoming week, the team 
will return to nominal
planning.

The rover conducted a lot of what engineers call "runout science." This 
includes: panoramic camera
wide-range tau measurements, navigation camera tau measurements, navigation 
camera cloud
measurements, panoramic camera soria (imaging a rough, rocky area near the 
rover), front hazard
avoidance camera images, rear hazard avoidance camera images, navigation camera 
images, panoramic
camera sky spot, panoramic camera dust monitoring on the mast, miniature 
thermal emission
spectrometer target calibration and panoramic camera high-sun surveys."

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 - August 29, 2007 - 
HiRISE Camera Returns New View of Dark Pit on Mars 
And Adds 930 More Images to NASA Space Mission Archive

By Lori Stiles, University Communications

"The High Resolution Imaging Experiment (HiRISE) has confirmed that a dark pit 
seen on Mars in an
earlier HiRISE image really is a vertical shaft that cuts through lava flow on 
the flank of the
Arsia Mons volcano. Such pits form on similar volcanoes in Hawaii and are 
called "pit craters."

The HiRISE camera, orbiting the red planet on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance 
Orbiter, is the most
powerful camera ever to orbit another planet. It is operated at The University 
of Arizona in
Tucson. HiRISE Principal Investigator Alfred McEwen of the UA's Lunar and 
Planetary Laboratory and
his team released the new image of the dark pit on Arsia Mons and several other 
stunning images
today on the HiRISE Web site, http://hirise.lpl.arizona.edu. New HiRISE images 
are released on the
site every Wednesday."

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: August 31, 2007



       
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