[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 1 Feb 2007 20:56:59 -0800 (PST)

                IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                         February 2007


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 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.


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 17th.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 24th.
* Full Moon on the 2nd.
* Last Quarter Moon on the 10th.

* Apogee on the 7th, 251,649 mi. from Earth.
* Perigee on the 19th, 224,589 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 0.9 deg. north of Saturn on the 2nd.
* The Moon passes 1.1 deg. north of Regulus on the 3rd.
* Uranus passes 0.7 deg. north of Venus on the 7th.
* The Moon passes 1.3 deg. south of Spica on the 7th.
* The Moon passes 0.7 deg. south of Antares on the 11th.
* The Moon passes 6 deg. south of Jupiter on the 12th.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. south of Mars on the 14th.
* The Moon passes 2 deg. north of Venus on the 19th.

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
(All times are local unless otherwise noted.)

* Planetary Highlights for February - Saturn is the dominant planet this month 
as it reaches
opposition near mid-month. Saturn will be visible all evening. Although 
elusive, Mercury is at its
best by the end of the first week of February, 18 degrees above the western 
horizon on the 7th.
Venus also dominates the early evening sky as it appears higher and higher in 
the southwest as the
month progresses. Jupiter and Mars are prominent in the early morning skies 
before sunrise.

* Mercury - Is at greatest eastern elongation (18 deg. above the western 
horizon) on the 7th.
Mercury is stationary on the 13th. Mercury is in inferior conjunction with the 
Sun on the 22nd.
Try to spot Mercury early in the month as it will rapidly approach the horizon 
and disappear into
the twilight glow after mid-month. Mercury will return to the morning sky by 
the end of the month
but will still be lost in the morning twilight glow. Mercury sets around 6:41 
pm on the 1st.
Mercury rises about 5:48 am by the end of the month. Mercury shines at 
magnitude -0.9 on the 1st
but dims perceptibly over the next 2 weeks as the planet approaches the western 

* Venus - Dominates the evening sky soon after sunset this month.  Venus sets 
about 7:13 pm on the
1st and about 8:17 pm by month's end. Venus is in the constellation of Aquarius 
and shines at
magnitude -3.9.
* Earth - N/A.

* Mars - Can be spotted in the early morning sky shortly before sunrise this 
month. Mars rises at
5:26 am on the 1st and about 4:53 am by month's end. Mars is in the 
constellation of Sagittarius.
Mars shines at magnitude 1.3.
* Jupiter - Is also visible in the early morning sky rising about 2 to 3 hours 
before Mars this
month. Jupiter rises at 3:21 am on the 1st and about 1:48 am by month's end. 
Jupiter is in the
constellation of Ophiuchus and shines at magnitude -2.0.

* Saturn - Is at opposition on the 10th, rising as the Sun sets. Saturn 
dominates the evening sky
this month. Saturn rises around 5:57 pm on the 1st and about 3:55 pm by month's 
end. Saturn is in
the constellation of Leo and shines at a magnitude of 0.0.

* Uranus - Can be spotted in the early evening but try to catch Uranus very 
early in the month.
Uranus sets about 7:48 pm on the 1st and about 6:06 pm by month's end. Look for 
Uranus and Venus
within 0.7 degrees of each other on the evening of the 7th. Uranus is in the 
constellation of
Aquarius and shines at magnitude 5.9.

* Neptune - Is in conjunction with the Sun on the 8th. Neptune is not visible 
this month. Neptune
will return to the morning sky in March.

Dwarf Planets

* Ceres - Sets at 7:36 pm on the 1st and about 5:49 pm by month's end. Ceres 
may be very difficult
to spot as it descends into the twilight glow as the month progresses. Try to 
spot this planet
very early in the month. Ceres is in the constellation of Aquarius shining at 
magnitude 9.3.

* Pluto - Has returned to the morning sky. Pluto rises about 4:00 am on the 1st 
and about 2:12 am
by month's end. Pluto has finally moved out of the constellation of Ophiuchus 
and into the
constellation of Sagittarius. Pluto shines at magnitude 14.0. As always, good 
luck at spotting
this one.


Astronomical Events

Meteor Showers
* There are a few minor meteor showers this month but none that produce rates 
much higher than 2-5
per hour.

* Comet Petriew is visible in the vicinity of Venus this month. This recently 
discovered comet
shines at magnitude 11 and will be difficult to spot. Try to spot this comet 
early in the month as
it sets around 8:00 pm. This comet is at perihelion on the 24th. 

* 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)
* Iris is in the constellation of Taurus.
* Melpomeme is in the constellation of Cancer.
* Massalia is in the constellation of Cancer.
* Parthenope and Psyche are in the constellation of Leo.
* Juno is in the constellation of Virgo and is stationary on the 18th.
* Vesta is in the constellation of Libra.
* Metis is in the constellation of Ophiuchus.

* 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 - January 29, 2007 - Cassini's Infrared Eyes Aimed at Titan

"During Cassini's next pass of Saturn's moon Titan on Jan. 29, its infrared 
eyes will study the
moon's murky atmosphere and peer through its thick, smoggy-veil mapping surface 

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 - January 10, 2007 - The PI's Perspective: One Year Down, Eight 
to Go, on the Road
to Pluto

"After a busy year on the ground and on the New Horizons spacecraft, the 
Jupiter approach
observations are in full swing. Principal Investigator Alan Stern looks at some 
of the early,
exciting returns from the solar system's largest planet."

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 

* 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 - January 10, 2007 -
Panel Will Study Mars Global Surveyor Events

"NASA has formed an internal review board to look more in-depth into why NASA's 
Mars Global
Surveyor went silent in November 2006 and recommend any processes or procedures 
that could
increase safety for other spacecraft.

Mars Global Surveyor launched in 1996 on a mission designed to study Mars from 
orbit for two
years. It accomplished many important discoveries during nine years in orbit. 
On Nov. 2, the
spacecraft transmitted information that one of its arrays was not pivoting as 
commanded. Loss of
signal from the orbiter began on the following orbit. 

Mars Global Surveyor has operated longer at Mars than any other spacecraft in 
history and for more
than four times as long as the prime mission originally planned."

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 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

* Mars Odyssey Orbiter ? No new news since August 16, 2006 - 
NASA Findings Suggest Jets Bursting From Martian Ice Cap

"Every spring brings violent eruptions to the south polar ice cap of Mars, 
according to
researchers interpreting new observations by NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter. 

Jets of carbon dioxide gas erupting from the ice cap as it warms in the spring 
carry dark sand and
dust high aloft. The dark material falls back to the surface, creating dark 
patches on the ice
cap, which have long puzzled scientists. Deducing the eruptions of carbon 
dioxide gas from under
the warming ice cap solves the riddle of the spots. It also reveals that this 
part of Mars is much
more dynamically active than had been expected for any part of the planet."

"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/)

January 22-26, 2007

* Dunes (Released 22 January 2007)

* Sand Dunes (Released 23 January 2007)

* Lycus Sulci (Released 24 January 2007)

* Lava Flows (Released 25 January 2007)

* Pavonis Mons (Released 26 January 2007)

 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) - 
January 27, 2007

Spirit Status: Spirit Studies Layered Rocks and Wind-Blown Drifts - sol 
1085-1090, January 27,

"With the rover's third Martian spring just around the corner, Spirit is 
healthy and has started
acquiring movies with the navigation camera in search of dust devils wheeling 
across the terrain.
Spring officially begins on Martian day, or sol 1103 (Feb. 8, 2007).

During the past week, Spirit acquired microscopic images of a soil target 
called "Londonderry,"
which is an active wind drift shaped by the motion of bouncing sand grains. 
Spirit also acquired
super-resolution panoramic camera images of an exposure of layered bedrock with 
rounded rock
fragments known as "Zucchelli." Scientists hope the images will reveal 
information about color,
structure, grain size, and mineralogical composition of the rock.

Spirit continued to make progress on scientific studies of a rock exposure 
known as "Montalva" on
the lower stratigraphic unit of an outcrop known as "Troll." On the rover's 
1,085th sol (Jan. 21,
2007) of exploration, Spirit used the wire brush on the rock abrasion tool to 
reveal more surface
area and enable clean measurements with the miniature thermal emission 
spectrometer. Spirit then
backed up to conduct analysis of the newly brushed area.

In the coming week, scientists plan to have Spirit retrace its tracks toward a 
soil exposure known
as "Tyrone" for additional panoramic camera images and miniature thermal 
emission spectrometer
measurements to be taken from a distance of about 10 meters (30 feet)."

Opportunity Status: Opportunity Hones Reckoning Skills, Tests Computer Smarts - 
sol 1063-1069,
January 27, 2007

"After driving around the "Bay of Toil" onto "Cape Desire," a promontory 
overlooking "Victoria
Crater," Opportunity began testing various techniques for visually determining 
the rover's precise
location after moving across sandy, somewhat slippery terrain. Because the 
sandy surface is
largely flat and featureless (except for the dropoff into "Victoria Crater"), 
the rover's primary
reference points are the long rows of repeating ridges and holes in its own 
tracks. They all look
pretty much the same, repeating the same pattern every 80 centimeters (2.6 
feet). The rover is
working on ways to make its tracks look different at every step, which will 
remove any ambiguities
in the images of the tracks.

Opportunity continued to test new computer smarts to enable automated placement 
of instruments on
a target of scientific interest."

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

Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page at  

* Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - January 11, 2007 - New NASA Orbiter 
Sees Details of 1997
Mars Pathfinder Site

"The high-resolution camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has imaged 
the 1997 landing site
of NASA's Mars Pathfinder, revealing new details of hardware on the surface and 
the geology of the

The new image from the orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment is 
available on the
Internet at http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/MRO/multimedia/pia09105.html and 
at links from

The Pathfinder mission's small rover, Sojourner, appears to have moved closer 
to the stationary
lander after the final data transmission from the lander, based on tentative 
identification of the
rover in the image. Pathfinder landed on July 4, 1997, and transmitted data for 
12 weeks. Unlike
the two larger rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, currently active on Mars, 
Sojourner could
communicate only with the lander, not directly with Earth."

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: January 31, 2006

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