[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 1 Nov 2006 18:07:29 -0800 (PST)

                IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                         November 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 20th.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 28th.
* Full Moon on the 5th.
* Last Quarter Moon on the 12th.

* Perigee on the 3rd, 224,064 mi. from Earth.
* Apogee on the 15th, 251,776 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 0.5 deg. south of Uranus on the 1st.
* The Moon passes 1.6 deg. north of Saturn on the 12th.
* The Moon passes 0.6 deg. south of Spica on the 17th.
* The Moon passes 6 deg. south of Mercury on the 19th.
* The Moon passes 3 deg. south of Neptune on the 26th.
* The Moon passes 0.3 deg. south of Uranus on the 28th.

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 November - Mercury performs a rare transit of the 
Sun this month. On
November 8, at 12:12 pm EST Mercury will pass in front of the Sun for 5 long 
hours. Mercury will
appear as a tiny black dot against the Sun's disk. Saturn still provides 
excellent views through a
small telescope this month located in the constellation of Leo. Observers 
should be able to make
out Cassini's division between the A and B rings on a good night.

* Mercury - Is in inferior conjunction at 5 pm EST on the 8th as it transits 
the Sun. Mercury is
at greatest western elongation (20 deg. above the eastern horizon) on the 20th. 
Mercury sets about
5:28 pm on the 1st. After the 8th, Mercury returns to the morning skies. 
Mercury will be rising
about 5:25 am by month's end. Mercury shines at magnitude -0.7.

* Venus - Is not visible this month. Venus will return to the evening sky by 
the end of the year.
* Earth ? N/A

* Mars - Is not visible this month. Mars is also on the far side of the Sun as 
is Venus. Mars will
return to the morning sky in early December.
* Jupiter - Is in conjunction with the Sun on the 21st and is not visible this 
month. Jupiter will
return to the morning sky in early December.

* Saturn - Rises around 12:12 am on the 1st and about 10:15 pm by month's end. 
Saturn is in the
constellation of Leo and shines at a magnitude of 0.5.

* Uranus - Is still in an excellent position for evening viewing. Uranus sets 
about 1:44 am on the
1st and about 11:42 pm by month's end. Uranus is in the constellation of 
Aquarius and shines at
magnitude 5.8.

* Neptune - Sets about 11:40 pm on the 1st and about 9:44 pm by month's end. 
Neptune is in the
constellation of Capricornus this month. Neptune shines at a magnitude of 7.9.

Dwarf Planets

* Pluto - Sets about 8:00 pm on the 1st and about 6:05 pm by month's end. Pluto 
is in the
constellation of Ophiuchus. Pluto shines at magnitude 14.0. As always, good 
luck at spotting this

* Ceres is in the constellation of Capricornus shining at magnitude 8.9.

Astronomical Events

Meteor Showers
* The Leonids - The duration of this meteor shower covers the period of Nov. 
14-20. Maximum occurs
on Nov. 17. The maximum hourly rate typically reaches 10-15, but most notable 
are periods of
enhanced activity that occur every 33 years - events that are directly 
associated with the
periodic return of comet Tempel-Tuttle. During these exceptional returns, the 
Leonids have
produced rates of up to several thousand meteors per hour. The Leonids are 
swift meteors, which
are best known for leaving a high percentage of persistent trains.

"This year, Earth passes through a debris trail left by the comet's 1932 
passage, and a brief,
sharp increase in meteor counts should occur. Astronomers expect meteor rates 
to reach about 100
per hour around 4h45m UT November 19 (11:45 pm EST on the 18th). This timing 
favors observers in
Europe and Africa." (Astronomy Magazine, Nov. 2006, p. 56)

* Comet 4P/Faye is in the constellation of Aries shining at 9th magnitude will 
be difficult to
spot from within a city. 4P/Faye is expected to brighten to about 8th magnitude 
in the next couple
of months. A small telescope should be able to resolve this fuzzy ball. 4P/Faye 
is now rising very
soon after Sun set this month. The best time to observe Faye will be in the 
latter part of the
month before the Moon rises.

* 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)
* Eunomia is in the constellation of Capricornus.
* Hebe is in the constellation of Capricornus.
* Iris is at opposition on the 14th in the constellation of Taurus.
* Nysa is in the constellation of Gemini.
* Vesta is in the constellation of Virgo.

* 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 - October 11, 2006 - NASA Finds Saturn's Moons May Be Creating New 

"Cassini scientists are on the trail of the missing moons of Saturn. A recent 
observation by the
spacecraft leads them to believe that they will find the moons near newly 
discovered rings around
the planet.

During an unprecedented opportunity, with the sun poised behind Saturn, Cassini 
discovered two new rings and confirmed the presence of two others. The new 
rings are associated
with one or more small moons and share their orbits with the moons, while 
scientists suspect a
moon is lurking near a third 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.

* New Horizons - No new news since September 26, 2006 - Jupiter Ahoy!
"Blazing along its path to Pluto, New Horizons has come within hailing distance 
of Jupiter. The
first picture of the giant planet from the spacecraft's Long Range 
Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI)
is a tantalizing promise of what's to come when New Horizons flies through the 
Jupiter system
early next year."

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.

* 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 August 11, 2006 -
Mars Global Surveyor Celebrates Discovery of Deimos - 

"Deimos was discovered 129 years ago on August 11, 1877. To celebrate, the MGS 
team presents the
first and only Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) image of this tiny moon."

Image of the Week
October 30, 2006

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

* Light-toned Rock Outcrop in Aureum Chaos (Released 30 October 2006)

Image Caption:

This Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) image shows an 
outcrop of light-toned,
layered, sedimentary rock in Aureum Chaos. The darker material, which includes 
ripples, is
composed of windblown sand and granules. This scene is located near 3.8S, 
26.2W, and covers an
area roughly 7.7 km by 3 km (4.8 by 1.9 mi) wide. Sunlight illuminates the 
terrain from the
top/upper right. This southern autumn image was acquired on 14 July 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 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 was launched in November 1996 and has been in Mars orbit 
since September
1997. It began its primary mapping mission on March 8, 1999. Mars Global 
Surveyor is the first
mission in a long-term program of Mars exploration known as the Mars Surveyor 
Program that is
managed by JPL for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, DC.  Malin Space 
Science Systems
(MSSS) and the California Institute of Technology built the MOC using spare 
hardware from the Mars
Observer mission. MSSS operates the camera from its facilities in San Diego, 
CA. The Jet
Propulsion Laboratory's Mars Surveyor Operations Project operates the Mars 
Global Surveyor
spacecraft with its industrial partner, Lockheed Martin Astronautics, from 
facilities in Pasadena,
CA and Denver, CO. 

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/)

October 23-27, 2006

* Feature of the Week: Nili Patera

* Coprates Chasma (Released 23 October 2006)

* Ceraunius Tholus (Released 24 October 2006)

* Two Craters (Released 25 October 2006)

* Resistant Ridges (Released 26 October 2006)

* Lycus Sulci (Released 27 October 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) - 
October 25, 2006

NASA Posts Panorama to Celebrate Rover's 1,000th Martian Day -

October 20, 2006 - During Solar Conjunction, Mars Spacecraft Will Be on 

"Every day for the past decade, the U.S. has had a presence at Mars, using 
spacecraft to
understand this extreme world and its potential as a past or present habitat 
for life. 

During that time, all spacecraft have become virtually incommunicado for about 
two weeks every two
years. The reason is solar conjunction, which occurs again from October 18-29, 
2006. Solar
conjunction is the period when Earth and Mars, in their eternal march around 
the Sun, are obscured
from each other by the fiery orb of the Sun itself. Like dancers on either side 
of a huge bonfire,
the two planets are temporarily invisible to each other."

Spirit Status: Approaching Solar Conjunction - sol 982-987, October 16, 2006

"As Spirit enters a period known as solar conjunction, when the sun interferes 
with transmissions
between Mars and Earth, mission planners sent a complete set of plans for 
science activities
during solar conjunction to Spirit on the rover's 982nd sol, or Martian day, of 
exploring inside
Gusev Crater (Oct. 7, 2006). During that time, the rover will achieve a new 
milestone: exploring
Mars for 1,000 consecutive days.

Solar conjunction will begin on sol 991 (Oct. 16, 2006) and end on sol 1015 
(Nov. 10, 2006).
During this period, both NASA rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, will not receive 
any new command
loads, but they will send daily downlinks to Earth, averaging 15 megabits of 
data per
transmission. The data will be relayed to Earth via NASA's Mars Odyssey 
spacecraft in orbit above

Each day during conjunction, Spirit will spend 3 hours analyzing dust collected 
on the rover's
filter magnet using the Moessbauer spectrometer and 24 minutes conducting a 
variety of early
morning science observations. The morning science activities are designed to 
monitor the
atmosphere and to search for any possible surface changes. The workload will 
make optimum use of
solar power levels available with the retreat of Martian winter."

Opportunity Status: On the Promontory - sol 954-960, October 16, 2006

"Opportunity is healthy and perched at the tip of the promontory "Cape Verde," 
3.1 meters (10.2
feet) from the edge of a sharp drop off on the rim of "Victoria Crater." Soon 
after arriving at
Victoria Crater's "Duck Bay" last week, Opportunity was sent on its way to Cape 
Verde. Six sols,
four drives and 127.61 meters (419 feet) later, Opportunity arrived at the rock 
target "Fogo" near
the tip of Cape Verde.

Along the way, Opportunity made remote-sensing observations including a 
panorama from Duck Bay,
imagery of Cape Verde and atmospheric science.

On Sol 957 (Oct. 3, 2006) Opportunity performed a coordinated observation with 
NASA's Mars
Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). MRO imagery included a picture of Opportunity 
itself! The image was
taken with MRO's HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera, the
highest-resolution camera ever to orbit Mars."

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

Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page at  

* Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - No new news since September 29, 2006 - 
NASA's New Mars
Camera Gives Dramatic View of Planet

"Mars is ready for its close-up. The highest-resolution camera ever to orbit 
Mars is returning
low-altitude images to Earth from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. 

Rocks and surface features as small as armchairs are revealed in the first 
image from NASA's Mars
Reconnaissance Orbiter since the spacecraft maneuvered into its final, 
low-altitude orbital path.
The imaging of the red planet at this resolution heralds a new era in Mars 

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: October 31, 2006

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