[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 1 Jun 2009 13:41:06 -0700 (PDT)

IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
June 2009


The International Association for Astronomical Studies provides this newsletter 
as a service for interested persons worldwide.


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. An MS Word formatted downloadable version of 
the newsletter is at http://www.ki0ar.com/current_nl.doc.

This newsletter is now available as an iTunes podcast. Visit 
http://www.apple.com, download and install iTunes (for either Mac or Windows). 
Search for "IAAS" and subscribe to the podcast. Update your iPod or mp3 player 
and listen to the newsletter at your leisure. Since this is a new feature, 
comments and constructive criticisms are greatly appreciated.


An Open Invitation - For amateur radio operators and scanner enthusiasts, when 
in the Denver metro area, please join the Colorado Astronomy Net on the Rocky 
Mountain Radio League's (http://rmrl.hamradios.com/) 146.94 MHz repeater on 
Tuesday nights at 7 P.M. 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 Month At-A-Glance at http://www.ki0ar.com/ataglance.html
A calendar displaying the daily astronomical events.


The Moon

* New Moon on the 22nd.
* First Quarter Moon on the 29th.
* Full Moon on the 7th.
* Last Quarter Moon on the 15th.

* Apogee on the 10th, 252,144 mi. from Earth.
* Perigee on the 23rd, 222,460 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* Jupiter is 0.5° south of Neptune on the 1st 
* The Moon passes 0.6° north of Antares on the 6th.
* The Moon passes 3° north of Neptune on the 13th.
* The Moon passes 3° north of Jupiter on the 13th.
* The Moon passes 0.4° of asteroid Juno on the 15th.
* The Moon passes 6° north of Uranus on the 16th.
* Venus passes 2° south of Mars on the 19th.
* The Moon passes 6° north of Mars on the 19th.
* The Moon passes 8° north of Venus on the 19th.
* Mercury passes 3° north of Aldebaran on the 22nd.
* The Moon passes 7° south of Saturn on the 27th.


The Planets & Dwarf Planets
Planetary Reports are generated by "TheSky" software. 
(http://www.ki0ar.com/planrpts.html) These reports provide predicted data for 
the planets on 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. These reports have been optimized for the Denver, Colorado 
location, however, the times will be approximate for other locations on Earth.

(All times are local unless otherwise noted.)

* Planetary Highlights for June - Mercury has joined the the morning planetary 
crowd of planets this month. For the early risers, there are now six planets to 
observe in the early morning hours before sunrise (In order of appearance): 
Jupiter, Neptune, Uranus, Venus and Mars. For evening viewers, Saturn and Ceres 
are high overhead soon after the Sun sets.

* Mercury - Is at greatest western elongation (23° above the eastern horizon) 
on the 13th. Mercury is visible in the morning sky for most of June. Mercury 
rises at 4:51 a.m. on the 1st and about 4:35 a.m. by month's end. Mercury is in 
the constellation of Taurus shining at magnitude 0.3.

* Venus - Is at greatest western elongation (46° above the eastern horizon) on 
the 5th. A waning crescent Moon appears near Venus and Mars in the early 
morning sky on the 19th 
Venus rises at 3:27 a.m. on the 1st and about 2:57 a.m. by month's end. Venus 
moves from the constellation of Pisces into Taurus this month. Venus shines at 
magnitude -4.3.

* Earth - Summer solstice occurs at 1:46 a.m. EDT on the 21st.

* Mars - Rises at 3:35 a.m. on the 1st and about 2:37 a.m. by month's end. Look 
for Mars in the southeast before sunrise. Mars is in the constellation of Aries 
this month shining at magnitude 1.1.

* Jupiter - Is stationary on the 15th. Jupiter rises at 12:55 a.m. on the 1st 
and about 10:58 p.m. by month's end. Jupiter will be returning to the evening 
sky by mid-month but best viewing will still be in the early morning hours 
before sunrise. Jupiter is in the constellation of Capricornus shining at 
magnitude -2.6.

* Saturn - Sets at 1:58 a.m. on the 1st and about 11:59 p.m. by month's end. 
Saturn is well positioned for evening viewing by the time the Sun sets. Saturn 
is visible most of the evening this month 
(http://www.astronomy.com/asy/objects/images/june-2009-saturn-sm.jpg). Saturn 
is in the constellation of Leo shining at magnitude 1.0.

* Uranus - Rises at 2:12 a.m. on the 1st and about 12:11 a.m. by month's end. 
Look for Uranus in the early morning sky before sunrise. Uranus is in the 
constellation of Pisces shining at magnitude 5.8.

* Neptune - Rises at 12:53 a.m. on the 1st and about 10:54 p.m. by month's end. 
Neptune has also returned to the evening sky this month but, like Jupiter, is 
best observed in the early morning hours before sunrise. Neptune is in the 
constellation of Capricornus shining at magnitude 7.9.

Dwarf Planets  
* Ceres - Sets at 1:25 a.m. on the 1st and about 12:35 a.m. by month’s end. 
Ceres is in the constellation of Leo shining at magnitude 8.6. 

* Pluto - Is at opposition on the 23rd, rising as the Sun sets. Pluto rises at 
9:25 p.m. on the 1st and about 7:24 p.m. by month's end. Pluto appears at its 
best for this year in June. Pluto is in the constellation of Sagittarius 
shining at magnitude 13.9.

Good luck at spotting these two, a large telescope and dark skies will be 


Astronomical Events

Meteor Showers
* The Arietids Meteor Shower - This is the strongest daylight meteor shower of 
the year. The duration extends from May 22 to July 2, with maximum activity 
occurring on June 8. The hourly rate is near 60 at maximum.

* The June Lyrids - This shower is active during June 10 to 21, producing 
predominantly blue and white meteors at a maximum hourly rate of 8 per hour on 
June 15. The average magnitude of this shower is near 3, while 32% of the 
meteors leave trains.

* The Zeta Perseids - This daylight shower occurs during May 20 to July 5. 
Maximum occurs on June 13. Radar surveys have revealed the activity of this 
shower to be near 40 per hour.

* The June Boötids meteor shower peaks on the 26th around 10:30 pm EDT. This 
shower is currently active during June 27 to July 5 and possesses a maximum of 
activity that falls on the 28th... The shower is notable in that its meteors 
are primarily faint, with an average magnitude near 5; however, bright meteors 
do occur regularly.

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

* Comet 22P/Kopff moves from the constellation of Capricornus into Aquarius 
this month. Comet Kopff shines at magnitude 8 or 9. 
The best times to view Comet Kopff will be during the first week and last week 
of June.

* 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, visit Gary Kronk's Cometography.com web 
page at http://cometography.com/.

* 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)
* Irene is in the constellation of Virgo.
* Iris is in the constellation of Sagittarius.
* Juno is in the constellation of Pisces.
* Vesta is in conjunction with the Sun on the 22nd.

* 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 - May 29, 2009
Petite Moon
Full-Res: PIA11503 (http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA11503)

"A bright arc within Saturn's faint G ring holds a tiny gift.

A small moonlet is just visible as a short streak near the ansa of the G ring 
arc in the top of two versions of the same image. The second (bottom) version 
of the image has been brightened to enhance the visibility of the G ring. The 
other streaks in this version of the image are stars smeared by the camera's 
long exposure time of 26 seconds. This version of the image shows a gap in the 
G ring which was faintly visible in an earlier Cassini movie (see Rounding the 

The moonlet, dubbed S/2008 S 1 (and recently named Aegaeon), is likely a major 
source of the material of the G ring (see Tiny Moonlet Within G Ring Arc).

This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 1 degrees below 
the ring plane. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini 
spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Jan. 28, 2009. The view was acquired at a 
distance of approximately 1.2 million kilometers (746,000 miles) from Saturn 
and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 27 degrees. Image scale is 7 
kilometers (4 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.

* New Horizons - May 20, 2009
The PI’s Perspective: Ever Plan Ahead? How About Six Years Ahead?

"Things are going well out in the cold space between Saturn and Uranus where 
New Horizons is now. We’re deep in planning for our spacecraft’s annual 
checkout this summer, which begins on July 7. But that’s not what I want to 
write about today: instead, it’s something called EPDR.

Despite still being more than six years and just over 18 astronomical units 
from the Pluto system, the New Horizons project team is conducting the second 
and final portion of our Pluto Encounter Preliminary Design Review (EPDR) today 
and tomorrow (May 20-21) at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics 
Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md.

We conducted the first portion of the EPDR on January 7-8. EPDR part two is 
another two-day confab, in which the New Horizons technical and management 
teams will present the detailed, minute-by-minute timeline of our planned 2015 
Pluto encounter to a review team of expert planetary planners from across the 
nation. EPDR represents the culmination of almost two years of intense 
encounter planning involving the entire New Horizons science and mission team, 
and the stakes are high — this is the main technical review of what will take 
place when we conduct the first exploration of Pluto and its satellites."

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 February 26, 2009
Dawn Finishes Mars Phase

Mission Status Report: NASA's Dawn Mission

"With Mars disappearing in its metaphorical rearview mirror, NASA's Dawn 
spacecraft's next stop is the asteroid belt and the giant asteroid Vesta. Dawn 
got as close as 549 kilometers (341 miles) to the Red Planet during its 
Tuesday, Feb. 17, flyby. 

Dawn's navigators placed the spacecraft on a close approach trajectory with 
Mars so the planet's gravitational influence would provide a kick to the 
spacecraft's velocity. If Dawn had to perform these orbital adjustments on its 
own, with no Mars gravitational deflection, the spacecraft would have had to 
fire up its engines and change velocity by more than 9,330 kilometers per hour 
(5,800 miles per hour). 

The achieved goal of the flyby was to obtain this orbital pick-me-up, making 
possible its voyage to asteroid Vesta and, later, the dwarf planet Ceres. But 
Dawn's science teams used this massive target of opportunity to also perform 
calibrations of some of the scientific instruments. Calibration images were 
taken by Dawn's framing camera, and the Gamma Ray and Neutron Detector also 
observed Mars for calibration. These data will be compared to similar 
observations taken by spacecraft orbiting Mars."

For more information on the Dawn mission, visit the Dawn home page: 

* MESSENGER - May 05, 2009
MESSENGER Co-Investigator Peale Elected to National Academy of Sciences

"MESSENGER Co-Investigator Stanton J. Peale, a professor emeritus renowned for 
his work in planetary science and astrophysics at University of California, 
Santa Barbara, was among the 72 new members elected to the National Academy of 
Sciences. The election was held April 28 during the business session of the 
146th annual meeting of the Academy. Those elected bring the total number of 
active members to 2,150, now including four members of the MESSENGER Science 

Peale is a leading expert on planetary dynamics. He developed the technique by 
which MESSENGER will measure the size and state of Mercury's core, and he will 
lead the interpretation of Mercury Laser Altimeter (MLA) measurements of 
Mercury's rotation and physical libration. 

His theory for Mercury’s forced libration, equivalent to small variations in 
Mercury's spin rate, was recently utilized to interpret Earth-based radar 
measurements of Mercury’s motions. Those observations can be explained only if 
Mercury's core is at least partially molten, a finding that has helped 
scientists better understand Mercury’s thermal history and the generation of 
the planet’s intrinsic magnetic field."

For more information on the MESSENGER mission, visit the MESSENGER home page: 

* 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 - 

* 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 April 15, 2009
Mars Spacecraft Teams on Alert for Dust-Storm Season

"PASADENA, Calif. -- Heading into a period of the Martian year prone to major 
dust storms, the team operating NASA's twin Mars rovers is taking advantage of 
eye-in-the-sky weather reports.

On April 21, Mars will be at the closest point to the sun in the planet's 
23-month, elliptical orbit. One month later, the planet's equinox will mark the 
start of summer in Mars' southern hemisphere. This atmospheric-warming 
combination makes the coming weeks the most likely time of the Martian year for 
dust storms severe enough to minimize activities of the rovers."

"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/.";

Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) web site: 

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) - May 28, 2009

SPIRIT UPDATE: Recovery Efforts Continue - sols 1913-1919, May 21-27, 2009:

"Spirit remains stationary, pending development of a recovery strategy to free 
her from the loose, soft terrain on the west side of Home Plate.

The rover continues to conduct extensive remote sensing observations of its 
local terrain. A 360-degree color panorama, called the Calypso panorama, is 
being collected, and includes the rover's deck. Additional mini-thermal 
emission spectrometer (TES) observations have been sequenced. Thanks to the 
extra energy made possible by recent solar array dust cleaning events, Spirit 
has been collecting measurements of atmospheric argon almost every day using 
its alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer (APXS).

The project continues to investigate the left middle wheel stall that occurred 
back on Sol 1899 (May 6, 2009). A small (4-degree) backward wheel motion test 
was sequenced on Sol 1913 (May 21, 2009). The wheel and motor performed 
satisfactorily. A second, larger test (16 degrees) was performed on Sol 1916 
(May 24, 2009), and again, the wheel performed satisfactorily, showing no signs 
of a jam in the backward direction.

Pending the recertification of the robotic arm (the instrument deployment 
device, or IDD), a microscopic imager (MI) mosaic of Spirit's underbelly is 
planned for this coming weekend to assess the rover's embedded condition.

On the ground, testing with the surface system testbed (SSTB) rover at JPL is 
held up due to a computer server disk crash. That server is being restored from 
a huge backup tape, which is taking considerable time. In parallel, the 
SSTB-Lite rover (an alternate, lower-fidelity testbed rover) is being set up to 
conduct early tests of candidate soil simulants.

Spirit is very active, with abundant energy. Once again, Spirit has received a 
beneficial solar array dust cleaning. Dust factor (a measure of array 
cleanliness) improved about 10 percent on Sol 1918 (May 26, 2009). As of Sol 
1919 (May 27, 2009), solar array energy production was 843 watt-hours, enough 
to run a 100-watt bulb for more than eight hours, with atmospheric opacity 
(tau) around 0.606. The dust factor increased to 0.774, meaning that about 77.4 
percent of the sunlight hitting the solar array penetrates through the dust on 
the array.

Spirit's total odometry as of Sol 1919 (May 27, 2009) is 7,729.93 meters (4.8 

OPPORTUNITY UPDATE: Passing The 10-Mile Mark - sols 1893-1899, May 21-28, 2009:

"Opportunity is driving again, making good progress toward the distant 
Endeavour crater.

On Sol 1893 (May 21, 2009), Opportunity drove about 77 meters (252.6 feet) to 
the south. Motor currents in the right front wheel are elevated. After a few 
sols rest to collect atmospheric argon measurements with the alpha-particle 
X-ray spectrometer (APXS) and targeted Pancam observations, the rover drove 
about another 54 meters (177.2 feet). The right front wheel continued to show 
elevated current levels, but the levels are not increasing.

With its drive on Sol 1897 (May 25, 2009), Opportunity achieved another 
milestone, with its odometer surpassing the 10-mile mark (more than 16,093 
meters)! Another drive on the next sol added another 50 meters (164 feet).

On Sol 1899 (May 28, 2009), the rover used its robotic arm (instrument 
deployment device, or IDD) to collect some sky flats (images of the sky) using 
its microscopic imager (MI). The sky images will be used for calibration 

As of Sol 1899 (May 28, 2009), Opportunity's solar array energy production was 
436 watt-hours, the atmospheric opacity (tau) remained around 0.651, and the 
dust factor was 0.564.

Opportunity's total odometry as of Sol 1899 (May 28, 2009) is 16,184.19 meters 
(10.06 miles)."

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

Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page at

* Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - May 06, 2009
Productive Mars Camera Team Accelerates Releases

"Camera-team members are now posting tens of thousands of new image products 
each month from the high-resolution camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance 


All of the HiRISE images are archived here:

More information about the MRO 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 - 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 

* 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 

* 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.

* The International Dark-Sky Association - http://www.darksky.org
To preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark 

* JPL Solar System Ambassador Program -

* 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, 

* Sky and Space - http://www.skyandspace.com.au/public/home.ehtml ;
Astronomy from Down Under - The Southern Hemisphere's first astronomy and space 

* 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 

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

* 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.

* Stellarium - http://www.stellarium.org
Free, downloadable planetarium/astronomy software.

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

* Wikisky - http://www.wikisky.org
WIKISKY is a non-commercial project. The main purpose of WIKISKY is to 
consolidate astronomical, astrophysical and other information about different 
space objects and astrophysical facts.


Acknowledgments and References

Much of the information in this newsletter is from "Astronomy Magazine" 
(Kalmbach Publishing), JPL mission status reports,  "Meteor Showers - A 
Descriptive Catalog" by Gary W. Kronk 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

COO, Director of Aerospace Technologies, IAAS
JPL Solar System Ambassador, Colorado
Last modified: June 1, 2009


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