[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 30 Sep 2009 15:24:42 -0700 (PDT)

IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
October 2009


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


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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. 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. You may also go to 
http://www.ki0ar.com/astro.html and click on the Subscribe/RSS link. 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.


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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.


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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 Month At-A-Glance at http://www.ki0ar.com/ataglance.html
A calendar displaying the daily astronomical events.


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The Moon


Phases:
* Full Moon on the 4th.
* Last Quarter Moon on the 11th.
* New Moon on the 18th.
* First Quarter Moon on the 25th.


* Perigee on the 13th, 229,327 miles from Earth.
* Apogee on the 25th, 251,137 miles from Earth.


Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 6° north of Uranus on the 2nd.
* Mars passes 6° south of Pollux on the 5th.
* Mercury passes 0.3° south of Saturn on the 8th.
* The Moon passes 1.2° south of Mars on the 11th.
* Venus passes 0.6° south of Saturn on the 13th.
* The Moon passes 7° south of Saturn on the 16th.
* The Moon passes 7° south of Venus on the 16th.
* The Moon passes 1.0° north of Antares on the 21st.
* The Moon passes 3° north of Jupiter on the 27th.
* The Moon passes 3° north of Neptune on the 27th.
* The Moon passes 6° north of Uranus on the 30th.


For reference: The Full Moon subtends an angle of 0.5°.


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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 October - Jupiter remains the evening highlight, 
shining brightly in the south soon after sunset. Neptune and Uranus follow 
Jupiter. Mars and Venus continue to provide excellent views in the early 
morning before sunrise even though Venus is rapidly descending toward the 
horizon. Mercury is at its best for 2009 in the morning at the beginning of the 
month. Saturn has returned to the morning sky and will continue to climb higher 
in the sky as the month progresses.


* Mercury - Is at greatest western elongation (18° above the eastern horizon) 
on the 5th. Mercury is at its best morning apparition for 2009. Mercury rises 
at 5:34 a.m. on the 1st and about 6:17 a.m. by month's end. Mercury moves from 
the constellation of Leo into Virgo this month. Mercury disappears into the 
morning twilight glow late in the month. Mercury shines at magnitude 0.4.


* Venus - Rises at 4:50 a.m. on the 1st and about 5:00 a.m. by month's end. 
Look for Venus in the early morning sky before sunrise. Venus moves from the 
constellation of Leo into Virgo this month shining at magnitude -3.9.


* Earth - N/A.


* Mars - Rises at 12:29 a.m. on the 1st and about 10:42 p.m. by month's end. 
Look for Mars in the south before sunrise. Mars moves from the constellation of 
Gemini into Cancer this month shining at magnitude 0.7.


* Jupiter - Is stationary on the 13th, neither appearing to move forward nor 
backward relative to the background sky. Jupiter begins retrograde motion after 
the 13th. Jupiter sets at 2:45 a.m. on the 1st and about 11:41 p.m. by month's 
end.  On the evening of the 24th, the Galilean moon Io occults Europa about 
9:24 p.m. EDT lasting for about 7 minutes. Jupiter is in the constellation of 
Capricornus shining at magnitude -2.6.


* Saturn - Has returned to the morning sky this month, however, Saturn will 
still be buried in the twilight glow early in the month. Saturn's view will 
improve as the month progresses. Saturn rises at 5:56 a.m. on the 1st and about 
3:12 a.m. by month's end. Saturn is in the constellation of Virgo shining at 
magnitude 1.1.


* Uranus - Sets at 5:50 a.m. on the 1st and about 2:43 a.m. by month's end. 
Uranus is easily viewed in the evening sky with a good pair of binoculars. 
Uranus is in the constellation of Aquarius shining at magnitude 5.7.


* Neptune - Sets at 3:20 a.m. on the 1st and about 12:16 a.m. by month's end. 
Neptune can easily be found just east of Jupiter in the constellation 
Capricornus with a good pair of binoculars. Neptune shines at magnitude 7.9.


Dwarf Planets  
* Ceres - Sets at 7:47 p.m. on the 1st and about 5:18 p.m. by month's end. 
Ceres disappears into the evening twilight glow about mid-month. Ceres moves 
from the constellation of Virgo into Libra this month shining at magnitude 8.6. 


* Pluto - Sets at 11:18 p.m. on the 1st and about 8:18 p.m. by month's end. 
Pluto is in the constellation of Sagittarius shining at magnitude 14.0.


As always, good luck at spotting these two, a large telescope and dark skies 
will be needed.


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Astronomical Events


Meteor Showers
* The Orionids - The duration of this meteor shower extends from October 15 to 
29, with maximum occurring on (the morning of) October 21. The maximum hourly 
rate is usually about 20 and the meteors are described as fast.


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


Comets
* Comet C/2006/W3 (Christensen) could be as bright as 8th magnitude around the 
second or third week of the month passing through the constellation of Aquila 
the Eagle.


* 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)
* Isis is in the constellation of Aquarius.
* Massalia is in the constellation of Pisces.
* Julia is at opposition on the 10th in the constellation of Pegasus.
* Melpomene is at opposition on the 10th in the constellation of Cetus.
* Vesta is in the constellation of Leo.


* 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 - September 29, 2009
Rings Return the Favor
Full-Res: PIA11590 (http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA11590)


"Saturn's rings cast a shadow on the moon Janus in this image made possible 
only around the time of the planet's August 2009 equinox.


Some of the planet's moons cast shadows onto the rings at equinox, but in this 
image, it's the rings casting shadows on a moon. The shadow obscures part of 
Janus (179 kilometers, or 111 miles across) in the image. The planet's thin F 
ring can be seen in the upper left of the image.


See Reciprocating Rings 
(http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/photos/imagedetails/index.cfm?imageId=3504) to see 
the rings casting a shadow on the moon Tethys."


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 - September 8, 2009
New Horizons Hits Halfway Mark Between Saturn, Uranus Orbits


"New Horizons sails silently today through another milestone on the way to its 
historic reconnaissance of the Pluto system, reaching the halfway point between 
the orbits of Saturn and Uranus.


The NASA spacecraft will reach 14.41 astronomical units from the Sun – 1.34 
billion miles, or nearly 14 1/2 times the distance between the Earth and Sun – 
between 6-7 p.m. EDT "Only five operating spacecraft have ever journeyed this 
far, and only one – the storied Voyager 2 mission – still had an encounter 
planned even farther out," says New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, 
of the Southwest Research Institute. "New Horizons is on its way to the 
farthest planetary encounter ever, at just over 32 astronomical units, which is 
a quarter-billion miles beyond the current planetary encounter record set at 
Neptune back in 1989."


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 June 08, 2009
Dawn Re-Lights the Ionic Fire


"Mission controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., 
have received a transmission from the Dawn spacecraft confirming it has 
re-ignited its ion propulsion system. For those of you scoring at home, 
Thruster # 1 received the honors. Over the course of its eight-year mission, 
first to asteroid Vesta and then off to dwarf planet Ceres, Dawn's three ion 
engines will accumulate 2,000 days of operation."


For more information on the Dawn mission, visit the Dawn home page: 
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/dawn/main/index.html.


* MESSENGER - September 28, 2009
Closest Approach Tomorrow!


"MESSENGER’s engineering and operations teams convened at the Johns Hopkins 
University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., this morning to 
confirm the health and readiness of the spacecraft. "All spacecraft sub-systems 
and instruments reported nominal operations, indicating that MESSENGER was 
ready for its third encounter with Mercury," said MESSENGER Systems Engineer 
Eric Finnegan of APL.


At 10:28 a.m. the last bits of data from the spacecraft were received as it 
transitioned from high-gain downlink to beacon-only operations, turning towards 
the planet to start the approach tail-sweep sequence with the Mercury 
Atmospheric and Surface Composition Spectrometer instrument. This morning, the 
spacecraft returned this image, revealing some of the last areas of terrain not 
before seen at close range by spacecraft. Higher-resolution images of these 
areas will be obtained tomorrow when the spacecraft is closer to the planet.


For the next 30 hours, the spacecraft will take repetitive scans through 
Mercury’s comet-like anti-sunward tail, pausing now and then to take a color 
image and a high-resolution mosaic of Mercury with the Mercury Dual Imaging 
System instrument."


The probe's third flyby of Mercury next month will take it again over the 
planet's western hemisphere, and the observations will be used to refine the 
estimate of the planetary magnetic field, Anderson explains."


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 June 22, 2009
NASA'S Mars Odyssey Alters Orbit to Study Warmer Ground


"PASADENA, Calif. - NASA's long-lived Mars Odyssey spacecraft has completed an 
eight-month adjustment of its orbit, positioning itself to look down at the day 
side of the planet in mid-afternoon instead of late afternoon.


This change gains sensitivity for infrared mapping of Martian minerals by the 
orbiter's Thermal Emission Imaging System camera. Orbit design for Odyssey's 
first seven years of observing Mars used a compromise between what worked best 
for the infrared mapping and for another onboard instrument.


"The orbiter is now overhead at about 3:45 in the afternoon instead of 5 p.m., 
so the ground is warmer and there is more thermal energy for the camera's 
infrared sensors to detect," said Jeffrey Plaut of NASA's Jet Propulsion 
Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., project scientist for Mars Odyssey."


"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/.";


DAILY MARS ODYSSEY THEMIS IMAGES
Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) web site: 
(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) - September 23, 2009


SPIRIT UPDATE: Progress on Antenna Actuator - sols 2029-2034, Sept. 17-22, 2009:


"Spirit is recovering from the high-gain antenna (HGA) anomaly that occurred on 
Sol 2027 (Sept. 15, 2009). The HGA problem is suspected to be an apparent 
intermittent behavior in the dynamic brake relay for the HGA actuators, a 
problem that has been seen and mitigated before in other rover actuators. 
Diagnostics were run on the HGA and each actuator moved freely in both 
directions without problems with the dynamic brake behaving normally.


The challenge for the rover team has been trying to uplink HGA recovery 
sequences over the low-gain antenna (LGA). Data rates over the LGA are so low 
that there is often insufficient time in the uplink window to get up all the 
necessary commands. Because of that, the project is using forward link UHF 
relay commanding through Mars Odyssey. The forward link has the additional 
complication that there is additional latency in getting the commands to the 
rover, so the pace of recovery is impacted. Return to normal HGA usage for 
Spirit is anticipated by next week. Spirit is otherwise in good health.


As of Sol 2033 (Sept. 21, 2009), Spirit's solar-array energy production was 418 
watt-hours with an atmospheric opacity (tau) of 0.972 and a dust factor of 
0.626. Total odometry remains at 7,729.93 meters (4.80 miles)."


OPPORTUNITY UPDATE: Milestone 11 - sols 2009-2014, Sept. 18-23, 2009:


"Opportunity has driven four out of the last six sols, making way to Endeavour 
crater.


On sols 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2014 (Sept. 18, 20, 22 and 23), the rover drove 55 
meters (180 feet), 71 meters (233 feet), 70 meters (230 feet) and 59 meters 
(194 feet), respectively, passing 11 miles of total odometry. Each drive was 
backwards heading to the west to avoid a large region of potentially risky dune 
ripples. Eventually, the rover will turn south, then east, to head to Endeavour.


Motor currents in the right-front wheel remain well behaved.


As of Sol 2014 (Sept. 23, 2009), Opportunity's solar-array energy production is 
477 watt-hours. Atmospheric opacity (tau) is 0.681, and the dust factor on the 
solar array is 0.603. Total odometry is 17,717.33 meters (11.01 miles)."


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 - September 24, 2009
NASA Spacecraft Sees Ice on Mars Exposed by Meteor Impacts 


"PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has revealed frozen 
water hiding just below the surface of mid-latitude Mars. The spacecraft's 
observations were obtained from orbit after meteorites excavated fresh craters 
on the Red Planet. 


Scientists controlling instruments on the orbiter found bright ice exposed at 
five Martian sites with new craters that range in depth from approximately half 
a meter to 2.5 meters (1.5 feet to 8 feet). The craters did not exist in 
earlier images of the same sites. Some of the craters show a thin layer of 
bright ice atop darker underlying material. The bright patches darkened in the 
weeks following initial observations, as the freshly exposed ice vaporized into 
the thin Martian atmosphere. One of the new craters had a bright patch of 
material large enough for one of the orbiter's instruments to confirm it is 
water-ice."


MARS RECONNAISSANCE ORBITER HIRISE IMAGES


All of the HiRISE images are archived here:
http://hirise.lpl.arizona.edu/.


More information about the MRO 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.)


* "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.


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


* 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.


* 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.


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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
ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx


COO, Director of Aerospace Technologies, IAAS
JPL Solar System Ambassador, Colorado
Last modified: September 29, 2009


      

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