[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 30 Oct 2010 09:47:50 -0700 (PDT)

IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
November 2010

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. A PDF formatted downloadable version of the 
newsletter is at http://www.ki0ar.com/current_nl.pdf.

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 

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 occurs on the 6th.
* First Quarter Moon occurs on the 13th.
* Full Moon occurs on the 21st.
* Last Quarter Moon occurs on the 28th.

* The Moon is at Perigee on the 3rd, 226,298 miles from Earth.
* The Moon is at Apogee on the 15th, 251,426 miles from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 0.7° north of asteroid Juno on the 1st.
* The Moon passes 8° south of Saturn on the 4th.
* The Moon passes 1.6° south of Mars on the 7th.
* Mars passes 4° north of Antares on the 9th.
* The Moon passes 5° north of Neptune on the 14th.
* Mercury passes 2° north of Antares on the 15th.
* The Moon passes 7° north of Jupiter on the 16th.
* The Moon passes 6° north of Uranus on the 16th.
* The Moon passes 0.5° south of asteroid Juno on the 29th.

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

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 November - Jupiter continues to provide excellent 
views throughout November. Uranus continues to be Jupiter's companion as it has 
for the past several months. Mercury returns to the evening sky after 
mid-month, joining Mars. Saturn and Venus are prominent in the early morning 
sky before sunrise. The Leonids meteor show peaks around mid-month but is only 
expected to provide a relatively normal show this year.

* Mercury - Mercury sets at 5:20 p.m. on the 1st and about 5:50 p.m. by month's 
end. Mercury returns to the evening sky after mid-month. Look for Mercury very 
low in the west soon after sunset during the last week or so of November. 
Mercury moves from the constellation of Libra into Sagittarius this month 
shining at magnitude -0.5.

* Venus - Rises at 7:21 a.m. on the 1st and about 3:47 a.m. by month's end. 
Venus has returned to the morning sky this month and even though it's 
relatively low to the horizon. Due to its brightness however, observers should 
be able to spot Venus quite easily in the early morning twilight. Venus is in 
the constellation of Virgo this month shining at magnitude -4.9.

* Earth - N/A.

* Mars - Sets at 6:07 p.m. on the 1st and about 5:32 p.m. by month's end. Mars 
is still difficult to spot in the early evening twilight. Mars moves from the 
constellation of Scorpius into Ophiuchus this month shining at magnitude 1.4.

* Jupiter - Is stationary on the 19th. Jupiter rises at 3:05 p.m. on the 1st 
and about 1:06 p.m. by month's end. Look for Jupiter in the south in the 
evening. Jupiter is in the constellation of Aquarius this month shining at 
magnitude -2.7.

* Saturn - Rises at 4:08 a.m. on the 1st and about 2:26 a.m. by month's end. 
Look for Saturn in the morning in the east before sunrise. Saturn is in the 
constellation of Virgo shining at magnitude 0.9.

* Uranus - Rises at 3:09 p.m. on the 1st and about 1:10 p.m. by month's end. 
Uranus still trails Jupiter by just a few minutes all month. This month, Uranus 
and Jupiter are separated by about 3° all month. Uranus is in the constellation 
of Pisces shining at magnitude 5.8.

* Neptune - Sets at 12:28 a.m. on the 1st and about 10:27 p.m. by month's end. 
Look for Neptune in the southwest as the evening progresses. Neptune is in the 
constellation of Capricornus this month shining at magnitude 7.9.

Dwarf Planets  
* Ceres - Sets at 8:05 p.m. on the 1st and about 7:15 p.m. by month's end. 
Ceres is in the constellation of Sagittarius this month shining at magnitude 

* Pluto - Sets at 8:26 p.m. on the 1st and about 6:31 p.m. by month's end. 
Pluto is in the constellation of Sagittarius shining at magnitude 14.1.

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

Astronomical Events

Meteor Showers
* The Leonids - The duration of this 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 

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

* Comet 103P/Hartley nears its peak this month. It may be one of the best 
cometary shows of the year. Shining around 5th magnitude, Comet 103P/Hartley 
should be a nice naked eye object under dark sky conditions. Your best bet to 
see Comet 103P/Hartley is to get away from big cities and into the countryside 
on a nice crisp autumn evening. Look for Comet 103P/Hartley passing through the 
constellations of Canis Major and Monoceros this month.

* 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.

Observational Opportunities
* Use a small telescope and view Jupiter's moons reappear from a dual eclipse 
on the evening of the 1st. Look for Io and Europa popping out from Jupiter's 
shadow around 9:14 p.m. EDT and 9:40 p.m. EDT respectively.with its missing 
band of clouds. Look for a repeat performance on the evening of the 15/16th 
with Io popping out around 12:05 a.m. EST and Europa at 12:58 a.m. EST. Be sure 
to start viewing earlier so you won't miss the reappearances.

Asteroids (From west to east)
* Vesta is in conjunction with the Sun on the 9th.
* Flora is in the constellation of Aquarius.
* Hebe is in the constellation of Cetus.
* Psyche is in the constellation of Taurus.
* Iris is in the constellation of Cancer.

* Information about the Minor Planets can be found at 
http://www.minorplanetobserver.com the Minor Planet Observer web site.

* Information on various occultations can be found at 
http://lunar-occultations.com/iota/iotandx.htm , the International Occultation 
Timing Association's (IOTA) web site.
Planetary/Lunar Exploration Missions
(Excerpts from recent mission updates)

* Cassini - October 25, 2010
Shadows on Saturn

"Saturn's moon Mimas casts a elliptical shadow on the planet south of the 
larger, wider shadows cast by the planet's rings.

Mimas and the rings are not shown here. This view looks toward the southern 
hemisphere of the planet.

The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Sept. 8, 
2010 using a spectral filter sensitive to wavelengths of near-infrared light 
centered at 750 nanometers. The view was obtained at a distance of 
approximately 2.2 million kilometers (1.4 million miles) from Saturn and at a 
Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 82 degrees. Image scale is 13 
kilometers (8 miles) per pixel.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European 
Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a 
division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the 
mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini 
orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at 
JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in 
Boulder, Colo."

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 - October 18, 2010
The PI's Perspective: Reaching the Mid-Mission Milestone on the Way to Pluto!

"On Sunday, Oct. 17, at 3:24 Universal Time, we passed the halfway mark in the 
number of days from launch to Pluto encounter – the last of our halfway 
milestones en route to Pluto! From here, we have fewer days in front of us than 
behind us.

Since I last wrote here in May, a lot has taken place on the road to Pluto. 
Most significantly, our spacecraft and its scientific payload successfully 
completed their fourth annual checkout (ACO), took some wonderful cruise 
science data, performed a flawless course correction, and then re-entered 
hibernation as planned on July 30."

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 - October 08, 2010
NASA Mission to Asteroid Gets Help From Hubble

"PASADENA, Calif. – NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has captured images of the 
large asteroid Vesta that will help refine plans for the Dawn spacecraft's 
rendezvous with Vesta in July 2011.

Scientists have constructed a video from the images that will help improve 
pointing instructions for Dawn as it is placed in a polar orbit around Vesta. 
Analyses of Hubble images revealed a pole orientation, or tilt, of 
approximately four degrees more to the asteroid's east than scientists 
previously thought.

This means the change of seasons between the southern and northern hemispheres 
of Vesta may take place about a month later than previously expected while Dawn 
is orbiting the asteroid. The result is a change in the pattern of sunlight 
expected to illuminate the asteroid. Dawn needs solar illumination for imaging 
and some mapping activities."

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

* MESSENGER - No new news since September 03, 2010
MESSENGER Team Completes Two-Week Orbital Flight Test

"The MESSENGER team has just wrapped up a two-week flight test to ensure that 
the Mercury-bound spacecraft is ready for orbital operations. On March 18, 
2011, MESSENGER will become the first spacecraft to enter into orbit about 
Mercury, embarking on a year-long mission to study in depth the planet closest 
to the Sun. The completion of this recent test provides a high-fidelity 
verification of the tools, processes, and procedures that are needed to conduct 
flight operations at Mercury.

"Even though we have more than six months to go until orbit, we wanted to do 
this test now to make sure that we had enough time to make adjustments," says 
MESSENGER Mission Operations Manager Andy Calloway, of the Johns Hopkins 
University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., 'But everything worked as 
expected. We have proven, not just in the ground tests but now in flight, that 
the sequences and planned daily activities can be conducted safely and as 
expected. We are quite pleased with the results.'"

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 - October 15, 2010
Long-Lived Mars Odyssey Gets New Project Manager

"PASADENA, Calif. -- The new project manager for the longest-working spacecraft 
currently active at Mars, NASA's Mars Odyssey, has a long track record himself.
He is Gaylon McSmith, a former pilot of U.S. Air Force fighter jets and 
Continental Airlines airliners. At NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, 
Calif., he has been a leader on the Odyssey team since two months after the 
spacecraft began orbiting Mars in October 2001.

On Dec. 15 of this year, Odyssey will break the record for the longest-working 
spacecraft ever at Mars, surpassing the mark set by NASA's Mars Global 
Surveyor, which operated in orbit from 1997 to 2006. Odyssey completed its 
prime mission in 2004 and has operated on an extended-mission basis since then.

"The spacecraft continues to be a very reliable platform that conducts its own 
science investigations, plus important support for other Mars missions," 
McSmith said. "It's a great honor for me to work with the Odyssey team."

Odyssey's science instruments have discovered vast supplies of frozen water 
just beneath the surface; run a radiation-safety check for future astronauts; 
and mapped surface textures, minerals and elements all over Mars. Its camera 
has provided the highest-resolution map of the entire planet."

Global Martian Map: http://www.mars.asu.edu/maps/?layer=thm_dayir_100m_v11.

"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) - October 23, 2010

SPIRIT UPDATE: Spirit Remains Silent at Troy - sols 2410-2416, October 13-23, 

"Spirit remains silent at her location on the west side of Home Plate. No 
communication has been received from the rover since Sol 2210 (March 22, 2010).

The project is listening for Spirit with the Deep Space Network and Mars 
Odyssey orbiter for autonomous recovery communication from the low-power fault 
case, and conducting a "Sweep & Beep" strategy to stimulate the rover in the 
case of a mission clock fault. Improving solar insolation levels should provide 
an environment for the rover batteries to recharge, with increasing likelihood 
of hearing from Spirit in the period ahead.

Total odometry is unchanged at 7,730.50 meters (4.80 miles)."

OPPORTUNITY UPDATE: Opportunity Past the 15-Mile Mark on Mars - sols 2389-2395, 
October 13-19, 2010:

"Opportunity crossed the 24-kilometer (15-mile) odometry mark on her way to 
Endeavour crater.

The rover ended last week with the data backlog which limited activities over 
the weekend. On Sol 2390 (Oct. 14, 2010), the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer 
(APXS) was sequenced to collect an atmospheric argon measurement along with 
light remote sensing. Not until Sol 2393 (Oct. 17, 2010), were onboard data 
volumes improved so a drive could be sequenced. On that sol, Opportunity drove 
over 100 meters (328 feet), crossing the 24-kilometer (15 mile) odometry mark.

The rover drove again on Sol 2395 (Oct. 19, 2010), again reaching over 100 
meters (328 miles). Even though the Miniature Thermal Emission Spectrometer 
(Mini-TES) instrument is still under investigation, the Mini-TES elevation 
mirror continues to be opened to the environment at regular intervals in the 
chance of catching a wind-induced cleaning event.

As of Sol 2395 (Oct. 19, 2010), solar array energy production was 627 
watt-hours with a slightly elevated atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.639 and a 
solar array dust factor of 0.7015.

Total odometry is 24,192.63 meters (24.19 kilometers, or 15.03 miles)."

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

Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page at

* Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - September 29, 2010
Atmosphere Checked, One Mars Year Before a Landing

"PASADENA, Calif. -- What will the Martian atmosphere be like when the next 
Mars rover descends through it for landing in August of 2012?

An instrument studying the Martian atmosphere from orbit has begun a four-week 
campaign to characterize daily atmosphere changes, one Mars year before the 
arrival of the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity. A Mars year equals 687 
Earth days.

The planet's thin atmosphere of carbon dioxide is highly repeatable from year 
to year at the same time of day and seasonal date during northern spring and 
summer on Mars.

The Mars Climate Sounder instrument on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter maps 
the distribution of temperature, dust, and water ice in the atmosphere. 
Temperature variations with height indicate how fast air density changes and 
thus the rates at which the incoming spacecraft slows down and heats up during 
its descent."


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.)

*** NEW *** Green Laser - http://www.greenlaser.com
If you're looking for a reasonably priced laser pointer that is great for 
astronomy work, visit this site.

* Astronomy A-Go-Go - http://astronomy.libsyn.com/
In the car, at work or under the night time sky astronomy goes where you go!

* "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 ;

* Black Hole Encyclopedia - http://blackholes.stardate.org/ Excellent site from 
StarDate - University of Texas McDonald Observatory 

* 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 

* Skymaps.com - http://www.skymaps.com/

* 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: October 30, 2010


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