[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 1 Jan 2003 17:22:16 -0800 (PST)

            IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                       January 2003


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 


In This Newsletter...

* Moon
* Planets
* Astronomical Events
* Planetary/Lunar Exploration Missions
* Web Sites of Interest
* Acknowledgments and References
* Subscription Information



* New Moon on the 2nd.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 10th.
* Full Moon on the 18th.
* 3rd Quarter Moon on the 25th.

* Apogee on the 10th, 251,247 mi. from Earth.
* Perigee on the 23rd, 229,844 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 5 deg. south of Mercury on the 3rd.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. south of Neptune on the 4th.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. south of Uranus on the 5th.
* The Moon passes 3 deg. north of Saturn on the 15th.
* Venus passes 8 deg. North of Antares on the 15th.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. north of Jupiter on the 19th.
* The Moon passes 0.4 deg. north of Mars on the 27th.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. south of Venus on the 28th.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. south of Mercury on the 30th.
* Mars passes 5 deg. North of Antares on the 30th.


(All times are local unless otherwise noted.)

* Mercury - Is in inferior conjunction on the 11th. 
Mercury is not visible this month.

* Venus - Is at greatest western elongation (47 deg.) 
on the 10th. Venus rises about 3:30 am and is visible 
in the early morning sky just before sunrise. Venus 
shines at magnitude -4.5.

* Earth - Is at perihelion (91.4 million miles from
sun) at midnight on the 3rd.

* Mars - Is visible in the early morning sky in the 
east before sunrise. Mars rises about 3 am. Mars can 
be found in the constellation of Libra. Mars shines at

magnitude 1.8.

* Jupiter - Is moving in retrograde motion until April

appearing to move in an easterly direction relative to

the background stars. Jupiter rises about 7:30 pm at 
the beginning of the month and around 5 pm by month's 
end. Jupiter can be found between the constellation of

Cancer the Crab and Leo the Lion. Jupiter shines at 
magnitude -2.6.

* Saturn - Rises around 3:30 pm on the 1st and about 
1:20 pm on the 31st. Saturn is located in the 
constellation of Taurus the Bull. On January 4-5 
Saturn transits the Crab Nebula, but at magnitude -
0.3, its brightness will overpower the 9th magnitude 
Crab Nebula, a remnant of an ancient supernova.

* Uranus - Is passing into the constellation of 
Aquarius. Uranus may be spotted in the very early 
evening. Uranus sets about 8:30 pm. Uranus shines at 
magnitude 5.9.

* Neptune - Is in conjunction with the sun on the 
30th. Neptune is not visible this month.

* Pluto - Is now visible again. Pluto is in the 
constellation of Ophiuchus and rises about 5:30 am. 
Pluto shines at magnitude 13.9. As always, good luck 
at spotting this one.


Astronomical Events

Meteor Showers
* The Quadrantids - This meteor shower is generally 
visible between December 28 and January 7, with a very

sharp maximum of 45 to 200 meteors per hour occurring 
during January 3 and 4. The meteors tend to be bluish 
and possess an average magnitude of about 2.8.

* Information on various occultations can be found at 
http://lunar-occultations.com/iota/iotandx.htm the 
International Occultation Timing Association's (IOTA) 
web site.

* Comet RX14 LINEAR is passing under the constellation

of Ursa Major and Canes Vanatici. RX14 LINEAR is 
shining at a magnitude of 11. A minimum of a 4-inch 
telescope and dark sky conditions will be required to 
spot this comet sometime after midnight when the Big 
Dipper is sufficiently high above the northern horizon

to be fully visible. 

* For information, orbital elements and ephemerides on

observable comets visit the Observable Comets page 
from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics 

* No significant eclipse activity this month.

* Davida is at opposition on the 1st.

* 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)

* Genesis - December 20, 2002 - 
"The Genesis spacecraft continues its mission 
collecting solar wind material expelled from the Sun. 
Telemetry from the spacecraft indicates that it is 
spinning at a rate of 1.602 rotations per minute and 
in overall good health.

On Dec. 18, a minor setting change in the flight 
software was transmitted up to the spacecraft. This 
setting change decreased the spacecraft's sample 
concentrator grid maximum voltage from 2060 volts to 
1980 volts. The Genesis science team is confident this

configuration change will decrease the frequency and 
duration of voltage sags that occur in the 
spacecraft's concentrator grid." The latest status 
reports can be read at 
l. Find out more about the Genesis mission at 
http://genesismission.jpl.nasa.gov/ and 
http://genesis.jpl.nasa.gov/html/index.shtml. Visit 
"Where Is Genesis Now? at 

* Galileo - December 17, 2002 - 
"NASA's Galileo spacecraft has begun transmitting 
high-priority scientific information that was 
collected and stored on its tape recorder during the 
orbiter's early-November dash by Jupiter, which 
brought it closer to the planet than ever before.

Damage from naturally strong radiation near Jupiter 
had left the tape recorder inoperable for weeks. 
Galileo's flight team traced the problem to a light-
emitting diode in the electronics controlling the 
motor drive, and then gradually and carefully 
completed a successful long-distance repair job." Read

the latest news at 

* Cassini - December 17, 2002 - 
"The most recent spacecraft telemetry was acquired 
from the Goldstone tracking station on Wednesday, 
December 18.  The Cassini spacecraft is in an 
excellent state of health and is operating normally...

On-board activities this week included Radio and 
Plasma Wave (RPWS) High Frequency Receiver 
calibrations, an ACS High Water Mark clear, and uplink

of the RPWS looper program #2.  The program will begin

execution at the beginning of next week.

Gravitational Wave Experiment #2 continues. Operations

were normal from Day of Year 343 through 347. 
Beginning DOY 348, the DSS-25 X-band transmitter has 
been tripping off, resulting in loss of 2-way X-band 
and Ka-band links.  Mission Support and Services 
Office personnel are working with the Deep Space 
Network to possibly add DSS-24 or DSS-26 in parallel 
to the DSS-25 tracks to maintain the X-band uplink. 
Radio Science continues to provide round-the-clock 
staffing for the GWE."

"For the multinational Cassini-Huygens mission, NASA 
provided the large Cassini spacecraft, which will 
begin orbiting Saturn July 1, 2004, and the European 
Space Agency provided the Huygens probe, which will 
parachute into the atmosphere of Titan, Saturn's 
largest moon, on Jan. 14, 2005." For the latest 
mission status reports, visit 
http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/cassini/english/. The speed

and location of the spacecraft can be viewed on the 
"Present Position" web page. 

* Deep Space 1 - This spacecraft was retired on Dec. 
18, 2001. Check out http://nmp.jpl.nasa.gov/ds1/ to 
learn more about what this mission accomplished.

* Stardust - December 20, 2002 - 
"During this past week, the Stardust flight team had 
four periods of communication with the spacecraft 
courtesy of the antennas of JPL's Deep Space Network. 
The telemetry relayed during this interval indicated 
the spacecraft is healthy and all subsystems were 
running normally.  No activities are planned during 
the upcoming holiday."

For more information on the Stardust mission - the 
first ever comet sample return mission - please visit 
the Stardust home page: http://stardust.jpl.nasa.gov 
for more information about the mission.

* Pluto-Kuiper Express 
* Europa Orbiter 
* Solar Probe 
* Many of NASA's future exploration missions are 
currently being examined. To find out more about these

discovery/exploration missions check out the web page 
at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/ice_fire//whatsnew.htm for 
more information.

Mars Missions 

* Mars Global Surveyor - December 12, 2002 - 
"This week, MGS and MOC completed an unprecedented 
second Mars year of daily global monitoring and 
detailed observations of the red planet. On 12 
December 2002, Mars returned to the exact same 
position in its orbit around the sun (or equivalently,

the exact same time of the Martian year) as it was on 
9 March 1999 and 24 January 2001. MGS has now entered 
its third Mars year, and critical monitoring of 
weather patterns continues, along with on-going 
efforts to gather high resolution images of future 
spacecraft landing sites, provide detailed studies of 
geologic features, and observe phenomena that change--
like wind streaks--over time."

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 is now in its sixth year orbiting

the red planet. MGS reached Mars on 12 September 1997.

The first MOC images were obtained on 15 September 
1997." Visit the MGS pages at 
http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mgs/index.html. There are 
over 100,000 images of Mars from the MGS, check out 
the newest images of the surface of Mars at 

* Mars Odyssey Orbiter - December 07, 2002 - 
"The latest observations from NASA's Mars Odyssey 
spacecraft, highlighting water ice distribution and 
infrared images of the Red Planet's surface, are being

released this week at the annual meeting of the 
American Geophysical Union in San Francisco."

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 Missions Status - New Mars missions are being 
planned to include several new rover and sample 
collection missions. http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/


Links and Other Space News
(If you have a link you would like to recommend to our

readers, please feel free to submit it.)

* Comet Observation Home Page - 

* The Daytona Beach News-Journal - Space News Page - 

* JPL Solar System Ambassador Program - 

* Space.com - Sky Watch Calendar - 

* Eric's Black Sun Eclipse website - 

* Astronomical Lexicon - 
Many of the astronomical terms used in this newsletter

are defined here.

* Astronomy Picture of the Day - 

* The Solar System in Pictures - http://www.the-solar-
system.net and a map of the moon - http://www.moon-

* Spaceflight Now - http://spaceflightnow.com/

* NASA Science News - http://science.nasa.gov/

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

* Space.com - http://space.com
Interesting space and astronomy articles.

* Northern Colorado Astronomical Society - 

* Denver Astronomical Society - 

* My Stars Live - http://www.mystarslive.com/
Interactive Star Chart

* Our Solar System - 
This is an excellent site to learn about our solar 


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 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
Last modified: January 01, 2003

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