[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 30 Jun 2011 17:55:39 -0700 (PDT)

IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
July 2011

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 1st.
* First Quarter Moon occurs on the 8th.
* Full Moon occurs on the 15th.
* Last Quarter Moon occurs on the 23rd.

* The Moon is at Perigee on the 7th, 229,640 miles from Earth.
* The Moon is at Apogee on the 21st, 251,254 miles from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 5° south of Mercury on the 2nd.
* Mars passes 5° north of Aldebaran on the 6th.
* The Moon passes 8° south of Saturn on the 7th.
* The Moon passes 6° north of Neptune on the 18th.
* The Moon passes 6° north of Uranus on the 21st.
* The Moon passes 5° north of Jupiter on the 23rd.
* The Moon passes 0.5° south of Mars on the 27th.

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 July - Look for Saturn and Mercury in the early 
evening skies. Pluto, Neptune, Ceres and Uranus follow in the late evening and 
very early morning. Jupiter and Mars are visible before sunrise followed by 
Venus, nearly lost in the morning twilight glow. The Southern Delta Aquarids 
meteor shower peaks at the end of the month.

* Mercury - Is at greatest eastern elongation (27° above the western horizon) 
on the 20th. Mercury is visible in the early evening sky after sunset. On the 
6th, Mercury is in conjunction with M44, the Beehive Cluster in Cancer the 
Crab, however due to the close proximity to the horizon, this conjunction with 
be a challenge to observe. Mercury sets about 9:51 p.m. on the 1st and about 
8:13 p.m. by month's end. Mercury moves from the constellation of Cancer into 
Leo this month shining at magnitude 0.1.

* Venus - Rises at 4:41 a.m. on the 1st. Look for Venus during the first week 
of July before Venus disappears into the morning twilight glow. Venus will 
return to the evening sky in late September. Venus moves from the constellation 
of Taurus into Cancer this month shining at magnitude -3.8, which is the only 
reason that Venus is visible this month.

* Earth - Is at aphelion (94.5 million miles from the Sun) on the 4th.

* Mars - Rises at 3:25 a.m. on the 1st and about 2:46 a.m. by month's end. Mars 
is visible moving through the constellation of Taurus this month shining at 
magnitude 1.4.

* Jupiter - Rises at 1:52 a.m. on the 1st and about 11:57 p.m. by month's end. 
Jupiter dominates the early morning sky as it is the brightest object in the 
sky at this time and is best viewed a couple hours before sunrise. Jupiter is 
in the constellation of Aries this month shining at magnitude -2.3.

* Saturn - Sets at 1:03 a.m. on the 1st and about 11:01 p.m. by month's end. By 
the time the Sun sets, Saturn is quite prominent in the southwest. Saturn is in 
the constellation of Virgo shining at magnitude 0.9.

* Uranus - Is stationary on the 10th. Uranus rises at 12:31 a.m. on the 1st and 
about 10:29 p.m. by month's end. Uranus is in the constellation of Pisces 
shining at magnitude 5.8.

* Neptune - Rises at 11:08 p.m. on the 1st and about 9:05 p.m. by month's end. 
Neptune should be easily visible with a good pair of binoculars this month. 
Neptune is in the constellation of Aquarius shining at magnitude 7.8.

"On July 12, Neptune completes its first orbit of the Sun since its discovery. 
(German astronomer Johann Galle first spotted the distant world September 23, 
1846, by looking in the spot where French astronomer Urbain Leverrier 
calculated it would be.) What better time to look for the eighth planet?" From 
Astronomy Magazine, July 2011, p.42.

Dwarf Planets  
* Ceres - Is stationary on the 31st. Ceres rises at 1:14 a.m. on the 1st and 
about 11:22 p.m. by month's end. Ceres is in the constellation of Cetus this 
month shining at magnitude 8.7.

* Pluto - Sets at 5:45 a.m. on the 1st and about 3:40 a.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.

Astronomical Events

Meteor Showers
* The Southern Delta Aquarids - This meteor shower has a duration of July 14 - 
August 18. Maximum hourly rates of 15-20 occur on July 27.

* The Northern Delta Aquarids extends from July 16 to September 10. Maximum 
occurs on August 13. The hourly rates reach a high of 10.

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

* Comet C/2009 P1 Garradd glides through the constellation of Pegasus - the 
Winged Horse - this month. Comet Garradd passes between Aquarius and Pegasus 
heading northward shining at 8th or 9th magnitude but could fluctuate by as 
much as 2 magnitudes either way as this comet is making its first visit to the 
inner solar system and may be unpredictable. A 4 inch or larger telescope 
should be able to resolve this fuzzy object in the early morning sky after 

* 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/.

* A partial Solar Eclipse occurs over the ocean south of Africa on the 1st.

Observational Opportunities
* For observers in the South Pacific and southern South America, the Moon will 
occult Mars on the 27th.

Asteroids (From west to east)
* Ariadne is in the constellation of Sagittarius.
* Luticia is at opposition on the 4th in the constellation of Sagittarius.
* Pallas is at opposition on the 29th in the constellation of Sagitta.
* Vesta is in the constellation of Capricornus.
* Metis is at opposition on the 27th in the constellation of Capricornus.
* Nausikaa is in the constellation of Aquarius.
* Eunomia is in the constellation of Aries.

* 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 - June 22, 2011
Cassini Captures Ocean-like Spray at Saturn Moon

"PASADENA, Calif. – NASA's Cassini spacecraft has discovered the best evidence 
yet for a large-scale saltwater reservoir beneath the icy crust of Saturn's 
moon Enceladus. The data came from the spacecraft's direct analysis of 
salt-rich ice grains close to the jets ejected from the moon.

Data from Cassini's cosmic dust analyzer show the grains expelled from 
fissures, known as tiger stripes, are relatively small and predominantly low in 
salt far away from the moon. But closer to the moon's surface, Cassini found 
that relatively large grains rich with sodium and potassium dominate the 
plumes. The salt-rich particles have an "ocean-like" composition and indicate 
that most, if not all, of the expelled ice and water vapor comes from the 
evaporation of liquid salt water. The findings appear in this week's issue of 
the journal Nature.

"There currently is no plausible way to produce a steady outflow of salt-rich 
grains from solid ice across all the tiger stripes other than salt water under 
Enceladus's icy surface," said Frank Postberg, a Cassini team scientist at the 
University of Heidelberg, Germany, and the lead author on the paper. When water 
freezes, the salt is squeezed out, leaving pure water ice behind. If the plumes 
emanated from ice, they should have very little salt in them."

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 - June 23, 2011
New Horizons Scientists Tracking Pluto

"New Horizons scientists Leslie Young and Cathy Olkin are among astronomers 
making “occultation” measurements of the Pluto system this week. By watching 
Pluto and its moons cross between Earth and a star, the team can measure the 
atmosphere on Pluto, and the sizes and positions of its airless moons. Follow 
their expedition on this National Geographic blog. 

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 - June 23, 2011
Dawn Nears Start of Year-Long Stay at Giant Asteroid

"PASADENA, Calif. – NASA's Dawn spacecraft is on track to begin the first 
extended visit to a large asteroid. The mission expects to go into orbit around 
Vesta on July 16 and begin gathering science data in early August. Vesta 
resides in the main asteroid belt and is thought to be the source of a large 
number of meteorites that fall to Earth.

"The spacecraft is right on target," said Robert Mase, Dawn project manager at 
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "We look forward to 
exploring this unknown world during Dawn's one-year stay in Vesta's orbit."

After traveling nearly four years and 1.7 billion miles (2.7 billion 
kilometers), Dawn is approximately 96,000 miles (155,000 kilometers) away from 
Vesta. When Vesta captures Dawn into its orbit on July 16, there will be 
approximately 9,900 miles (16,000 kilometers) between them. When orbit is 
achieved, they will be approximately 117 million miles (188 million kilometers) 
away from Earth."

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

* MESSENGER - June 22, 2011
MESSENGER Science Team Member Receives NASA’s Distinguished Public Service Medal

"MESSENGER Co-Investigator Scott Murchie, of the Johns Hopkins University 
Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., will be awarded the NASA 
Distinguished Public Service Medal, the highest honor that NASA bestows to an 
individual working outside the government. The award is granted only to 
individuals whose singular accomplishments contributed substantially to the 
NASA mission. 

Murchie is receiving the honor in recognition of his leadership of the Compact 
Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) investigation. CRISM, 
flying aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), is one of NASA's 
high-technology instruments designed to seek traces of past and present water 
on the Martian surface. 

Murchie is also accepting two NASA Public Service Group Achievement Awards on 
behalf of the MRO CRISM Team: one for developing and operating the CRISM 
instrument and processing and distributing the data, and one for analyzing the 
data and publishing the results, thus advancing the understanding of the 
Martian surface, its composition, and its evolution."

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 December 15, 2010
NASA's Odyssey Spacecraft Sets Exploration Record on Mars

"PASADENA, Calif., -- NASA's Mars Odyssey, which launched in 2001, will break 
the record Wednesday for longest-serving spacecraft at the Red Planet. The 
probe begins its 3,340th day in Martian orbit at 5:55 p.m. PST (8:55 p.m. EST) 
on Wednesday to break the record set by NASA's Mars Global Surveyor, which 
orbited Mars from 1997 to 2006.

Odyssey's longevity enables continued science, including the monitoring of 
seasonal changes on Mars from year to year and the most detailed maps ever made 
of most of the planet. In 2002, the spacecraft detected hydrogen just below the 
surface throughout Mars' high-latitude regions. The deduction that the hydrogen 
is in frozen water prompted NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander mission, which confirmed 
the theory in 2008. Odyssey also carried the first experiment sent to Mars 
specifically to prepare for human missions, and found radiation levels around 
the planet from solar flares and cosmic rays are two to three times higher than 
around Earth."

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) - June 22, 2011

SPIRIT UPDATE: Spirit Remains Silent at Troy - sols 2621-2627, May 18-24, 2011:

"No communication has been received from Spirit since Sol 2210 (March 22, 2010).

More than 1,300 commands were radiated to Spirit as part of the recovery effort 
in an attempt to elicit a response from the rover. No communication has been 
received from Spirit since Sol 2210 (March 22, 2010). The project concluded the 
Spirit recovery efforts on May 25, 2011. The remaining, pre-sequenced 
ultra-high frequency (UHF) relay passes scheduled for Spirit on board the 
Odyssey orbiter will complete on June 8, 2011.

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

OPPORTUNITY UPDATE: Opportunity Getting Closer to Endeavour Crater - sols 
2629-2634, June 17-22, 2011:

"Opportunity is making excellent progress towards Endeavour crater with only 
2.3 kilometers (1.4 miles) to go before reaching the first landfall on the rim, 
a place called "Spirit Point."

The rover drove southeast on four sols, Sols 2629, 2630, 2633 and 2634 (June 
17, 18, 21 and 22, 2011), totaling more than 380 meters (1,247 feet).

With all this driving, which requires many seconds on the rover's inertial 
measurement unit (IMU), regular sun finds, called Quick Fine Attitudes (QFA) 
are performed to correct for expected drift in the rover's gyros. A QFA was 
performed on Sol 2633 (June 21, 2011). Over the three-sol weekend plan, an 
overnight Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) measurement of atmospheric 
argon was performed on Sol 2631 (June 19, 2011). With the improved energy 
production from cleaner solar arrays, on Sol 2634 (June 22, 2011), an early 
morning wakeup for an AM ultra-high frequency (UHF) relay pass was implemented 
to return more data from the rover.

As of Sol 2634 (June 22, 2011), solar array energy production was 505 
watt-hours with an atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.926 and a solar array dust 
factor of 640.

Total odometry is 31,203.25 meters (31.20 kilometers, or 19.39 miles)."

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

Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page at

* Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - No new news since April 21, 2011
NASA Orbiter Reveals Big Changes in Mars' Atmosphere

"PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has discovered the 
total amount of atmosphere on Mars changes dramatically as the tilt of the 
planet's axis varies. This process can affect the stability of liquid water, if 
it exists on the Martian surface, and increase the frequency and severity of 
Martian dust storms.

Researchers using the orbiter's ground-penetrating radar identified a large, 
buried deposit of frozen carbon dioxide, or dry ice, at the Red Planet's south 
pole. The scientists suspect that much of this carbon dioxide enters the 
planet's atmosphere and swells the atmosphere's mass when Mars' tilt increases. 
The findings are published in this week's issue of the journal Science.

The newly found deposit has a volume similar to Lake Superior's nearly 3,000 
cubic miles (about 12,000 cubic kilometers). The deposit holds up to 80 percent 
as much carbon dioxide as today's Martian atmosphere. Collapse pits caused by 
dry ice sublimation and other clues suggest the deposit is in a dissipating 
phase, adding gas to the atmosphere each year. Mars' atmosphere is about 95 
percent carbon dioxide, in contrast to Earth's much thicker atmosphere, which 
is less than .04 percent carbon dioxide."


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.)

* Astronomy A-Go-Go - http://astronomy.libsyn.com/
In the car, at work or under the night time sky astronomy goes where you go! 
(This page has not been updated since September 2010)

* "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 ;

* 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.

* 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!
Subscription Information

- Users can subscribe to your list by sending email to 
astronews-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx with 'subscribe' in the Subject field OR by 
logging into the Web interface.

- Users can unsubscribe from the list by sending email to 
astronews-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx with 'unsubscribe' in the Subject field OR by 
logging into the Web interface.

- Email Newsletter archives -
 http://www.freelists.org/archives/astronews/ ;

- Full documentation of the online administration system is available at 
http://www.freelists.org/help/. We encourage you to get the most out of the web 
interfaces, and we encourage subscribers to do the same. Please let your list 
members know about the advantages of exploring the FreeLists Web Login.

- The latest version of the newsletter is accessible from 

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 30, 2011

Other related posts: