[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 1 Mar 2006 20:08:08 -0800 (PST)

                IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                           March 2006


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 internationally.


An Open Invitation - For amateur radio and scanner enthusiasts, when in the 
Denver metro area,
please join the Colorado Astronomy Net on the Rocky Mountain Radio League 
repeater on a frequency
of 146.94 MHz on Tuesday nights at 7 PM local time.


Special Notice to Denver, CO area residents and visitors to the area: The 
Plains Conservation
Center in Aurora hosts Star Parties the third Saturday of every month weather 
permitting. 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 Moon

* New Moon on the 29th.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 6th.
* Full Moon on the 14th.
* Last Quarter Moon on the 22nd.

* Apogee on the 12th, 252,450 mi. from Earth.
* Perigee on the 28th, 223,177 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 3 deg. north of Mars on the 6th.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. north of Saturn on the 10th.
* Mars passes 7 deg. north of Aldebaran on the 10th.
* The Moon passes 0.3 deg. north of Spica on the 17th.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. south of Jupiter on the 19th.
* The Moon passes 0.3 deg. south of Antares on the 20th.
* The Moon passes 6 deg. south of Venus on the 25th.
* Venus passes 1.9 deg. north of Neptune on the 26th.
* The Moon passes 2 deg. south of Mercury on the 28th.

The Planets
Planetary Reports generated by "TheSky" software. 
(http://bfa3.home.att.net/planrpts.html)  These
reports provide predicted data for the planets for 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
(All times are local unless otherwise noted.)

* Planetary Highlights for March - Mercury is elusive this month making brief 
appearances in the
evening sky early in the month and then in the morning sky late in the month. 
Mars is passing
through Taurus located between the Pleiades and the Hyades clusters. Saturn is 
still in a prime
position for viewing, amongst the dim stars of Cancer the Crab. For those early 
risers, Jupiter
and Venus continue to be spectacular sights in the early AM hours.

* Mercury - Is in inferior conjunction on the 11th. Mercury is bright in the 
evening sky during
the first several days of March disappearing from view for the next two weeks 
returning to the
morning sky for the last week in March. Mercury sets at 7:12 pm on the 1st. 
Mercury rises at 04:47
am on the 31st. Mercury shines at magnitude 0.3 on the 1st and magnitude 0.6 on 
the 31st.

* Venus - Is at greatest western elongation (47 deg.) on the 25th. Venus rises 
about 4:09 am on
the 1st and about 3:48 am on the 31st. Venus passes through the constellation 
of Capricornus and
shines at magnitude -4.5.
* Earth ? Vernal equinox is at 1:26 pm EST on the 20th.

* Mars - Sets about 1:04 am on the 1st and about 12:24 am by month's end. Mars 
is in the
constellation of Taurus this month. Mars shines at magnitude 1.0.

* Jupiter - Can be spotted in the early morning sky this month. Jupiter rises 
at 11:20 pm on the
1st and about 9:12 pm by month's end. Jupiter is in the constellation of Libra. 
Jupiter shines at
magnitude -2.3.

* Saturn ? Sets around 5:07 am on the 1st and about 3:02 am by month's end. 
Saturn is in an
excellent position for evening viewing. Saturn is in the constellation of 
Cancer. Saturn shines at
a magnitude of 0.0.

* Uranus - Is in conjunction with the Sun on the 1st. Uranus returns to the 
morning sky later this
month but remains low on the eastern horizon. Uranus rises about 4:40 am by 
month's end. Uranus is
in the constellation of Aquarius and shines at magnitude 5.9.

* Neptune - Rises about 5:36 am on the 1st and about 3:37 am by month's end. 
Neptune is in the
constellation of Capricornus this month. Neptune shines at a magnitude of 8.0.

* Pluto - Rises about 2:00 am on the 1st and about 11:55 pm by month's end. 
Pluto is in the
constellation of Ophiuchus. Pluto shines at magnitude 13.9. As always, good 
luck at spotting this

Astronomical Events

Meteor Showers
* There are some minor meteor showers this month but none that produce rates 
much higher than 2-5
per hour, except the Gamma Normids that extend over the period of March 11 to 
21, with the maximum
occurring on March 16. The maximum rate reaches about 5-9 meteors per hour.

* NEW COMET: A new comet is emerging in the morning sky. Comet Pojmanski has 
been brightening
since its discovery in January and can now be found just east of Venus before 
sunrise.  The best
way to see the comet is through binoculars or a small telescope: It looks like 
a fuzzy
5th-magnitude star with a small tail. Visit http://spaceweather.com for more 
information about
this comet.

* 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 and Meteor Showers, visit Gary Kronk's 
Comets & Meteors
Showers web page at http://comets.amsmeteors.org/.

* A penumbral lunar eclipse occurs on the evening of 14th. There may be a 
slight dimming of the
full Moon since the Moon is not passing through the full shadow of the Earth.

* There is a total solar eclipse on the 29th. This eclipse begins near the 
coast of Brazil, across
the southern Atlantic then across Africa and the eastern Mediterranean crossing 
Ghana, Togo,
Benin, Nigeria, Niger, Libya, the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and Turkey into 
Asia Minor.

* 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)
* Juno is in the constellation of Orion.
* Vesta is in the constellation of Gemini.
* Metis is at opposition on the 2nd in the constellation of Leo.

* 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 - February 27, 2006 - Next Titan Pass to Look Inward

"Cassini will "surf" by Saturn's moon Titan on February 28. This is the first 
of four upcoming
flybys to probe Titan's gravity field, to answer the question of whether Titan 
possesses an
internal ocean."

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.

* Deep Impact - February 02, 2006 - Deep Impact Finds Water Ice on Comet

"Scientists on NASA's Deep Impact mission report the direct detection of solid 
water ice deposits
(in blue on image above) on the surface of comet Tempel 1. This is the first 
time ice has been
detected on the nucleus, or solid body, of a comet. Deep Impact slammed an 
impactor into Tempel 1
last year in a successful effort to learn more about the composition of comets."

For the latest mission status reports, visit http://www.nasa.gov/deepimpact and

* New Horizons - February 27, 2006 - The PI's Perspective: Boulder and Baltimore

"February wraps up with a wide range of activities for the New Horizons team, 
as the journal
Nature publishes cover articles on Pluto?s new moons, and mission operators and 
scientists start
the critical task of checking out the spacecraft?s science instruments. 
Principal Investigator
Alan Stern tracks all this and more his latest "PI Perspective" column."

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/ for more information about 
the mission.

* Stardust - February 21, 2006 -
Stardust Status Report 

Dr. Peter Tsou
Stardust Deputy Principal Investigator

Happy Valentine's from Stardust!

"As part of the first Sample Processing Cycle, the keystone of the first 
released particle was
taken to the National Synchrotron Light Source at Brookhaven National 
Laboratory in New York and
examined by the far-IR beam. The particle was shown to be definitely a cometary 
mineral and not
secondary debris. As part of the second Sample Processing Cycle, the terminal 
particle - the
particle at the end of the tract - was removed from the keystone for further 
analyses on
Valentine's Day. To our surprise, we found the particle to be heart-shaped! 
Happy Valentine's to
the world from Stardust! I have been assured that this is the real shape of the 

Stardust LPSC 2004 Abstracts -
"Abstracts of the Stardust science results from the Comet Wild 2 encounter are 
now available here
(Adobe Acrobat reader required): 

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.

* 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 Global Surveyor - No new news since January 03, 2006 -
MGS locates Spirit - 

"Shortly before Spirit's Martian anniversary, the Mars Orbiter Camera acquired 
an image centered
on the rover's location at that time in the "Columbia Hills."

* Mars Global Surveyor Images - February 16-23, 2006

The following new images taken by the Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) on the Mars 
Global Surveyor
spacecraft are now available:

* A Matter of Time (Released 16 February 2006)

* Isidis Plains (Released 17 February 2006)

* Isidis Landforms (Released 18 February 2006)

* Devil-Streaked Plain (Released 19 February 2006)

* Meridiani Materials (Released 20 February 2006)

* Mars at Ls 12 Degrees (Released 21 February 2006)

* Smooth Transition (Released 22 February 2006)

* Kidney-Shaped Impact (Released 23 February 2006)

All of the Mars Global Surveyor images are archived here:

Every six months, a new suite of MGS MOC data are archived with the NASA 
Planetary Data System
(PDS- http://pds.jpl.nasa.gov/).

Information about how to submit requests is online at the new Mars Orbiter 
Camera Target Request
Site, at http://www.msss.com/plan/intro "

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 completed its eighth 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 200,000 images of Mars 
from the MGS, check
out the newest images of the surface of Mars at 

* Mars Odyssey Orbiter ? No new news since November 24, 2005 - 
Odyssey Celebrates Two Mars Years In Orbit Around the Red Planet!
November 24, 2005

Ice Beneath Mars Is Asking, "Can You Hear Me Now?" - Oct 24, 2005
"What could have been dismissed as "just static" in a radio signal is actually 
an echo from Mars
that might reflect the shape of hidden ice and rock structures beneath the 
martian surface."

Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) web site: (http://themis.asu.edu/)

February 14-17, 2006

* Feature of the Week: Bacolor Crater

* Valentine's Day (Released 14 February 2006)

* Surface Variety (Released 15 February 2006)

* Where's the Surface? (Released 16 February 2006)

* A Dust Devil Playground (Released 17 February 2006)

All of the THEMIS images are archived here:

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) - February 24, 2006 -

Spirit Status: Spirit Races Against Time and Dwindling Sunlight - sol 758-763, 
Feb 24, 2006

"In a race to collect as much scientific data as possible before the onset of 
Martian winter,
Spirit climbed to the top of "Home Plate" and acquired images of the 
surrounding terrain. Each
day, Spirit logs a reduction in the total amount of solar energy collected as 
the sun sinks lower
on the planet's northern horizon.

The science team's objective is to do as much science as possible while 
concentrating on a drive
campaign that will move the rover to the north-facing slopes of "McCool Hill." 
The team has
already begun mapping routes to McCool, where Spirit will attempt to survive a 
second Martian
winter with its solar panels tilted toward the sun."

Opportunity Status: Opportunity Continues to Skirt Erebus Crater - sol 735-743, 
Feb 24, 2006

"After completing work at the outcrop called "Olympia," Opportunity proceeded 
around the western
edge of "Erebus Crater" toward an outcrop dubbed "Payson." After performing 
diagnostic tests on
Martian day, or sol, 735 (Feb. 17, 2006), the rover team decided to increase 
rotor resistance from
65 ohms to 80 ohms for stowing and unstowing the robotic arm. Opportunity 
successfully stowed and
unstowed the arm on both sols 740 and 741. As long as the robotic arm remains 
in calibration, the
higher resistance value provides no additional risk."

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

Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page at  

* Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - February 24, 2006 -
NASA's Next Leap in Mars Exploration Nears Arrival

"As it nears Mars on March 10, a NASA spacecraft designed to examine the red 
planet in
unprecedented detail from low orbit will point its main thrusters forward, then 
fire them to slow
itself enough for Mars' gravity to grab it into orbit.
Ground controllers for Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter expect a signal shortly 
after 1:24 p.m. Pacific
time (4:24 p.m. Eastern time) that this mission-critical engine burn has begun. 
 However, the burn
will end during a suspenseful half hour with the spacecraft behind Mars and out 
of radio contact."

More information about the 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 - 

* Astronomical Lexicon - http://bfa3.home.att.net/astrolex.html
Many of the astronomical terms used in this newsletter are defined here.

* Astronomy Picture of the Day - 

* Cloudbait Observatory, Guffey Colorado - http://www.cloudbait.com  - Submit 
your fireball
reports here. Interesting, knowledgeable site.

* Comet Observation Home Page - http://encke.jpl.nasa.gov/

* The Constellations and Their Stars -
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 - 

* Groovy Adventures - http://www.groovyadventures.com
Unique adventures and vacations including astronomy related vacations.

* JPL Solar System Ambassador Program - 

* JPL Solar System Experience - 

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

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

* Northern Colorado Astronomical Society - http://ncastro.org/

* Our Solar System - http://pauldunn.dynip.com/solarsystem/
This is an excellent site to learn about our solar system.

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

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

* Space.com - Sky Watch Calendar - 

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

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

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

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


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

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: March 01, 2006

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