[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 1 Mar 2007 21:00:26 -0800 (PST)

                IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                          March 2007


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 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 Moon

* New Moon on the 18th.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 25th.
* Full Moon on the 3rd.
* Last Quarter Moon on the 11th.

* Apogee on the 6th, 252,186 mi. from Earth.
* Perigee on the 19th, 222,335 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 1.1 deg. north of Saturn on the 1st.
* The Moon passes 1.1 deg. north of Regulus on the 2nd.
* The Moon passes 0.7 deg. south of Antares on the 11th.
* The Moon passes 6 deg. south of Jupiter on the 11th.
* The Moon passes 1.9 deg. south of Mars on the 15th.
* The Moon passes 2 deg. south of Neptune on the 16th. 
* The Moon passes 1.4 deg. south of Mercury on the 16th. 
* The Moon passes 4 deg. north of Venus on the 21st.
* Mars passes 1.0 deg. south of Neptune on the 25th.
* The Moon passes 1.2 deg. north of Saturn on the 28th.
* The Moon passes 1.1 deg. north of Regulus on the 29th.

The Planets & Dwarf 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 - The total lunar eclipse on the 3rd is 
visible for most of the
population of Earth. From Asia to the west coast of the U.S. all or part of the 
eclipse will be
visible. Saturn still dominates the evening sky, as it is visible for the 
entire evening and well
into the early morning hours. Venus also dominates the early evening sky, as it 
appears higher and
higher in the southwest as the month progresses. Jupiter and Mars are prominent 
in the early
morning sky before sunrise and are joined by Mercury as well as Neptune. Ceres 
will join the
morning crowd near the end of the month.

* Mercury - Is at greatest western elongation (28 deg. above the eastern 
horizon) on the 21st.
Mercury is visible for most of the month, but best viewed during the 2nd and 
3rd weeks of the
month. Mercury rises about 5:48 am on the 1st and about 5:56 am by the end of 
the month. Mercury
shines at magnitude 0.4 on the 15th but brightens to magnitude 0.0 by the 31st.

* Venus - Dominates the evening sky soon after sunset this month.  Venus sets 
about 8:17 pm on the
1st and about 10:28 pm by month's end. Venus is in the constellation of Pisces 
and shines at
magnitude -3.9.
* Earth - Vernal equinox occurs at 8:07 pm EDT on the 20th.

* Mars - Can be spotted in the early morning sky before sunrise this month. 
Mars rises at 4:53 am
on the 1st and about 5:02 am by month's end. Mars is in the constellation of 
Capricornus. Mars
shines at magnitude 1.2.
* Jupiter - Is also visible in the early morning sky. Jupiter rises at 1:48 am 
on the 1st and
about 12:51 am by month's end. Jupiter is in the constellation of Ophiuchus and 
shines at
magnitude -2.1.

* Saturn - Still dominates the evening sky this month. Saturn rises around 3:55 
pm on the 1st and
about 2:45 pm by month's end. Saturn is in the constellation of Leo and shines 
at a magnitude of

* Uranus - Is in conjunction with the Sun on the 5th. Uranus is not visible 
this month. Uranus
will return to the morning sky in April.

* Neptune - Has returned to the morning sky this month but is still low on the 
eastern horizon and
will be difficult to spot through the early morning twilight. Neptune rises at 
5:43 am on the 1st
and about 4:44 am by month's end. Neptune is in the constellation of 
Capricornus and shines at
magnitude 8.0.

Dwarf Planets

* Ceres - Is in conjunction with the Sun on the 19th. Ceres is lost in the 
twilight glow and is
not visible this month. Ceres returns to the morning sky in April.

* Pluto - Rises about 2:12 am on the 1st and about 12:11 am by month's end. 
Pluto is in the
constellation of Sagittarius. Pluto shines at magnitude 14.0. As always, good 
luck at spotting
this one.


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.

* Comets Petriew and Encke are visible in the vicinity of Venus this month. Try 
to spot these
comets early in the month as they both set around the same time as Venus. Comet 
Petriew passed
perihelion last month and dims to 11th magnitude while Encke is approaching 
perihelion and
brightens from 11th to about 8th magnitude.

* 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 total lunar eclipse occurs on the 3rd. Asia and most of Australia will see 
the eclipse at
moonset, Europe and Africa will see all of the eclipse and North and South 
America will see the
eclipse at moonrise.

* 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)
* Iris is in the constellation of Taurus.
* Massalia is in the constellation of Cancer.
* Parthenope and Psyche are in the constellation of Leo.
* Vesta is in the constellation of Libra.

* 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 28, 2007 - Odysseus Out of Shadow
Full-Res: PIA08884 (http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA08884)

"The Cassini spacecraft stares directly into the great Odysseus impact basin on 
Tethys. Peaks near
the crater's center cast long shadows toward the east. The elevated eastern rim 
of the crater
catches sunlight, despite being well beyond the terminator."

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 - February 28, 2007 - Pluto-Bound New Horizons Spacecraft Gets a 
Boost from Jupiter

"NASA?s New Horizons spacecraft successfully completed a flyby of Jupiter early 
this morning,
using the massive planet?s gravity to pick up speed on its 3-billion mile 
voyage to Pluto and the
unexplored Kuiper Belt region beyond.

"We?re on our way to Pluto," says New Horizons Mission Operations Manager Alice 
Bowman, of the
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md. "The 
swingby was a
success; the spacecraft is on course and performed just as we expected."

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.

* 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 

* 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 10, 2007 -
Panel Will Study Mars Global Surveyor Events

"NASA has formed an internal review board to look more in-depth into why NASA's 
Mars Global
Surveyor went silent in November 2006 and recommend any processes or procedures 
that could
increase safety for other spacecraft.

Mars Global Surveyor launched in 1996 on a mission designed to study Mars from 
orbit for two
years. It accomplished many important discoveries during nine years in orbit. 
On Nov. 2, the
spacecraft transmitted information that one of its arrays was not pivoting as 
commanded. Loss of
signal from the orbiter began on the following orbit. 

Mars Global Surveyor has operated longer at Mars than any other spacecraft in 
history and for more
than four times as long as the prime mission originally planned."

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 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.

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 August 16, 2006 - 
NASA Findings Suggest Jets Bursting From Martian Ice Cap

"Every spring brings violent eruptions to the south polar ice cap of Mars, 
according to
researchers interpreting new observations by NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter. 

Jets of carbon dioxide gas erupting from the ice cap as it warms in the spring 
carry dark sand and
dust high aloft. The dark material falls back to the surface, creating dark 
patches on the ice
cap, which have long puzzled scientists. Deducing the eruptions of carbon 
dioxide gas from under
the warming ice cap solves the riddle of the spots. It also reveals that this 
part of Mars is much
more dynamically active than had been expected for any part of the planet."

"A simulated fly-through using the newly assembled imagery is available online 

The fly-through plus tools for wandering across and zooming into the large 
image are at

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

February 12-23, 2007

* Mareotis Fossae (Released 12 February 2007)

* Olympus Mons (Released 13 February 2007)
* Alba Patera (Released 14 February 2007)
* San Dunes (Released 15 February 2007)
* Landslides (Released 16 February 2007)
* Marte Vallis (Released 19 February 2007)
* Lava Flows (Released 20 February 2007)
* Young Crater (Released 21 February 2007)
* Wind Erosion (Released 22 February 2007)
* Large Crater (Released 23 February 2007)

 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 23, 2007

Spirit Status: Spirit Perfects the Art of Driving on Five Wheels - sol 
1104-1112, February 16,

"Rover drivers have now refined their techniques for maneuvering on only five 
wheels. All of
Spirit's drives during the past week ended within centimeters (inches) of the 
targeted endpoint.
Spirit is healthy and has arrived at the rock outcrop known as "Bellingshausen" 
on the way back to
"Home Plate."

On Feb. 10, 2007, the rover's 1,104th Martian day, or sol, of exploration, 
Spirit experienced a
warm reset, during which the rover's computer rebooted and the rover went into 
auto mode,
canceling activities for the weekend and awaiting instructions from Earth. This 
is the third time
Spirit has experienced this anomaly; Spirit's twin, Opportunity, has 
experienced it twice. The
anomaly is attributed to a well-known condition in the flight software. The 
rover's handlers sent
new commands that activated the master sequence of activities for sol 1107 
(Feb. 13, 2007)."

Opportunity Status: The View from 'Cabo Corrientes' - sol 1091-1096, February 
23, 2007

"Opportunity is healthy and is currently driving on the promontory "Cabo 
Corrientes." The rover
completed the long baseline stereo imaging of "Cape Desire" and is currently 
imaging the
promontory on the other side of Cabo Corrientes called "Cape of Good Hope."

On Earth, Cape Desire is at the western (Pacific) end of the Strait of 
Magellan, marking the end
of a hazardous passage through the strait. Magellan supposedly "wept for joy" 
when he discovered
it, and so named it because he had been "desiring to see it for a long time."

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

Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page at  

* Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - February 15, 2007 - NASA Mars Orbiter 
Sees Effects of
Ancient Underground Fluids

"SAN FRANCISCO - Liquid or gas flowed through cracks penetrating underground 
rock on ancient Mars,
according to a report based on some of the first observations by NASA's Mars 
Orbiter. These fluids may have produced conditions to support possible habitats 
for microbial

These ancient patterns were revealed when the most powerful telescopic camera 
ever sent to Mars
began examining the planet last year. The camera showed features as small as 
approximately 3 feet
(one meter) across. Mineralization took place deep underground, along faults 
and fractures. These
mineral deposits became visible after overlying layers were eroded away 
throughout millions of

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 - 

* 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.

* 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 - 

* 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/

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

* 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 

* 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: February 28, 2006

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