[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 1 Apr 2003 21:01:23 -0800 (PST)

            IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                         April 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 1st.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 9th.
* Full Moon on the 16th.
* 3rd Quarter Moon on the 23rd.

* Apogee on the 3rd, 252,407 mi. from Earth.
* Perigee on the 17th, 221,927 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 3 deg. north of Saturn on the 7th.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. north of Jupiter on the 11th.
* The Moon passes 3 deg. south of Mars on the 23rd.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. south of Neptune on the 23rd.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. south of Uranus on the 25th.
* The Moon passes 3 deg. south of Venus on the 28th.


(All times are local unless otherwise noted.)
Planetary Reports generated by "TheSky" software

* Mercury - Is at greatest eastern elongation (20
degrees) on the 16th. Look for Mercury low in the
western sky soon after sunset.

* Venus - Rises about 4:30 am and is visible in the
early morning sky just before sunrise. Venus shines at
magnitude -3.9.

* Mars - Is visible in the early morning sky in the
east before sunrise. Mars rises about 2:00 am. Mars
can be found between the constellations of Sagittarius
and Capricornus. Mars shines at magnitude 0.3.

* Jupiter - Is stationary on the 3rd. Jupiter begins
its normal motion through the heavens. Jupiter sets
around 3:15 am at the beginning of the month and
around 2:20 am by the end of the month. Jupiter can be
found almost dead center in the constellation of
Cancer the Crab. Jupiter shines at magnitude -2.2.

* Saturn - Sets around midnight on the 1st. Saturn is
located in the constellation of Taurus the Bull.
Saturn passes within 20 minutes of arc (2/3 of a full
moon width) of the Crab Nebula (M1) on the 9th and
10th. Look to the south-southwest soon after sunset to
spot Saturn. Saturn shines at magnitude 0.1.

* Uranus - Rises about 4:15 am on the 1st and about an
hour earlier by month's end. Uranus is in the
constellation of Aquarius. Uranus shines at magnitude

* Neptune - Rises 3:15 am on the 1st and about an hour
earlier by month's end. Neptune is in the
constellation of Capricornus. Neptune shines at
magnitude 7.9.

* Pluto - Pluto is located just to the east of the
constellation of Ophiuchus and rises about 11:20 pm
and about an hour earlier by month's end. Pluto shines
at magnitude 13.8. As always, good luck at spotting
this one.


Astronomical Events

Meteor Showers
* The Lyrid Meteor Shower - The Lyrids are typically
visible between April 16 and 25. Maximum occurs during
April 20-21. Although the maximum rate is about 10,
there have been instances during the last 200 years
when rates were near or over 100 per hour. The average
magnitude of the meteors is near 2.4 and the speed is
described as rapid. About 15% of the meteors leave
persistent trains.

* 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 rises in the east with the
constellation of Leo the Lion. Comet LINEAR is in an
orbit between Mars and Jupiter. This is the reason
this comet has been around for so long. Comet RX14
LINEAR is shining at a magnitude of 10. A minimum of a
4-inch telescope and dark sky conditions will be
required to spot this comet.

* 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.

* Vesta, just past opposition last month, is actually
visible with the unaided eye this month. Vesta can be
found in the constellation of Virgo, however dark sky
conditions will be required to spot Vesta traveling
through the night sky.

* 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 - March 21, 2003 -
" Like a fine chronograph that it somewhat resembles,
Genesis continues ticking along and is in overall good
health. As of the morning of March 21, the spacecraft
was about 1.640 million kilometers (1.02 million
miles) from Earth.

While the Genesis spacecraft?s primary job is to bask
in the warm rays of Earth?s most brilliant celestial
neighbor, those members of its support team residing
in the Mile High city may think the 7.9-meter (26-
feet) long spacecraft is getting more than its fair

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 - No new updates since February 26, 2003 -
Galileo Team Disbanding as Long Jupiter Tour Winds
Down -
"The flight team for NASA's Jupiter-orbiting Galileo
spacecraft will cease operations on Friday, Feb. 28
after a final playback of scientific data from the
robotic explorer's tape recorder.

The team has written commands for the onboard computer
to manage the spacecraft for its short remaining
lifetime. Galileo will coast for the next seven months
before transmitting a few hours of science
measurements in real time, leading up to a Sept. 21
plunge into Jupiter's atmosphere." Read the latest
news at http://galileo.jpl.nasa.gov/index.html.

* Cassini - March 28, 2003 -
" The most recent spacecraft telemetry was acquired
from the Canberra tracking station on Wednesday, March
26. The Cassini spacecraft is in an excellent state of
health and is operating normally?

The last activity of the Attitude Control Flight
Software (FSW) checkout was a successful Reaction
Wheel Assembly friction test. After that, real time
command files were uplinked to set global variables
for the string swap procedure, and memory readouts for
the SSR flight software regions. These commands
enabled Command and Data Subsystem (CDS) personnel to
establish and verify initial conditions prior to their
CDS FSW checkout period. The CDS checkout began with
activities to load the new version 9 FSW onto the on-
line "backup" CDS string, and a string swap procedure
to reset the CDS_A string executing Version 7.0, and
allow the CDS_B String with Version 9.0 to become the
prime CDS string. The swap was successfully completed.
The CDS_A string will continue to execute the Version
7.0 software as a "hot" backup until Thursday, when
CDS_A will also be loaded with Version 9.0."

"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 - March 14, 2003 -
" This past week, the Stardust flight team used the
antennas of JPL's Deep Space Network on one occasion.
Data relayed from the spacecraft during that contact
indicated Stardust is healthy and all subsystems
continue to run normally.

During the Deep Space Network pass, the Stardust
spacecraft transmitted 5 of the 32 images stored in
the spacecraft's memory of the Pleiades star cluster.
These Pleiades images were taken by Stardust's
navigation camera and are being used to evaluate
performance of the spacecraft camera's periscope. The
image quality and calibration data from these images
is very good. The Stardust team will download the
remaining 27 images during an upcoming Deep Space
Network pass on March 22."

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 - March 05, 2003 -
"Spacecraft subsystems report good health and
performance.  Electrical power margin is being managed
by utilizing on-board solar array pointing scripts
instead of auto-tracking.  On 03-064 (3/05/03), the
"three-part motion 25-degree offpoint" scripts
replaced the "three-part motion 0-degree offpoint"
scripts.  This decreases the excess energy being
produced by the solar panels thereby preserving life
in the Partial Shunt Assemblies."

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 - March 13, 2003 - NASA's Mars
Odyssey Changes Views about Red Planet -

" NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft has transformed the
way scientists are looking at the red planet. "In just
one year, Mars Odyssey has fundamentally changed our
understanding of the nature of the materials on and
below the surface of Mars," said Dr. Jeffrey Plaut,
Odyssey's project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

During its first year of surveying the Martian
surface, Odyssey's Camera system provided detailed
maps of minerals in rocks and soils. "A wonderful
surprise has been the discovery of a layer of olivine-
rich rock exposed in the walls of Ganges Chasm.
Olivine is easily destroyed by liquid water, so its
presence in these ancient rocks suggests that this
region of Mars has been very dry for a very long
time," said Dr. Philip Christensen, principal
investigator for Odyssey's thermal emission imaging
system at Arizona State University, Tempe."

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
Launch: May/July 2003
Landing: January 2004

* Mars Missions Status - New Mars missions are being
planned to include several new rover and sample
collection missions.


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

* 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: April 01, 2003

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