[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 3 Apr 2004 20:15:22 -0800 (PST)

            IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                     April 2004


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


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 will be starting monthly Star Parties this
month. These star parties will be hosted the third
Saturday of every month weather permitting. Visit
http://www.plainsconservationcenter.org for more
information and directions.


In This Newsletter...

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



* New Moon on the 19th.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 27th.
* Full Moon on the 5th.
* Last Quarter Moon on the 11th.

* Perigee on the 7th, 226,519 mi. from Earth.
* Apogee on the 28th, 251,906 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 3 deg. north of Jupiter on the 2nd.
* Mars passes 7 deg. north of Aldebaran on the 7th.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. south of Neptune on the 13th.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. south of Uranus on the 14th.
* Venus passes 10 deg. north of Aldebaran on the 16th.
* The Moon passes 1.5 deg. south of Venus on the 23rd.
* The Moon passes 2 deg. north of Mars on the 23rd.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. north of Saturn on the 25th.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. north of Jupiter on the 29th.


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. The rise and set times for the sun and
the moon for each day of the month are also included
in the reports.
(All times are local unless otherwise noted.)

* Mercury - Is in inferior conjunction on the 16th.
Mercury is visible in the evening sky during the first
week of the month then disappears into the evening
twilight as it passes between the Sun and Earth
approaching inferior conjunction by mid month. Mercury
returns to the morning sky by the end of the month
then only shines at a magnitude of 2.

* Venus - Is visible in the west soon after sunset.
Venus sets about 10:25 pm on the 1st and about 11:28
pm by month's end. Venus shines at magnitude -4.4.

* Mars - Sets about 11:03 pm on the 1st and about
11:36 pm by month's end. Mars is in the constellation
of Taurus this month. Mars shines at magnitude 1.5.
Mars can be found following Venus through the
southwestern sky in the early evening.

* Jupiter - Rises around 3:34 pm on the 1st and about
2:29 pm by month's end. Look for Jupiter in the
constellation of Leo. Jupiter shines at magnitude

* Saturn - Sets about 1:14 am on the 1st and about
12:21 am by month's end. Saturn can be found in the
constellation of Gemini. Saturn shines at magnitude

* Uranus - Rises about 4:19 am on the 1st and about
3:24 am by month's end. Uranus has returned to the
early morning sky and can be found in the
constellation of Aquarius. Uranus shines at a
magnitude of 5.9.

* Neptune - Rises about 3:21 am on the 1st and about
2:25 am by month's end. Neptune has returned to the
early morning sky and can be found in the
constellation of Capricorn. Neptune shines at a
magnitude of 7.9.

* Pluto - Is in the constellation of Ophiuchus and
rises about 11:29 pm on the 1st and about 10:30 pm 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.

* (From Astronomy Magazine - April 2004 Issue - p. 50)
"Comet C/2002 T7 [LINEAR] emerges low in the east
during morning twilight around mid-April. After it
swoops around the Sun, it will reappear in the evening
sky in late May. C/2001 Q4 [NEAT] should be a
showpiece all month for Southern Hemisphere observers;
it then swings rapidly northward for the rest of us to
see in late April and May." The predicted magnitude
for both comets at their brightest is 2.

* For information, orbital elements and ephemerides on
observable comets visit the Observable Comets page
from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

* Partial solar eclipse on the 19th. This partial
eclipse is visible in Antarctica or for observers at
about 80 degrees south latitude (+/- 5 degrees).

Asteroids (From west to east)
* Ceres is in the constellation of Gemini.
* Iris is in the constellation of Sextans.

* 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 31, 2004 - 
"Mission Milestone: Science Collection Phase Completed
April 1 marks the completion of solar wind sample
collection for the Genesis mission, culminating the
science collection phase of the mission. The
spacecraft is now ready to begin its million mile
journey homeward."

The latest status reports can be read at
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

Cassini - March 26, 2004 -
"The most recent spacecraft telemetry was acquired
from the Goldstone tracking station on Monday, March
22. The Cassini spacecraft is in an excellent state of
health and is operating normally. . .

The primary activity this week was the execution of
the 13th in-flight Huygens probe checkout and a
special test of the Probe Mission Timing Unit (MTU).
The performance of the Huygens engineering subsystems
and instruments during the checkout was as expected.
The flow of data from JPL to the Huygens Probe
Operating Center in Darmstadt went very smoothly. The
MTU is the timer which is set just prior to probe
release. Drawing minimal power, it counts down to a
fixed time before probe entry at Titan and then
initiates the powering on of the Huygens avionics and
instruments. The test validated the ground system's
process for setting the timer and also measured the
timer's drift rate. All aspects of the test were

Cassini Imaging Team's website - http://ciclops.org.

"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.

* Stardust - March 26, 2004 - 
"The Stardust spacecraft remains in excellent
condition as its post-encounter trajectory carries it
through the solar system's main asteroid belt. 

The Stardust team recently released three new images
of comet Wild 2. These images depict surface and jet
details that have never been seen before. 

The Stardust project was presented an award from the
Boy Scouts of America San Gabriel Valley Council for
the successful Wild 2 encounter and to commemorate the
Council's highlighting of Stardust during the National
Jamboree. The ceremony was held during a talk by
Stardust project manager for the JPL Office of
Communication and Education von Karman Lecture

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.

* Galaxy Evolution Explorer - (GALEX) - 
The GALEX Image Gallery is available at

What's New: http://www.galex.caltech.edu/ for more
information about the mission.

* Past, Present, Future and Proposed JPL Missions -

Mars Missions

* Mars Global Surveyor Images - March 25-31, 2004

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

* Craters and Wind Streaks (Released 25 March 2004)

* Russell Dunes (Released 26 March 2004)

* South Polar Layers (Released 27 March 2004)

* Layered South Polar Slope (Released 28 March 2004)

* Gullies With Bright Material (Released 29 March

* Crater in Cydonia (Released 30 March 2004)

* West Candor Layers (Released 31 March 2004)

All of the Mars Global Surveyor images are archived

Every six months, a new suite of MGS MOC data are
archived with the NASA Planetary Data System (PDS-

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 began its seventh 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 134,000 images of Mars from the MGS, check out
the newest images of the surface of Mars at

* Mars Odyssey Orbiter -

March 22-26, 2004

* Ejecta Craters (Released 22 March 2004)

* Arabia Terra Crater (Released 23 March 2004)

* Auqakuh Vallis Channel (Released 25 March 2004)

* Multiple Channels in Warrego Valles (Released 26
March 2004)

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) - March 30, 2004 -

Spirit Status:
"Looking Inside Mazatzal - sol 85, Mar 30, 2004

Since the rock abrasion tool completed a full-circle
grind into the "New York" and "Brooklyn" targets on
the rock "Mazatzal," it was time for Spirit to do some
analysis. Spirit spent much of Sol 85, which ended at
1:41 p.m. PST on March 30, successfully operating the
instruments on its robotic arm to take a more detailed
look inside Mazatzal."

Opportunity Status:
"Opportunity Takes a Breather - sol 64, Mar 30, 2004

On Opportunity's 64th sol, which ended at 1:22 a.m.
PST on March 30, the rover team analyzed the results
of engineering activities run to investigate an error
message they received from the rover on sol 63.

A problem with a secondary memory file was isolated
and resolved. Just as an ordinary computer disk can
have corrupted sections, a corrupted file in an area
where rover commands are addressed and stored has been
identified. Engineers have identified the location of
the problem within the memory and figuratively fenced
it off, containing it and preventing it from harming
any future command sequences. This minor issue has not
impeded the rover from resuming normal science
operations on the next sol."

Landing sites link

Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page 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: http://marsprogram.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.)

* JPL Solar System Experience -

* A Short Guide to Celestial Navigation -

* "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-phases.com/

* 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
JPL SSA, Colorado
Last modified: April 03, 2004

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