[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 1 Apr 2005 10:03:58 -0800 (PST)

            IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                        April 2005


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 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...

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



* New Moon on the 8th.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 16th.
* Full Moon on the 24th.
* Last Quarter Moon on the 1st.

* Perigee on the 4th, 228,970 mi. from Earth.
* Apogee on the 16th, 251,223 mi. from Earth.
* Perigee on the 29th, 229,304 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 4 deg. south of Mars on the 3rd.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. south of Neptune on the 4th.
* The Moon passes 3 deg. south of Uranus on the 5th.
* The Moon passes 3 deg. south of Mercury on the 7th.
* Mars passes 1.2 deg. south of Neptune on the 12th.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. north of Saturn on the 15th.
* The Moon passes 0.6 deg. south of Jupiter on the
* The Moon passes 0.7 deg. north of Antares on the

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 reports.
(All times are local unless otherwise noted.)

* Mercury - Is at greatest western elongation (27 deg.
1 pm EST) on the 26th; however, Mercury is at its
poorest viewing this year for northern hemisphere
observers as it is no more than 4 deg. above the
eastern horizon on the 26th about 30 minutes before
sunrise. Mercury shines at magnitude 0.9 on the 15th
brightening to magnitude 0.3 by the 30th.

* Venus - Returns to the evening sky by the last week
of this month. Venus shines at magnitude -3.8.

* Earth - See Eclipses.

* Mars - Appears briefly in the early morning sky this
month. Mars rises about 3:09 am on the 1st and about
3:14 am by month's end. Mars is in the constellation
of Capricornus this month. Mars shines at magnitude

* Jupiter - Is at opposition on the 3rd. Jupiter is at
aphelion (507.2 million miles from the Sun) on the
14th. Jupiter appears at its best for the year this
month. Jupiter rises at 6:23 pm on the 1st and 5:08 pm
by month's end. Jupiter is in the constellation of
Virgo. Jupiter shines at magnitude -2.5.

* Saturn - Is high overhead by the time the Sun sets
in the evening this month. Saturn sets around 2:11 am
on the 1st and about 1:18 am by month's end. Saturn is
in the constellation of Gemini. Saturn shines at a
magnitude of 0.1.

* Uranus - Rises at 4:29 am on the 1st and about 3:55
am by month's end. Uranus is in the constellation of
Aquarius and shines at a magnitude of 5.9.

* Neptune - Rises at 3:29 am on the 1st and about 2:33
am by month's end. Neptune is in the constellation of
Capricornus and shines at a magnitude of 7.9.

* Pluto - Rises about 11:42 pm on the 1st and about
10:43 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 one.

Astronomical Events

Meteor Showers
* The Lyrid Meteor Shower - The Lyrids are typically
visible between April 16 and 25. Maximum occurs during
April 21-22. 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 C/2004 Q2 (Machholz) passes near the North
Star, Polaris and through Draco this month. Comet
Machholz has dimmed to 7th magnitude. Use binoculars
to locate Comet Machholz about half way between
Polaris and the bowl of the Big Dipper. Comet Machholz
can be viewed almost anytime in the evening due to its
proximity to the pole. The short tail should also be
visible and appear to point away from Polaris. 

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

* Total annular solar eclipse occurs on the 8th. This
eclipse begins in the southern latitudes of the
Pacific passing through Panama, Colombia and ending in
Venezuela. Observers will see varying percentages of
partiality north and south of the line of totality
through most of the United States and as far south
across Peru.

* Penumbral lunar eclipse occurs on the 24th. The Moon
passes through the lighter part of Earth's shadow.
Viewers in North and South America may see the
northern half of the Moon gets slightly darker than
the southern half as the Moon passes through the
Earth's shadow.

Asteroids (From west to east)
* Pallas is in the constellation of Virgo.
* Hygiea is in the constellation of Virgo.
* Amphitrite is in the constellation of Virgo.
* Ceres is in the constellation of Libra.
* Iris is in the constellation of Ophiuchus.

* 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 - March 31, 2005 -
Moon Wears a Scar (Image -
"Saturn's moon Mimas shines in reflected ultraviolet
light from the Sun in this Cassini image. Ultraviolet
images of Saturn's moons often reveal the walls of
their myriad craters in greater contrast than do
images taken in visible light. This view, which shows
the large impact crater Herschel, is no exception.
Mimas is 397 kilometers (247 miles) across.

The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft
narrow-angle camera using a filter sensitive to
wavelengths of ultraviolet light centered at 338
nanometers. The image was acquired on Feb. 18, 2005,
at a distance of approximately 938,000 kilometers
(583,000 miles) from Mimas and at a
Sun-Mimas-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 99 degrees.
The image scale is 6 kilometers (4 miles) per pixel."

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 - March 02, 2005 -
Deep Impact Eyes the Moon

"Four days after launch from Cape Canaveral on January
12, 2005, the Deep Impact spacecraft pointed at the
Moon to test its telescopes, cameras and spectrometer.
This image was taken when the spacecraft was more than
1.65 million kilometers (1.02 million miles) from the
Moon, and a little more than 1.27 million kilometers
(789,000 miles) from Earth."

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

* Genesis - March 31, 2005 - 
GENESIS SCIENCE "We have solar wind."
"At the March 2005 annual Lunar and Planetary Science
Conference in Houston, Genesis mission Principal
Investigator Don Burnett announced that the mission
has identified ions of Solar origin in one of the
wafer fragments. "We have solar wind," said Burnett,
"and we're open for business."

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

* Stardust - No new news since February 7, 2005 -    
"This month [February] marks a special birthday for
Stardust. Launched on a Delta 2 rocket on February 7,
1999, Stardust has now spent 6 years in space.
Encountering Comet Wild 2 in January 2004, Stardust is
on schedule to return the comet samples to Earth in
January 2006."

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 -

* For special JPL programs and presentations in your
area visit the JPL Solar System Ambassador web site at

Mars Missions

* Mars Global Surveyor - March 24, 2005
PDS MAP-A-PLANET MARS MOLA data available. Create your
own customized map of Mars. Visit

* Mars Global Surveyor Images - 

March 17-23, 2005

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

* South Polar Cap (Released 17 March 2005)

* Frost on Dunes (Released 18 March 2005)

* 5K Crater (Released 19 March 2005)

* Layers of Candor (Released 20 March 2005)

* Dunes of the Frozen North (Released 21 March 2005)

* Mars at Ls 176 Degrees (Released 22 March 2005)

* Tharsis Channels (Released 23 March 2005)

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 has begun 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 134,000 images of Mars from the MGS, check out
the newest images of the surface of Mars at

* Mars Odyssey Orbiter - March 04, 2004 - Hiking Boots
Required: tough trekking in the name of science
education -
"Every year, ambitious elementary, high-school, and
community-college teachers brave the Arizona desert to
experience Mars exploration first-hand. One of over 35
teacher workshops around the United States each year,
the extra-special field trip takes place near the Mars
Space Flight Facility at Arizona State University,
which leads education for NASA's Mars Exploration

Granite Wash Mountain perches an hour and a half west
of Phoenix, and is a field geologist's dream location
for studying the history of Earth and, by analogy, of
Mars. Within a 10-foot stretch of dazzling dirt,
Granite Wash reveals the same 400-million-year history
of rock layering found in the Grand Canyon. It also
happens to be home to the largest cacti population in
the United States."


March 21-25, 2005

* Cerberus Fossae (Released 21 March 2005)

* Fractures in Tharsis Tholus (Released 22 March 2005)

* Arcuate Fractures in Olympus Mons Caldera (Released
23 March 2005)

* Arcuate Fractures (Released 24 March 2005)

* Ridges From Fractures (Released 25 March 2005)

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 31, 2005 -

Spirit Status:
Using Extra Energy to Head Uphill - sol 430-435, March
24, 2005

"After a very busy weekend, Spirit packed up the
robotic arm and headed away from an area dubbed "Paso
Robles." Spirit should be able to make good progress
towards the "Husband Hill" summit in the upcoming
sols, using as much of the abundant solar energy as it
can. Extra power comes courtesy of an early-March
windstorm that blew off year-old dust from Spirit's
electricity-producing solar panels."

Opportunity Status:
Soil Survey - sol 415-420, March 31, 2005

"Sometimes Opportunity needs to stop and smell the
roses ... uh, or the soil as the case may be. This
week, the science team chose to examine the mineral
content of the rippled ground before continuing the
southward trek. The team is interested in comparing
the chemical makeup of the ripples' troughs to that of
the ripples' crests. Opportunity stopped at a nice
trough, extended its robotic arm and investigated the
soil. It then drove up onto one of the ripples to
examine the crest."

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.)

* "TheSky" Software - http://www.bisque.com

* A Short Guide to Celestial Navigation -

* Astronomical Lexicon -
Many of the astronomical terms used in this newsletter
are defined here.

* Astronomy Picture of the Day -

* Comet Observation Home Page -

* Denver Astronomical Society -

* 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 -

* Our Solar System -
This is an excellent site to learn about our solar

* Sky and Space -
Astronomy from Down Under - The Southern Hemisphere's
first astronomy and space magazine.

* 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
- http://www.moon-phases.com/

* 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 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 Solar System Ambassador, Colorado
Last modified: April 1, 2005

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