[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 1 Apr 2007 12:38:34 -0700 (PDT)

                IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                          April 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 17th.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 24th.
* Full Moon on the 2nd.
* Last Quarter Moon on the 10th.

* Apogee on the 3rd, 252,481 mi. from Earth.
* Perigee on the 19th, 221,914 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* Mercury passes 1.6 deg. south of Uranus on the 1st.
* The Moon passes 0.6 deg. south of Antares on the 7th.
* The Moon passes 6 deg. south of Jupiter on the 8th.
* The Moon passes 0.5 deg. north of Mars on the 13th.
* The Moon passes 1.0 deg. north of Uranus on the 14th. 
* The Moon passes 5 deg. north of Mercury on the 16th. 
* The Moon passes 3 deg. north of Venus on the 20th.
* Venus passes 7 deg. north of Aldebaran on the 21st.
* The Moon passes 1.1 deg. north of Saturn on the 25th.
* The Moon passes 1.0 deg. north of Regulus on the 26th.
* Mars passes 0.7 deg. south of Uranus on the 28th.

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 April - "One of the sky's prettiest sights is the 
blazing planet Venus
floating above the horizon at dusk. This month, Venus passes south of the 
Pleiades, and the star
cluster's diminutive sparkles make quite a sight in binoculars. Not far off, 
Comet 2P/Encke makes
a month long hook through Aries and Cetus. Once Venus sets, Saturn rules the 
night - until Jupiter
rises in the hours before dawn." from Astronomy Magazine, April 2007, p. 44.

* Mercury - Rises about 5:56 am on the 1st and about 5:59 am by the end of the 
month. Mercury is
best viewed during the first week of April when it will be rising about 50 
minutes before the Sun.
After that, Mercury is lost in the early morning twilight. Mercury shines at 
magnitude 0.0 on the

* Venus - Dominates the evening sky soon after sunset this month.  Venus sets 
about 10.28 pm on
the 1st and about 11:28 pm by month's end. Venus is in the constellation of 
Taurus and shines at
magnitude -4.0.
* Earth - N/A.

* Mars - Can be spotted in the early morning sky before sunrise this month. 
Mars rises at 5:02 am
on the 1st and about 4:02 am by month's end. Mars is in the constellation of 
Aquarius. Mars shines
at magnitude 1.1.
* Jupiter - Rises at 12:51 am on the 1st and about 10:48 pm by month's end. 
Jupiter is in the
constellation of Ophiuchus and shines at magnitude -2.4.

* Saturn - Is visible in the early evening sky by the time the Sun sets. Saturn 
sets around 4:47
am on the 1st and about 2:49 am by month's end. Saturn is in the constellation 
of Leo and shines
at a magnitude of 0.3.

* Uranus - Has returned to the morning sky. Uranus rises about 5:49 am on the 
1st and about 3:55
am by the end of the month. Uranus is in the constellation of Aquarius and 
shines at a magnitude
of 5.9.

* Neptune - Rises at 4:44 am on the 1st and about 2:48 am by month's end. 
Neptune is in the
constellation of Capricornus and shines at magnitude 7.9.

Dwarf Planets

* Ceres - Is still lost in the twilight glow and is not visible this month. 
Ceres returns to the
morning sky in late April rising about 4:38 am by the end of the month.

* Pluto - Rises about 12:11 am on the 1st and about 11:08 pm by month's end. 
Pluto is in the
constellation of Sagittarius. Pluto and 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.

* Comet 2P/Encke swings around the Sun on the 19th. Encke arcs through the 
constellation of Aries
and into Cetus. The best time to catch a glimpse of Comet Encke is during the 
first week of April.
Comet Encke won't brighten to much more than about 6th magnitude, so binoculars 
or a telescope
will be needed to spot Encke low on the western horizon about an hour after 

* Comet 96P/Machholz can be spotted before sunrise passing through the 
constellation of Pegasus
later in the month.

* 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/.

* No eclipse activity this month.

* 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 Gemini.
* Parthenope is in the constellation of Virgo.
* Juno is at opposition on the 9th in the constellation of Virgo.
* Vesta 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 27, 2007 - Cassini Images Bizarre Hexagon on Saturn
Saturn's Active North Pole

"Pasadena, Calif. -- An odd, six-sided, honeycomb-shaped feature circling the 
entire north pole of
Saturn has captured the interest of scientists with NASA's Cassini mission.

NASA's Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft imaged the feature over two decades ago. The 
fact that it has
appeared in Cassini images indicates that it is a long-lived feature. A second 
significantly darker than the brighter historical feature, is also visible in 
the Cassini
pictures. The spacecraft's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer is the 
first instrument to
capture the entire hexagon feature in one image. 

"This is a very strange feature, lying in a precise geometric fashion with six 
nearly equally
straight sides," said Kevin Baines, atmospheric expert and member of Cassini's 
visual and infrared
mapping spectrometer team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. 
"We've never seen
anything like this on any other planet. Indeed, Saturn's thick atmosphere where 
waves and convective cells dominate is perhaps the last place you'd expect to 
see such a six-sided
geometric figure, yet there it is."

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 - March 30, 2007 - Storm Spectra

"These images, taken with the LEISA infrared camera on the New Horizons Ralph 
instrument, show
fine details in Jupiter's turbulent atmosphere using light that can only be 
seen using infrared
sensors. These are "false color" pictures made by assigning infrared 
wavelengths to the colors
red, green and blue. LEISA (Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array) takes images 
across 250 IR
wavelengths in the range from 1.25 to 2.5 microns, allowing scientists to 
obtain an infrared
spectrum at every location on Jupiter. A micron is one millionth of a meter."

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 ? March 27, 2007 - 
Mars Odyssey Mission Status

"Engineers for NASA's Mars Odyssey mission are examining data from the orbiter 
to determine
whether onboard backup systems never used by the 6-year-old spacecraft could 
still be available if

Odyssey reported last week that a power processing component of the backup, or 
"B-side," systems
had stopped working. The component, the high-efficiency power supply, has a 
twin that is
continuing to serve the "A-side" hardware, which is operating normally. Odyssey 
has stayed on its
A-side systems, including the A-side flight computer, since launch on April 7, 
2001. However, the
A-side power supply cannot serve most systems on the B-side, including the 
backup B-side computer.
If engineers do not determine a way to restore the B-side power supply, most of 
the backup
hardware would not be available, if it were ever needed."

"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/)

March 26-30, 2007

* Russell Crater (Released 26 March 2007)

* THEMIS ART #76 (Released 27 March 2007)

* THEMIS ART #77 (Released 28 March 2007)

* THEMIS ART #78 (Released 29 March 2007)

* THEMIS ART #79 (Released 30 March 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) - 
March 27, 2007

Spirit Status: Spirit Studies Rocks in Vicinity of "Home Plate" - sol 
1141-1144, March 23, 2007

"Spirit remains healthy and spent much of the week studying a new rock target 
on "Mitcheltree
Ridge" called "Torquas." Scientists are trying to understand what relationship 
Mitcheltree Ridge
has to "Home Plate" -- for example, whether it is an extension of Home Plate or 
an entirely
different rock layer, and whether it has similar composition or morphology.
Torquas is nicknamed after a dried-up seabed covered with moss in the Barsoom 
science fiction saga
by Edgar Rice Burroughs."

Opportunity Status: Opportunity Begins Imaging of 'Cape of Good Hope' - sol 
1118-1125, March 27,

"Opportunity is healthy and making progress on the imaging campaign of "Cape 
St. Vincent."
On Sol 1116, Opportunity experienced a fault due to a known but rare race 
condition in the flight
software. This race condition fault has now occurred three times in 1,122 sols 
for Opportunity and
three times in 1,143 sols for Spirit. Essentially, while the rover was booting 
up in the morning,
two sequences were competing to complete first. The lower priority task was 
stopped by the higher
priority task and when the former attempted to complete, it was locked out of 
the rover's memory.
The software did as it is supposed to and threw up a red flag to programmers 
and awaited its next
On Sols 1117 and 1118 were spent recovering the rover from the fault. 
Opportunity spent sols 1119
and 1120 resting since these sols fell on an Earth weekend (the project no 
longer has the
resources to bring in a weekend sequencing team).
On Sol 1121, Opportunity drove to a position on the "Cape of Good Hope" to 
image the first half of
a long baseline stereo image of Cape St. Vincent. On Sol 1123, Opportunity will 
bump 2.5 meters
(8.2 feet) to image the second half of the Cape St. Vincent stereo image.
The remainder of the sols were spent obtaining remote sensing science."

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

Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page at  

* Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - March 22, 2007 - 
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission Status

"NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter put itself into safe mode -- a 
precautionary status with
minimized activities -- on March 14. It remained healthy and in communication 
with Earth, but with
no science observations, while the flight team examined engineering data. On 
March 20, the team
brought the spacecraft back out of safe mode. 

Science instruments were powered up March 21 and are resuming normal science 
operations today,
March 22. 

When it went into safe mode, the spacecraft switched, for the first time in the 
mission, to a
backup ("B") duplicate flight computer on board. Diagnosis of the "A" computer 
has not yet
revealed what caused the switch to the B side."

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: April 01, 2006

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