[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 30 Apr 2007 21:12:33 -0700 (PDT)

                IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                           May 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 16th.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 23rd.
* Full Moon on the 2nd and the 31st.
* Last Quarter Moon on the 10th.

* Perigee on the 15th, 223,315 mi. from Earth.
* Apogee on the 27th, 251,941 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 0.5 deg. south of Antares on the 4th.
* The Moon passes 6 deg. south of Jupiter on the 5th.
* The Moon passes 1.8 deg. south of Neptune on the 10th.
* The Moon passes 3 deg. north of Mars on the 12th.
* The Moon passes 1.3 deg. north of Uranus on the 12th. 
* The Moon passes 3 deg. north of Mercury on the 17th. 
* The Moon passes 1.7 deg. north of Venus on the 19th.
* The Moon passes 0.8 deg. north of Saturn on the 22nd.
* The Moon passes 0.7 deg. north of Regulus on the 23rd.
* The Moon passes 0.4 deg. south of Antares on the 31st.

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 May - If you're waiting for a Blue Moon, this is the 
month. There are 2
full Moons this month, one on the 2nd and the other on the 31st. The Blue Moon 
is the second full
Moon of the month. Venus and Saturn dominate the evening sky, while Jupiter 
remains quite
brilliant in the early morning sky. Mercury returns to the evening sky by 
mid-month; while Mars,
Uranus and Neptune are still present in the morning sky trailing Jupiter.

* Mercury - Is in superior conjunction on the 2nd. Mercury returns to the 
evening sky this month.
Mercury puts in its best evening appearance this year shining about magnitude 
-1.4 on the 11th.
Mercury sets about 30 minutes after sunset around mid-month and about 10:14 pm 
by the end of the
* Venus - Dominates the evening sky soon after sunset this month.  Venus sets 
about 11:28 pm on
the 1st and about 11:42 pm by month's end. Venus moves out of the constellation 
of Taurus and into
the constellation of Gemini and shines at magnitude -4.2.
* Earth - N/A.

* Mars - Can be spotted in the early morning sky before sunrise this month. 
Mars rises at 4:02 am
on the 1st and about 2:56 am by month's end. Mars is in the constellation of 
Pisces and shines at
magnitude 0.9.
* Jupiter - Rises at 10:48 pm on the 1st and about 8:30 pm by month's end. 
Jupiter is in the
constellation of Ophiuchus and shines at magnitude -2.5.

* Saturn - Is visible in the early evening sky by the time the Sun sets. Saturn 
sets around 2:49
am on the 1st and about 12:47 am by month's end. Saturn is in between the 
constellations of Cancer
and Leo and shines at a magnitude of 0.4.

* Uranus - Has returned to the morning sky. Uranus rises about 3:55 am on the 
1st and about 1:55
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 2:48 am on the 1st and about 12:42 am by month's end. 
Neptune is in the
constellation of Capricornus and shines at magnitude 7.9.

Dwarf Planets

* Ceres - Has returned to the morning sky this month rising about 4:38 am on 
the 1st and about
3:05 am by the end of the month. Ceres is in the constellation of Cetus and 
shines at magnitude

* Pluto - Rises about 11:08 pm on the 1st and about 9:04 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 Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower - This shower is visible during the period of 
April 21 to May 12.
It reaches maximum on May 5. During the period of greatest activity hourly 
rates usually reach 20
for observers in the northern hemisphere and 50 for observers in the southern 

* Comet 2P/Encke has rounded the Sun and is now visible in the southern 
hemisphere and brightens a
bit showing a more prominent tail.

* 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 Leo.
* Juno is in the constellation of Virgo.
* Vesta is at opposition on the 30th 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 - April 26, 2007 - Cassini Extends Mapping of Titan's Surface

"Cassini's radar eyes will image additional regions near Titan's north pole 
during an April 26,
2007, flyby. The instrument will image the area slightly north of an area 
nicknamed the "black
sea." The radar coverage will cross over four previous radar swaths and begin 
to fill in more of
the gaps in the coverage of Titan's north pole. On this flyby, Cassini's 
infrared spectrometer
will see the lit and dark sides of Titan, looking for hot spots and lightning. 
The imaging cameras
will do global mapping and full-disk mosaics."

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 - April 16, 2007 - The Colors of Night
Download Image at 

"The New Horizons Multicolor Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) took this image of 
Jupiter's volcanic
moon Io at 04:30 Universal Time on February 28, 2007, about one hour before New 
Horizons' closest
approach to Jupiter, from a range of 2.7 million kilometers (1.7 million 
miles). Part of the Ralph
imaging instrument, MVIC is designed for the very faint solar illumination at 
Pluto, and is too
sensitive to image the brightly lit daysides of Jupiter's moons. Io's dayside 
is therefore
completely overexposed in this image, and appears white and featureless. 
However, the Jupiter-lit
nightside of Io and the giant plume from the Tvashtar volcano are well exposed, 
and the versions
of the image shown here have been processed to bring out each of these 

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 - April 13, 2007 -
Report Reveals Likely Causes of Mars Spacecraft Loss

"WASHINGTON - After studying Mars four times as long as originally planned, 
NASA's Mars Global
Surveyor orbiter appears to have succumbed to battery failure caused by a 
complex sequence of
events involving the onboard computer memory and ground commands.

The causes were released today in a preliminary report by an internal review 
board. The board was
formed 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 

Mars Global Surveyor last communicated with Earth on Nov. 2, 2006. Within 11 
hours, depleted
batteries likely left the spacecraft unable to control its orientation.

"The loss of the spacecraft was the result of a series of events linked to a 
computer error made
five months before the likely battery failure," said board Chairperson Dolly 
Perkins, deputy
director-technical of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md."

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 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/)

April 23-27, 2007

* Texture Changes (Released 23 April 2007)

* Kaiser Crater (Released 24 April 2007)

* Frosty Dunes (Released 25 April 2007)

* Sirenum Fossae (Released 26 April 2007)

* Crater Dunes (Released 27 April 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) - 
April 24, 2007

Spirit Status: Spirit Continues Studies En Route to 'Home Plate' - sol 
1159-1163, April 13, 2007

"Spirit is healthy and has completed a campaign of scientific studies of a rock 
outcrop known as
"Elizabeth Mahon," on the edge of "Home Plate." Spirit is now en route to 
another outcrop
nicknamed "Madeline English." The route involves driving backward, turning 
around, backing up,
parking in parallel between two sizable rocks flanking the target, pivoting 
clockwise on the stuck
right front wheel, and finally "crabbing" forward to the target. Spirit 
performs crabbing by
steering the two rear wheels toward the stuck right front wheel, thus opposing 
resistance from the
right front wheel and keeping yawing (swinging from side to side) to a minimum.

Spirit executed the "parallel parking" portion of the trip on the rover's 
1,162nd Martian day, or
sol, of exploration (April 10, 2007). The final "crab" portion was planned for 
sol 1164 (April 12,
2007). After the investigation of Madeline English, plans called for the rover 
to head north to
one of several possible "on-ramps" for driving onto Home Plate."

Opportunity Status: Imaging 'Alicante' - sol 1145-1151, April 24, 2007

"Over the last week, Opportunity investigated the second of two "dark streak" 
soil targets named
"Alicante." The sol 1145 Mössbauer touch sequence that was commanded did not 
make contact with the
soil because of a minor targeting discrepancy. Since the Mössbauer touch is 
used as a reference
point for determining where to start taking the microscopic images, the lack of 
contact caused the
images taken sol 1145 to be out of focus. As a result, the team decided to stay 
another two sols
and reacquire the in-situ observations on Alicante. Now, Opportunity is headed 
southeast towards
"Tierra del Fuego" to begin another remote sensing campaign."

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

Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page at  

* Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - No new news since 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 30, 2006

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