[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 31 May 2007 20:36:26 -0700 (PDT)

                IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                          June 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 14th.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 22nd.
* Full Moon on the 30th.
* Last Quarter Moon on the 8th.

* Perigee on the 12th, 226,042 mi. from Earth.
* Apogee on the 24th, 251,370 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 6 deg. south of Jupiter on the 1st.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. north of Mars on the 10th.
* The Moon passes 0.6 deg. north of Venus on the 18th.
* The Moon passes 0.4 deg. north of Saturn on the 19th.
* The Moon passes 0.4 deg. north of Regulus on the 19th.
* The Moon passes 0.5 deg. south of Antares on the 28th.
* The Moon passes 6 deg. south of Jupiter 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 June - "The month opens with the best views of 
Mercury and Venus for
2007, with both planets high in the evening sky. Jupiter, the solar system's 
giant, reaches its
best views, too, and lights the sky nearly all night. Saturn puts on its last 
display before it
becomes lost in the Sun's glare, but the ringed planet will return later in the 
year. All in all,
this adds up to a great month for planetary observers." Astronomy Magazine, 
June 2007, p. 44.

* Mercury - Is at greatest eastern elongation (23 degrees above the western 
horizon) on the 2nd.
Mercury is in inferior conjunction on the 28th. Mercury sets about 10:14on the 
1st and about 8:31
pm by month's end. Mercury shines at magnitude 0.3 on the 1st and dims to 
magnitude 2.1 by
mid-month. Mercury disappears into the twilight glow about this time as well.
* Venus - Is at greatest eastern elongation (45 degrees above the western 
horizon) on the 8th.
Venus sets about 11:42 pm on the 1st and about 10:54 pm by month's end. Venus 
is in the
constellation of Gemini and shines at magnitude -4.4 on the 1st and brightens 
to -4.6 by the 30th.
* Earth - Summer solstice occurs at 2:06 pm EDT on the 21st.

* Mars - Is at perihelion (128.4 million miles from the Sun) on the 4th. Mars 
rises at 2:56 am on
the 1st and about 01:52 am by month's end. Mars is in the constellation of 
Pisces and shines at
magnitude 0.8.
* Jupiter - Is at opposition on the 5th rising as the Sun sets. Jupiter rises 
at 8:30 pm on the
1st and about 6:16 pm by month's end. Jupiter is in the constellation of 
Ophiuchus and shines at
magnitude -2.6.

* 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 the constellation 
of Leo and shines
at a magnitude of 0.5.

* Uranus - Is visible in the morning sky. Uranus rises about 1:55 am on the 1st 
and about 11:54 pm
by the end of the month. Uranus is in the constellation of Aquarius and shines 
at a magnitude of

* Neptune - Rises at 12:42 am on the 1st and about 10:43 pm by month's end. 
Neptune is in the
constellation of Capricornus and shines at magnitude 7.9.

Dwarf Planets

* Ceres - Rises about 3:05 am on the 1st and about 1:35 am by the end of the 
month. Ceres is in
the constellation of Cetus and shines at magnitude 9.3.

* Pluto - Is at opposition on the 19th. Pluto rises about 9:04 pm on the 1st 
and about 7:03 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 Arietids Meteor Shower - This is the strongest daylight meteor shower of 
the year. The
duration extends from May 22 to July 2, with maximum activity occurring on June 
8. The hourly rate
is near 60 at maximum.

* The June Lyrids - This shower is active during June 10 to 21, producing 
predominantly blue and
white meteors at a maximum hourly rate of 8 per hour on June 15. The average 
magnitude of this
shower is near 3, while 32% of the meteors leave trains.

* The Zeta Perseids - This daylight shower occurs during May 20 to July 5. 
Maximum occurs on June
13. Radar surveys have revealed the activity of this shower to be near 40 per 

* Comet 2P/Encke is still visible in the southern hemisphere but has dimmed to 
less than 11th
magnitude. However, it does pass very near the star Fomalhaut, the brightest 
star in the southern
constellation of Piscus Austrinus.

* 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)
* 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 - May 31, 2007 - Saturn Enhanced

"Stunning details in Saturn's clouds suggest movement within bands of 
atmosphere. This false color
enhancement makes visible an exciting level of detail in the bright and dark 
bands that is more
easily seen at Jupiter than at Saturn. 

See Jupiter Clouds, True Color and False to Show Heights
for natural and false
color Cassini views of Jupiter. 

Saturn's southern hemisphere seems to fade into the blackness of space in this 

The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera using a 
combination of spectral
filters sensitive to wavelengths of infrared light centered at 752 (red 
channel), 890 (blue
channel) and 728 (green channel) nanometers. The view was acquired on Feb. 2, 
2007 at a distance
of approximately 1 million kilometers (600,000 miles) from Saturn. Image scale 
is 57 kilometers
(36 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.

* New Horizons - May 14, 2007 - Tvashtar in Motion
Download Animated Gif

"This five-frame sequence of New Horizons images captures the giant plume from 
Io's Tvashtar
volcano. Snapped by the probe's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) as the 
spacecraft flew
past Jupiter earlier this year, this first-ever "movie" of an Io plume clearly 
shows motion in the
cloud of volcanic debris, which extends 330 kilometers (200 miles) above the 
moon's surface. Only
the upper part of the plume is visible from this vantage point - the plume's 
source is 130
kilometers (80 miles) below the edge of Io's disk, on the far side of the moon.

The appearance and motion of the plume is remarkably similar to an ornamental 
fountain on Earth,
replicated on a gigantic scale. The knots and filaments that allow us to track 
the plume's motion
are still mysterious, but this movie is likely to help scientists understand 
their origin, as well
as provide unique information on the plume dynamics."

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 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 ? May 02, 2007 - 
Sharp Views Show Ground Ice On Mars Is Patchy And Variable

"Using observations by NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter, scientists have discovered 
that water ice lies
at variable depths over small-scale patches on Mars.

The findings draw a much more detailed picture of underground ice on Mars than 
was previously
available. They suggest that when NASA's next Mars mission, the Phoenix Mars 
Lander, starts
digging to icy soil on an arctic plain in 2008, it might find the depth to the 
ice differs in
trenches just a few feet apart. The new results appear in the May 3, 2007, 
issue of the journal

"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/)

May 21-25, 2007

* Fractures (Released 21 May 2007) 

* Windstreak (Released 22 May 2007)

* Dunes on the Move (Released 23 May 2007)

* Dust Devil Tracks (Released 24 May 2007)

* Channel (Released 25 May 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) - 
May 31, 2007

Spirit Status: Remarkable Rover Continues to Astonish - sol 1200-1206, May 31, 

"Spirit is still making new discoveries despite dragging its feet, so to speak, 
after losing use
of the right front wheel 426 sols, or Martian days, ago. In the process of 
creating small trenches
while traversing Martian terrain, the dragging right front wheel revealed one 
of the most
astonishing discoveries so far -- exceptionally high silica content in Martian 
soil, indicative of
water at some point in the past. Two of Spirit's scientific instruments -- the 
X-ray spectrometer and the miniature thermal emission spectrometer -- measured 
a composition of
about 90 percent pure silica in a soil target known as "Gertrude Weise."

Opportunity Status: Opportunity Studies Rocks Representative of Crater Wall - 
sol 1171-1177, May
25, 2007

"Opportunity is healthy and continues to circumnavigate "Victoria Crater" back 
toward "Duck Bay."
While stationed at the "Madrid/Guadarrama" outcrop on the "Cape of Good Hope," 
Opportunity has
been studying a cobble with unusual spectral characteristics as measured by the 
panoramic camera.

The cobbles appear to be similar to two rock faces, nicknamed "Madrid" and 
"Guadarrama," exposed
in the wall of the crater. Because the crater walls are hard to reach, 
scientists hope to get an
idea of their composition by examining similar cobbles nearby. These rocks have 
different color
properties from other materials seen at Victoria Crater and are believed to be 
crater ejecta. They
are chock full of "big blueberries" -- small, round rocks.

On the rover's 1,172nd sol, or Martian day (May 11, 2007), Opportunity 
performed a thermal inertia
experiment on a soil target to complete measurements inside and outside of the 
dark streaks on the
northern side of the crater. This experiment measured temperature-related 
properties of the soil."

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 - 

* Astrogirl Homepage - 

* 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: May 31, 2006

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