[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 31 Dec 2005 23:26:06 -0800 (PST)

                IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                         January 2006


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 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...

* 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 29th.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 6th.
* Full Moon on the 14th.
* Last Quarter Moon on the 22nd.

* Perigee on the 1st, 224,781 mi. from Earth.
* Apogee on the 17th, 252,205 mi. from Earth.
* Perigee on the 30th, 222,313 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 7 deg. south of Venus on the 1st.
* The Moon passes 1.3 deg. north of Mars on the 8th.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. north of Saturn on the 15th.
* The Moon passes 0.6 deg. north of Spica on the 21st.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. south of Jupiter on the 23rd.
* The Moon passes 0.02 deg. north of Antares on the 25th.
* The Moon passes 12 deg. south of Venus on the 27th.

The 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 January - Saturn is at it?s best this month, 
reaching opposition on the
27th. Mars continues to grace us with it?s presence in the evening skies as 
well. For those early
risers, Jupiter continues to be a spectacular sight in the early AM hours. 
Venus leaves the
evening sky and returns to the morning sky this month.

* Mercury - Is in superior conjunction with the Sun on the 26th. Mercury is 
barely visible above
the eastern horizon early in the month. A clear, flat, southeaster horizon is 
needed to spot
Mercury this month. Mercury rises around 6:2 am on the 1st. Mercury shines at 
magnitude -0.7 on
the 1st.

* Venus - Is in inferior conjunction with the Sun on the 13th returning to the 
morning sky later
in the month. Look to the west soon after sunset during the first week of the 
month or to the east
before sunrise during the last week or so of the month to spot Venus. Venus 
sets at 6:21 pm on the
1st. Venus rises about 5:09 am by the end of the month.
* Earth ? Is at perihelion (91.4 million miles from the Sun) on the 4th.

* Mars - Sets about 2:50 am on the 1st and about 1:45 am by month's end. Mars 
is in the
constellation of Aries this month. Mars shines at magnitude -0.6 on the 1st and 
dims to magnitude
0.2 by the 31st.

* Jupiter - Can be spotted in the early morning this month. Jupiter rises at 
2:49 am on the 1st
and about 1:07 am by month's end. Jupiter is in the constellation of Libra. 
Jupiter shines at
magnitude -1.9.

* Saturn ? Is at opposition on the 27th. Saturn rises around 6:56 pm on the 1st 
and about 4:41 pm
by month's end. Saturn is in the constellation of Cancer. Saturn shines at a 
magnitude of -0.2.

* Uranus - Sets at 9:23 pm on the 1st and about 7:28 pm by month's end. Uranus 
is in the
constellation of Aquarius and shines at a magnitude of 5.9.

* Neptune - Sets at 7:43 pm on the 1st and about 5:38 pm by month's end. 
Neptune is in the
constellation of Capricornus and shines at a magnitude of 8.0.

* Pluto - Rises about 5:46 am on the 1st and about 3:48 am by month's end. 
Pluto is in the
constellation of Ophiuchus. Pluto shines at magnitude 14.0. As always, good 
luck at spotting this

Astronomical Events

Meteor Showers
* The Quadrantids - This meteor shower is generally visible between December 28 
and January 7,
with a very sharp maximum of 45 to 200 meteors per hour occurring during 
January 3 and 4. The
meteors tend to be bluish and possess an average magnitude of about 2.8.

* C/2005 E2 (McNaught) - This 10th magnitude comet is passing through the 
constellation of
Aquarius and into Pisces by the end of the month. Visibility actually improves 
this month but the
best time to view this comet will be after the 16th when the Moon will not 
hinder viewing.

* 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)
* Psyche is in the constellation of Taurus.
* Juno is in the constellation of Orion.
* Vesta is at opposition on the 5th in the constellation of Gemini.
* Metis is in the constellation of Leo.

* 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 - December 27, 2005 -
Cassini Caps off Year with Titan Flyby 

"The Cassini spacecraft wrapped up this year's whirlwind tour of Saturn's many 
moons with a Titan
rendezvous on Dec. 26. Raw images are now available.

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 ? No new news since November 28, 2005 -
Science Team Continues Data Analysis

"In the past month, the science team has continued with its data analysis of 
Deep Impact's
encounter with comet Tempel 1. Detailed computations are required to convert a 
picture made up of
raw data numbers returned from space into an image containing numbers of 
physical meaning. This
process is called calibration. 

It is carried out by observing stars of known light output, or radiance, and 
scaling the value of
that output to the known quantity of radiation produced by the star. This is 
like synchronizing
your watch, so that everyone has the same time reference. In this case the 
reference is to a scale
of energy output. We have updated our calibration numbers using the most recent 
data taken just
before and after impact. We have made improvements in subtraction of the 
background signal that
exists in every electronic detector so that we can analyze the signal from the 
comet and not the
noise from the camera's detector. With the known value of the star expressed in 
units of energy,
we then determine the energy released from the comet. Ken Klaasen and other 
team members have been
working hard on this."

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

* Stardust - December 21, 2005 -
NASA Prepares for Return of Interstellar Cargo

"NASA's Stardust mission is nearing Earth after a 2.88 billion mile round-trip 
journey to return
cometary and interstellar dust particles back to Earth. Scientists believe the 
cargo will help
provide answers to fundamental questions about comets and the origins of the 
solar system.

The velocity of the sample return capsule, as it enters the Earth's atmosphere 
at 28,860 mph, will
be the fastest of any human-made object on record. It surpasses the record set 
in May 1969 during
the return of the Apollo 10 command module. The capsule is scheduled to return 
on Jan. 15."

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.

* 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 September 12, 2005
Happy 8th Birthday, MGS

"Mars Global Surveyor wins the title of the oldest spacecraft currently in 
operation at Mars! The
spacecraft's lasting success has enabled scientists to capture repeating 
weather phenomena and
new, fresh insights revealing Mars as an active planet."

* Mars Global Surveyor Images - December 22-28, 2005

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

* Copernicus Dunes (Released 22 December 2005)

* Outcrops in Aram (Released 23 December 2005)

* Lonely Crater (Released 24 December 2005)

* Richardson Dunes (Released 25 December 2005)

* Buried Craters (Released 26 December 2005)

* Mars at Ls 341 Degrees (Released 27 December 2005)

* Herschel's Dunes (Released 28 December 2005)

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 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 will complete 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 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 November 24, 2005 - 
Odyssey Celebrates Two Mars Years In Orbit Around the Red Planet!
November 24, 2005

Ice Beneath Mars Is Asking, "Can You Hear Me Now?" - Oct 24, 2005
"What could have been dismissed as "just static" in a radio signal is actually 
an echo from Mars
that might reflect the shape of hidden ice and rock structures beneath the 
martian surface."

Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) web site: (http://themis.asu.edu/)

December 26-30, 2005

* Wind and Water? (Released 26 December 2005)

* Ganges Features (Released 27 December 2005)

* Dissected Surface (Released 28 December 2005)

* Windstreak (Released 29 December 2005)

* Polar Layers (Released 30 December 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) - December 29, 2005 -

Spirit Status: On 'Horseback' - sol 695-702, Dec 29, 2005

"Spirit is healthy. The rover drove 8.3 meters (27 feet) and perfectly 
positioned itself in front
of a rock informally named "Comanche." Spirit performed work with the 
instruments on the robotic
arm on a target called "Horseback" at Comanche. The rock abrasion tool's brush 
was only partially
successful in making contact with Horseback, so the team moved the robotic arm 
to different target
informally called "Palomino." Spirit performed a successful brushing and 
continued with more
investigations using the other instruments on the robotic arm."

Opportunity Status: Evaluating Arm Positions - sol 675-681, Dec 22, 2005

"This week the Opportunity Instrument Arm Anomaly Team continued investigating 
the safety of
different arm positions. The intent is to determine the safest position to 
leave the arm while the
vehicle drives to new locations. The original position for the arm while 
driving was to tuck it
underneath the rover, hooked on a small pin. This leaves the partially failed 
shoulder azimuth
joint at 90 degrees to the direction of travel. If the arm stuck in this 
position we would be
unable to use the arm.

The current plan is to investigate different versions of driving with the 
instrument arm's "elbow"
sticking out towards the front of the vehicle, with the arm's instrument 
cluster above the solar
panels. From that position the instrument arm could still be used without using 
the suspect
azimuth joint. The variations include leaving the instrument cluster in mid 
air, or resting one or
another instrument on different portions of the rover for stability.

These different positions are being evaluated on the test rover at the Jet 
Propulsion Laboratory
in Pasadena, Calif. Meanwhile, on Mars, Opportunity is continuing to use the 
arm and its
instruments to investigate rocks within its reach. The rover has also been 
acquiring images for a
360-degree, multi-filter panorama of "Erebus Crater."

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

Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page at  

* Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission ? No new news since November 18, 2005 -
Mars-Bound NASA Craft Tweaks Course, Passes Halfway Point

"NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter successfully fired six engines for about 20 
seconds today to
adjust its flight path in advance of its March 10, 2006, arrival at the red 

Since its Aug. 12 launch, the multipurpose spacecraft has covered about 60 
percent of the distance
for its trip from Earth to Mars. It will fly about 40-million kilometers 
(25-million miles)
farther before it enters orbit around Mars. It will spend half a year gradually 
adjusting the
shape of its orbit, then begin its science phase. During that phase, it will 
return more data
about Mars than all previous missions combined. The spacecraft has already set 
a record
transmission rate for an interplanetary mission, successfully returning data at 
6 megabits per
second, fast enough to fill a CD-ROM every 16 minutes."

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.)

* Cloudbait Observatory, Guffey Colorado -   http://www.cloudbait.com 

* "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 - 

* 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

* 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 - http://ncastro.org/

* Our Solar System - http://pauldunn.dynip.com/solarsystem/
This is an excellent site to learn about our solar system.

* 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: December 31, 2005

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