[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 31 Jan 2006 14:44:49 -0800 (PST)

                IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                         February 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 27th.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 5th.
* Full Moon on the 12th.
* Last Quarter Moon on the 21st.

* Apogee on the 13th, 252,500 mi. from Earth.
* Perigee on the 30th, 221,757 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 2 deg. north of Mars on the 5th.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. north of Saturn on the 11th.
* The Moon passes 0.4 deg. north of Spica on the 17th.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. south of Jupiter on the 20th.
* The Moon passes 0.2 deg. south of Antares on the 21st.
* The Moon passes 10 deg. south of Venus on the 24th.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. South of Neptune on the 26th.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. South of Mercury on the 28th.

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 still at it's best this month, 
having reached
opposition on January 27th. Look for Mars near the Pleiades this month. For 
those early risers,
Jupiter continues to be a spectacular sight in the early AM hours and Venus is 
at it's brightest
before dawn as well.

* Mercury - Is at greatest eastern elongation on the 23rd. Mercury is bright in 
the evening sky in
late February. Mercury shines at magnitude 0.1 on the 28th.

* Venus - Is stationary on the 3rd. Venus is at greatest brilliance (magnitude 
-4.6) on the 17th.
Venus rises about 5:09 am on the 1st and about 4:09 am on the 28th.
* Earth ? N/A.

* Mars - Sets about 1:45 am on the 1st and about 1:04 am by month's end. Mars 
is in the
constellation of Taurus this month. Mars shines at magnitude 0.5.

* Jupiter - Can be spotted in the early morning sky this month. Jupiter rises 
at 1:07 am on the
1st and about 11:20 pm by month's end. Jupiter is in the constellation of 
Libra. Jupiter shines at
magnitude -2.1.

* Saturn ? Rises around 4:41 pm on the 1st and about 2:41 pm by month's end. 
Saturn is in the
constellation of Cancer. Saturn shines at a magnitude of -0.2.

* Uranus - Sets at 7:28 pm on the 1st and about 5:46 pm by month's end. Uranus 
is in the
constellation of Aquarius and shines at a magnitude of 5.9, however, Uranus is 
very low in the
western sky soon after sunset and may be lost in the twilight glow by mid-month.

* Neptune - Is in conjunction with the Sun on the 6th. Neptune will not be 
visible until late in
the month returning to the morning sky before sunrise. Neptune rises about 5:36 
am by month's end.
Neptune shines at a magnitude of 8.0.

* Pluto - Rises about 3:28 am on the 1st and about 2:00 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
* There are a few minor meteor showers this month but none that produce rates 
much higher than 2-5
per hour.

* C/2005 E2 (McNaught) - Reaches perihelion in late February and will have 
brightened to magnitude
9. Comet McNaught passes through the constellation of Pisces this month. Look 
for this comet
during the last weeks of February.

* 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)
* Parthenope and Psyche are in the constellation of Taurus.
* Juno is in the constellation of Orion.
* Vesta is 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 - January 24, 2006 - Ringside Seats for Saturn

"Saturn reaches opposition -- the closest it comes to Earth -- on Jan. 27, 
2006. On this date,
golden Saturn rises in the east just as the sun sets in the west. It will be 
visible all night

A planet is in opposition when it is on one side of Earth directly opposite the 
Sun on the other
side. As a result, it appears fully illuminated by the Sun. Opposition brings 
Saturn a mere 1,215
million kilometers (755 million miles) from Earth.

January through June are the best months to view Saturn this year. In late 
January, if you wait a
few hours after sunset you'll be rewarded with better views through the 
telescope. Even the
smallest telescope will reveal a golden orb surrounded by Saturn's amazing 
rings. You may even
spot one or more of Saturn's moons orbiting the planet."

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

* New Horizons - January 30, 2006 -
New Horizons Successfully Performs First Post-Launch Maneuvers

"NASA?s New Horizons spacecraft has successfully carried out its first 
post-launch maneuvers,
conducting two small thruster firings that slightly adjusted its path toward 
the outer solar
system and the first close-up study of distant planet Pluto.

Carried out today and Jan. 28 by mission operators at the Johns Hopkins 
University Applied Physics
Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., the maneuvers refined the spacecraft?s 
trajectory toward a
gravity assist-flyby of Jupiter in February 2007. The gravity boost from 
Jupiter will put New
Horizons on course for a close flyby of Pluto and its moons on July 14, 2015.

?Everything performed as planned,? says New Horizons Project Manager Glen 
Fountain, of APL. ?New
Horizons has to fly through a precise aim point near Jupiter to get to Pluto on 
time and on
target, and these maneuvers are putting us on the right path.?

Conducted with a pair of hydrazine-fueled thrusters on the spacecraft?s lower 
deck, the maneuvers
Saturday and today lasted about five and 12 minutes, respectively, providing a 
total change in
velocity of just under 18 meters per second (about 40 miles per hour). The 
spacecraft was nearly
11.9 million kilometers (7.4 million miles) from Earth when it completed 
today?s maneuver at 2:12
p.m. EST.

New Horizons was launched Jan. 19 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., 
aboard an Atlas V
launch vehicle. The powerful Atlas V, combined with a STAR 48 solid-fuel kick 
motor, sent the
piano-sized 1,054-pound probe speeding from Earth at more than 36,000 miles per 
hour ? the fastest
spacecraft ever launched."

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.

* Stardust - January 25, 2006 -
Stardust Status Report 

Dr. Peter Tsou
Stardust Deputy Principal Investigator

"Since the Sample Canister has been delivered to the STARDUST cleanroom at 
Johnson Space Center
(JSC) on January 17th, the Preliminary Examination Team (PET) along with JSC 
Curatorial staff have
been making good progress toward processing the returned samples. Everything 
has proceeded
smoothly; in fact, we are ahead of our planned schedule on several fronts. The 
Investigator, Deputy Principal Investigator and several subteam leads have 
worked 8:00 am until
near midnight for the last two days. We have removed many aerogel fragments and 
found many
particles in them; removed 7 pieces of aluminum foil and found very many small 
craters in them;
removed several particles from the fragments and examined them by IR; 
microtomed several
particles; removed two Wild 2 aerogel cells from the tray; and sliced one of 
the removed aerogel
cell with the harmonic saw."

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 - January 03, 2006 -
MGS locates Spirit - 

"Shortly before Spirit's Martian anniversary, the Mars Orbiter Camera acquired 
an image centered
on the rover's location at that time in the "Columbia Hills."

* Mars Global Surveyor Images - January 12-25, 2006

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

* Aeolis Yardangs (Released 12 January 2006)

* North Polar Layers (Released 13 January 2006)

* Becquerel's Layers (Released 14 January 2006)

* South Polar Terrain (Released 15 January 2006)

* Impact Crater (Released 16 January 2006)

* Mars at Ls 357 Degrees (Released 17 January 2006)

* Work of the Wind (Released 18 January 2006)

* South Polar Scene (Released 19 January 2006)

* Devil in Mendel (Released 20 January 2006)

* Cratered Surface (Released 21 January 2006)

* Southern Terrain (Released 22 January 2006)

* North Polar Dunes (Released 23 January 2006)

* Meridiani Planum Features Investigated by the Rover, Opportunity 
(Released 24 January 2006)

* Mars at Ls 357 Degrees (Released 25 January 2006)

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 completed 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/)

January 16-27, 2006

* Becquerel Crater (Released 16 January 2006)

* Dust Slides (Released 17 January 2006)

* Ganges Landslide (Released 18 January 2006)

* Canyon Dust (Released 19 January 2006)

* Layered Fan (Released 20 January 2006)

* Channel (Released 23 January 2006)

* Holden Crater Delta (Released 24 January 2006)

* Blowouts (Released 25 January 2006)

* Crater Clouds (Released 26 January 2006)

* Crater Landslide (Released 27 January 2006)

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) - January 27, 2006 -

Spirit Status: Spirit Nears 'Home Plate' - sol 730-735, Jan 27, 2006

"Spirit continues to make progress toward "Home Plate," a conspicuous circular 
feature scientists
hope to investigate before the Martian winter, in search of layered rock 
outcrops that may provide
additional information about the geology of the "Columbia Hills." During the 
past week, the rover
has driven nearly 100 meters (328 feet), and has still had time to do some 
targeted remote
sensing. Spirit is currently just less than 170 meters (560 feet) from Home 

During the past week, engineers noticed some anomalies in dynamic braking on 
two of the steering
motors, similar to previous events on Spirit. Based on analysis and testing, 
they were able to
continue the drive without incident."

Opportunity Status: Opportunity Takes Microscopic Images, Collaborates with 
European Mars Mission
- sol 708-714, Jan 27, 2006

"Opportunity remains healthy following another busy week. The main activity of 
the week was taking
microscopic images of a feature nicknamed "Lower Overgaard." The science team 
individual, high-priority targets of interest, nicknamed "Scotch," "Bourbon," 
and "Branchwater."
After the microscopic imager successfully acquired images of "Scotch," one of 
the actuator motors
on Opportunity's robotic arm (Joint 2, which controls elevation) stalled less 
than 1 milliradian
from its final position. Engineers performed diagnostic activities on Joint 2 
over the weekend and
determined that the actuator appeared to function properly. Opportunity resumed 
work with the
microscopic imager but was unsuccessful because of a stall on the Joint 1 
actuator. Engineers
increased the electrical resistance and Opportunity again began acquiring 
microscopic images.

This past week, Opportunity also supported coordinated observations with the 
European Space
Agency's Mars Express spacecraft, using the miniature thermal emission 
spectrometer and panoramic
camera, and also took images of a transit across the sun by Phobos. Science 
team members next plan
to adjust the rover's position slightly to conduct microscopic analysis of 
another target area,
nicknamed "Upper Overgaard."

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.)

* **NEW** Distant Suns - http://www.distantsuns.com/
Desktop Astronomy package for PCs.

* "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 - 

* 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

* 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: January 31, 2006

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