[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 04 Aug 2002 15:16:05 -0600

IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
August 2002


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


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.


In This Newsletter...

* Moon
* Planets
* Astronomical Events
* Planetary/Lunar Exploration Missions
* Web Sites of Interest
* Acknowledgments and References
* Subscription Information



* New Moon on the 8th.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 15th.
* Full Moon on the 22nd.
* 3rd Quarter Moon on the 1st and 30th.

* Perigee on the 10th, 225,513 mi. from Earth.
* Apogee on the 26th, 252,087 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 2 degrees north of Saturn on the 4th.
* Mercury passes 0.9 degrees north of Regulus on the 5th.
* The Moon passes 4 degrees north of Mercury on the 9th.
* The Moon passes 6 degrees north of Venus on the 11th.
* The Moon passes 4 degrees south of Neptune on the 20th.
* The Moon passes 4 degrees south of Uranus on the 22nd.


(All times are local unless otherwise noted.)

* Mercury - Returns to the evening skies late in the month.
Mercury shines at magnitude 0.2 by the 31st.

* Venus - Is at greatest eastern elongation (46 degrees) on the
22nd. Venus shines brightly at magnitude -4.2 on the 1st
brightening to magnitude -4.4 by the 31st. Venus can be easily
spotted in the early evening skies.

* Mars - Is in conjunction with the sun on the 10th. Mars is
not visible this month.

* Jupiter - Having passed conjunction last month, Jupiter
returns to the early morning skies late in the month. Jupiter
rises about 3 hours after Saturn and will shine at magnitude -

* Saturn - Remains near Zeta Tauri, the lower horn of Taurus
the Bull. Saturn can be found in the same low-power telescopic
field of view as the Crab Nebula. Saturn shines at magnitude

* Uranus - Is at opposition on the 19th, rising about the same
time as the sun sets. Uranus is in the constellation of
Aquarius. Uranus is at its best for this year. Uranus shines at
magnitude 5.7.

* Neptune - Is at opposition on the 1st. Neptune is also at its
best for the year. Neptune is located in the constellation of
Capricornus. Neptune shines at magnitude 7.8.

* Pluto - Rises in the early evening. Pluto is still at its
visual best for this year. Pluto is in the lower east corner of
the constellation of Ophiuchus. As always, this planet is
difficult to spot, shining at magnitude 13.8.


Astronomical Events

Meteor Showers
* The Southern Delta Aquarids - This meteor shower has a
duration of July 14 - August 18. Maximum hourly rates of 15-20
occur on July 28/29.

* The Northern Delta Aquarids - This meteor shower extends from
July 16 to September 10. Maximum occurs on August 13. The
hourly rates reach a high of 10.

* The Perseids - The Perseids meteor shower is generally
visible between July 23 and August 22. Maximum occurs during
August 12/13. The hourly rate typically reaches 80, although
some years have been as low as 4 and as high as 200. The
meteors tend to be very fast, possess an average magnitude of
2.3 and leave persistent trains. The best time to observe this
meteor shower this year will be in the early morning hours of
August 12 before sunrise for North American observers.

* Information on various occultations can be found at
http://lunar-occultations.com/iota/iotandx.htm the
International Occultation Timing Association's (IOTA) web site.

* Comet Wirtanen passes through the constellation of Gemini
this month. This comet shines between magnitude 10 and 11 so a
dark observing site and a good telescope will be needed to spot
this one.

* No significant eclipse activity this month.

* Pallas is at opposition on the 12th.
* Iris is at opposition on the 27th.

* 2002 NY40
This Is SKY & TELESCOPE's AstroAlert for Minor Planets
NEXT MONTH'S [August] FLYBY OF 2002 NY40

In mid-August, a newly discovered asteroid will pass close
enough to Earth that it should be easy to spot in small
telescopes and even binoculars. This object was first detected
on July 14th by astronomers using the LINEAR 1-meter survey
telescope in New Mexico, and it has now been designated 2002
NY40 by the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
According to calculations by the center's associate director,
Gareth V. Williams, it is traveling in a low-inclination,
Apollo-type orbit with a period of 3.03 years. Its August 18th
flyby should bring it to within 530,000 kilometers (330,000
miles) of Earth, which is just outside the Moon's distance.

There are several key differences between this encounter and
that of 2002 MN, which made news a few weeks ago. That object
came well inside our own Moon's orbit and was not detected
until several days after the fact. The new asteroid was found
on its way in toward the Sun, a full month before its own
flyby. But 2002 NY40 is about 10 times larger than 2002 MN; the
best current estimates make it about half a kilometer (a third
of a mile) across.

Still quite faint at magnitude 18 in the constellation
Aquarius, 2002 NY40 is making a very tight loop around the star
Beta Aquarii. During the next few weeks it will brighten
tremendously and yet remain almost motionless in the sky -- the
eerie signature of an asteroid hurtling right toward the Earth!
Then it veers off to the northwest as it goes by, racing past
the double star Albireo in Cygnus for observers in the Western
Hemisphere on the night of August 17-18.

On that Saturday evening, 2002 NY40 should become as bright as
magnitude 9.3 during the period when it is well placed for
viewing from North America. Its angular velocity will exceed 4
arc minutes per minute, a motion easily perceptible in small
telescopes. Sky & Telescope plans to issue detailed observing
instructions, through AstroAlerts and SkyandTelescope.com, in
the days leading up to this rare event.

A mere 24 hours after it goes by, 2002 NY40 plunges hopelessly
beyond reach of Earth-based telescopes as it heads in toward
the Sun. (We are then viewing its unilluminated backside, which
explains why it becomes so faint, so fast.)

Meanwhile, professional astronomers are gearing up to make the
most of this encounter. "2002 NY40 is a potentially very good
radar target for mid-August," notes Mike Nolan of Arecibo
Observatory and Cornell University. In a message posted on the
Minor Planet Mailing List (http://www.bitnik.com/mp), Nolan
urges advanced amateurs to obtain detailed photometry of the
asteroid on the nights leading up to the flyby. A good light
curve, revealing the object's rotation rate, would help in
selecting the instrumentation to be used with the Arecibo
1,000-foot radio dish.

While there is no danger of 2002 NY40 striking the Earth during
this flyby, a future impact has not been ruled out. Both
NEODyS, operated by the University of Pisa, and NASA's Near-
Earth Object Program Office at JPL have identified a number of
very close encounters in the years to come. These occur either
around August 18th as the asteroid heads in toward the Sun, or
else near February 14th when it is on the way out. Both
agencies are focusing a flyby just 20 years from now (on August
18, 2022), when there appears to be a 1-in-500,000 chance of an
impact -- extremely unlikely, but worrisome just the same.

Roger W. Sinnott
Senior Editor
Sky & Telescope

2002 NY40 Ephemeris may be displayed by visiting the following
web site and entering "2002 NY 40" in the text space provided
on the displayed page. http://cfa-

* 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)

* Genesis - July 11, 2002 -
"Solar particle collection continues as we approach one year of
flight. We continue to remain mainly in low-speed solar wind.
Last week during some high-speed wind, the concentrator
rejection grid's voltage autonomously went to its maximum value
of 2060 V without incident. Also, the team is developing the
next stationkeeping maneuver. It will be similar to the last
maneuver, since in both Genesis passes close to the Sun on the
way to the maneuver's starting point." The latest status
reports can be read at
http://www.genesismission.org/mission/statusupdate.html.  Find
out more about the Genesis mission at
http://genesismission.jpl.nasa.gov/ and
http://genesis.jpl.nasa.gov/html/index.shtml.  Visit "Where Is
Genesis Now? at

* Galileo - July 15, 2002
"As the Galileo spacecraft continues its long trek back in
towards Jupiter for its final planned science pass in November,
the first two weeks of this reporting period are occupied by an
event called solar conjunction. This occurs roughly every 13
months as the paths of Jupiter and the spacecraft have them
appear to pass behind the Sun as seen from Earth. Solar
conjunction itself is an instantaneous event, and occurs on
Thursday, July 18, at 1:51 p.m. PDT, when the line of sight
from Earth to Galileo will skim a mere 20th of a degree over
the visible surface of the Sun. However, for a period of about
3 weeks centered around that event, the spacecraft is less than
7 degrees from the Sun and radio interference from the
turbulent solar atmosphere makes communication unreliable. This
period will end on Sunday, July 28, and normal spacecraft
activities can resume. " Read the latest news at

* Cassini - August 02, 2002 - "The most recent spacecraft
telemetry was acquired from the Goldstone tracking station on
Tuesday, July 30. The Cassini spacecraft is in an excellent
state of health and is operating normally." For the latest
mission status reports, visit
http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/cassini/english/. The speed and
location of the spacecraft can be viewed on the "Present
Position" web page.

* Deep Space 1 - This spacecraft was retired on Dec. 18, 2001.
Check out http://nmp.jpl.nasa.gov/ds1/ to learn more about what
this mission accomplished.

* Stardust - August 02, 2002 - "Commands to deploy the aerogel
grid were tested in the Spacecraft Test Laboratory on July
25th. These commands also move the spacecraft to the new
interstellar collection position. As the commands simulated the
spacecraft moving to the new position, an attitude controller
fault was detected. This made the simulated spacecraft enter a
safe mode. Analysis revealed that a configuration file
providing the new position was corrupted. A new configuration
file was built and the test repeated without any errors." Visit
the Stardust home page at http://stardust.jpl.nasa.gov for more
information about the mission.

* Pluto-Kuiper Express, Europa Orbiter, Solar Probe - Many of
NASA's future exploration missions are currently being
examined. To find out more about these discovery/exploration
missions check out the web page at
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/ice_fire//whatsnew.htm for more

Mars Missions

* Mission updates will resume once Mars is no longer in line
with the sun.

* Mars Global Surveyor - June 01, 2002 - "What Happens When the
Sun is Between Earth and Mars

During the interval around solar conjunction the Sun obscures
the line of sight between Earth and Mars, making it virtually
impossible to receive radio signals from the spacecraft. The
Sun is a strong source of electromagnetic activity, and it
wreaks havoc with the spacecraft's radio signal, essentially
reducing the spacecraft's data rate to Earth to zero for the
period centered around conjunction. Mission planners and
telemetry engineers define this problem area as occurring when
the Sun-Earth-MGS angle is less than 7 degrees; a relatively
"quiet" Sun can mean that data can be successfully returned at
angles as small as 3-5 degrees." Visit the MGS pages at
http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mgs/index.html. There are over 100,000
images of Mars from the MGS, check out the newest images of the
surface of Mars at

* Mars Odyssey Orbiter - June 04, 2002 - "Flight controllers
for NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft completed the last major
technical milestone today [June 04, 2002] in support of the
science mission by unfurling the boom that holds the gamma ray
spectrometer sensor head instrument." Visit the Mars Odyssey
Mission page at http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/odyssey/index.html.

* Mars Missions Status - New Mars missions are being planned to
include several new rover and sample collection missions.


Links and Other Space News
(If you have a link you would like to recommend to our readers,
please feel free to submit it.)

* JPL Solar System Ambassador Program -

* Space.com - Sky Watch Calendar -

* Eric's Black Sun Eclipse website -

* 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 -

* The Solar System in Pictures - http://www.the-solar-
system.net and a map of the moon - http://www.moon-phases.com/

* Spaceflight Now - http://spaceflightnow.com/

* NASA Science News - http://spacescience.com/

* Universe Today - http://www.universetoday.com

* Space.com - http://space.com
Interesting articles and signup for your own email account
[your name]@space.com.

* Northern Colorado Astronomical Society - http://ncastro.org/

* Denver Astronomical Society -

* My Stars Live - http://www.mystarslive.com/
Interactive Star Chart

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


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 shelves.

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
Last modified: August 04, 2002

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