[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 4 Aug 2003 19:53:45 -0700 (PDT)

            IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                      August 2003


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


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.


In This Newsletter...

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



* New Moon on the 27th.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 5th.
* Full Moon on the 12th.
* 3rd Quarter Moon on the 19th.

* Perigee on the 6th, 229,555 mi. from Earth.
* Apogee on the 19th, 251,097 mi. from Earth.
* Perigee on the 31st, 228,618 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 5 deg. south of Uranus on the 12th.
* The Moon passes 1.9 deg. north of Mars on the 13th.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. north of Saturn on the 23rd.


(All times are local unless otherwise noted.)
Planetary Reports generated by "TheSky" software

* Mercury - Is at greatest eastern elongation (27 deg.
above the western horizon) on the 14th. Mercury may be
spotted low on the western horizon soon after sunset
for most of this month. Mercury sets about an hour
after sunset when it is at its peak. Mercury shines at
a magnitude of -0.1.

* Venus - Is in superior conjunction on the 18th.
Venus is not visible this month due to its proximity
to the Sun.

* Earth - At perhelic opposition with Mars on the
28th. This is the point where Earth's orbit and Mars'
orbit are the closest.

* Mars - Rises about 10:00 pm on the 1st and about
7:40 pm by the 31st. Mars is in the constellation of
Aquarius this month. Mars shines at magnitude -2.3 on
the 1st and brightens to magnitude -2.9 by the end of
the month. Mars is closest to the Earth on the 27th
(34.6 million miles away). Mars is at opposition on
the 28th. Mars is at perihelion (128.4 million miles
from the Sun) on the 30th. From Astronomy Magazine
(July 2003 - "During the next five month's, we'll be
up-close and personal with the Red Planet like never
before. When Mars reaches opposition on August 28, it
will span 25.11" and shine at magnitude -2.9 - bigger
and brighter than at any time in the past 50,000

* Jupiter - Is in conjunction with the Sun on the
22nd. Jupiter disappears into the twilight glow in the
first week of the month and will no longer be visible
until late September.

* Saturn - Rises about 3:30 am on the 1st and about
1:45 am by month's end. Saturn has now become a
morning object, so get up early to spot Saturn. Saturn
can be found in the constellation of Gemini. Saturn
shines at magnitude 0.1.

* Uranus - Is at opposition on the 24th.  Uranus rises
about 9:10 pm on the 1st and about two hours earlier
by month's end. Uranus is in the constellation of
Aquarius. Uranus is at its best in the month of August
this year. Uranus shines at a magnitude of 5.7.

* Neptune - Is at opposition on the 4th. Rises 8:10 pm
on the 1st and about two hours earlier by month's end.
Neptune is in the constellation of Capricornus.
Neptune is also at its best in the month of August
this year. Neptune shines at a magnitude of 7.8.

* Pluto - Pluto is located just within the
southeastern corner of the constellation of Ophiuchus
and rises about 4:11 pm and about two hours earlier by
month's end. Pluto shines at magnitude 13.8. As
always, good luck at spotting this one.


Astronomical Events

Meteor Showers
* 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 13 before sunrise for North American
observers. More on this year's Perseids at

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

* 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 65P/Gunn shines at 12th magnitude and will
require dark skies and a fairly large aperture
telescope to spot this one. Comet 65p/Gunn lies less
than 1 degree north of the 2nd magnitude star Epsilon
Sagittarii at the lower right of the teapot asterism.
Wait for Sagittarius to rise above the southern
horizon. The best time this month will be at the
beginning of the month or at the time of the new moon
at the end of the month.
* For information, orbital elements and ephemerides on
observable comets visit the Observable Comets page
from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

* No eclipse activity this month.

* Vesta is in the constellation of Virgo.
* Victoria is in the constellation of Ophiuchus.
* Pallas is in the constellation of Cetus.
* Ceres is in the constellation of Gemini.

* 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 18, 2003 - 
"The Genesis spacecraft continues its mission
collecting solar wind material expelled from the Sun.
Telemetry from the Genesis spacecraft indicates that
all spacecraft subsystems are reporting nominal

Recent solar activity has called for the 'high solar
speed' collector array to be deployed 59% of the time,
and the E-Array, which handles coronal mass ejections,
39% of the time. The 'low solar speed' collector was
unshaded the remaining 2%."

The latest status reports can be read at
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 31, 2003 - Celebrate the Legacy of
Jupiter Exploration - 
"The Galileo spacecraft will end its mission September
21, 2003. Launched in 1989 aboard Space Shuttle
Atlantis, Galileo has been exploring Jupiter and its
moons since December 1995. Members of JPL's Solar
System Ambassadors program will celebrate the jovian
legacy with events around the country. Check the
Ambassadors Website
(http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/ambassador/index.html ) for
events scheduled in your local area. For more
information on Jupiter exploration check out the
Legacy of Jupiter Exploration timeline
Read the latest news at

* Cassini - July 25, 2003 - 
"The most recent spacecraft telemetry was acquired
from the Goldstone tracking station on Wednesday, July
23. The Cassini spacecraft is in an excellent state of
health and is operating normally. . . 

On-board activities this week included Radio and
Plasma Wave Science (RPWS) High Frequency Receiver
(HFR) calibrations, Cosmic Dust Analyzer
decontamination and Instrument Expanded Block (IEB)
load execution, Visual and Infrared Mapping
Spectrometer (VIMS) functional test and deep space
characterization, and Saturn Orbit Insertion (SOI)
demo sequence uplink to RAM. Memory read outs have
verified that the sequence was successfully loaded
into RAM, and is registered but not active in both the
prime and online strings."

"For the multinational Cassini-Huygens mission, NASA
provided the large Cassini spacecraft, which will
begin orbiting Saturn July 1, 2004, and the European
Space Agency provided the Huygens probe, which will
parachute into the atmosphere of Titan, Saturn's
largest moon, on Jan. 14, 2005." 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.

* Stardust - July 18, 2003 - 
"The Stardust team had seven periods of communication
with the spacecraft in the past week. Telemetry
relayed from the spacecraft indicates it is healthy
and all subsystems continue to operate normally.

Trajectory Correction Maneuver 9 was successfully
completed on July 16. The 1 meter per second burn took
about forty-three seconds to complete. Post-burn
analysis indicates burn maneuver was right on the
money. After the maneuver, the Cometary Interplanetary
Dust Analyzer instrument was returned to operations.
The Cometary Interplanetary Dust Analyzer was powered 
off for Deep Space Maneuver 3, which occurred back on
June 17 and 18. The analyzer will now remain
operational until after the Comet Wild 2 encounter."

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.

* Galaxy Evolution Explorer - (GALEX) - July 25, 2003
- "Mission Status: Science operations are planned to
resume on July 31st. The spacecraft is operating
nominally with the detectors at the low operating
voltage. This is to protect the detectors while the
investigation into the detector over-current events
continues "

What's New: http://www.galex.caltech.edu/news.html for
more information about the mission.

* 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.

* 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 information.

Mars Missions 

ADVISORY - No update since June 24, 2003

Images from the Mars Orbiter Camera aboard NASA's Mars
Global Surveyor capture a faint yet distinct glimpse
of the elusive Phobos, the larger and innermost of
Mars' two moons. The moon, which usually rises in the
west and moves rapidly across the sky to set in the
east twice a day, is shown setting over Mars'
afternoon horizon.
The images are available on the Internet at:
Phobos is so close to the martian surface (less than
6,000 kilometers or 3,728 miles away), it only appears
above the horizon at any instant from less than a
third of the planet's surface. From the areas where it
is visible, Phobos looks only half as large as Earth's
full moon. Like our satellite, it always keeps the
same side facing Mars. The tiny moon is also one of
the darkest and mostly colorless (dark grey) objects
in the solar system, so for the color image two
exposures were needed to see it next to Mars. The
faint orange-red hue seen in the wide-angle image is a
combination of the light coming from Mars and the way
the camera processes the image."

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 is now in its sixth 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 100,000 images of Mars from the MGS, check out
the newest images of the surface of Mars at

* Mars Odyssey Orbiter - No update since June 26, 2003
- Mars Odyssey Orbiter Watches a Frosty Mars -
"NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft is revealing new
details about the intriguing and dynamic character of
the frozen layers now known to dominate the high
northern latitudes of Mars. The implications have a
bearing on science strategies for future missions in
the search of habitats. 

Odyssey's neutron and gamma-ray sensors have tracked
seasonal changes as layers of "dry ice"
(carbon-dioxide frost or snow) accumulate during
northern Mars' winter and then dissipate in the
spring, exposing a soil layer rich in water ice-- the
martian counterpart to permafrost."

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) - July 18, 2003 - 
"NASA's Opportunity spacecraft made its first
trajectory correction maneuver today, a scheduled
operation to fine-tune its Mars-bound trajectory, or
flight path.

The spacecraft and its twin, Spirit, in NASA's Mars
Exploration Rover project are carrying field-geology
robots for arrival at Mars in January."

Where are Spirit and Opportunity now?

Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page 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: http://marsweb.jpl.nasa.gov/ 


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

* Comet Observation Home Page -

* The Daytona Beach News-Journal - Space News Page - 

* JPL Solar System Ambassador Program - 

* Space.com - Sky Watch Calendar - 

* Eric's Black Sun Eclipse website - 

* Astronomical Lexicon -
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://science.nasa.gov/

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

* Space.com - http://space.com
Interesting space and astronomy articles.

* Northern Colorado Astronomical Society -

* Denver Astronomical Society -

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

* Our Solar System -
This is an excellent site to learn about our solar


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
JPL SSA, Colorado
Last modified: August 04, 2003

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