[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 1 Aug 2004 16:36:57 -0700 (PDT)

            IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                       August 2004


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.


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.


In This Newsletter...

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



* New Moon on the 15th.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 23rd.
* Full Moon on the 29th.
* Last Quarter Moon on the 7th.

* Apogee on the 11th, 251,837 mi. from Earth.
* Perigee on the 27th, 226,866 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 4 deg. south of Uranus on the 2nd.
* The Moon passes 8 deg. north of Venus on the 11th.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. north of Saturn on the 13th.
* Mercury passes 6 deg. south of Mars on the 16th.
* The Moon passes 3 deg. north of Jupiter on the 18th.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. south of Neptune on the 28th.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. south of Uranus on the 29th.
* Venus passes 1.9 deg. south of Saturn on the 31st.


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. The rise and set times for the sun and
the moon for each day of the month are also included
in the reports.
(All times are local unless otherwise noted.)

* Mercury - Is in inferior conjunction on the 23rd.
Mercury disappears from the evening sky after the
first week this month. Mercury shines at magnitude

* Venus - Is at greatest western elongation (46 deg.)
on the 17th. Venus rises at 2:47 am on the 1st and
2:48 am by month's end. Venus is visible in the early
morning sky shining at a magnitude of -4.4. 

* Mars - Is at aphelion (154.9 million miles from the
Sun) on the 7th. Sets about 8:57 pm on the 1st and
about 7:44 pm by month's end. Mars is difficult if not
impossible to spot through the evening twilight this
month due to its relative proximity to the Sun.

* Jupiter - Sets around 9:57 pm on the 1st and about
8:09 pm by month's end. Look for Jupiter in the
constellation of Leo early in the month before it too
disappears into the evening twilight glow. Jupiter
shines at magnitude -1.7.

* Saturn - Rises around 4:24 am on the 1st and about
2:39 am by month's end. Look for Saturn in the early
morning sky before sunrise. Saturn and Venus are
within 2 degrees of each other on the morning of the
31st. Saturn shines at a magnitude of 0.2.

* Uranus - Is at opposition on the 27th. Uranus rises
about 9:18 pm on the 1st and about 7:13 pm by month's
end. Uranus is at it's visible best this year. Uranus
is visible throughout the evening and can be found in
the constellation of Aquarius. Uranus shines at a
magnitude of 5.7.

* Neptune - Is at opposition on the 5th. Neptune rises
about 8:16 pm on the 1st and about 6:12 pm by month's
end. Neptune is at it's visible best this year.
Neptune is visible throughout the evening sky and can
be found in the constellation of Capricorn. Neptune
shines at a magnitude of 7.8.

* Pluto - Sets about 2:50 am on the 1st and about
12:43 am by month's end. Pluto is in the constellation
of Ophiuchus. Pluto shines at magnitude 13.9. As
always, good luck at spotting this one.

Astronomical Events

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

* 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. More on this
year's Perseids at

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

* C/2001 Q4 [NEAT] is visible in the early evening sky
soon after sunset. Look for Comet NEAT low in the
north just above the bowl of the Big Dipper (Ursa
Major) shining at a magnitude of about 7.

* Comet C/2003 K4 can be spotted just west of Bootes
descending toward the western horizon into the
constellation of Virgo by month's end. Comet C/2003 K4
shines at a magnitude of about 6 and sets before

* 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.

Asteroids (From west to east)
* Parthenope is just north of the constellation of
* Bamberga is just east of the constellation of
* Aquitana is just east of the constellation of
Sagittarius and slightly north of Bamberga.
* Psyche is at opposition on the 4th. Psyche is in the
constellation of Capricorn.
* Vesta and Metis are in the constellation of Cetus
and within fractions of a degree of each other.

* 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 30, 2004 - 
"NASA Genesis Spacecraft Homeward Bound 
Days to Earth Return:  39 days -
A Spacecraft, Hollywood Stunt Pilots and a Package
from Space 
Helicopter flight crews, navigators and mission
engineers are preparing for the return of the solar
wind samples. They will dispatch a sample return
capsule that will re-enter Earth's atmosphere for a
planned mid-air capture at the U.S. Air Force Utah
Test and Training Range. You won't want to miss this
show when NASA's Genesis mission returns solar wind
samples to Earth on the morning of September 8. 

Watch the video trailer to learn more about the
+ View Video  (requires QuickTime)

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

Cassini - July 30, 2004-
"The most recent spacecraft telemetry was acquired
from the Madrid tracking station on Wednesday, July
28. The Cassini spacecraft is in an excellent state of
health and is operating normally?

On-board science activities included Ultraviolet
Imaging Spectrograph observations of Saturn's aurora
as well as solar wind measurements by the suite of
Magnetospheric and Plasma Science instruments. 
Spacecraft events included the uplink of instrument
expanded block files, the background sequence, and an
ACS reaction wheel assembly bias all in preparation
for S03. S03 begins execution on board the spacecraft
on Friday July 30."

Cassini Imaging Team's website - http://ciclops.org.

"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/operations/index.cfm. The
speed and location of the spacecraft can be viewed on
the "Present Position" web page.

* Stardust - June 17, 2004 - NASA Spacecraft Reveals
Surprising Anatomy Of A Comet - 
"Findings from a historic encounter between NASA's
Stardust spacecraft and a comet have revealed a much
stranger world than previously believed. The comet's
rigid surface, dotted with towering pinnacles,
plunging craters, steep cliffs, and dozens of jets
spewing violently, has surprised scientists. 

"We thought Comet Wild 2 would be like a dirty, black,
fluffy snowball," said Stardust Principal Investigator
Dr. Donald Brownlee of the University of Washington,
Seattle. "Instead, it was mind-boggling to see the
diverse landscape in the first pictures from Stardust,
including spires, pits and craters, which must be
supported by a cohesive surface."

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.

* Galaxy Evolution Explorer - (GALEX) - 
The GALEX Image Gallery is available at

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

* Past, Present, Future and Proposed JPL Missions -

Mars Missions

* Mars Global Surveyor - No new news since May 19,
"MGS continues to relay data from Spirit and
Opportunity when requested by the MER program. MGS has
successfully relayed 14% of the total Spirit rover
data and 15% of the total Opportunity rover data as of
5/13/04. MGS and Odyssey together have relayed 92% of
Spirit's and 93% of Opportunity's cumulative data

* Mars Global Surveyor Images - July 22-28, 2004

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

* Gordii Fossae Troughs (Released 22 July 2004)

* Polar Layers and Dunes (Released 23 July 2004)

* Layers in Oudemans (Released 24 July 2004)

* South Polar Terrain (Released 25 July 2004)

* Galle Scene (Released 26 July 2004)

* Spotty Dunes (Released 27 July 2004)

* Outcrop in Iani (Released 28 July 2004)

All of the Mars Global Surveyor images are archived

Every six months, a new suite of MGS MOC data are
archived with the NASA Planetary Data System (PDS-

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 began its seventh 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 134,000 images of Mars from the MGS, check out
the newest images of the surface of Mars at

* Mars Odyssey Orbiter - No new news since May 21,
2004 - 
"Like a sweet, older sibling standing quietly to the
side as the baby of the family gets all the "ooh's"
and "aah's," the 2001 Mars Odyssey orbiter has blended
into the background noise of cheers for the Mars
Exploration Rover discoveries. But Odyssey deserves
her own praise and applause this Saturday as she
reaches a major milestone. At 5:29 p.m. PDT on May 22,
2004, Odyssey is scheduled to complete her 10,000th
science mapping orbit around the red planet."


July 26-30, 2004

* Decorrelation Stretch Near Cerberus Fossae (Released
26 July 2004)

* Canyon in DCS Color (Released 27 July 2004)

* DCS Color near Mare Cimmerium (Released 28 July

* Kaiser Crater DCS (Released 29 July 2004)

* DCS in Hesperia Planum (Released 30 July 2004)

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 30, 2004 -

Spirit Status:
"Spirit Survives 200 Sols! - sol 198-200, July 28,

Sol 200, ending on July 26, was a busy day for Spirit.
Spirit completed the overnight Mössbauer reading on
the rock abrasion tool hole, took a midday nap, stowed
the arm, bumped back to take pictures and readings of
the hole with the panoramic camera and miniature
thermal emission spectrometer, then drove about 52
feet (16 meters). Due to the nature of the terrain,
the drive was done in 6-wheel mode to minimize errors
(rather than the current standard 5-wheel mode to
conserve the aging right front wheel). Engineers
carefully targeted Spirit's drive to end in a location
with favorable tilt to the north to point the solar
panels toward the Sun, giving Spirit as much power as
possible as the Sun hangs low in the sky during
martian winter."

Opportunity Status:
"Opportunity Sees Double. - sol 177-180, July 30, 2004

Opportunity marked its 180th sol on Mars without
pausing to celebrate. Originally slated for missions
of 90 sols each, both Spirit and Opportunity have
passed the double-mission milestone and are continuing
their phenomenal journeys of discovery."

Landing sites link

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://marsprogram.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

* A Short Guide to Celestial Navigation -

* Astronomical Lexicon -
Many of the astronomical terms used in this newsletter
are defined here.

* Astronomy Picture of the Day -

* Comet Observation Home Page -

* Denver Astronomical Society -

* 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 -

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

* 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
- http://www.moon-phases.com/

* 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 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 01, 2004

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