[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 31 Aug 2004 19:21:02 -0700 (PDT)

            IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                      September 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 14th.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 21st.
* Full Moon on the 28th.
* Last Quarter Moon on the 6th.

* Apogee on the 7th, 251,322 mi. from Earth.
* Perigee on the 22nd, 229,652 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* Venus passes 9 deg. south of Pollux on the 1st.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. north of Saturn on the 9th.
* Mercury passes 0.06 deg. south of Regulus on the
* The Moon passes 7 deg. north of Venus on the 10th.
* Saturn passes 7 deg. south of Pollux on the 10th.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. north of Mercury on the 12th.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. south of Neptune on the 24th.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. south of Uranus on the 25th.


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 at greatest western elongation (18
deg.) above the eastern horizon before sunrise on the
9th. Mercury shines at a magnitude of 1.9 on the 1st
and brightens to -0.9 by the 15th.

* Venus - Rises at 2:48 am on the 1st and 3:30 am by
month's end. Venus is visible in the early morning sky
low on the eastern horizon shining at a magnitude of

* Earth - Autumnal equinox is at 12:30 pm (EST) on the

* Mars - Is in conjunction with the Sun on the 15th.
Mars is not visible this month. 

* Jupiter - Is in conjunction with the Sun on the
21st. Jupiter is not visible this month.

* Saturn - Rises around 2:39 am on the 1st and about
12:50 am by month's end. Look for Saturn in the early
morning sky before sunrise. Saturn is in the
constellation of Gemini. Saturn shines at a magnitude
of 0.2.

* Uranus - Rises about 7:13 pm on the 1st and about
5:12 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 - Rises about 6:12 pm on the 1st and about
4:12 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 7.9.

* Pluto - Sets about 12:43 am on the 1st and about
10:46 pm 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
* No significant meteor shower activity this month,
but you can expect to see from 1 to 4 meteors per hour
early in the 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.

* C/2001 Q4 (NEAT) "continues to sail across the back
of Draco the Dragon. Although the comet is well past
its spring peak, it still compares favorably with the
brighter galaxies of the Messier catalog. Because the
comet lies so far north, it remains circumpolar
throughout most of the United States meaning it stays
above the horizon all night." (from Astronomy
Magazine, September 04, p. 63)

* Comet C/2003 K4 (LINEAR) "continues to brighten into
easy binocular range. Expected to glow around 6th
magnitude, this dirty snowball should show a central
condensation surrounded by a fading halo. Binoculars
should reveal the comet as a fuzzy "star" to the lower
left of 3rd-magnitude Epsilon (e) Virginis, which lies
below the bright orange star Arcturus in the western
sky as darkness falls. You should try to find this
comet about an hour after the Sun sets during the
first two weeks of September." (from Astronomy
Magazine, September 04, p. 63)

* 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)
* Bamberga is just east of the constellation of
* Ceres is in conjunction with the Sun on the 13th.s
* Vesta and Metis are in the constellation of Aquarius
and within several degrees of each other. Vesta is at
opposition on the 13th and Metis is at opposition on
the 14th.

* 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 - August 19, 2004 - 
NASA Mission Returns With a Piece of the Sun - 

"In a dramatic ending that marks a beginning in
scientific research, NASA's Genesis spacecraft is set
to swing by Earth and jettison a sample return capsule
filled with particles of the Sun that may ultimately
tell us more about the genesis of our solar system. ?

On September 8, 2004, the drama will unfold over the
skies of central Utah when the spacecraft's sample
return capsule will be snagged in midair by
helicopter. The rendezvous will occur at the Air
Force's Utah Test and Training Range, southwest of
Salt Lake City."

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 - August 23, 2004-
"The Cassini spacecraft successfully completed a
51-minute engine burn that will raise its next closest
approach distance to Saturn by nearly 300,000
kilometers (186,000 miles). The maneuver was necessary
to keep the spacecraft from passing through the rings
and to put it on target for its first close encounter
with Saturn's moon Titan on Oct. 26."

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

* Stardust - No new news since 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 - August 19-25, 2004

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

* Polar Unconformity (Released 19 August 2004)

* Rabe Dunes (Released 20 August 2004)

* Bunge Dunes (Released 21 August 2004)

* Dunes and Dust Devil Tracks (Released 22 August

* Polar Dunes, Spotted (Released 23 August 2004)

* Exhumed Craters near Kaiser (Released 24 August

* West Olympica Fossae (Released 25 August 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 - August 25, 2004 - Mars
Odyssey Begins Overtime After Successful Mission -
"NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter begins working overtime
today after completing a prime mission that discovered
vast supplies of frozen water, ran a safety check for
future astronauts, and mapped surface textures and
minerals all over Mars, among other feats.

"Odyssey has accomplished all of its mission-success
criteria," said Dr. Philip Varghese, project manager
for Odyssey at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory,
Pasadena, Calif. The spacecraft has been examining
Mars in detail since February 2002, more than a full
Mars year of about 23 Earth months. NASA has approved
an extended mission through September 2006."


August 22-27, 2004

* Apollinaris Patera (Released 23 August 2004)

* Acheron Catena (Released 24 August 2004)

* Ares Vallis (Released 25 August 2004)

* Gordii Dorsa (Released 26 August 2004)

* Scylla Scopulus (Released 27 August 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) - August 30, 2004 -

Spirit Status:
"Spirit probes deeper into 'Clovis' outcrop - sol
209-218, August 23, 2004

Spirit continued work over the past nine sols at a
rock called "Clovis." The rover used its rock abrasion
tool, microscopic imager, alpha particle X-ray
spectrometer, and Mössbauer spectrometer to probe
deeper into the history of this rock. Clovis is the
most altered rock encountered by Spirit to date. It is
part of a rock outcrop located on the "West Spur" of
the "Columbia Hills," roughly 55 meters (180 feet)
higher than Spirit's landing site about 3 kilometers
(2 miles) away."

Opportunity Status:
"Trying Traverses - sol 204-208, August 30, 2004

Sol 204 was planned as a rather circuitous 6-meter
(about 20-foot) traverse to the vicinity of a target
called "Shag" on one side of a rock called
"Ellesmere." The route was necessary to avoid a
significant rock hazard close to the rover's position.
Unfortunately, due to the steep slopes and lack of
traction when driving in this terrain, the rover
experienced up to 50 percent slip during parts of its
traverse. It ended up more than 50 centimeters (about
20 inches) downslope from the planned final position.
This left the rover close to the edge of its safe
terrain zone."

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 30, 2004

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