[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 1 Aug 2006 17:05:30 -0700 (PDT)

               IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                          August 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 23rd.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 2nd and on the 31st.
* Full Moon on the 9th.
* Last Quarter Moon on the 15th.

* Perigee on the 10th, 223,538 mi. from Earth.
* Apogee on the 25th, 252,444 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 5 deg. south of Jupiter on the 2nd.
* The Moon passes 0.4 deg. south of Antares on the 4th.
* The Moon passes 3 deg. north of Venus on the 21st.
* The Moon passes 0.6 deg. south of Mars on the 25th.
* Venus passes 0.07 deg. north of Saturn on the 26th.
* The Moon passes 0.5 deg. south of Spica on the 28th.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. south of Jupiter on the 29th.
* The Moon passes 0.5 deg. south of Antares on the 31st.

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 August - Jupiter dominates the evening sky this 
month. Venus dominates
the morning sky. Mars disappears from the evening sky by the end of the month 
and Saturn returns
to the morning sky by the end of the month. August 22 provides an interesting 
conjunction of
Saturn, Venus, Mercury and a thin crescent Moon about 30 minutes before sunrise.

* Mercury - Is at greatest western elongation (19 deg.) on the 6th. Mercury 
rises about 4:43 am on
the 1st and rises about 6:28 am by month's end. Mercury shines at magnitude 

* Venus - Is visible in the morning sky before sunrise. Venus rises about 4:06 
am on the 1st and
about 5:12 am by month's end. Venus passes from the constellation of Gemini and 
into Cancer this
month and shines at magnitude -3.7.
* Earth ? N/A.

* Mars - Sets about 9:29 pm on the 1st and about 8:13 pm by month's end. Look 
for Mars early in
the month as Mars disappears into the twilight glow by the last week of August. 
Mars shines at
magnitude 1.8.

* Jupiter - Is high above the horizon when the Sun sets making it easy to spot 
in the early
evening. Jupiter sets at 12:04 am on the 1st and about 10:12 pm by month's end. 
Jupiter is in the
constellation of Libra and shines at magnitude -2.0.

* Saturn - Is in conjunction with the Sun on the 7th. Saturn will return to the 
morning sky by the
third week of August. Saturn will rise around 04:42 am by month's end. Saturn 
shines at a
magnitude of 0.5.

* Uranus - Rises about 9:40 pm on the 1st and about 7:35 pm by month's end. 
Uranus is in the
constellation of Aquarius and shines at magnitude 5.7.

* Neptune - Is at opposition on the 11th. Neptune is at its best for the year 
this month. Neptune
rises about 8:32 pm on the 1st and about 6:28 pm by month's end. Neptune is in 
the constellation
of Capricornus this month. Neptune shines at a magnitude of 7.8.

* Pluto - Sets about 3:05 am on the 1st and about 1:01 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

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.

* Comet 4P/Faye is in the constellation of Pisces shining at 10th magnitude 
will be difficult to
spot from within a city. 4P/Faye is expected to brighten to about 8th magnitude 
in the next couple
of months but since it lies beyond the orbit of Mars will remain as just a 
fuzzy ball to most

* 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)
* Pallas is in the constellation of Ophiuchus.
* Amphitrite is in the constellation of Sagittarius.
* Hygiea is in the constellation of Sagittarius.
* Eunomia is in the constellation of Capricornus.
* Hebe is at opposition on the 4th in the constellation of Capricornus.
* Ceres is at opposition on the 11th in the constellation of Piscis Austrinus.
* Leto is in the constellation of Cetus.
* Iris is in the constellation of Aries.

* 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 - July 27, 2006 - NASA's Cassini spacecraft has found lakes on 
Saturn's moon Titan.

"The lakes are most likely the source of hydrocarbon smog in the frigid moon's 
atmosphere. Finding
the source of the complex soup of hydrocarbons in Titan's atmosphere has been a 
major goal for the
Cassini mission and is a significant accomplishment.

Numerous well-defined dark patches resembling lakes are present in radar images 
of Titan's high
latitudes taken during a July 22 flyby. At Titan's frigid temperatures, about 
minus 180 degrees
Celsius, the liquids in the lakes are most likely methane or a combination of 
methane and ethane. 

"This is a big deal," said Steve Wall, deputy radar team leader at NASA's Jet 
Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "We've now seen a place other than Earth where 
lakes are present.""

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.

* New Horizons - July 14, 2006 - Nine Years to the Ninth Planet, and Counting

"Today, July 14, we stand precisely nine years from our closest approach date 
with the ninth
planet and her moons. Next week, on July 19, we will celebrate the six-month 
anniversary of our
launch. New Horizons has a long way to go, but we're on our way!

It's been six weeks since my last column here, and a lot has taken place. 
Here's a short list of

* New Horizons successfully conducted an asteroid flyby test of its moving 
target image motion
compensation system (more on that below).
* The names we nominated for Pluto's two recently discovered small moons, Nix 
(the inner one) and
Hydra (the outer one), were approved by the International Astronomical Union 
* Continued successful testing of the SWAP and PEPSSI plasma/high energy 
particle detector suite
aboard New Horizons.
* Successful beam mapping tests of the REX-High Gain Antenna pattern.
* Uploading of an updated (yes, "new and improved") release of the onboard 
fault detection and
correction "autonomy" software that watches over New Horizons.
* A spin-up maneuver that took New Horizons out of three-axis attitude control 
and placed it back
in its 5 RPM axial spin to save fuel and place us in a more robust mode for the 
upcoming flight
software loads of August and September."

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.

* 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 - No new news since 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 - July 20-26, 2006

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

* Viking 1's 30th! (Released 20 July 2006)

* Ripples and Dunes (Released 21 July 2006)

* Spring Dunes (Released 22 July 2006)

* Syrian Volcano (Released 23 July 2006)

* Gullied Recesses (Released 24 July 2006)

* Mars at Ls 79 Degrees (Released 25 July 2006)

* Flooded Place (Released 26 July 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 April 07, 2006 - 
2001 Mars Odyssey Turns 5 - 4/7/06

"NASA's 2001 Mars Odyssey celebrates five years of exploration, returning 
spectacular images of
features rarely seen on Earth and paving the way for future missions."

"A simulated fly-through using the newly assembled imagery is available online 

The fly-through plus tools for wandering across and zooming into the large 
image are at

Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) web site: (http://themis.asu.edu/)

July 21-28, 2006

* Reull Vallis (Released 21 July 2006)

* Cracks to Chaos (Released 24 July 2006)

* Noachis Terra (Released 25 July 2006)

* Recent Impact (Released 26 July 2006)

* Southern Surface (Released 27 July 2006)

* Bright and Dark (Released 28 July 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) - July 29, 2006 -

Spirit Status: Spirit NASA's Spirit Rover Survives Record Cold on Mars - sol 
908-914, July 29,

"Spirit remains healthy and continues to make progress on computer upgrades and 
research, despite winter temperatures colder than any yet experienced during 
the rover's two and a
half years on Mars. Models show that at the coldest part of the Martian night, 
around 5:00 a.m.
Mars time, temperatures near the surface have dipped to approximately minus 97 
degrees Celsius
(minus 143 degrees Fahrenheit).

With the deepest part of the Martian winter just around the corner, Spirit is 
collecting about 284
watt-hours of electrical power each sol from the rover's solar array (a hundred 
watt-hours is the
amount of electricity needed to light one 100-watt bulb for one hour). The 
shortest day, winter
solstice in Mars' southern hemisphere, will arrive on Aug. 8, 2006. The lowest 
amount of solar
energy the rover is expected to receive is about 275 watt-hours per sol.

Spirit has put the finishing touches on a new version of its flight software -- 
checking, and saving 200 sections of computer code transmitted from Earth in 
recent weeks. The
software upgrade will give the rover enhanced autonomous operational 
capabilities. NASA plans for
Spirit to switch from its current flight software to the new version in coming 

Opportunity Status: Cleaning Event Gives Opportunity Renewed Energy - sol 
886-892, July 29, 2006

"Opportunity spent five sols this week at a target called "Joseph McCoy." At 
this location, the
rover acquired about 41 hours of Mössbauer spectrometer integration, almost 
seven hours of alpha
particle X-ray spectrometer integration, and a mosaic from the microscopic 
imager. Then
Opportunity rolled back, scuffed the soil, and drove 55 meters (180 feet) 
closer to "Beagle
Crater." The scuff helps scientists and engineers analyze how the wheels 
interact with the soil.
After the most recent drive, Opportunity is sitting about 25 meters (82 feet) 
from the rim of
Beagle Crater.

Over the past 50 sols the team noticed a gradual cleaning of the solar panels 
similar to a
more-sudden cleaning event experienced one Mars-year ago in "Endurance Crater." 
Removal of some of
the accumulated dust on the panels allows greater production of electricity 
from sunlight.
Opportunity's solar panels are now producing just over 500 watt-hours per sol."

Landing sites link -http://marsoweb.nas.nasa.gov/landingsites/

Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page at  

* Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - No new news since June 19, 2006 -
Pace Quickens for NASA Spacecraft Orbiting Mars

"NASA's newest spacecraft at Mars has already cut the size and duration of each 
orbit by more than
half, just 11 weeks into a 23-week process of shrinking its orbit. By other 
indicators, the lion's
share of the job lies ahead. 

"The orbits are getting shorter and shorter. We've finished about 80 of them so 
far, but we have
about 400 more to go, and the pace really quickens toward the end," said Dan 
Johnston, Mars
Reconnaissance Orbiter deputy mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion 
Laboratory, Pasadena,

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.)

* "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 - 

* Celestron Telescopes - http://www.celestron.com/c2/index.php - New beta 

* 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

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

* 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 - 

* Meade  Advanced Products Users Group - http://www.mapug-astronomy.net/ - 
Mapug-Astronomy Topical
Archive & information resource, containing a massive 335 page archive of 
discussions about Meade
equipment, and much more: observatories, observing lists, permanent piers, 
equatorial wedges,
remote operations, software, eyepieces, etc.

* 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.

* Sangre Stargazers - http://sangrestargazers.skymtn.com/ - New astronomy club 
in the Wet Mountain
Valley of Custer County (about 45 miles due west of Pueblo, CO.)

* 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!


Subscription Information

- Users can subscribe to your list by sending email to 
astronews-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx with
'subscribe' in the Subject field OR by logging into the Web interface.

- Users can unsubscribe from the list by sending email to 
astronews-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx with
'unsubscribe' in the Subject field OR by logging into the Web interface.

- Email Newsletter archives -

- Full documentation of the online administration system is available at
http://www.freelists.org/help/. We encourage you to get the most out of the web 
interfaces, and we
encourage subscribers to do the same. Please let your list members know about 
the advantages of
exploring the FreeLists Web Login.

- The latest version of the newsletter is accessible from 


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: August 01, 2006

Do You Yahoo!?
Tired of spam?  Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around 

Other related posts: