[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 7 Feb 2003 19:25:45 -0800 (PST)

            IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                       February 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 


In This Newsletter...

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



* New Moon on the 1st.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 9th.
* Full Moon on the 16th.
* 3rd Quarter Moon on the 23rd.

* Apogee on the 7th, 251,377 mi. from Earth.
* Perigee on the 19th, 226,704 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 3 deg. north of Saturn on the 11th.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. north of Jupiter on the 15th.
* Mercury passes 1.6 deg. south of Neptune on the 
* The Moon passes 1.9 deg. south of Mars on the 24th 
* The Moon passes 5 deg. south of Venus on the 27th.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. south of Neptune on the 28th.


(All times are local unless otherwise noted.)
Included this month are links to Planetary Reports 
generated by "TheSky" software 
(http://www.bisque.com). These reports give rise 
times, set times and meridian crossing times for the 
planets, and rise and set times for the Sun and the 
Moon for each day of the month. These Planetary 
Reports are generated for the 1st of each month for 
the year.
Visit http://bfa3.home.att.net/planrpts2003.html.
(If you find these planetary reports useful, please 
send me an email. If you would like a personalized 
Planetary Report for a specific date and/or location, 
I would be happy to produce one for you. Provide your 
latitude and longitude or nearest large city near you 
and a specific date for the report. Please allow a 
week or two for me to get around to making a report 
for you since I don't get to check my email as often 
as I'd like. Send email to ki0ar@xxxxxxxxxx)

* Mercury - Is at greatest western elongation (25 
deg.) on the 3rd. Mercury rises about 5:30 am on the 
1st. Mercury is visible in the east just before 
sunrise for about the first 2 weeks of the month.

* Venus - Rises about 4:00 am and is visible in the 
early morning sky just before sunrise. Venus shines at

magnitude -4.2.

* Mars - Is visible in the early morning sky in the 
east before sunrise. Mars rises about 3 am. Mars can 
be found just below the constellation of Ophiuchus. 
Mars shines at magnitude 1.1.

* Jupiter - Is at opposition on the 2nd, which means 
that Jupiter rises at about the same time that the sun

sets. Jupiter is moving in retrograde motion until 
April appearing to move in an easterly direction 
relative to the background stars. Jupiter rises about 
5:00 pm at the beginning of the month and around 3 pm 
by month's end. Jupiter can be found between the 
constellation of Cancer the Crab and Leo the Lion. 
Jupiter shines at magnitude -2.6.

* Saturn - Is stationary on the 22nd. Saturn returns 
to regular motion through the skies, appearing 
slightly further west each night. Rises around 1:20 pm

on the 1st and about 11:20 am on the 31st. Saturn is 
located in the constellation of Taurus the Bull. 
Saturn shines at magnitude -0.1.

* Uranus - Is in conjunction with the Sun on the 17th.

Uranus is not visible this month.

* Neptune - Was in conjunction with the Sun on January

30th. Neptune is not visible this month.

* Pluto - Is now visible again. Pluto is in the 
constellation of Ophiuchus and rises about 3:30 am. 
Pluto shines at magnitude 13.9. As always, good luck 
at spotting this one.


Astronomical Events

Meteor Showers
* There are a few minor meteor showers this month but 
none that produce rates much higher than 2-5 per hour.

* 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 RX14 LINEAR is passing under the constellation

of Ursa Major and Canes Vanatici. RX14 LINEAR is 
shining at a magnitude of 11. A minimum of a 4-inch 
telescope and dark sky conditions will be required to 
spot this comet sometime after midnight when the Big 
Dipper is sufficiently high above the northern horizon

to be fully visible and early or late in the month 
when the moon will not interfere with your observing. 

* For information, orbital elements and ephemerides on

observable comets visit the Observable Comets page 
from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics 

* No significant eclipse activity this month.

* Several asteroids are visible this month.
* Massalia is visible in the constellation of Taurus 
just west of Saturn.
* Ceres, Iris, and Eunomia can be found in the 
constellation of Pisces in the early evening.

* 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 - January 24, 2003 - 
"The Genesis spacecraft continues to operate in good 
health, collecting samples of the solar wind.

The flight team is preparing for the spacecraft's next

stationkeeping maneuver, scheduled for Feb. 6. These 
maneuvers fine-tune the orbit Genesis is traveling 
around the L1 point. The upcoming one is being 
designed to accelerate the spacecraft by about 1.2 
meters per second (3.9 feet per second) in a direction

about 24 degrees off a line toward the Sun.

Plans are nearly final for a performance test of the 
rejection grid on the sample concentrator. The test is

planned for Jan. 28." The latest status reports can be

read at 
l. 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 - No new updates since December 17, 2002 - 
"NASA's Galileo spacecraft has begun transmitting 
high-priority scientific information that was 
collected and stored on its tape recorder during the 
orbiter's early-November dash by Jupiter, which 
brought it closer to the planet than ever before.

Damage from naturally strong radiation near Jupiter 
had left the tape recorder inoperable for weeks. 
Galileo's flight team traced the problem to a light-
emitting diode in the electronics controlling the 
motor drive, and then gradually and carefully 
completed a successful long-distance repair job." Read

the latest news at 

* Cassini - January 24, 2003 - 
"The most recent spacecraft telemetry was acquired 
from the Goldstone tracking station on Wednesday, 
January 22. The Cassini spacecraft is in an excellent 
state of health and is operating normally.

On-board activities this week included clearing of the

ACS high water marks, a Reaction Wheel Assembly mode 
transition to support Cassini Plasma Spectrometer 
(CAPS), Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer 
(VIMS) and RADAR activities, Radio and Plasma Wave 
(RPWS) High Frequency Receiver calibrations, uplink 
and execution of the VIMS flight software V6.1 
checkout mini-sequence, CAPS Calibration activities, 
VIMS / Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS) observations of

Gamma Crux and Alpha Taurus, RADAR radiometric 
calibrations, a Radio Science Subsystem (RSS) Ultra 
Stable Oscillator characterization, RSS Periodic 
Instrument Maintenance and high gain antenna boresight

calibration, Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph bright 
body observations of Orion's beta, gamma, zeta and 
kappa, and a VIMS observation of Fomalhaut."

"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. 

* 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 - January 24, 2003 - 
"Stardust's navigation camera took images this week 
for evaluating performance of the periscope. Images of

the Pleiades star cluster were taken using a series of

one-degree steps in positioning the periscope mirror. 
The images will be transmitted to Earth within the 
next two weeks.

The spacecraft is operating in good health. It had one

period of radio contact with Earth this week through 
NASA's Deep Space Network.

The Stardust team has made minor updates in the 
mission's telemetry dictionary and flight rules to 
incorporate lessons learned from the flyby of asteroid

Annefrank last November."

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.

* 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 

* Mars Global Surveyor - No new updates since December

12, 2002 - 
"This week, MGS and MOC completed an unprecedented 
second Mars year of daily global monitoring and 
detailed observations of the red planet. On 12 
December 2002, Mars returned to the exact same 
position in its orbit around the sun (or equivalently,

the exact same time of the Martian year) as it was on 
9 March 1999 and 24 January 2001. MGS has now entered 
its third Mars year, and critical monitoring of 
weather patterns continues, along with on-going 
efforts to gather high resolution images of future 
spacecraft landing sites, provide detailed studies of 
geologic features, and observe phenomena that change--
like wind streaks--over time."

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 new updates since December

07, 2002 - 
"The latest observations from NASA's Mars Odyssey 
spacecraft, highlighting water ice distribution and 
infrared images of the Red Planet's surface, are being

released this week at the annual meeting of the 
American Geophysical Union in San Francisco."

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 Missions Status - New Mars missions are being 
planned to include several new rover and sample 
collection missions. http://mars.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.)

* 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-

* 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
Last modified: February 05, 2003

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