[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 1 Oct 2007 18:47:15 -0700 (PDT)

                IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                         October 2007


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 Full Moon Walks every month weather permitting on or 
near the night of the
full Moon. 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 11th.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 19th.
* Full Moon on the 26th.
* Last Quarter Moon on the 3rd.

* Apogee on the 13th, 252,582 mi. from Earth.
* Perigee on the 26th, 221,676 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 5 deg. north of Mars on the 2nd.
* The Moon passes 3 deg. north of Venus on the 6th.
* The Moon passes 0.2 deg. north of Regulus on the 7th.
* The Moon passes 1.3 deg. south of Saturn on the 7th.
* Venus passes 3 deg. south of Regulus on the 9th.
* The Moon passes 1.3 deg. south of Mercury on the 12th.
* Venus passes 3 deg. south of Saturn on the 15th.
* The Moon passes 0.5 deg. south of Antares on the 15th.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. south of Jupiter on the 16th.
* The Moon passes 1.3 deg. south of Neptune on the 20th.
* The Moon passes 3 deg. north of Mars on the 30th.

The Planets & Dwarf 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 October - Jupiter disappears into the twilight glow 
in the early
evening this month. Uranus and Neptune are still visible in the evening but you 
will need
binoculars or a small telescope to resolve their disks. Mercury puts up a poor 
showing for
northern observers and will also disappear by mid-month. However, the morning 
hours before sunrise
provide the best views of the other planets. Mars rises shortly before midnight 
and Venus and
Saturn appear bright in the east before sunrise.

* Mercury - Is very low on the western horizon early in the month. Mercury is 
at inferior
conjunction with the Sun on the 23rd and will return to the morning sky next 
month. Mercury sets
about 7:30 pm on the 1st. Mercury shines at magnitude 0.0.
* Venus - Has returned to the morning sky this month. Venus rises about 3:28 am 
on the 1st and
about 2:35 am by month's end. Venus shines at magnitude -4.5 in the 
constellation of Leo.
* Earth - N/A.

* Mars - Rises at 10:56 pm on the 1st and about 8:34 pm by month's end. Mars is 
in the
constellation of Gemini and shines at magnitude -0.1.
* Jupiter - Sets at 9:54 pm on the 1st and about 7:13 pm by month's end. 
Jupiter can be found low
in the western sky in the constellation of Scorpius shining at magnitude -1.9.

* Saturn - Rises around 4:02 am on the 1st and about 1:16 am by month's end. 
Saturn shines at
magnitude 0.8.  Saturn is in the constellation of Leo.

* Uranus - Sets about 5:11 am on the 1st and about 2:05 am by month's end. 
Uranus is in the
constellation of Aquarius and shines at a magnitude of 5.8.

* Neptune - Sets at 2:49 am on the 1st and about 11:52 am by month's end. 
Neptune is in the
constellation of Capricornus and shines at magnitude 7.8.

Dwarf Planets

* Ceres - Rises about 8:24 pm on the 1st and about 6:03 pm by month's end. 
Ceres is in the
constellation of Taurus. Ceres shines at magnitude 8.1.

* Pluto - Sets about 11:07 pm on the 1st and about 8:07 pm by month's end. 
Pluto is in the
constellation of Sagittarius. Pluto shines at magnitude 14.0. As always, good 
luck at spotting
this one.


Astronomical Events

Meteor Showers
* The Draconids - This shower is associated with periodic comet 
Giacobini-Zinner. The duration may
extend from October 6 to 10, though the point of maximum is very sharply 
defined within a 4-hour
interval on October 9, but the annual maximum hourly rates are not consistent. 
The radiant rarely
produces any recognizable shower except during years especially close to the 
parent comet's
perihelion passage. The meteors are slow and tend to be relatively faint. They 
are generally

* The Orionids - The duration of this meteor shower extends from October 15 to 
29, with maximum
occurring on [the morning of] October 21. The maximum hourly rate is usually 
about 20 and the
meteors are described as fast.

This year, the Orionids coincide with the New Moon, so get up early or stay up 
late to watch this

* 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)
* Vesta is in the constellation of Sagittarius.
* Pallas is in the constellation of Aquarius.
* Hygiea is at opposition on the 3rd in the constellation of Pisces.
* Victoria is at opposition on the 8th in the constellation of Pisces.
* Egeria is at opposition on the 12th in the constellation of Cetus.
* Flora is in the constellation of Taurus.
* Eunomia 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)

* Cassini - October 2, 2007 - Cassini Heads South on Next Titan Flyby

"The Cassini spacecraft has been moving progressively over Titan's southern 
hemisphere and is
getting ready for a Titan flyby on Oct. 2, 2007. During this flyby, Cassini's 
radar instrument
will have a chance to image the surface.

This will be the radar instrument's southernmost flyby to date. The next few 
radar passes should
bring the spacecraft closer to the south pole. Scientists will be on the hunt 
for lakes or seas to
see if they are as prevalent here as they are at the north pole."

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 - September 27, 2007 - Maneuver Puts New Horizons on a Straight 
Path to Pluto

"With a slight tweak of its trajectory this week, New Horizons is headed toward 
the heart of the
distant Pluto system.

Starting at 4:04 p.m. EDT on Sept. 25, New Horizons fired its thrusters for 15 
minutes and 37
seconds, using less than a kilogram of fuel to change its velocity by 2.37 
meters per second, or
just more than 5 miles per hour. Monitored from the New Horizons Mission 
Operations Center at the
Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., the maneuver was 
only the fourth
trajectory correction for the spacecraft since launch in January 2006, and the 
first since it sped
through the Jupiter system last February. The spacecraft was nearly 727 million 
miles (1.16
billion kilometers) from Earth during the maneuver ? just about halfway between 
the orbits of
Jupiter and Saturn."

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.

* Dawn - September 27, 2007 - Dawn Spacecraft Enroute to Shed Light on Asteroid 

"CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - NASA's Dawn spacecraft is on its way to study a pair of 
asteroids after
lifting off Thursday from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 7:34 a.m. EDT 
(4:34 a.m. PDT). 

Mission controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., 
received telemetry on
schedule at 9:44 a.m. EDT (6:44 a.m. PDT) indicating Dawn had achieved proper 
orientation in space
and its massive solar array was generating power from the sun.

"Dawn has risen, and the spacecraft is healthy," said the mission's project 
manager Keyur Patel of
JPL. "About this time tomorrow [Friday morning], we will have passed the moon's 

During the next 80 days, spacecraft controllers will test and calibrate the 
myriad of spacecraft
systems and subsystems, ensuring Dawn is ready for the long journey ahead. 

"Dawn will travel back in time by probing deep into the asteroid belt," said 
Dawn Principal
Investigator Christopher Russell, University of California, Los Angeles. "This 
is a moment the
space science community has been waiting for since interplanetary spaceflight 
became possible." 

Dawn's 4.8-billion-kilometer (3-billion-mile) odyssey includes exploration of 
asteroid Vesta in
2011 and the dwarf planet Ceres in 2015. These two icons of the asteroid belt 
have been witness to
much of our solar system's history. By using Dawn's instruments to study both 
scientists more accurately can compare and contrast the two. Dawn's science 
instrument suite will
measure elemental and mineral composition, shape, surface topography, and 
tectonic history, and
will also seek water-bearing minerals. In addition, the Dawn spacecraft and how 
it orbits Vesta
and Ceres will be used to measure the celestial bodies' masses and gravity 

For more information on the Dawn mission, visit the Dawn home page:
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/dawn/main/index.html for more information 
about the mission.

* Pack Your Backpack
Calling all explorers! Tour JPL with our new Virtual Field Trip site. Stops 
include Mission
Control and the Rover Lab. Your guided tour starts when you select a "face" 
that will be yours
throughout the visit. Cool space images and souvenirs are all included in your 

* 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 

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 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.

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 - September 21, 2007 - 
NASA Orbiter Finds Possible Cave Skylights on Mars
NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft has discovered entrances to seven possible caves 
on the slopes of a
Martian volcano. The find is fueling interest in potential underground habitats 
and sparking
searches for caverns elsewhere on the Red Planet.

Very dark, nearly circular features ranging in diameter from about 100 to 250 
meters (328 to 820
feet) puzzled researchers who found them in images taken by NASA's Mars Odyssey 
and Mars Global
Surveyor orbiters. Using Mars Odyssey's infrared camera to check the daytime 
and nighttime
temperatures of the circles, scientists concluded that they could be windows 
into underground

Evidence that the holes may be openings to cavernous spaces comes from the 
temperature differences
detected from infrared images taken in the afternoon and in the pre-dawn 
morning. From day to
night, temperatures of the holes change only about one-third as much as the 
change in temperature
of surrounding ground surface. 

"They are cooler than the surrounding surface in the day and warmer at night," 
said Glen Cushing
of the U.S. Geological Survey's Astrogeology Team and of Northern Arizona 
University, Flagstaff,
Ariz. "Their thermal behavior is not as steady as large caves on Earth that 
often maintain a
fairly constant temperature, but it is consistent with these being deep holes 
in the ground."

A report of the discovery of the possible cave skylights by Cushing and his 
co-authors was
published online recently by the journal Geophysical Research Letters."

"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/)

September 24-28, 2007

* Ulysses Patera (Released 24 September 2007)

* Arsia Mons (Released 25 September 2007)

* Ascraeus Mons (Released 26 September 2007)

* Olympus Mons (Released 27 September 2007)

* Biblis Patera (Released 28 September 2007)

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) - 
September 27, 2007

Spirit Status: Spirit Arrives at "Stratigraphic Wonderland" - sol 1321-1328, 
September 27, 2007

"Spirit completed the rover's longest 5-wheel drive to date en route to a platy 
rock surface
nicknamed "Texas Chili" in an area scientists are calling a "stratigraphic 
wonderland." The platy
outcrop is at site 3 on top of "Home Plate" and is the focus of in-depth 
scientific investigation.
Two sols after not receiving a scheduled data transmission, Spirit drove 19.21 
meters (63.02 feet)
to the rover's current location about 15 meters (49 feet) away from a field of 
Meanwhile, atmospheric dust levels continued to decline. Tau measurements of 
atmospheric opacity
dropped to 1.06 on sol 1327 (Sept. 27, 2007), with a dust factor of 0.48. 
Spirit has been
averaging 350 watt-hours per Martian day (100 watt-hours is the amount of 
electricity needed to
light a 100-watt bulb for one hour).
Scientific studies of the platy outcrop included alpha-particle X-ray 
spectrometer measurements
both before and after brushing the surface, analysis with the Mössbauer 
spectrometer, and
acquisition of microscopic images as well as a 360-degree panorama."

Opportunity Status: 'Shaking' Off the Dust and Getting Back to Work - sol 
1274-1281, Sep 20, 2007

"The skies continue to clear over the Opportunity site, and the dust is falling 
from both the sky
and the rover. The last week was dedicated to evaluating the payload and 
assessing dust
accumulation on the instruments. Fortunately, the solar array energy has 
improved to over 350
Watt-hours for the last four sols. This has given the vehicle enough power to 
support two alpha
particle X-ray spectrometer integrations and two Mars Express UHF overflights.
The team began a campaign to recalibrate the panoramic camera tau observations 
used to measure the
level of atmospheric opacity. The recalibration sequences are designed to run 
at various times of
day to get the sun at different angles in the sky. Each sequence has custom 
exposure durations and
color filters tailored to the intended time of execution.
As the team saw last week, the instruments on the robotic arm turret collected 
a substantial
amount of dust during the storm. There are two main concerns: dust inside the 
alpha particle X-ray
spectrometer and dust under the microscopic imager dust cover. On Spirit, dust 
managed to somehow
find its way under the microscopic imager dust cover, so engineers are handling 
the dust-covered
turret on Opportunity with care.
Twice in six sols, the team used the front hazard avoidance camera (and the 
panoramic and
navigation cameras) to image the microscopic imager with the dust cover closed. 
There were two
drives between each set of imaging and there is noticeable cleaning between the 
two. The first of
several sky flats images taken with the microscopic imager (dust cover closed) 
came down today.
Preliminary analysis indicates little to no dust on the lens or dust cover. 
Next week, the team
will determine if it is safe to open the dust cover and take images to see if 
any dust is on the
lens itself.
The first of two alpha particle X-ray spectrometer integrations was received on 
the ground today
and the initial analysis shows little to no dust contamination. Argon peaks are 
just as large as
before, but additional integrations are necessary to complete the analysis. In 
the meantime, the
team modified the robotic arm ready position to face the alpha particle X-ray 
spectrometer in
towards the vehicle's warm electronics box. The hope is that this will prevent 
any dust from
collecting inside."

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

Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page at  

* Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - September 20, 2007 - 
ASA Orbiter Provides Insights About Mars Water and Climate

"PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is examining several 
features on Mars that
address the role of water at different times in Martian history. 

Features examined with the orbiter's advanced instruments include material 
deposited in two
gullies within the past eight years, polar ice layers formed in the recent 
geologic past, and
signs of water released by large impacts when Mars was younger.

Last year, discovery of the fresh gully deposits from before-and-after images 
taken since 1999 by
another orbiter, Mars Global Surveyor, raised hopes that modern flows of liquid 
water had been
detected on Mars. Observations by the newer orbiter, which reached Mars last 
year, suggest these
deposits might instead have resulted from landslides of loose, dry materials. 
Researchers report
this and other findings from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in five papers in 
Friday's issue of the
journal Science."

More information about the mission is available online at 

* Phoenix Mars Lander Mission - September 07, 2007 - First image from Phoenix 
Mars Lander camera
received on Earth

" A camera flying aboard The University of Arizona-led Phoenix Mars Lander took 
its first picture
during cruise and sent it back to Earth on Sept. 6. The lander's Robotic Arm 
Camera took the photo
looking into the Robotic Arm's scoop. Both instruments are encased in a 
protection biobarrier, to
ensure no Earth organisms are carried to Mars.

"It is a nice, clean picture with good sharp focus. One of these days it will 
be filled with
Martian dirt," said Peter Smith, Phoenix principal investigator at the UA. "We 
have special pride
in this, as it is a UA-German product."

The Robotic Arm Camera took an image of the Robotic Arm scoop using its red LED 
Diode) lamp. Human eyes see this image only in shades of gray, so the picture 
has been enhanced in
false color to better represent what the camera sees.

Images from the Robotic Arm Camera, one of five imaging instruments on the 
lander, will be the
only pictures taken and returned to Earth until Phoenix approaches and lands on 
Mars on May 25,
2008. Additional images will be taken by the Robotic Arm Camera later in the 
cruise stage."

Visit the Phoenix Mars Lander Mission pages 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.)

* Skywatch Sightings from NASA - http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/realdata/sightings/
This site gives you the best times to watch the ISS pass over or near your 

* "TheSky" Software - http://www.bisque.com

* Astrogirl Homepage - 

* 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.

* 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 - 

* 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/

* 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/

* 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!


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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: October 01, 2007

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