[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 31 Oct 2007 15:57:20 -0700 (PDT)

                IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                         November 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 9th.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 17th.
* Full Moon on the 24th.
* Last Quarter Moon on the 1st.

* Apogee on the 9th, 252,694 mi. from Earth.
* Perigee on the 23rd, 221,950 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 0.03 deg. south of Regulus on the 3rd.
* The Moon passes 1.8 deg. south of Saturn on the 3rd.
* The Moon passes 3 deg. south of Venus on the 5th.
* The Moon passes 7 deg. south of Mercury on the 8th.
* The Moon passes 0.4 deg. south of Antares on the 11th.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. south of Jupiter on the 12th.
* The Moon passes 1.7 deg. north of Mars on the 27th.
* Venus passes 4 deg. north of Spica on the 28th.
* The Moon passes 0.3 deg. south of Regulus 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 November - "All five naked-eye planets - Mercury, 
Venus, Mars, Jupiter
and Saturn - put on a nice show these November nights. Mars dominates the 
late-evening sky as the
planet prepares for opposition and peak visibility next month. It comes into 
view an hour or two
after Jupiter slides gracefully into twilight. Mercury, Venus, and Saturn 
spread across the
eastern sky before dawn. The two outer gas giants, Uranus and Neptune, remain 
easy binocular
targets." Astronomy Magazine, November 2007, p. 44.

* Mercury - Is at greatest western elongation (19 deg. above the eastern 
horizon) on the 8th.
Mercury rises about 5:09 am on the 1st and about 6:18 am by month's end. 
Mercury shines at
magnitude 0.8 on the 1st brightening to magnitude -0.7 on the 15th.
* Venus - Rises about 2:35 am on the 1st and about 3:19 am by month's end. 
Venus shines at
magnitude -4.4 in the constellation of Virgo.
* Earth - N/A.

* Mars - Rises at 8:34 pm on the 1st and about 6:27 pm by month's end. Mars is 
in the
constellation of Gemini and shines at magnitude -0.6 on the 1st and brightens 
to magnitude -1.3 by
the 30th.
* Jupiter - Sets at 7:13 pm on the 1st and about 5:41 pm by month's end. 
Jupiter can be found very
low in the western sky in the constellation of Ophiuchus shining at magnitude 

* Saturn - Rises around 1:16 am on the 1st and about 11:22 pm by month's end. 
Saturn shines at
magnitude 0.8.  Saturn is in the constellation of Leo.

* Uranus - Sets about 2:05 am on the 1st and about 12:06 am by month's end. 
Uranus is in the
constellation of Aquarius and shines at a magnitude of 5.8.

* Neptune - Sets at 11:52 pm on the 1st and about 9:56 pm by month's end. 
Neptune is in the
constellation of Capricornus and shines at magnitude 7.9.

Dwarf Planets

* Ceres - Is at opposition (rising as the Sun sets) on the 9th. Ceres rises 
about 6:02 pm on the
1st and about 3:38 pm by month's end. Ceres should be easy to spot through 
binoculars this month.
Ceres is in the constellation of Taurus and moves into Cetus this month. Ceres 
shines at magnitude

* Pluto - Sets about 8:07 pm on the 1st and about 6:13 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 Leonids - The duration of this meteor shower covers the period of Nov. 
14-20. Maximum occurs
on Nov. 17. The maximum hourly rate typically reaches 10-15, but most notable 
are periods of
enhanced activity that occur every 33 years - events that are directly 
associated with the
periodic return of comet Tempel-Tuttle. During these exceptional returns, the 
Leonids have
produced rates of up to several thousand meteors per hour. The Leonids are 
swift meteors, which
are best known for leaving a high percentage of persistent trains.

* For more information about Meteor Showers, visit Gary Kronk's Meteor Showers 
Online web page at

* Comet 17P/Holmes, normally a 17th magnitude comet has brightened to magnitude 
2.7 and can be
found in the constellation of Perseus. More on this comet at

* "Comet C/2007 F1 (LONEOS) appears low in the southwest after sunset in early 
November. This will
be the last chance to see this comet before it returns to the outer solar 
system." Astronomy
Magazine, November 2007, p. 50. 

This comet shines at 6th magnitude but you need to catch this one during the 
first week of this
month, as it is low on the western horizon. A good pair of binoculars should be 
all that is needed
to spot this comet. Look for LONEOS passing close to Antares in Scorpio around 
the 4th.

* 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, visit Gary Kronk's Cometography.com web 
page at

* 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.
* Amphitrite is at opposition on the 17th in the constellation of Taurus.
* Flora is at opposition on the 18th 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 30, 2007 - Moon Harvest
(Full-Res: PIA09760 - http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA09760)

"Three of Saturn's brood hurtle around the vast icy disk of its rings.

Mimas (397 kilometers, or 247 miles across) hangs at the top of this view, with 
its large crater
Herschel in view; Pandora (84 kilometers, or 52 miles across) lies outside the 
narrow F ring at
right; and centered between the F and A rings at bottom is little Atlas (32 
kilometers, or 20
miles across).
This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 5 degrees below 
the ringplane."

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 - October 9, 2007 - New Horizons Sees Changes in Jupiter System

"New Horizons? voyage through the Jupiter system earlier this year provided a 
bird?s-eye view of a
dynamic planet that has changed since the last close-up looks by NASA 
spacecraft. A combination of
trajectory, timing and technology allowed it to explore details no probe had 
seen before, such as
lightning near the Jupiter?s poles, the life cycle of fresh ammonia clouds, 
boulder-size clumps
speeding through the planet?s faint rings, the structure inside volcanic 
eruptions on its moon Io,
and the path of charged particles traversing the previously unexplored length 
of the planet?s long
magnetic tail."

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 - October 9, 2007 - Dawn Mission Status: Spacecraft Tests Ion Engine

"NASA's Dawn spacecraft successfully completed the first test of its ion 
propulsion system over
the weekend. The system is vital to the success of Dawn's 8-year, 4.9 
(3-billion-mile) journey to asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres. 

'Dawn is our baby and over the weekend it took some of its first steps," said 
Dawn project manager
Keyur Patel of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "We have 
two months more
checkout and characterization remaining before Dawn is considered mission 
operational, but this is
a great start.'"

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 - No new news since 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/)

October 22-26, 2007

* Many Channels (Released 22 October 2007)

* Arsia Flows (Released 23 October 2007)

* Back In View (Released 24 October 2007)

* Aurorae Chaos (Released 25 October 2007)

* Sirenum Fossae (Released 26 October 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) - 
October 30, 2007

Spirit Status: Spirit Considers Options for Surviving Another Winter on Mars - 
sol 1348-1354,
October 30, 2007

"Spirit's handlers are currently confronted with the decision of where to send 
the rover for the
winter. Dust deposition on the rover's solar panels, a product of the recent 
dust storms, has made
power predictions for the upcoming winter even worse than those experienced 
during Spirit's last
Martian winter. Members of the science team hope to find a place where Spirit 
can achieve a tilt
of 20 degrees or more toward the north, facing the sun.
During the week, Spirit drove approximately 50 meters (164 feet) in a southerly 
and southeasterly
direction toward a potential off-ramp from the top of the elevated plateau 
known as "Home Plate."
Proposed locations for a winter haven include driving south down the off-ramp 
and making a break
for "von Braun," a hill approximately 120 meters (390 feet) away; heading north 
across Home Plate
and driving down the north-facing edge; or driving west of Home Plate to a hill 
identified as "West Knob."
On sols 1349 and 1351 (Oct. 19 and Oct. 21, 2007), Spirit acquired 
long-baseline stereo images of
von Braun, to the south of Home Plate.
Spirit has been generating approximately 345 watt-hours of solar array energy 
(enough to run a
100-watt bulb for almost 3 1/2 hours) per Martian day (or sol). Measurements of 
atmospheric dust
opacity, known as Tau, have been approximately 0.7 (higher Tau measurements 
correspond to more

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 - October 19, 2007 - 
CRISM Has Key Role in Selecting Next Mars Rover Landing Site

"Scientists scouting potential landing sites for NASA's next Mars rover mission 
are using new data
from a powerful mineral-mapping camera to narrow the site selection.
When NASA Mars Program officials and members of the Mars science community 
gather in California
next week to pare down the list of candidate landing sites for the 2009 Mars 
Science Laboratory
(MSL), they can refer to 125 new images from the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging 
Spectrometer for
Mars (CRISM).

The images and accompanying analysis products are available on the CRISM Web 
site at

More information about the mission is available online at 

* Phoenix Mars Lander Mission - October 30, 2007 - Phoenix Mars Lander Status 
Report: Tasks En
Route to Mars Include Course Tweak, Gear Checks

"NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander, launched on Aug. 4 and headed to Mars, fired its 
four trajectory
correction thrusters Wednesday for only the second time. The 45.9-second burn 
nudged the
spacecraft just the right amount to put it on a course to arrive at the red 
planet seven months
from today. 

At Mars, Phoenix will face a challenging 7-minute descent through the 
atmosphere to land in the
far north on May 25, 2008. After landing, it will use a robotic digging arm and 
other instruments
during a three-month period to investigate whether icy soil of the Martian 
arctic could have ever
been a favorable environment for microbial life. The solar-powered lander will 
also look for clues
about the history of the water in the ice and will monitor weather as northern 
Mars' summer
progresses toward fall."

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 31, 2007

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