[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 30 Nov 2005 09:56:00 -0800 (PST)

                IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                         December 2005


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.

*** I?ve added new enhancements and links to the web page. Please visit and let 
me know what you
think. Your comments are appreciated. ***


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 1st and the 30th.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 8th.
* Full Moon on the 15th.
* Last Quarter Moon on the 23rd.

* Perigee on the 4th, 228,270 mi. from Earth.
* Apogee on the 20th, 251,664 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 2 deg. south of Venus on the 4th.
* The Moon passes 1.3 deg. north of Mars on the 11th.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. north of Saturn on the 19th.
* The Moon passes 0.9 deg. north of Spica on the 25th.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. south of Jupiter on the 26th.
* The Moon passes 0.2 deg. north of Antares on the 28th.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. south of Mercury on the 29th.

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 December - The star Algol in the constellation of 
Perseus is eclipsed
by its companion this month dimming by 70% of its normal brightness of 
magnitude 2.1. The best
nights to observe this dimming are the nights of December 13/14 when fading 
begins at 11 pm EST
and reaches minimum brightness of magnitude 3.4 around 1:20 am EST returning to 
almost normal
about 2 hours later. The next good night to view the dimming is December 16, 
beginning at 8 pm EST
and ending around 12 am EST. The eclipse normally takes about 10 hours to 
complete but the most
noticeable dimming and brightening occurs in the middle 4 hours.

* Mercury - Is at greatest western elongation (21 deg.) on the 12th. Mercury is 
visible in the
morning skies low on the eastern horizon this month. Mercury shines at 
magnitude -0.6 on the 31st.

* Venus - Is at greatest brightness (magnitude -4.6) on the 9th. Look to the 
west soon after
sunset to spot Venus moving through the constellation of Sagittarius into 
Capricornus this month.
Venus sets at 7:32 pm on the 1st and 6:21 pm by month's end.
* Earth - Winter solstice is at 1:35 pm EST on the 21st.

* Mars - Sets about 4:37 am on the 1st and about 2:50 am by month's end. Mars 
is in the
constellation of Aries this month. Mars shines at magnitude -1.6 on the 1st and 
dims to magnitude
-0.6 by the 31st.

* Jupiter - Can be spotted in the early morning twilight glow low on the 
eastern horizon this
month. Jupiter rises at 4:23 am on the 1st and about 2:49 am by month's end. 
Jupiter moves in the
constellation of Libra. Jupiter shines at magnitude -1.8.

* Saturn - Rises around 9:05 pm on the 1st and about 6:56 pm by month's end. 
Look for Saturn on
the morning of December 2 around 4 am EST and try to spot 7 of its moons (west 
of planet - Titan,
Rhea, Tethys, east of planet - Mimas, Enceladus, Dione and Iapetus) close to 
the planet. Saturn is
in the constellation of Cancer. Saturn shines at a magnitude of 0.1.

* Uranus - Sets at 11:21 pm on the 1st and about 9:23 pm by month's end. Uranus 
is in the
constellation of Aquarius and shines at a magnitude of 5.9.

* Neptune - Sets at 9:32 pm on the 1st and about 7:43 pm by month's end. 
Neptune is in the
constellation of Capricornus and shines at a magnitude of 8.0.

* Pluto - Is in conjunction with the Sun on the 15th. Pluto is in the 
constellation of Ophiuchus.
Pluto is not visible this month.

Astronomical Events

Meteor Showers
* The Geminids - This meteor shower is active during the period December 6 to 
December 19. Upon
reaching maximum activity during December 13 to 14, hourly rates are typically 
near 80. The
meteors are described as rapid and yellowish, with about 4% displaying 
persistent trains. They
possess an average magnitude of 2.4.

* C/2005 E2 (McNaught) - This 10th magnitude comet lies in the constellation of 
Capricornus along
the line of the four bright stars that form the eastern border of the 
constellation. Dark skies
are required for observing this comet either very early or during the last 2 
weeks of the month.
The comet sets around 9 pm this month.

* 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)
* Fortuna is in the constellation of Aries near Mars this month.
* Psyche is at opposition on the 7th in the constellation of Orion.
* Juno is at opposition on the 8/9th in the constellation of Orion.
* Vesta 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 - November 26, 2005 -
Cassini Images the Plumes of Enceladus 

"Cassini imaging scientists are excited about intriguing images of 
fountain-like plumes towering
over Saturn's moon Enceladus. Images of a crescent Enceladus returned by 
Cassini this past weekend
show multiple plumes in striking detail. The plumes consist of fine icy 
particles, emanating from
the warm, geologically active area surrounding the south pole of Enceladus and 
believed now to
supply the material of Saturn's E ring."

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.

* Deep Impact - November 28, 2005 -
Science Team Continues Data Analysis

"In the past month, the science team has continued with its data analysis of 
Deep Impact's
encounter with comet Tempel 1. Detailed computations are required to convert a 
picture made up of
raw data numbers returned from space into an image containing numbers of 
physical meaning. This
process is called calibration. 

It is carried out by observing stars of known light output, or radiance, and 
scaling the value of
that output to the known quantity of radiation produced by the star. This is 
like synchronizing
your watch, so that everyone has the same time reference. In this case the 
reference is to a scale
of energy output. We have updated our calibration numbers using the most recent 
data taken just
before and after impact. We have made improvements in subtraction of the 
background signal that
exists in every electronic detector so that we can analyze the signal from the 
comet and not the
noise from the camera's detector. With the known value of the star expressed in 
units of energy,
we then determine the energy released from the comet. Ken Klaasen and other 
team members have been
working hard on this."

For the latest mission status reports, visit http://www.nasa.gov/deepimpact and

* Stardust - November 14, 2005 -
NASA's Stardust Mission: Returning Comet Samples to Earth 

"Why Explore Comets? 
Over a lifetime, most people are fortunate enough to see at least a few bright 
comets grace the
night sky. The bright ones, along with their more numerous faint siblings, are 
travelers from the frigid and most distant parts of the solar system. When a 
comet approaches the
sun, its surface warms and it dramatically becomes brighter. To an observer on 
Earth, a bright
comet may be seen over a period of weeks or months. It drifts across the 
constellations, gets
brighter from night to night and then slowly fades to invisibility after 
rounding the sun and
heading back into to the depths of space. Over the past half century, 
Hale-Bopp, West, Hyakutake,
Ikeya-Seki and Bennett have all been bright comets that could be easily seen 
with the naked eye,
sometimes even by observers looking into the brightly lit skies of modern 
cities. With the unaided
eye, we see comets as objects with a hazy head and one or two nebulous tails 
stretching away from
the Sun. Only rare comets are truly bright and most appear as mere ghostly 
visitors, clearly out
of place among the familiar sky of stars and planets."

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.

* 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 September 12, 2005
Happy 8th Birthday, MGS

"Mars Global Surveyor wins the title of the oldest spacecraft currently in 
operation at Mars! The
spacecraft's lasting success has enabled scientists to capture repeating 
weather phenomena and
new, fresh insights revealing Mars as an active planet."

* Mars Global Surveyor Images - November 10-23, 2005

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

* Herschel's Dunes (Released 10 November 2005)

* East Arabia Landforms (Released 11 November 2005)

* Zephyria Flows (Released 12 November 2005)

* Ascraeus Pits (Released 13 November 2005)

* White Rock (Released 14 November 2005)

* Mars at Ls 324 Degrees (Released 15 November 2005)

* Small Yardangs (Released 16 November 2005)

* Dust-covered Flow (Released 17 November 2005)

* Landslide in Mutch (Released 18 November 2005)

* South Mid-latitude Gullies (Released 19 November 2005)

* 8 Degree N 7 Degree W Crater (Released 20 November 2005)

* Crater in Arabia (Released 21 November 2005)

* Mars at Ls 324 Degrees (Released 22 November 2005)

* Light-toned Rocks (Released 23 November 2005)

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 has 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 - November 24, 2005 - 
Odyssey Celebrates Two Mars Years In Orbit Around the Red Planet!

Ice Beneath Mars Is Asking, "Can You Hear Me Now?" - Oct 24, 2005
?What could have been dismissed as "just static" in a radio signal is actually 
an echo from Mars
that might reflect the shape of hidden ice and rock structures beneath the 
martian surface.?

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

November 14-18, 2005

* Feature of the Week: Pedestal Craters

* Polar Gullies (Released 14 November 2005)

* Iani Chaos (Released 15 November 2005)

* Nili Caldera (Released 16 November 2005)

* Odd Crater (Released 17 November 2005)

* Polar Terrains (Released 18 November 2005)

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) - November 21, 2005 -
One Martian Year
Spirit: November 20, 2005
Opportunity: December 12, 2005

Spirit Marks One Year on Mars (One Martian Year, that is)
"Spirit, the untiring robotic "wonder child" sent by NASA to explore the eerily 
earthlike fourth
planet from the sun, has completed one martian year--that's almost two Earth 
years--on Mars.
Designed to last only 90 martian days (sols), the six-wheeled marvel the size 
of a golf cart has
pursued a steady course of solar-driven geologic fieldwork, bringing back some 
70,000 images and a
new understanding of Mars as a potential habitat. 
During Spirit's martian year, the seasons have changed from summer to winter 
and back again. In
its orbit around the Sun, Mars has returned to where it was when the rover 
first landed. Having
survived seven times its expected lifetime and traveling over 3 miles (about 
5,000 meters), Spirit
is still going strong.? 
Landing sites link -http://marsoweb.nas.nasa.gov/landingsites/

Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page at  

* Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - November 18, 2005 -
Mars-Bound NASA Craft Tweaks Course, Passes Halfway Point

"NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter successfully fired six engines for about 20 
seconds today to
adjust its flight path in advance of its March 10, 2006, arrival at the red 

Since its Aug. 12 launch, the multipurpose spacecraft has covered about 60 
percent of the distance
for its trip from Earth to Mars. It will fly about 40-million kilometers 
(25-million miles)
farther before it enters orbit around Mars. It will spend half a year gradually 
adjusting the
shape of its orbit, then begin its science phase. During that phase, it will 
return more data
about Mars than all previous missions combined. The spacecraft has already set 
a record
transmission rate for an interplanetary mission, successfully returning data at 
6 megabits per
second, fast enough to fill a CD-ROM every 16 minutes."

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.)

* Cloudbait Observatory, Guffey Colorado -   http://www.cloudbait.com 

* "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 - 

* 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

* 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 - http://ncastro.org/

* Our Solar System - http://pauldunn.dynip.com/solarsystem/
This is an excellent site to learn about our solar system.

* 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!


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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: November 30, 2005

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