[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 31 Jan 2008 13:13:23 -0800 (PST)

                IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                         February 2008


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 6th.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 13th.
* Full Moon on the 20th.
* Last Quarter Moon on the 28th.

* Perigee on the 13th, 230,043 mi. from Earth.
* Apogee on the 27th, 251,309 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* Venus passes 0.6 deg. north of Jupiter on the 1st.
* The Moon passes 0.6 deg. south of Antares on the 1st.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. south of Jupiter on the 4th.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. south of Venus on the 4th.
* The Moon passes 3 deg. north of Uranus on the 9th.
* The Moon passes 1.6 deg. north of Mars on the 16th.
* The Moon passes 0.7 deg. south of Regulus on the 20th.
* The Moon passes 3 deg. south of Saturn on the 21st.
* Mercury passes 1.3 deg. north of Venus on the 25th.
* The Moon passes 0.6 deg. south of Antares on the 28th.

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 February ? This month is an exciting one for 
stargazers. Starting out
on the 1st, look east before sunrise to see Jupiter and Venus not much further 
apart than a
fingertip at arms length. Take a look at Mars to see fine surface details 
before it get too dim to
see. Saturn is at its best for 2008 this month. Two eclipses also occur this 
month, an annular
eclipse, visible from the south Pacific and Antarctica and a total lunar 
eclipse visible for all
of North America.

* Mercury - Is in inferior conjunction on the 6th. Mercury is not visible until 
later in the month
when it will return to the morning sky. Look for Mercury near Venus on the 
25th. Mercury shines at
magnitude 1.6 on the 15th brightening to magnitude 0.1 on the 29th.
* Venus - Rises about 5:15 am on the 1st and about 5:30 am by month's end. Look 
for Venus in the
early morning sky before sunrise. Venus shines at magnitude -3.9 and passes 
from the constellation
of Sagittarius into Capricornus this month.
* Earth - N/A.

* Mars - Sets at 4:31 am on the 1st and about 2:58 am by month's end. Mars is 
in the constellation
of Taurus. Look for Mars between the horns of Taurus the Bull early in the 
month and then on the
29th, Mars forms an almost perfect equilateral triangle with Betelgeuse and 
Aldebaran shining at
magnitudes 0.2, 0.5 and 0.9 respectively. Mars dims from magnitude -0.6 to 0.2 
during the month.

* Jupiter - Rises at 5:18 am on the 1st and about 3:46 am by month's end. 
Jupiter is very low in
the southeast in the constellation of Sagittarius shining at magnitude -1.9.

* Saturn - Is at opposition on the 24th, rising as the Sun sets. Saturn appears 
at its best for
this year. Saturn rises around 7:11 pm on the 1st and about 5:05 pm by month's 
end. Saturn shines
at magnitude 0.3 in the constellation of Leo.

* Uranus - Sets about 8:08 pm on the 1st and about 6:22 pm by month's end. 
Uranus is in the
constellation of Aquarius and shines at a magnitude of 5.9.

* Neptune - Is in conjunction with the Sun on the 10th and is not visible this 

Dwarf Planets

* Ceres - Sets about 12:54 am on the 1st and about 11:35 pm by month's end. 
Ceres is in the
constellation of Aries and shines at magnitude 8.6.

* Pluto - Rises about 4:12 am on the 1st and about 2:21 am by month's end. 
Pluto shines at
magnitude 14.0 in the constellation of Sagittarius. As always, good luck at 
spotting this one, a
large telescope and very dark skies will be needed.


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.

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

* Comet 46P/Wirtanen passes through the constellations of Pisces and Aries 
shining at 8th or 9th
magnitude. This comet can be spotted in the evening sky throughout the 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, visit Gary Kronk's Cometography.com web 
page at

* An Annular solar eclipse occurs on the 6th, however, the path of this eclipse 
is located in the
South Pacific and Antarctica.
* A total lunar eclipse occurs on the evening of the 20th for observers in 
North America. Totality
begins at 10:01 pm EST and lasts for 51 minutes. Adjust your observing times 
accordingly for your
local time zone. Lunar eclipses usually last for several hours so plan on 
starting your observing
runs about 2-3 hours before totality begins. 

* 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)
* Flora is in the constellation of Taurus.
* Eunomia is in the constellation of Gemini.
* Hebe is at opposition on the 6th in the constellation of Cancer.

* 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 - January 30, 2008
F Ring Knot

Full-Res: PIA09826 (http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA09826)

"The Cassini spacecraft captures an intriguing feature in the perturbed core of 
Saturn's F ring.

The feature is similar in appearance to the one captured in F Ring Dynamism.

This view looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings from about 32 
degrees above the

The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle 
camera on Dec. 31,
2007. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 1.7 million 
kilometers (1 million
miles) from Saturn and at a Sun-ring-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 63 degrees. 
Image scale is 10
kilometers (6 miles) per pixel."

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 - January 24, 2008
A Hi-Def Peek at Pluto

"New Horizons detected Pluto using the high-resolution mode of its Long Range 
Imager (LORRI) during three separate sets of observations in October 2007. This 
made it easier for
scientists to "find" Pluto among a sea of background stars."

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 - No new news since December 18, 2007
NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Begins Interplanetary Cruise Phase

"NASA's Dawn spacecraft has successfully completed the initial checkout phase 
of the mission and
begun its interplanetary cruise phase, which is highlighted by nearly 
continuous thrusting of its
ion propulsion system. Dawn is on an 8-year, 3-billion mile journey to asteroid 
Vesta and dwarf
planet Ceres."

For more information on the Dawn mission, visit the Dawn home page:

* MESSENGER - January 30, 2008
Surprises Stream back from Mercury's MESSENGER

"After a journey of more than 2.2 billion miles and three and a half years, 
spacecraft made its first flyby of Mercury just after 2 PM Eastern Standard 
Time on January 14,
2008. All seven scientific instruments worked flawlessly, producing a stream of 
surprises that is
amazing and delighting the science team. The 1,213 mages conclusively show that 
the planet is a
lot less like the Moon than many previously thought, with features unique to 
this innermost world.
The puzzling magnetosphere appears to be very different from what Mariner 10 
discovered and first
sampled almost 34 years ago."

For more information on the MESSENGER mission, visit the MESSENGER home page:

* 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 Odyssey Orbiter - January 11, 2008
Astronomers Rule Out Possibility of Asteroid Impact on Mars

"As expected, scientists at JPL's Near-Earth Object Office have further refined 
the trajectory
estimate for asteroid 2007 WD5 and ruled out any possibility of a Mars impact 
on Jan. 30. The
latest trajectory plot of the asteroid was made possible by adding to 
previously obtained data
some new data from a round of observations acquired by three observatories on 
the evenings of Jan.
5 through 8. Based on this latest analysis, the odds for the asteroid impacting 
Mars on Jan. 30
are 0.0 percent. The latest observations come from the German-Spanish 
Astronomical Center, Calar
Alto, Spain; the Multi-Mirror Telescope, Mt. Hopkins, Ariz.; and the University 
of Hawaii
telescope, Mauna Kea, Hawaii."

"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/)

January 21-25, 2008

* Aonia Terra Dunes (Released 21 January 2008)

* Copernicus Dunes (Released 22 January 2008)

* Dust Devil Tracks (Released 23 January 2008)

* Gullies (Released 24 January 2008)

* Gullies (Released 25 January 2008)

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) - 
No new news since December 26, 2007

Spirit Status: Spirit Makes It to a North-Facing Slope - sol 1404-1408, 
December 21, 2007

"Spirit has achieved 13 degrees of northerly tilt after backing the rear and 
middle wheels over
the north edge of "Home Plate," where the rover will remain during the coming 
holidays. Power
levels have already increased significantly from 260 watt-hours on sol 1404 
(Dec. 15, 2007) to 291
watt-hours on sol 1408 (Dec. 19, 2007).

Spirit's ideal northerly tilt at present would be 16 degrees, and the rover's 
handlers plan to
have the rover creep farther down the slope in mid-January to increase the 
northerly tilt. On
Spirit's current track, they expect to see an ultimate northerly tilt of 25 
degrees to 30

Opportunity Status: Opportunity Maneuvers Around Steeper Slopes in "Victoria 
Crater" - sol
1375-1381, Dec 17, 2007

"Opportunity is now in the process of driving to the third band of 
light-colored rocks that
circumscribe "Victoria Crater" beneath the rim. Scientists had initially 
planned to have the rover
head directly downhill to a rock target nicknamed "Ronov," within the band 
known as "Lyell." They
selected an alternate rock exposure, dubbed "Newell," when engineers determined 
that the original
drive route would tilt the rover 25 degrees, somewhat higher than desired. The 
estimated tilt
along the new route is a much gentler 20 degrees but the drive is somewhat more 
complex and
required two days of planning. 

During the past week, Opportunity completed scientific investigation of the 
second band of rocks,
known as "Smith," with an analysis of elemental chemistry and iron-bearing 
minerals beneath the
surface of a rock exposure labeled "Smith2." To do this, the rover collected 
data with the
alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer Mössbauer spectrometer, respectively."

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

Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page at  

* Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - January 23, 2008
Orbiting Camera Details Dramatic Wind Action on Mars

"Mars' atmosphere is challenging scientists to explain complex, wind-sculpted 
landforms seen with
unprecedented detail in images from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Mars has an ethereal, tenuous atmosphere with less than one-percent the surface 
pressure of Earth,
which challenges scientists to explain complex, wind-sculpted landforms seen 
with unprecedented
detail in images from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

One of the main questions has been if winds on present-day Mars are strong 
enough to form and
change geological features, or if wind-constructed formations were made in the 
past, perhaps when
winds speeds and atmospheric pressures were higher.

The eye-opening new views of wind-driven Mars geology come from the University 
of Arizona's High
Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera (HiRISE). As the orbiter flies at 
about 3,400 meters
per second (7,500 mph) between 250 and 315 kilometers (155 to 196 miles) above 
the Martian
surface, this camera can see features as small as half a meter (20 inches)."

More information about the mission is available online at 

* Phoenix Mars Lander Mission - No new news since 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: January 31, 2008

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