[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 2 Dec 2002 20:27:53 -0800 (PST)

            IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                       December 2002


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 4th.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 11th.
* Full Moon on the 19th.
* 3rd Quarter Moon on the 26th.

* Perigee on the 2nd, 225,116 mi. from Earth.
* Apogee on the 13th, 251,602 mi. from Earth.
* Perigee on the 29th, 228,604 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 3 degrees north of Mars on the 1st.
* The Moon passes 2 degrees north of Venus on the 1st.
* The Moon passes 5 degrees south of Neptune on the 
* The Moon passes 5 degrees south of Uranus on the 
* The Moon passes 3 degrees north of Saturn on the 
* The Moon passes 4 degrees north of Jupiter on the 
* The Moon passes 1.2 degrees north of Mars on the 
* The Moon passes 2 degrees south of Venus on the 


(All times are local unless otherwise noted.)

* Mercury - Is at greatest eastern elongation on the 
25th. Mercury will be visible in the early evening sky

low in the west during the last half of the month.

* Venus - Is at greatest brilliancy (magnitude -4.7) 
on the 6th. Venus rises about 4 am and is visible in 
the early morning sky just before sunrise.

* Earth - Winter solstice is at 8:14 PM EST on the 

* Mars - Is visible in the early morning sky in the 
east before sunrise. Mars rises about 3:30 am. Mars 
can be found in the constellation of Virgo early in 
the month and then moves into the constellation of 
Libra by the end of the month. Mars shines at 
magnitude 1.8.

* Jupiter - Is stationary on the 4th. Jupiter will 
begin its retrograde motion until April. Rises about 
9:30 pm. Jupiter can be found between the 
constellation of Cancer the Crab and Leo the Lion. 
Jupiter shines at magnitude -2.2.

* Saturn - Is at opposition on the 17th. Rises around 
5:41 pm on the 1st and about 3:33 pm on the 31st. 
Saturn is located just west of the constellation of 
Gemini, east of Taurus and slightly north of Orion. 
Saturn moves back into the constellation of Taurus on 
the 21st. Saturn shines at magnitude -0.5.

* Uranus - Is near the eastern edge of the 
constellation of Aquarius. Uranus sets about 10:30 pm 
on the 1st and about 2 hours earlier by the end of the

month. Uranus shines at magnitude 5.9.

* Neptune - Is located in the constellation of 
Capricornus. Neptune sets about 9 pm on the 1st and 
about 2 hours earlier by the end of the month. Neptune

shines at magnitude 8.0.

* Pluto - Is in conjunction with the sun on the 9th. 
Pluto will not be visible for the next few months.


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.

* The Moon occults the planet Mars on the 29th. This 
occultation is visible in parts of Asia but not in 
North America.

* 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 can be found below the bucket of 
the Big Dipper in the constellation of Ursa Major 
shining at a magnitude of 11. RX14 is making its way 
between two small galaxies, NGC 3595 and NGC 3877. A 
minimum of a 4-inch telescope and dark sky conditions 
may be required to spot this comet sometime after 
midnight when the Big Dipper is sufficiently high 
above the northern horizon to be fully visible. 

* For information, orbital elements and ephemeredes on

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

* A total solar eclipse occurs on the 4th. This 
eclipse is not visible anywhere in North America or 
Europe. This eclipse is centered in the South Indian 
Ocean and is visible in Australia and southern Africa.

* Dembowska is at opposition on the 1st.
* Massalia is at opposition on the 9th.

* 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 - November 21, 2002 - 
"Genesis is in good health and continues to collect 
samples of the solar wind. It is spinning at a rate of

1.59 rotations per minute. 

A software patch was successfully sent to the 
spacecraft on Nov. 20 to improve the spacecraft's 
protection against potential effects from a faulty bit

on a programmable memory chip in the onboard backup 
computer. ... The Genesis flight team is designing the

spacecraft's next station-keeping maneuver, to be 
performed on Dec. 10. These maneuvers fine-tune the 
spacecraft's orbit around the Lagrange 1 point of 
gravitational stability between Earth and the Sun." 
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 - November 4-5, 2002, 2002
"This Week on Galileo - Encounter with Amalthea - 
Early Monday morning begins our sprint into the inner 
reaches of the Jupiter system to snatch the scientific

secrets of that environment out from under the nose of

the gas giant, and to skirt by the tiny inner 
satellite Amalthea. The science instruments that will 
focus on the inner magnetosphere are the Dust Detector

(DDS), the Energetic Particle Detector (EPD), the 
Heavy Ion Counter (HIC), the Magnetometer (MAG), the 
Plasma Subsystem (PLS), and the Plasma Wave Subsystem 
(PWS) instruments. The Galileo spacecraft, however, 
may be unique among NASA's planetary probes in being 
the only mission to add a science instrument to its 
payload after launch!" Read the latest news at 

* Cassini - November 01, 2002 - "A successful test of 
the camera on NASA's Cassini spacecraft has produced 
images of Saturn 20 months before the spacecraft 
arrives at that planet.  A color composite of the 
Saturn test images is available online from NASA's Jet

Propulsion Laboratory at 
http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA02884 and 
from the Cassini imaging team's University of Arizona 
site at http://ciclops.lpl.arizona.edu . The image 
shows the shadow of the planet falling across its 
famous rings and includes Saturn's largest moon, 

"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 - November 04, 2002 - "Late Friday evening 
Pacific time on Nov. 1, 2002, the STARDUST flight team

pulled off a tremendously successful close flyby of 
the main belt asteroid Annefrank. This flyby was used 
as an engineering test of the ground and spacecraft 
operations that will be implemented at the primary 
scientific target, Comet Wild 2 in just over one year 
from now."

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 
(http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/ice_fire//pkexprss.htm ), 
* Europa Orbiter 
(http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/europaorbiter/ ), 
* Solar Probe 
(http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/ice_fire//sprobe.htm ) 
* 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 update since October 
7, 2002 - "With the release this month (October 2002) 
of the latest installment of 18,812 images, the Mars 
Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) passes

another major milestone: more than 100,000 images have

been validated and archived with the NASA Planetary 
Data System. The total number of archived images now 
available on-line is 112,218--more than twice the 
number of pictures acquired by the two Viking orbiters

in 1976-1980. These pictures, from MOC extended 
mission subphases E07 through E12, were acquired 
August 2001 through January 2002. Every six months, 
after a six-month, labor-intensive archiving effort, 
the MOC team releases six months-worth of validated 
data to the NASA Planetary Data System.

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 
http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mgs/msss/camera/images/ .

* Mars Odyssey Orbiter - No new update since October 
1, 2002 - "Mars Odyssey Releases First Data Archive to


"NASA has released the first set of data taken by the 
Mars Odyssey spacecraft to the Planetary Data System, 
which will now make the information available to 
research scientists through a new online distribution 
and access system."

"This release is a major milestone for Mars scientists

worldwide, since the first validated data from our 
instruments are now available to the entire scientific

community," said Dr. R. Stephen Saunders, the Odyssey 
project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory,

Pasadena, Calif. "There are fundamentally new kinds of

information in these data sets, including day and 
night infrared images, maps of hydrogen in the soil, 
and radiation hazard data for future Mars missions."

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 
http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/odyssey/index.html . 

* 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.)

* 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 articles and signup for your own email 
account [your name]@space.com.

* 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: December 01, 2002

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