[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 3 Dec 2003 21:12:35 -0800 (PST)

            IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                    December 2003


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


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.


In This Newsletter...

* Moon
* Planets
* Astronomical Events
* Planetary/Lunar Exploration Missions
* Web Sites of Interest
* Acknowledgments and References
* Subscription Information



* New Moon on the 23rd.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 30th.
* Full Moon on the 8th.
* 3rd Quarter Moon on the 16th.

* Apogee on the 7th, 252,450 mi. from Earth.
* Perigee on the 22nd, 222,661 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 4 deg. south of Mars on the 1st.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. north of Saturn on the 10th.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. north of Jupiter on the 15th.
* The Moon passes 3 deg. south of Venus on the 25th.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. south of Neptune on the 25th.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. south of Uranus on the 27th.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. south of Mars on the 30th.
* Venus passes 1.9 deg. south of Neptune on the 30th.


(All times are local unless otherwise noted.)
Planetary Reports generated by "TheSky" software

* Mercury - Is at greatest eastern elongation (21
deg.) on the 9th. Mercury is in inferior conjunction
on the 26th. Enjoy Mercury in the evening sky early in
the month. Mercury shines at a magnitude of -0.5.

* Venus - Is visible in the west soon after sunset.
Venus sets about 6:20 pm on the 1st and about 7:30 pm
on the 31st. Venus shines at magnitude -3.9.

* Earth - The Winter solstice is at 2:04 am EST on the

* Mars - Sets about 12:40 am on the 1st and about
12:00 am by the 31st. Mars moves into the
constellation of Pisces this month. Mars shines at
magnitude -0.4 on the 1st and dims to magnitude 0.2 by
the 31st. Mars is still in an excellent position in
the sky for early evening observations.

* Jupiter - Rises around midnight on the 1st and about
11:00 pm by month's end. Look for Jupiter between the
constellations of Leo and Virgo. Jupiter shines at
magnitude -2.1.

* Saturn - Is at opposition on the 31st. Saturn rises
about 6:50 pm on the 1st and about 4:30 pm by month's
end. Saturn can be found in the constellation of
Gemini. Saturn shines at magnitude -0.4.

* Uranus - Sets about 10:45 pm on the 1st and about
8:45 pm by month's end. Uranus is in the constellation
of Aquarius. Uranus is visible in the early evening
and remains in a prime location for viewing this
month. Uranus shines at a magnitude of 5.9.

* Neptune - Sets 9:15 pm on the 1st and about 7:15 pm
by month's end. Neptune is in the constellation of
Capricornus. Neptune is also visible in the early
evening and remains in a prime location for viewing
this month. Neptune shines at a magnitude of 8.0.

* Pluto - Is in conjunction with the Sun on the 11th.
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.

* 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 2P/Encke can be found by following along a
line extending along the constellation of Cygnus the
Swan to the western horizon. Comet 2P/Encke can be
found in the constellation of Serpens passing through
an area of sky dotted with numerous clusters into the
constellation of Ophiuchus. However, comet 2P/Encke
will disappear into the twilight glow by mid month.
Binoculars and small telescopes should easily be able
to spot this one.

* For information, orbital elements and ephemerides on
observable comets visit the Observable Comets page
from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

* No significant eclipse activity this month.

* Irene is at opposition on the 11th in the
constellation of Taurus.
* Amphitrite is in the constellation of Perseus.
* Pallus is in the constellation of Cetus.
* Ceres is in the constellation of Gemini.
* Hebe is in the constellation of Cancer.
* Eunomia is in the constellation of Leo.

* 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 26, 2003 -
"The Genesis spacecraft continues its mission
collecting solar wind material expelled from the Sun.
Telemetry from the Genesis spacecraft indicates that
all spacecraft subsystems are reporting nominal

There are three collector arrays aboard Genesis that
are exposed to, or hidden from, the solar wind. One
collector array for each of the three solar wind
regimes. Which collector array is exposed is
determined by the data received by sensitive ion and
electron monitors located on the spacecraft's
equipment deck. These monitors scrutinize the solar
wind passing by the spacecraft and relay this
information to the onboard computer, which in turn
commands the collector arrays to deploy and retract as
needed. Recent solar activity has called for the 'low
solar speed' array to be deployed 100% of the time.
Also, the E-Array, which handles coronal mass
ejections, was unshaded 94% of the time."

The latest status reports can be read at
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

* Cassini - November 13, 2003 - Cassini Captures
Jupiter in Close-Up Portrait -
"Jupiter, our solar system's most massive planet, has
been captured in the most detailed global color view
ever seen, courtesy of NASA's Cassini spacecraft.
Cassini acquired the view during its closet approach
to the gas giant while en route to its final
destination, Saturn.

The Jupiter portrait is available at the JPL
photojournal at
http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA04866 and
at the Cassini Imaging Team's website at
http://ciclops.org ."

"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.

* Stardust - November 14, 2003 -
"The Stardust team had six periods of communications
with the spacecraft in the past week. Telemetry
relayed from the spacecraft remains in very good shape
as it approaches its date with Comet Wild 2.

Over the past week, the spacecraft's first approach
optical navigation images were taken. From now until
December these images will be taken twice a week, then
their frequency will increase until after encounter.
Though Comet Wild 2 is not expected to make an
appearance in these early images, they will be used to
test planning, commanding, downlink telemetry and
ground processing of Stardust images."

Stardust encounters Comet Wild 2 on January 2, 2004.
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.

* Galaxy Evolution Explorer - (GALEX) - November 09,
2003 -
"Nominal operations resumed at 15:45 GMT today. The
GALEX detectors are functioning well, there appears to
be no damage caused by last weeks solar flares, and
all spacecraft systems are nominal."

The GALEX Image Gallery is available at

What's New: http://www.galex.caltech.edu/ for more
information about the mission.

* Past, Present, Future and Proposed JPL Missions -

Mars Missions

* Mars Global Surveyor - November 20-26, 2003

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

* Rocks Exposed on Slope in Aram Chaos (Released 20
November 2003)

* Cracked South Polar Plain (Released 21 November

* Crater Cluster Near Pathfinder (Released 22 November

* Iberus Vallis Troughs (Released 23 November 2003)

* Multiple-Event Gully (Released 24 November 2003)

* Layers in Crater Wall (Released 25 November 2003)

* Elysium Mons Wind Streak (Released 26 November 2003)

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 began its seventh 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 134,000 images of Mars from the MGS, check out
the newest images of the surface of Mars at

* Mars Odyssey Orbiter - November 24, 2003 -
Geomorphic Gumbo -
"Just northeast of the small Tharsis volcano Biblis
Patera lies a scene of surprising complexity. The
upper left portion of the image shows the furrowed
terrain of Gigas Sulci, likely produced in response to
the evolution of Olympus Mons volcano. A narrow
channel that probably contained flowing lava snakes
through the center of the image before transitioning
into a gaping chasm. The lower third of the image
shows a jumble of textures, presumably produced from
the emplacement and erosion of lava flows, but which
are not easily classified."
Image of the Day - Nov 24, 2003: Geomorphic Gumbo
(http://themis.la.asu.edu/zoom-20031124a.html )
High-resolution version located at the Arizona State
University THEMIS web site."

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) - December 02, 2003 - Mars Rovers Head
for Exciting Landings in January -
"NASA's robotic Mars geologist, Spirit, embodying
America's enthusiasm for exploration, must run a
grueling gantlet of challenges before it can start
examining the red planet. Spirit's twin Mars
Exploration Rover, Opportunity, also faces tough
martian challenges.

"The risk is real, but so is the potential reward of
using these advanced rovers to improve our
understanding of how planets work," said Dr. Ed
Weiler, associate administrator for space science at
NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

Spirit is the first of two golf-cart-sized rovers
headed for Mars landings in January. The rovers will
seek evidence about whether the environment in two
regions might once have been capable of supporting
life. Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory,
Pasadena, Calif., have navigated Spirit to arrive
during the evening of Jan. 3, 2004, in the Eastern
time zone.

Spirit will land near the center of Gusev Crater,
which may have once held a lake. Three weeks later,
Opportunity will reach the Meridiani Planum, a region
containing exposed deposits of a mineral that usually
forms under watery conditions."

Spirit arrives at Mars January 3, 2004.
Opportunity arrives at Mars January 24, 2004.
Where are Spirit and Opportunity now?

Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page at
http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mer/ .

* 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: http://marsweb.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.)

* (NEW) JPL Solar System Experience -

* A Short Guide to Celestial Navigation -

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

* Comet Observation Home Page -

* 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-phases.com/

* Spaceflight Now - http://spaceflightnow.com/

* NASA Science News - http://science.nasa.gov/

* Universe Today - http://www.universetoday.com

* Space.com - http://space.com
Interesting space and astronomy articles.

* 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
JPL SSA, Colorado
Last modified: December 03, 2003

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