[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 31 Dec 2003 19:17:14 -0800 (PST)

            IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                    January 2004


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 21st.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 29th.
* Full Moon on the 7th.
* Last Quarter Moon on the 14th.

* Apogee on the 3rd, 252,095 mi. from Earth.
* Perigee on the 19th, 225,415 mi. from Earth.
* Apogee on the 31st, 251,536 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 5 deg. north of Saturn on the 6th.
* The Moon passes 3 deg. north of Jupiter on the 12th.
* Venus passes 0.9 deg. south of Uranus on the 14th.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. south of Mercury on the 19th.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. south of Uranus on the 23rd.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. south of Venus on the 24th.
* The Moon passes 3 deg. south of Mars on the 27th.
* Venus passes 1.9 deg. south of Neptune on the 30th.


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. The rise and set times for the sun and
the moon for each day of the month are also included
in the reports.
(All times are local unless otherwise noted.)

* Mercury - Is at greatest western elongation (24
deg.) on the 17th. Enjoy Mercury in the morning sky
during mid-month. Mercury shines at a magnitude of

* Venus - Is visible in the west soon after sunset.
Venus sets about 7:26 pm on the 1st and about 8:36 pm
on the 31st. Venus shines at magnitude -4.0.

* Earth - Is at perihelion (91.4 million miles from
the Sun) on the 4th.

* Mars - Sets about 12:08 am on the 1st and about
11:43 pm by the 31st. Mars is in the constellation of
Pisces this month. Mars shines at magnitude 0.5. Mars
is still in an excellent position in the southwestern
sky for early evening observations.

* Jupiter - Rises around 10:14 pm on the 1st and about
8:06 pm by month's end. Jupiter is stationary on the
4th. Look for Jupiter between the constellations of
Leo and Virgo. Jupiter shines at magnitude -2.3.

* Saturn - Rises about 4:34 pm on the 1st and about
2:22 pm by month's end. Saturn can be found in the
constellation of Gemini. Saturn shines at magnitude

* Uranus - Sets about 8:47 pm on the 1st and about
6:53 pm by month's end. Uranus is in the constellation
of Aquarius. Uranus is visible in the very early
evening soon after sunset. Uranus shines at a
magnitude of 5.9.

* Neptune - Sets 7:15 pm on the 1st and about 5:19 pm
by month's end. Neptune is in the constellation of
Capricornus. Neptune is visible in the very early
evening soon after sunset. Neptune will disappear into
the twilight glow by the end of the month. Neptune
shines at a magnitude of 8.0.

* Pluto - Is now visible again. Pluto is in the
constellation of Ophiuchus and rises about 5:25 am on
the 1st and about 3:27 am by month's end. Pluto shines
at magnitude 13.9. As always, good luck at spotting
this one. 


Astronomical Events

Meteor Showers
* The Quadrantids - This meteor shower is generally
visible between December 28 and January 7, with a very
sharp maximum of 45 to 200 meteors per hour occurring
during January 3 and 4. The meteors tend to be bluish
and possess an average magnitude of about 2.8.

* 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 C/2002 T7 (LINEAR) can be found traveling
through the constellations of Pisces, Andromeda and
Pegasus. This comet brightens from 8th to 7th
magnitude as it crosses the evening sky. The best time
this month is during the period from January 10
through January 24 when the moon will not interfere
with observations. Dark skies are recommended but this
comet can still be spotted from suburban areas with a
small telescope.

* 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.

* Amphitrite is in the constellation of Perseus.
* Pallus is in the constellation of Cetus.
* Ceres is at opposition on the 9th. Ceres is in the
constellation of Gemini.
* Hebe is at opposition on the 12th. Hebe is in the
constellation of Cancer.
* Eunomia is in the constellation of Leo.
* Iris is in the constellation of Virgo.

* 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 - No new news since 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 - December 18, 2003 - Saturn Rings in the
New Year -
"When the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31, heralding
the start of 2004, dash outside and look up. Directly
overhead you'll see a yellow star outshining the
others around it. That star is a planet: Saturn,
having its closest encounter with Earth for the next
29 years.

"Saturn's going to be really beautiful," says NASA
astronomer Mitzi Adams. "Not only will Saturn be about
as close to Earth as it can get -- 1.2 billion
kilometers (748 million miles) away -- but also its
rings are tipped toward us. Sunlight reflected from
Saturn's rings makes the planet extra bright." 

If you have a telescope, advises Adams, be sure to
point it at Saturn. Even a small 'scope will reveal
the spectacular rings. "They're breathtaking," she

2004 is going to be a big year for Saturn. The
Cassini-Huygens spacecraft, en route since 1997, will
arrive there in June. Other spacecraft have visited
Saturn -- Pioneer 11 and the Voyagers -- but they
merely flew by, taking hurried pictures during
encounters that lasted little more than days. When
Cassini reaches Saturn it will stay, orbiting and
studying the planet for at least four years."

Cassini Imaging Team's website - 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 - December 16, 2003 - Spotlight: Catching
the Wild Child -- How Stardust Stays on Target -
"Imagine driving through heavy fog to a place you've
never been, guided only by a faint taillight in the
distance. The challenge is similar to one NASA will
take in January 2004 by flying its Stardust mission
through the halo of dust that surrounds the nucleus of
a comet.

"With Mars and other planets, we know relatively well
where the planets are," said Dr. Shyam Bhaskaran, a
Stardust navigation specialist at NASA's Jet
Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "This is not
the case with comets, which are not easily observed
because they are small objects with gas jets. It is
much harder to predict their orbits, which is why we
have a little extra help from a camera onboard the

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) - December 10,
2003 -
"GALEX Early Data Release available. Click here to
obtain the first release of GALEX data.

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 Images - December 18-26, 2003

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

* Old Martian Valley (Released 18 December 2003)

* Sediments of Ophir (Released 19 December 2003)

* Syrtis Major Dune Field (Released 20 December 2003)

* Raising Dust (Released 21 December 2003)

* Northern Plains Buried Craters (Released 22 December

* Windblown Sand in West Candor (Released 23 December

* Isidis Planitia (Released 24 December 2003)

* Gullies in Galle (Released 25 December 2003)

* Polar Polygons (Released 26 December 2003)

Every six months, a new suite of MGS MOC data are
archived with the NASA Planetary Data System (PDS-

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 - December 19, 2003 - 
Image of the Day - Dec 19, 2003: Strange Erosional
Features- (http://themis.asu.edu/zoom-20031219a.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 27, 2003 - 
"Spirit Lands: January 3, 2004 about 8:35 pm PST 

Opportunity Lands: January 24, 2004 about 9:05 pm PST

Tones Break Silence During Mars Exploration Rover
Landings - On the phone, tones can signal a
connection. On paper, they can add shape and
dimension. On Mars, they can do both. This is why
members of the Mars Exploration Rover Entry Descent
and Landing team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
will be on the lookout for a series of tones during
the mission's landings in January 2004.

"Tones are a simple way to send information directly
to Earth about what the rover thinks it is doing as it
enters the Martian atmosphere and prepares to land on
Mars," said Mars Exploration Rover Entry, Descent and
Landing Telecommunications Lead Dr. Polly Estabrook.

After the Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar Lander
missions were lost in 1999, mission engineers began
looking at ways to strengthen communication during
future landings. The Mars Exploration Rover team plans
to use tones in conjunction with other methods to
assess the state of the rovers shortly before, during
and after landing. These tones cannot be heard, but
they can be detected by special equipment located at
NASA's Deep Space Network.

Landing sites link

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.)

* 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 31, 2003

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