[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 1 Dec 2004 19:12:51 -0800 (PST)

            IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                      December 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.


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.


In This Newsletter...

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



* New Moon on the 11th.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 18th.
* Full Moon on the 26th.
* Last Quarter Moon on the 4th.

* Apogee on the 2nd, 252,580 mi. from Earth.
* Perigee on the 12th, 222,441 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* Venus passes 1.3 deg. north of Mars on the 5th.
* The Moon passes 0.3 deg. north of Jupiter on the
* The Moon passes 2 deg. south of Mars on the 9th.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. south of Venus on the 9th.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. south of Neptune on the 15th.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. south of Uranus on the 16th.
* Venus passes 6 deg. north of Antares on the 23rd.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. north of Saturn on the 28th.
* Mercury passes 1.2 deg. north of Venus on the 28th.

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 in inferior conjunction on the 10th.
Mercury is at greatest western elongation (22 deg.) on
the 29th. Mercury is not visible until the last week
or so in the month. Mercury shines at magnitude -0.3
on the 31st.

* Venus - Rises at 4:36 am on the 1st and 5:47 am by
month's end. Venus is visible in the early morning sky
low on the eastern horizon shining at a magnitude of

* Earth - Winter solstice is at 7:42 am on the 21st.

* Mars - Appears briefly in the early morning sky this
month. Mars rises about 4:52 am on the 1st and about
4:36 am by month's end. Mars shines at magnitude 1.6. 

* Jupiter - Rises at 2:19 am on the 1st and 12:37 am
by month's end. Jupiter appears to rise higher in the
early morning sky as the month progresses. Jupiter is
in the constellation of Virgo. Jupiter shines at
magnitude -1.9.

* Saturn - Rises around 7:53 pm on the 1st and about
5:41 pm by month's end. Saturn is visible for almost
the entire evening this month. Saturn is about half
way between the constellations of Gemini and Cancer.
Saturn shines at a magnitude of -0.2.

* Uranus - Sets about 11:01 am on the 1st and about
9:03 pm by month's end. Uranus is visible in the early
evening and can be found in the constellation of
Aquarius. Uranus shines at a magnitude of 5.9.

* Neptune - Sets about 9:21 pm on the 1st and about
7:23 pm by month's end. Neptune is visible in the
early evening sky and can be found in the
constellation of Capricorn. Neptune shines at a
magnitude of 8.0.

* Pluto - Is in conjunction with the Sun on the 13th.
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.

* The Moon occults Jupiter in the early hours before
sunrise on December 7. This occultation is visible for
most of two-thirds of the continental U.S. Read the
article from NASA Science News at
Also visit the IOTA website at
www.lunar-occultations.com/iota/iotandx.htm for times
at other locations. Set up at least half an hour
before the event to make sure you can locate the moon
and Jupiter. IOTA is always looking for recordings of
this type of event, so if you have recording equipment
visit the IOTA web site above for more information.
Don't forget to record the Time from WWV along with
your visual recording.

* 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/2004 Q2 (Machholz) was discovered late last
August by amateur astronomer Don Machholz is rapidly
approaching both the Sun and the Earth. Expected to
brighten to about 4th magnitude as it passes near the
Pleiades star cluster in January, this comet is well
placed for northern hemisphere observers. Comet
Machholz is traveling northward through the
constellations of Lepus (below Orion), Eridanus and
into Taurus this month.

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

* No eclipse activity this month.

Asteroids (From west to east)
* Vesta is in the constellation of Aquarius.
* Euterpe is in the constellation of Cetus just above
the tail.
* Flora and Herculina are in the constellation of
Cancer just east of Saturn.
* Pallas is in the constellation of Crater.
* Ceres 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 - November 11, 2004 - 
Genesis Spacecraft Bus Flies Solo
"While NASA scientists continue to examine the Genesis
sample return capsule at NASA's Johnson Space Center,
the spacecraft itself continues on its flight. After
releasing the sample return capsule on Sept. 8, 2004,
the spacecraft bus now heads back toward the vicinity
of the Earth-Sun Lagrange Point (L1), a point just
under 1 million miles away from Earth toward the Sun,
where gravitational and centrifugal forces acting on
the spacecraft are balanced. All of the spacecraft
systems are operational including the solar wind
monitors (although currently turned off). On its
current trajectory, the spacecraft will leave L1 in
February 2005, entering an orbit around the Sun. Since
this orbit is just inside the Earth's orbit, Genesis
will gradually pull ahead of the Earth, steadily
increasing its distance from Earth in the coming
years. NASA is currently considering an extended
mission, which would keep the spacecraft in the
Earth-Moon system for the next several years. The
Genesis spacecraft completed a trajectory correction
maneuver (TCM) on Nov. 6, as the spacecraft made its
closest approach by our planet since the release of
the sample return capsule. This TCM ensured that the
bus could escape from the Earth and Moon system if an
extended mission is not approved." 

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 23, 2004-
Successful Huygens test: last before separation

"ESA's Huygens probe, now orbiting Saturn on board the
NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini spacecraft, is in good health and
successfully passed its sixteenth 'In-Flight Checkout'

This in-flight checkout procedure was the last one
planned before separation of the Huygens probe from
Cassini in December this year. The preliminary
analysis of the real-time data received showed all
events in the check-out procedure occurred as, and
when, expected. 

The procedure was carried out live, with Cassini
transmitting the data to Earth in real-time. However
the data arrived on Earth with a delay of one hour and
10 minutes as this is the time taken for light, and
therefore radio signals, to travel the distance
between Saturn and Earth."

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/home/index.cfm .  The speed
and location of the spacecraft can be viewed on the
"Present Position" web page.

* Stardust - No new news since June 17, 2004 - NASA
Spacecraft Reveals Surprising Anatomy Of A Comet - 
"Findings from a historic encounter between NASA's
Stardust spacecraft and a comet have revealed a much
stranger world than previously believed. The comet's
rigid surface, dotted with towering pinnacles,
plunging craters, steep cliffs, and dozens of jets
spewing violently, has surprised scientists. 

"We thought Comet Wild 2 would be like a dirty, black,
fluffy snowball," said Stardust Principal Investigator
Dr. Donald Brownlee of the University of Washington,
Seattle. "Instead, it was mind-boggling to see the
diverse landscape in the first pictures from Stardust,
including spires, pits and craters, which must be
supported by a cohesive surface."

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.

* Galaxy Evolution Explorer - (GALEX) - 
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 - No new news since September
27, 2004
Rover Tracks Seen from Orbit 

"Wheel tracks left by NASA's Mars Exploration Rover
Spirit, and even the rover itself, are visible in this
image from the Mars Orbiter Camera on NASA's Mars
Global Surveyor orbiter. North is up in this image.
The tracks and rover are in the area south of a crater
informally named "Bonneville," which is just southeast
of the center of the image. The orbiter captured this
image with use of an enhanced-resolution technique
called compensated pitch and roll targeted
observation. It took the picture on March 30, 2004, 85
martian days, or sols, after Spirit landed on Mars.
The rover had driven from its landing site to the rim
of Bonneville and was examining materials around the
crater's rim."

* Mars Global Surveyor Images - 
November 25 - December 1, 2004

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

* Sedimentary Rocks and Dunes (Released 25 November

* Streamlined "Island" (Released 26 November 2004)

* Meridiani's Rocks (Released 27 November 2004)

* North Polar Features (Released 28 November 2004)

* Bouldery Impact Ejecta (Released 29 November 2004)

* East Candor cPROTO (Released 30 November 2004)

* Crater Floor Yardangs (Released 01 December 2004)

All of the Mars Global Surveyor images are archived

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 has begun 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 134,000 images of Mars from the MGS, check out
the newest images of the surface of Mars at

* Mars Odyssey Orbiter - No new news since August 25,
2004 - Mars Odyssey Begins Overtime After Successful
Mission -
"NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter begins working overtime
today after completing a prime mission that discovered
vast supplies of frozen water, ran a safety check for
future astronauts, and mapped surface textures and
minerals all over Mars, among other feats.

"Odyssey has accomplished all of its mission-success
criteria," said Dr. Philip Varghese, project manager
for Odyssey at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory,
Pasadena, Calif. The spacecraft has been examining
Mars in detail since February 2002, more than a full
Mars year of about 23 Earth months. NASA has approved
an extended mission through September 2006."


November 22-26, 2004

* Nighttime IR Channels (Released 22 November 2004)

* Tinto Vallis Fluvial Channel (Released 23 November

* Tyrrhena Patera Nighttime IR (Released 24 November

* Nirgal Vallis Nighttime IR (Released 25 November

* Granicus Vallis Channels (Released 26 November 2004)

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 29, 2004 -

Spirit Status:
"Three hundred sols and counting! - sol 292-305,
November 18, 2004

Spirit remains in excellent health and has survived
more than 300 martian days on the red planet.

With the Sun still relatively low on the horizon in
the early spring season on Mars, rover drivers are
forced to seek driving routes that keep the rover and
its solar panels tilted northward for energy reasons.
That constraint, plus the rocky terrain, will
challenge rover drivers in the coming weeks."

Opportunity Status:
"Finishing Up in 'Endurance' - sol 285-291, November
23, 2004

Opportunity has now reached the furthest point east in
its travels inside "Endurance Crater." Rover drivers
have determined that there is no safe path beyond the
current position. Therefore, Opportunity is now in the
midst of an intensive remote-sensing campaign,
capturing a panorama of Burns Cliff plus
super-resolution images and miniature thermal emission
spectrometer observations of selected targets. When
this campaign concludes, the rover will back away and
head for a way out of Endurance Crater. Opportunity
remains healthy and in an extremely advantageous solar
array attitude."

Landing sites link

Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page 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: http://marsprogram.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.)

* Sky and Space -
Astronomy from Down Under - The Southern Hemisphere's
first astronomy and space magazine.

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

* A Short Guide to Celestial Navigation -

* Astronomical Lexicon -
Many of the astronomical terms used in this newsletter
are defined here.

* Astronomy Picture of the Day -

* Comet Observation Home Page -

* Denver Astronomical Society -

* 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 -

* Our Solar System -
This is an excellent site to learn about our solar

* 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
- http://www.moon-phases.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 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 01, 2004

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