[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 1 Aug 2009 21:16:57 -0700 (PDT)

IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
August 2009


The International Association for Astronomical Studies provides this newsletter 
as a service for interested persons worldwide.


This newsletter is published on the World Wide Web at 
http://www.ki0ar.com/astro.html - The Home of KI0AR - and is received 
nationally and internationally. An MS Word formatted downloadable version of 
the newsletter is at http://www.ki0ar.com/current_nl.doc.

This newsletter is now available as an iTunes podcast. Visit 
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Search for "IAAS" and subscribe to the podcast. You may also go to 
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your iPod or mp3 player and listen to the newsletter at your leisure. Since 
this is a new feature, comments and constructive criticisms are greatly 


An Open Invitation - For amateur radio operators and scanner enthusiasts, when 
in the Denver metro area, please join the Colorado Astronomy Net on the Rocky 
Mountain Radio League's (http://rmrl.hamradios.com/) 146.94 MHz repeater on 
Tuesday nights at 7 P.M. 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 Month At-A-Glance at http://www.ki0ar.com/ataglance.html
A calendar displaying the daily astronomical events.


The Moon

* Full Moon on the 5th.
* Last Quarter Moon on the 13th.
* New Moon on the 20th.
* First Quarter Moon on the 27th.

* Apogee on the 3rd, 252,294 miles from Earth.
* Perigee on the 19th, 223,469 miles from Earth.
* Apogee on the 31st, 251,823 miles from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* Mercury passes 0.6° north of Regulus on the 2nd.
* The Moon passes 3° north of Jupiter on the 6th.
* The Moon passes 3° north of Neptune on the 6th.
* The Moon passes 6° north of Uranus on the 9th.
* The Moon passes 3° north of Mars on the 15th.
* The Moon passes 1.7° north of Venus on the 17th.
* The Moon passes 0.4° north of the asteroid Vesta on the 18th.
* Venus passes 7° south of Pollux on the 21st.
* The Moon passes 7° south of Saturn on the 22nd.
* The Moon passes 3° south of Mercury on the 22nd.
* The Moon passes 0.6° north of Antares on the 27th.


The Planets & Dwarf Planets
Planetary Reports are generated by "TheSky" software. 
(http://www.ki0ar.com/planrpts.html) These reports provide predicted data for 
the planets on 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 reports. These reports have been optimized for the Denver, Colorado 
location, however, the times will be approximate for other locations on Earth.

(All times are local unless otherwise noted.)

* Planetary Highlights for August - Jupiter reaches opposition and shines at 
its brightest since 1999 this month. Catch a glimpse of Mercury in the early 
evening. Saturn disappears into the evening twilight glow late in the month. 
Binoculars or a small telescope will provide nice views of Neptune and Uranus 
in the late evening and early morning hours. Mars and Venus provide nice views 
before sunrise. The Perseid meteor shower peaks on the 12th.

* Mercury - Is at greatest eastern elongation (27° above the western horizon) 
on the 27th. Look for Mercury low on the western horizon about 30 minutes after 
sunset. Mercury sets at 9:08 p.m. on the 1st and about 8:13 p.m. by month's 
end. Mercury is in the constellation of Virgo shining at magnitude 0.0.

* Venus - Rises at 2:59 a.m. on the 1st and about 3:45 a.m. by month's end. 
Look for Venus in the early morning sky before sunrise. Venus is in the 
constellation of Cancer this month shining at magnitude -4.0.

* Earth - N/A.

* Mars - Rises at 1:47 a.m. on the 1st and about 1:07 a.m. by month's end. Look 
for Mars in the southeast before sunrise. Mars moves from the constellation of 
Taurus into Gemini this month shining at magnitude 1.0.

* Jupiter - Is at opposition on the 14th rising as the Sun sets. Jupiter rises 
at 8:49 p.m. on the 1st and about 6:36 p.m. by month's end. Jupiter is shining 
at its brightest since 1999 this month at magnitude -2.9. Jupiter is in the 
constellation of Capricornus.

* Saturn - Sets at 10:03 p.m. on the 1st and about 8:10 p.m. by month's end. On 
August 10, the rings will disappear as they line up edge-on with the Sun and 
will not reflect light back to Earth. Saturn is rapidly disappearing into the 
evening twilight glow and makes its last evening appearance at month's end. 
Saturn will be in conjunction with the Sun in September and will return to the 
morning sky in October. Saturn is in the constellation of Leo shining at 
magnitude 1.1.

* Uranus - Rises at 10:08 p.m. on the 1st and about 8:04 p.m. by month's end. 
Uranus has returned to the evening sky this month but is still best viewed in 
the late evening or early morning. Uranus is in the constellation of Pisces 
shining at magnitude 5.8.

* Neptune - Is at opposition on the 17th rising as the Sun sets. Neptune rises 
at 8:50 p.m. on the 1st and about 6:46 p.m. by month's end. Lying near Jupiter, 
Neptune can easily be found in the constellation Capricornus with a good pair 
of binoculars. Neptune shines at magnitude 7.8.

Dwarf Planets  
* Ceres - Sets at 10:54 p.m. on the 1st and about 9:17 p.m. by month's end. 
Ceres is in the constellation of Virgo this month shining at magnitude 8.8. 

* Pluto - Sets at 3:24 a.m. on the 1st and about 1:20 a.m. by month's end. 
Pluto is visible for most of the evening. Pluto is in the constellation of 
Sagittarius shining at magnitude 14.0.

As always, good luck at spotting these two, a large telescope and dark skies 
will be needed.


Astronomical Events

Meteor Showers
* The Northern Delta Aquarids [meteor shower] extends from July 16 to September 
10. Maximum occurs on August 13. The hourly rates reach a high of 10.

* The Perseids meteor shower is generally visible between July 23 and August 
22. Maximum occurs during August 12/13. The hourly rate typically reaches 80, 
although some years have been as low as 4 and as high as 200. The meteors tend 
to be very fast, possess an average magnitude of 2.3 and leave persistent 

The Perseids are Coming - 

* For more information about Meteor Showers, visit Gary Kronk's Meteor Showers 
Online web page at http://meteorshowersonline.com/.

* Comet 22P/Kopff is in the constellation of Aquarius this month. Comet Kopff 
shines at magnitude 9. Comet Kopff lies just east of Jupiter and is best viewed 
from a dark sky site looking south after midnight.

* 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 http://cometography.com/.

* A penumbral lunar eclipse occurs on the 5th during the full Moon at 8:55 p.m. 
EDT; however, the slight dimming may be imperceptible.

* 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)
* Iris is in the constellation of Virgo.
* Psyche is at opposition on the 5th in the constellation of Capricornus.
* Isis is in the constellation of Aquarius.
* Juno is in the constellation of Pisces.
* Melpomene is in the constellation of Pisces.
* Julia is in the constellation of Pisces.

* 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 - July 31, 2009
Colorful Northern Crescent
Full-Res: PIA11548 (http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA11548)

"The Cassini spacecraft looks down on the north pole of Titan, showing night 
and day in the northern hemisphere of Saturn's largest moon.

This view is centered on terrain at 49 degrees north latitude, 243 degrees west 
longitude. The north pole of Titan is rotated about 23 degrees to the left and 
it lies on the terminator above and to the left of the center of the image.

Images taken using red, green and blue spectral filters were combined to create 
this natural color view of Titan (5150 kilometers, or 3200 miles across). The 
images were obtained with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on June 6, 
2009 at a distance of approximately 194,000 kilometers (121,000 miles) from 
Titan. Image scale is 11 kilometers (7 miles) per pixel.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European 
Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a 
division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the 
mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini 
orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at 
JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in 
Boulder, Colo."

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 - July 14, 2009
The PI's Perspective: A Summer's Work, Far From Home

"The work is fun, no doubt there; but it never ends on this mission of 
exploration — particularly in the summer, when we conduct our annual spacecraft 

We awakened New Horizons from its record-setting 202-day electronic hibernation 
just last week, on July 7. We're now almost 14 astronomical units from the Sun 
(the official crossing date will be July 27), and nearing the halfway point 
between the orbits of Saturn and Uranus. And we're going to be conducting an 
activity that we call Active Checkout Three ("ACO-3").  ACO-3 has been months 
in the making, and for the remainder of July and almost all of August — it's 
show time!"

New Horizons gallery http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/gallery/sciencePhotos/.

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/.

* Dawn - No new news since June 08, 2009
Dawn Re-Lights the Ionic Fire

"Mission controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., 
have received a transmission from the Dawn spacecraft confirming it has 
re-ignited its ion propulsion system. For those of you scoring at home, 
Thruster # 1 received the honors. Over the course of its eight-year mission, 
first to asteroid Vesta and then off to dwarf planet Ceres, Dawn's three ion 
engines will accumulate 2,000 days of operation."

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

* MESSENGER - July 15, 2009
Sixteen Craters on Mercury Have New Names

"The International Astronomical Union (IAU) recently approved a proposal from 
the MESSENGER Science Team to confer names on 16 impact craters on Mercury. The 
newly named craters were imaged during the mission’s first two flybys of 
Mercury in January and October last year.

In the time since the flybys, MESSENGER team members have been analyzing the 
images and other data and preparing papers for publication in scientific 
journals. "Having names for these features will help to improve communication 
among those studying the planet's geology," says MESSENGER Participating 
Scientist Dave Blewett, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics 
Laboratory, in Laurel, Md."

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 visit.
+ http://virtualfieldtrip.jpl.nasa.gov/ ;
* 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 - No new news since June 22, 2009
NASA'S Mars Odyssey Alters Orbit to Study Warmer Ground

"PASADENA, Calif. - NASA's long-lived Mars Odyssey spacecraft has completed an 
eight-month adjustment of its orbit, positioning itself to look down at the day 
side of the planet in mid-afternoon instead of late afternoon. 

This change gains sensitivity for infrared mapping of Martian minerals by the 
orbiter's Thermal Emission Imaging System camera. Orbit design for Odyssey's 
first seven years of observing Mars used a compromise between what worked best 
for the infrared mapping and for another onboard instrument.

"The orbiter is now overhead at about 3:45 in the afternoon instead of 5 p.m., 
so the ground is warmer and there is more thermal energy for the camera's 
infrared sensors to detect," said Jeffrey Plaut of NASA's Jet Propulsion 
Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., project scientist for Mars Odyssey."

"A simulated fly-through using the newly assembled imagery is available online 
at http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mars/missions/odyssey/20060313.html.

The fly-through plus tools for wandering across and zooming into the large 
image are at http://themis.asu.edu/.";

Thermal Emission Imaging System (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) - July 29, 2009

SPIRIT UPDATE: Robotic Arm Diagnostics - sols 1975-1980, July 24-29, 2009:

"Spirit is continuing its ambitious remote sensing and in-situ (contact) 
science campaign using all her payload elements while embedded at the location 
called Troy on the west side of Home Plate.

During in situ (contact) work with the robotic arm on Sol 1975 (July 24, 2009), 
the Instrument Deployment Device (IDD) Joint 2 (shoulder elevation) stalled. 
The stall occurred between two Microscopic Imager (MI) mosaics. A series of 
diagnostics were sequenced on Sol 1979 (July 28, 2009).

The diagnostics included an elbow and turret motion (Joints 3, 4 and 5) to 
reduce torque on Joint 2, a rotor resistance test of the Joint 2 motor, and 
then a series of small Joint 2 diagnostic motions, a MI mosaic and a placement 
of the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer (APXS) on a surface target. The IDD 
Joint 2 motor resistances are normal and the IDD Joint 2 moved successfully to 
all commanded diagnostic motions. All MI images were taken and the APXS is 
positioned on the surface target. There are no mobility/IDD errors or 
preclusions. The IDD Joint 2 appears to be okay.

On Earth, the surface system testbed (SSTB) rover extraction testing continues 
with end-to-end testing in differentiated soil in preparation for the first 
extraction moves on Mars.

As of Sol 1980 (July 29, 2009), the rover solar array energy production was 914 
watt-hours, with atmospheric opacity (tau) of 0.380 and a dust factor of 0.831.

Total odometry as of Sol 1980 (July 29, 2009): 7,729.93 meters (4.80 miles)."

OPPORTUNITY UPDATE: Approaching 'Block Island' Cobble - sols 1954-1959, July 
23-28, 2009:

"Opportunity has spied a dark, meter-scale cobble in the opposite direction 
from which she has been traveling. On Sol 1954 (July 23, 2009), the rover 
headed back toward this large coble, called "Block Island," with over a 100 
meter (328-foot) drive.

Opportunity drove again on Sol 1957 (July 26, 2009) with an 87-meter (285-foot) 
drive, putting the cobble less than 30 meters (some 95 feet) away. Opportunity 
approached the cobble on Sol 1959 (July 28, 2009) with a 24-meter (79-foot) 

In-situ (contact) analysis using the robotic arm will now begin on this 
70-centimeter-size (28-inch) cobble. The miniature thermal emission 
spectrometer (Mini-TES) shroud continues to be left open on scheduled sols to 
allow the environment to clean minor dust contamination from the elevation 
mirror. No improvement in Mini-TES performance has been observed so far, but 
the rover has seen no wind events.

As of Sol 1959 (July 28, 2009), the solar array energy production was 467 
watt-hours with an atmospheric opacity (tau) of 0.517 and a dust factor of 

Total odometry as of Sol 1959 (July 28, 2009): 17,224.82 meters (10.70 miles)."

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

Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page at

* Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - No new news since June 04, 2009
Mars Orbiter Resumes Science Observations

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission Status Report 

"PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is examining Mars again 
with its scientific instruments after successfully transitioning out of a 
precautionary standby mode triggered by an unexpected June 3 rebooting of its 

Engineers brought the spacecraft out of the standby mode on June 6. Cameras and 
other scientific instruments resumed operation June 9. 

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter reached Mars in 2006 and has returned more data 
about the planet than all other Mars missions combined. 

The June 3 rebooting resembled a Feb. 23 event on the spacecraft. Engineers are 
re-investigating possible root causes for both events. The new investigation 
includes reconsidering the likelihood of erroneous voltage readings resulting 
from cosmic rays or solar particles hitting an electronic component."


All of the HiRISE images are archived here:

More information about the MRO mission is available online 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.)

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

* A Short Guide to Celestial Navigation - http://www.celnav.de/ ;

* Astrogirl Homepage - http://www.astrogirl.org ;

* Astronomical Lexicon - http://www.ki0ar.com/astrolex.html ;
Many of the astronomical terms used in this newsletter are defined here.

* Astronomy Picture of the Day - http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/astropix.html ;

* 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 - 
http://www.astro.wisc.edu/~dolan/constellations/constellations.html ;
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 -
http://www.ericsblacksuneclipse.com ;

* Groovy Adventures - http://www.groovyadventures.com ;
Unique adventures and vacations including astronomy related vacations.

* The International Dark-Sky Association - http://www.darksky.org
To preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark 

* JPL Solar System Ambassador Program -

* JPL Solar System - http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/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, 

* Sky and Space - http://www.skyandspace.com.au/public/home.ehtml ;
Astronomy from Down Under - The Southern Hemisphere's first astronomy and space 

* 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 

* Southern Colorado Astronomical Society - http://www.scasastronomy.info/

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

* Space.com - Sky Watch Calendar -
http://www.space.com/spacewatch/sky_calendar.html ;

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

* "SpaceRef.com" - http://www.spaceref.com/ - SpaceRef's 21 news and reference 
web sites are designed to allow both the novice and specialist alike to explore 
outer space and Earth observation.
This site includes links to planetary updates such as Mercury Today, Venus 
Today, Earth Today, Moon Today, Mars Today, Jupiter Today, Saturn Today, Pluto 
Today, etc.

* Stellarium - http://www.stellarium.org
Free, downloadable planetarium/astronomy software.

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

* Wikisky - http://www.wikisky.org
WIKISKY is a non-commercial project. The main purpose of WIKISKY is to 
consolidate astronomical, astrophysical and other information about different 
space objects and astrophysical facts.


Acknowledgments and References

Much of the information in this newsletter is from "Astronomy Magazine" 
(Kalmbach Publishing), JPL mission status reports,  "Meteor Showers - A 
Descriptive Catalog" by Gary W. Kronk 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 Solar System Ambassador, Colorado
Last modified: August 01, 2009


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