[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 31 Oct 2009 21:21:00 -0700 (PDT)

IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
November 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. A PDF formatted downloadable version of the 
newsletter is at http://www.ki0ar.com/current_nl.pdf.

This newsletter is now available as an iTunes podcast. Visit 
http://www.apple.com, download and install iTunes (for either Mac or Windows). 
Search for "IAAS" and subscribe to the podcast. You may also go to 
http://www.ki0ar.com/astro.html and click on the Subscribe/RSS link. Update 
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 occurs on the 2nd.
* Last Quarter Moon occurs on the 9th.
* New Moon occurs on the 16th.
* First Quarter Moon occurs on the 24th.

* The Moon is at Perigee on the 7th, 229,226 miles from Earth.
* The Moon is at Apogee on the 22nd, 251,489 miles from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* Venus passes 4° north of Spica on the 1st.
* The Moon passes 3° south of Mars on the 9th.
* The Moon passes 8° south of Saturn on the 12th.
* The Moon passes 4° north of Jupiter on the 23rd.
* The Moon passes 3° north of Neptune on the 24th.
* The Moon passes 6° north of Uranus on the 26th.

For reference: The Full Moon subtends an angle of 0.5°.


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 November - "November witnesses the start of the 
biennial Mars observing frenzy. The Red Planet brightens noticeably and becomes 
a fine object for viewing through a telescope after midnight.

For an excellent warm-up, target Jupiter, which remains visible for several 
hours after sunset. The other giant planets are on view, as well: Uranus and 
Neptune in the evening and Saturn before dawn. Brilliant Venus joins Saturn in 
the chilly morning sky." (Martin Ratcliffe and Alister Ling, Astronomy 
Magazine, November 2009, p. 40)

* Mercury - Is in superior conjunction on the 5th. Mercury is not visible until 
late in the month returning to the evening sky. Look for Mercury low in the 
west during the last week of November setting soon after sunset. Mercury sets 
about 5:21 p.m. by month's end. Mercury is in the constellation of Scorpio 
shining at magnitude -0.5.

* Venus - Rises at 5:00 a.m. on the 1st and about 6:12 a.m. by month's end. 
Look for Venus in the early morning sky before sunrise. Venus rises later each 
day this month making it more difficult to view in the early twilight glow by 
the end of the month. Venus moves from the constellation of Virgo into Libra 
this month shining at magnitude -3.9.

* Earth - N/A.

* Mars - Has returned to the evening sky this month, rising at 10:42 p.m. on 
the 1st. Mars rises about 9:33 p.m. by month's end, however, Mars is still best 
viewed after midnight. Mars is in the constellation of Cancer this month 
shining at magnitude 0.2.

* Mars Observing Opportunity:
Mars passes through the Beehive Star Cluster (M44) on the morning of November 1 
and 2. The Beehive cluster is near the center of the constellation of Cancer 
the Crab. Mars and the Beehive Cluster rise about 10:40 pm local time and 
should be high enough to observe after midnight October 31.

* Jupiter - Sets at 11:41 p.m. on the 1st and about 10:00 p.m. by month's end. 
Jupiter is best viewed in the evening sky looking south-southwest after 
sundown. Jupiter is in the constellation of Capricornus shining at magnitude 

* Saturn - Rises at 3:12 a.m. on the 1st and about 1:27 a.m. by month's end. 
Saturn is best viewed in the early morning hours to the east and southeast 
before sunrise. Saturn is in the constellation of Virgo shining at magnitude 

* Uranus - Sets at 2:43 a.m. on the 1st and about 12:44 a.m. by month's end. 
Uranus is easily viewed in the evening sky with a good pair of binoculars. 
Uranus is in the constellation of Aquarius shining at magnitude 5.8.

* Neptune - Sets at 12:16 a.m. on the 1st and about 10:16 p.m. by month's end. 
Neptune can easily be found just east of Jupiter in the constellation 
Capricornus with a good pair of binoculars. Neptune shines at magnitude 7.9.

Dwarf Planets  
* Ceres - Has returned to the morning sky, however, Ceres is lost in the 
morning twilight and is difficult if not impossible to spot through the glare. 
Ceres rises at 7:19 a.m. on the 1st and about 5:24 a.m. by month's end. Ceres 
disappears into the evening twilight glow about mid-month. Ceres is in the 
constellation of Libra this month shining at magnitude 8.8. 

* Pluto - Sets at 8:18 p.m. on the 1st and about 6:24 p.m. by month's end. 
Pluto is in the constellation of Sagittarius shining at magnitude 14.1.

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


Astronomical Events

Meteor Showers
* The Leonids - The duration of this shower covers the period of Nov. 14-20. 
Maximum occurs on Nov. 17. The maximum hourly rate typically reaches 10-15, but 
most notable are periods of enhanced activity that occur every 33 years - 
events that are directly associated with the periodic return of comet 
Tempel-Tuttle. During these exceptional returns, the Leonids have produced 
rates of up to several thousand meteors per hour. The Leonids are swift 
meteors, which are best known for leaving a high percentage of persistent 

Predictions for this year's peak on the 17th could reach as high as 100 per 
hour, but as with any prediction concerning meteor showers - No promises and No 

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

* Comet C/2007 Q3 (Siding Spring) travels through the Coma Berenices - Virgo 
cluster of galaxies this month. Shining around 10th magnitude, the best time to 
view this comet will be after midnight during the month.

* 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/.

* No eclipse activity this month.

* 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)
* Juno is in the constellation of Aquarius.
* Julia is in the constellation of Pegasus.
* Melpomene is in the constellation of Cetus.
* Fortuna is in the constellation of Taurus.
* Vesta is in the constellation of Leo.
* Pallas 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)

* Cassini - October 31, 2009
E-7: Cassini's Return to the Plumes

"On November 2, 2009, Cassini will make its deepest plume passage yet, flying 
102.7 kilometers (63.8 miles) from the surface of Enceladus.

The plume passage will allow in situ measurements by fields-and-particles 
instruments such as the Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer and the Cosmic Dust 
Analyzer, to gain an understanding of plume and surface composition, and to 
investigate temporal variability in the plume by comparing with data from 
previous flybys.

This is the seventh targeted flyby of Enceladus, sometimes referred to as "E-7."

See Reciprocating Rings 
(http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/photos/imagedetails/index.cfm?imageId=3504) to see 
the rings casting a shadow on the moon Tethys."

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 - No new news since September 8, 2009
New Horizons Hits Halfway Mark Between Saturn, Uranus Orbits

"New Horizons sails silently today through another milestone on the way to its 
historic reconnaissance of the Pluto system, reaching the halfway point between 
the orbits of Saturn and Uranus.

The NASA spacecraft will reach 14.41 astronomical units from the Sun – 1.34 
billion miles, or nearly 14 1/2 times the distance between the Earth and Sun – 
between 6-7 p.m. EDT "Only five operating spacecraft have ever journeyed this 
far, and only one – the storied Voyager 2 mission – still had an encounter 
planned even farther out," says New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, 
of the Southwest Research Institute. "New Horizons is on its way to the 
farthest planetary encounter ever, at just over 32 astronomical units, which is 
a quarter-billion miles beyond the current planetary encounter record set at 
Neptune back in 1989."

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 - September 30, 2009
MESSENGER Gains Critical Gravity Assist for Mercury Orbital Observations

"MESSENGER successfully flew by Mercury yesterday, gaining a critical gravity 
assist that will enable it to enter orbit about Mercury in 2011 and capturing 
images of five percent of the planet never before seen. With more than 90 
percent of the planet’s surface already imaged, MESSENGER’s science team had 
drafted an ambitious observation campaign designed to tease out additional 
details from features uncovered during the first two flybys. But an unexpected 
signal loss prior to closest approach hampered those plans."

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) - October 29, 2009

SPIRIT UPDATE: Amnesia-like Symptoms Return - sols 2063-2069, Oct. 22-28, 2009:

"Spirit has experienced another complication. On Sol 2065 (Oct. 24, 2009), 
Spirit experienced a reset event and a problem with mounting its non-volatile 
flash memory. The rover resumed activities without using its flash memory, 
instead using its volatile random-access memory (RAM) to store telemetry. When 
the rover goes to sleep, telemetry stored only in RAM is lost. The project has 
instructed the rover to stay awake until its afternoon relay pass with Mars 
Odyssey to return the day's data before napping.

The project is planning to reformat the rover's flash memory file system to 
restore it to normal operation. Spirit is otherwise in good health.

As of Sol 2069 (Oct. 28, 2009), Spirit's solar-array energy production was 411 
watt-hours. On Sol 2064 (Oct. 23, 2009), atmospheric opacity (tau) was 0.599. 
Total odometry remains at 7,729.97 meters (4.80 miles)."

OPPORTUNITY UPDATE: Southbound Progress - sols 2043-2049, Oct. 22-29, 2009:

"Opportunity has been making good progress driving. After completing a survey 
of meteorites recently, Opportunity has turned south around the point of a 
large ripple field. Eventually, the rover will resume heading east towards 
Endeavour crater.

The rover drove southward on sols 2043, 2045, 2047, 2048 and 2049 (Oct. 22, 25, 
27, 28 and 29, 2009), totaling over 280 meters (918 feet). The rover commands 
the miniature thermal emission spectrometer (Mini-TES) elevation mirror open 
each sol in an attempt to clear some of the putative dust off the elevation 
mirror. To date, no improvement in the Mini-TES has been observed.

As of Sol 2049 (Oct. 29, 2009), Opportunity's solar-array energy production is 
419 watt-hours, with an atmospheric opacity (tau) of 0.580 and a dust factor of 
0.571. Total odometry is 18,622.44 meters (11.57 miles)."

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

Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page at

* Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - October 28, 2009
Channels from Hale Crater 

"This image from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows channels to the 
southeast of Hale crater on southern Mars. Taken by the orbiter's High 
Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera, this view covers an area 
about 3 kilometers (2 miles) wide. 

Channels associated with impact craters were once thought to be quite rare. 
Scientists proposed a variety of unusual circumstances to explain them, such as 
impacts by comets or precipitation caused by the impact event. As more of Mars 
is photographed with high-resolution imagery, more craters surrounded by 
channel systems are being discovered."


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: October 31, 2009


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