[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 4 Mar 2004 21:03:51 -0800 (PST)

            IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
                     March 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 20th.
* 1st Quarter Moon on the 28th.
* Full Moon on the 6th.
* Last Quarter Moon on the 13th.

* Perigee on the 11th, 229,601 mi. from Earth.
* Apogee on the 28th, 251,358 mi. from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 5 deg. north of Saturn on the 1st.
* The Moon passes 3 deg. north of Jupiter on the 6th.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. south of Neptune on the 17th.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. south of Uranus on the 18th.
* The Moon passes 4 deg. south of Mercury on the 21st.
* The Moon passes 2 deg. south of Venus on the 24th.
* The Moon passes 0.8 deg. north of Mars on the 25th.
* The Moon passes 5 deg. north of Saturn 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 superior conjunction on the 3rd.
Mercury will return to the evening sky during the last
2 weeks of the month. Mercury is at greatest eastern
elongation (19 deg.) on the 29th. Mercury shines at a
magnitude of 0.2 on the 30th.

* Venus - Is at greatest eastern elongation (46 deg.)
on the 29th. Venus is visible in the west soon after
sunset. Venus sets about 9:33 pm on the 1st and about
10:25 pm by month's end. Venus shines at magnitude

* Earth - Vernal equinox is at 1:49 am EST on the

* Mars - Sets about 11:24 pm on the 1st and about
11:03 pm by month's end. Mars is in the constellation
of Taurus this month. Mars shines at magnitude 1.3.
Mars can be found following Venus through the
southwestern sky in the early evening.

* Jupiter - Is at opposition on the 3rd. Jupiter rises
around 5:55 pm on the 1st and about 3:34 pm by month's
end. Look for Jupiter in the constellation of Leo.
Jupiter shines at magnitude -2.5. An extremely rare
event occurs on the evening of March 27/28 when 3 of
Jupiter's moon's shadows transits across the face of
the planet. This triple transit of moons and shadows
begins about 6:52 pm EST on the 27th and continues
throughout the night ending around 6:23 am EST on the
28th. If you can't stay up all night, consider viewing
between 2 and 4 am EST. (As long at you can see
Jupiter, make the appropriate time adjustments for
your particular time zone.)

* Saturn - Is stationary on the 7th. Saturn sets about
3:13 am on the 1st and about 1:14 am by month's end.
Saturn can be found in the constellation of Gemini.
Saturn shines at magnitude 0.0.

* Uranus - Rises about 6:16 am on the 1st and about
4:19 am by month's end. Uranus has returned to the
early morning sky and can be found in the
constellation of Aquarius. Uranus shines at a
magnitude of 5.9.

* Neptune - Rises about 5:21 am on the 1st and about
3:21 am by month's end. Neptune has returned to the
early morning sky and can be found in the
constellation of Capricorn. Neptune shines at a
magnitude of 8.0.

* Pluto - Is in the constellation of Ophiuchus and
rises about 1:35 am on the 1st and about 11:29 pm by
month's end. Pluto shines at magnitude 13.9. As
always, good luck at spotting this one.


Astronomical Events

Meteor Showers
* There are some minor meteor showers this month but
none that produce rates much higher than 2-5 per hour,
except the Gamma Normids that extend over the period
of March 11 to 21, with the maximum occurring on March
16. The maximum rate reaches about 5-9 meteors per

* 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) makes a brief appearance
early in the month as it passes through Pegasus and
into the evening twilight. However, Comet C/2002 T7
will return to the early morning skies in April after
passing from behind the Sun. Comet C/2002 T7 is
expected to reach 3rd magnitude at that time.

* 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.

Asteroids (From west to east)
* Pallus is in the constellation of Eridiani.
* Ceres is in the constellation of Gemini.
* Hebe is in the constellation of Gemini.
* Eunomia is in the constellation of Hydra.
* Iris is at opposition on the 11th. Iris is in the
constellation of Crater.

* 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 - February 2, 2004 - 
"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 92% of the time.
Also, the H-Array, which handles high-speed solar wind
was unshaded 8% 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 - February 27, 2004 -
"The most recent spacecraft telemetry was acquired
from the Goldstone tracking station on Tuesday,
February 24. The Cassini spacecraft is in an excellent
state of health and is operating normally. . .

C42 successfully completed execution and deregistered
on-board the spacecraft. Final activities included a
Magnetospheric Imaging Instrument flight software RAM
36-minute spin patch, a memory read out of the Radio
and Plasma Wave Science RTI loss counter, and a
reaction wheel bias activity. A total of 809 ISS
images and 498 VIMS cubes were returned by the C42

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 - February 18, 2004 - 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) - No new news
since 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 - February 26 - March 3,

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

* Middle-Latitude Craters (Released 26 February 2004)

* Boulder Tracks (Released 27 February 2004)

* West Elysium Planitia Crater (Released 28 February

* Olympian Lava Channels (Released 29 February 2004)

* Knob in Propontis (Released 01 March 2004)

* Mesa in Capri Chasm (Released 02 March 2004)

* North Polar Scarp (Released 03 March 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 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 - January 11, 2004
 - Anniversary Party for Odyssey at Mars -
As we celebrate Spirit's success, another of our
robotic friends is celebrating an anniversary of
sorts. Last week, NASA?s Mars Odyssey orbiter reached
an important milestone: a full Mars year (687 Earth
days) of science mapping. During this martian year, it

*       shown us where water ice lies buried beneath the
*       analyzed "what Mars is made of" by identifying
minerals and chemical elements; and,
*       studied the martian radiation environment to help us
understand potential health effects on future human

February 23-27, 2004

* THEMIS Images as Art #16 (Released 23 February 2004)

* THEMIS Images as Art #17 (Released 24 February 2004)

* THEMIS Images as Art #18 (Released 25 February 2004)

* THEMIS Images as Art #19 (Released 26 February 2004)


* THEMIS Images as Art #20 (Released 27 February 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) - March 03, 2004 -

Spirit Status:
"Rock Abrasion Tool Back in Action - sol 59, Mar 03,

Waking up to "One More Time" by The Real McCoy, Spirit
completed a successful, 2 millimeter-deep grind (.08
inches) into a target slightly left of the depression
it made yestersol during its abbreviated operation. A
five-minute brush to clean the hole followed. 

Completing the sol, which ended at 8:31 p.m.
Wednesday, March 03, Spirit's arm then switched
instruments so the Moessbauer spectrometer could
examine "Humphrey's" new shallow cavity."

Opportunity Status:
"Opportunity Hits Pay Dirt - sol 38, Mar 03, 2004

On sol 38, which ended at 8:13 a.m. PST on Wednesday,
March 3, Opportunity awoke to "Have You Ever Seen the
Rain?" by Creedence Clearwater Revival in honor of the
confirmation that liquid water once flowed through the
rocks at Meridiani Planum. 

In the morning of sol 38, Opportunity observed the
atmosphere with the panoramic camera and miniature
thermal emission spectrometer. Then, the rover turned
the miniature thermal emission spectrometer to stare
at the ground for science observations. Later,
Opportunity took stereo microscopic images and
Mössbauer spectrometer readings of the soil target
dubbed "Pay Dirt."

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.)

* 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: March 04, 2004

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