[astronews] IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 1 Oct 2010 07:20:22 -0700 (PDT)

IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
October 2010

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

* New Moon occurs on the 7th.
* First Quarter Moon occurs on the 14th.
* Full Moon occurs on the 22nd.
* Last Quarter Moon occurs on the 30th.

* The Moon is at Perigee on the 6th, 223,355 miles from Earth.
* The Moon is at Apogee on the 18th, 251,921 miles from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 3° north of Venus on the 9th.
* The Moon passes 4° south of Mars on the 9th.
* The Moon passes 5° north of Neptune on the 17th.
* The Moon passes 7° north of Jupiter on the 20th.
* The Moon passes 6° north of Uranus on the 20th.

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 October - With cooler and longer nights for viewing 
in the northern hemisphere, the visible planets are not cooperating very well. 
However, the only visible planet that sticks around for almost all night long 
is magnificent Jupiter.  Mercury and Saturn, Venus and Mars make brief 
appearances in the morning and evening respectively. Uranus is still within a 
few degrees of Jupiter.

* Mercury - Is in superior conjunction on the 16th. Mercury rises at 5:54 a.m. 
on the 1st and about 7:21 a.m. by month's end. Try to catch Mercury during the 
first week of October before it disappears into the morning twilight glow. 
Mercury moves from the constellation of Virgo into Libra this month shining at 
magnitude -1.1.

* Venus - Is stationary on the 7th. Venus is in inferior conjunction on the 
28th. Even though Venus lies just a few degrees above the western horizon 
before sunset, Venus is bright enough to blaze through most of the twilight 
glow. However, observers will need a low, unobstructed, flat view to the 
southwest to spot it. Look for Venus during the first two weeks of October 
before it too disappears. Venus sets at 7:33 p.m. on the 1st and about 4:14 
p.m. by month's end. Venus moves from the constellation of Libra into Virgo 
this month.

* Earth - N/A.

* Mars - Sets at 8:03 p.m. on the 1st and about 6:07 p.m. by month's end. Mars 
trails Venus but is difficult to spot in the early evening twilight. Mars moves 
from the constellation of Libra into Scorpius this month shining at magnitude 

* Jupiter - Rises at 6:14 p.m. on the 1st and about 3:05 p.m. by month's end. 
Look for Jupiter in the south-southeast in the evening. Jupiter moves from the 
constellation of Pisces into Aquarius this month shining at magnitude -2.9.

* Saturn - Rises at 6:52 a.m. on the 1st and about 4:08 a.m. by month's end. 
Look for Saturn in the morning low in the east before sunrise. Saturn is in the 
constellation of Virgo shining at magnitude 0.9.

* Uranus - Rises at 6:13 p.m. on the 1st and about 3:09 p.m. by month's end, 
trailing Jupiter by just a few minutes all month. This month, Uranus moves a 
little further away from Jupiter as the month progresses. Uranus begins just 
1.4° northeast of Jupiter on the 1st and increases its separation to about 3.2° 
by the end of the month. Uranus is in the constellation of Pisces shining at 
magnitude 5.7.

* Neptune - Rises at 4:54 p.m. on the 1st and about 1:51 p.m. by month's end. 
Neptune will be well above the eastern horizon by sunset this month making it 
easier to spot in the evening sky with binoculars or a small telescope. Neptune 
is in the constellation of Capricornus this month shining at magnitude 7.9.

Dwarf Planets  
* Ceres - Sets at 9:27 p.m. on the 1st and about 8:05 p.m. by month's end. 
Ceres is in the constellation of Sagittarius this month shining at magnitude 

* Pluto - Sets at 11:26 p.m. on the 1st and about 8:26 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 Orionids - The duration of this meteor shower extends from October 15 to 
29, with maximum occurring on (the morning of) October 21. The maximum hourly 
rate is usually about 20 and the meteors are described as fast.

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

* Comet 103P/Hartley passes closest to Earth on the 20th (11.2 million miles 
away). Comet Hartley is expected to brighten to as much as 5th magnitude making 
it a naked eye object, however, Comet Hartley will be much easier to spot under 
dark sky conditions, so get away from city lights if you can. Look for Comet 
103P/Hartley passing through the constellations of Cassiopeia, Perseus, Auriga 
and Gemini this 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.

Observational Opportunities
* Use a small telescope and view Jupiter with its missing band of clouds. Check 
out NASA Science News May 20, 2010 news article - Big Mystery: Jupiter Loses a 
Stripe at 

* Uranus still hangs out near Jupiter within a 7x50 binocular field of view.

Asteroids (From west to east)
* Flora is in the constellation of Aquarius.
* Laetitia is in the constellation of Aquarius.
* Hebe is in the constellation of Cetus.
* Iris is in the constellation of Cancer.

* Information about the Minor Planets can be found at 
http://www.minorplanetobserver.com the Minor Planet Observer web site.

* Information on various occultations can be found at 
http://lunar-occultations.com/iota/iotandx.htm , the International Occultation 
Timing Association's (IOTA) web site.
Planetary/Lunar Exploration Missions
(Excerpts from recent mission updates)

* Cassini - September 23, 2010
New Views of Saturn's Aurora, Captured by Cassini

PASADENA, Calif. - A new movie and images showing Saturn's shimmering aurora 
over a two-day period are helping scientists understand what drives some of the 
solar system's most impressive light shows.

The new, false-color images and video are available online at: 
http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov and http://www.nasa.gov/cassini.

The movie and images are part of a new study that, for the first time, extracts 
auroral information from the entire catalogue of Saturn images taken by the 
visual and infrared mapping spectrometer instrument (VIMS) aboard NASA's 
Cassini spacecraft. These images and preliminary results are being presented by 
Tom Stallard, lead scientist on a joint VIMS and Cassini magnetometer 
collaboration, at the European Planetary Science Congress in Rome on Friday, 
Sept. 24.


In the movie, the aurora phenomenon clearly varies significantly over the 
course of a Saturnian day, which lasts around 10 hours 47 minutes. On the noon 
and midnight sides (left and right sides of the images, respectively), the 
aurora can be seen to brighten significantly for periods of several hours, 
suggesting the brightening is connected with the angle of the sun. Other 
features can be seen to rotate with the planet, reappearing at the same time 
and the same place on the second day, suggesting that these are directly 
controlled by the orientation of Saturn's magnetic field."

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 - September 03, 2010
Picture-Perfect Pluto Practice

"Neptune's giant moon Triton is often called Pluto's "twin" - so what better 
practice target, then, for New Horizons' telescopic camera?

New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) snapped several photos 
of Neptune during the latest annual systems checkout, which ended July 30. 
Neptune was 23.2 astronomical units (about 2.15 billion miles!) from New 
Horizons when LORRI took aim at the gas giant planet - and Triton made a cameo 
appearance in these images.

"That we were able to see Triton so close to Neptune, which is approximately 
100 times brighter, shows us that the camera is working exactly as designed," 
says New Horizons Project Scientist Hal Weaver, of the Johns Hopkins Applied 
Physics Laboratory. 'This was a good test for LORRI.'"

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 29, 2010
Engineers Assess Dawn's Reaction Wheel

"Engineers are studying the reaction wheels on NASA's Dawn spacecraft after 
automatic sensors detected excess friction building up in one of them and 
powered it off early on the morning of June 17, 2010. Reaction wheels spin to 
help a spacecraft maintain attitude control, and Dawn, which is exploring the 
asteroid belt, uses three wheels in normal operations.

The three other reaction wheels are functioning normally. Mission managers said 
plans for Dawn to visit the asteroid Vesta in 2011 and 2012 and dwarf planet 
Ceres in 2015 will not be not affected."

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

* MESSENGER - September 09, 2010
MESSENGER Team Completes Two-Week Orbital Flight Test

"The MESSENGER team has just wrapped up a two-week flight test to ensure that 
the Mercury-bound spacecraft is ready for orbital operations. On March 18, 
2011, MESSENGER will become the first spacecraft to enter into orbit about 
Mercury, embarking on a year-long mission to study in depth the planet closest 
to the Sun. The completion of this recent test provides a high-fidelity 
verification of the tools, processes, and procedures that are needed to conduct 
flight operations at Mercury.

"Even though we have more than six months to go until orbit, we wanted to do 
this test now to make sure that we had enough time to make adjustments," says 
MESSENGER Mission Operations Manager Andy Calloway, of the Johns Hopkins 
University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., 'But everything worked as 
expected. We have proven, not just in the ground tests but now in flight, that 
the sequences and planned daily activities can be conducted safely and as 
expected. We are quite pleased with the results.'"

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 July 23, 2010
NASA Spacecraft Camera Yields Most Accurate Mars Map Ever

"PASADENA, Calif. - A camera aboard NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft has helped 
develop the most accurate global Martian map ever. Researchers and the public 
can access the map via several websites and explore and survey the entire 
surface of the Red Planet.
The map was constructed using nearly 21,000 images from the Thermal Emission 
Imaging System, or THEMIS, a multi-band infrared camera on Odyssey. Researchers 
at Arizona State University's Mars Space Flight Facility in Tempe, in 
collaboration with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., have 
been compiling the map since THEMIS observations began eight years ago.

The pictures have been smoothed, matched, blended and cartographically 
controlled to make a giant mosaic. Users can pan around images and zoom into 
them. At full zoom, the smallest surface details are 100 meters (330 feet) 
wide. While portions of Mars have been mapped at higher resolution, this map 
provides the most accurate view so far of the entire planet.

The new map is available at: 

"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) - September 22, 2010

SPIRIT UPDATE: Spirit Remains Silent at Troy - sols 2376-2382, September 09-15, 

"Spirit remains silent at her location on the west side of Home Plate. No 
communication has been received from the rover since Sol 2210 (March 22, 2010).

It is likely that Spirit has experienced a low-power fault and has turned off 
all sub-systems, including communication and gone into a deep sleep, trying to 
recharge her batteries. The rover internal electronics will experience colder 
temperatures than pervious winters, because heaters will be shut off. There is 
the additional risk that the rover may trip a mission clock fault.

The project is listening for Spirit with the Deep Space Network and the Mars 
Odyssey orbiter for autonomous recovery communication from the low-power fault 
case and conducting a "Sweep & Beep" strategy to stimulate the rover in the 
case of a mission clock fault.

Total odometry is unchanged at 7,730.50 meters (4.80 miles)."

OPPORTUNITY UPDATE: Opportunity Spies Meteorite - sols 2362-2369, September 
15-22, 2010:

"Opportunity spied another large meteorite on her way to Endeavour Crater.

On Sol 2363 (Sept. 16, 2010), the rover drove over 80 meters (262 feet) towards 
the putative meteorite, which is favorably along the route to Endeavour. Also 
on Sol 2363, another diagnostic test of the mössbauer (MB) spectrometer was 
performed, this time at an intermediate temperature. The moessbauer worked 
normally throughout the diagnostic test.

On Sol 2367 (Sept. 20, 2010), Opportunity performed a 36-meter (118-foot) 
approach to the meteorite, driving backwards, with a deliberate drive-by in 
order the face the rover for a forward approach. Targeted imaging was also part 
of the drive-by activities. On Sol 2368 (Sept. 21, 2010), the rover performed a 
9-meter (30-foot) semi-circumnavigation of the meteorite with detailed targeted 
imaging. A closer approach to the meteorite for in-situ (contact) investigation 
with the robotic arm instruments is being planned.

As of Sol 2369 (Sept. 22, 2010), solar array energy production was 570 
watt-hours with a slightly increased atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.607 and the 
solar array dust factor of 0.724.

Total odometry is 23,360.65 meters (23.36 kilometers, or 14.52 miles)."

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

Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page at

* Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - September 20, 2010
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission Status Report

"PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter resumed observing Mars 
with its science instruments on Sept. 18, recovering from an unplanned reboot 
of its computer three days earlier.

The reboot put the orbiter into a precautionary standby called "safe mode" on 
Sept. 15. The event appears to have been similar to one the orbiter last 
experienced on Aug. 26, 2009. For 10 months prior to this latest reboot, the 
spacecraft operated normally, making science observations and returning data.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, at Mars since 2006, has met the mission's 
science goals and returned more data than all other Mars missions combined. It 
completed its primary science phase of operations in November 2008, but 
continues to observe Mars both for science and for support of future missions 
that will land on Mars.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion 
Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Caltech manages JPL for NASA."


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.)
*** NEW *** Green Laser - http://www.greenlaser.com
If you're looking for a reasonably priced laser pointer that is great for 
astronomy work, visit this site.

* Astronomy A-Go-Go - http://astronomy.libsyn.com/
In the car, at work or under the night time sky astronomy goes where you go!

* "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 ;

* Black Hole Encyclopedia - http://blackholes.stardate.org/ Excellent site from 
StarDate - University of Texas McDonald Observatory 

* 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 

* Skymaps.com - http://www.skymaps.com/

* 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: September 29, 2010


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