[astronews] IAAS Monthly astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 31 Oct 2011 19:19:56 -0600

IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
November 2011

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 appreciated.

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

* First Quarter Moon occurs on the 2nd.
* Full Moon occurs on the 10th.
* Last Quarter Moon occurs on the 18th.
* New Moon occurs on the 25th.

* The Moon is at Apogee on the 8th, 252,387 miles from Earth.
* The Moon is at Perigee on the 23rd, 223,502 miles from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 6° north of Neptune on the 4th.
* The Moon passes 6° north of Uranus on the 6th.
* The Moon passes 5° north of Jupiter on the 9th.
* Venus passes 4° north of Antares on the 9th.
* Mars passes 1.4° north of Regulus on the 9th.
* Mercury passes 1.9° north of Antares on the 9th.
* The Moon passes 8° south of Mars on the 19th.
* The Moon passes 7° south of Saturn on the 22nd.
* The Moon passes 1.7° north of Mercury on the 26th.
* The Moon passes 3° north of Venus 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 - Venus and Mercury are visible in the early evening just before sunset. Jupiter continues to dominate the evening sky from sunset to sunrise all month. Mars and Saturn are visible in the morning sky before sunrise. The Leonid meteor shower peaks mid-month, and a partial solar eclipse is visible for observers from South Africa, Tazmania to New Zealand and parts of Antarctica at the end of the month.

* Mercury - Is at greatest eastern elongation (23° above the western horizon) on the 14th. Mercury is stationary on the 24th. Mercury sets 5:45 p.m. on the 1st and about 4:57 p.m. by month's end. Look for Mercury low on the western horizon about 30 minutes after sunset. Mercury moves from the constellation of Libra into Ophiuchus this month shining at magnitude -0.3.

* Venus - Sets about 5:56 p.m. on the 1st and about 6:21 p.m. by month's end. Venus should be easy to spot in the early evening sky though it will be fairly low to the western horizon all month. Venus moves from the constellation of Virgo into Libra this month shining at magnitude -3.9.

* Earth - N/A.

* Mars - Rises at 12:16 a.m. on the 1st and about 11:29 p.m. by month's end. Mars is visible in the early morning hours before sunrise. Mars is in the constellation of Leo this month shining at magnitude 1.0.

* Jupiter - Sets at 6:12 a.m. on the 1st and about 3:57 a.m. by month's end. Since reaching opposition last month, Jupiter remains quite brilliant in the evening sky as well as rising earlier each day, providing higher, better views in the evening sky. Jupiter is in the constellation of Aries this month shining at magnitude -2.9.

* Saturn - Rises about 5:03 a.m. on the 1st and about 3:22 a.m. by month's end. Saturn is visible in the morning sky before sunrise. Saturn is in the constellation of Virgo shining at magnitude 0.8.

* Uranus - Sets at 3:26 a.m. on the 1st and about 1:25 a.m. by month's end. Uranus, like Jupiter, rises earlier in the afternoon and thus is higher above the eastern horizon after sunset, making it easier to observe in the evening. Uranus is in the constellation of Pisces shining at magnitude 5.8.

* Neptune - Is stationary on the 9th. Neptune sets at 12:41 a.m. on the 1st and about 10:39 p.m. by month's end. Neptune is in the constellation of Aquarius shining at magnitude 7.9.

Dwarf Planets
* Ceres - Is stationary on the 12th. Ceres sets at 2:52 a.m. on the 1st and about 12:07 a.m. by month's end. Ceres is in the constellation of Aquarius this month shining at magnitude 8.6.

* Pluto - Sets at 8:33 p.m. on the 1st and about 6:38 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 trains.

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

* Comet C/2009 P1 Garradd glows around 7th magnitude this month. Comet Garradd is relatively stationary as well making it easy to spot from night to night. Comet Garradd should be visible through backyard telescopes or binoculars under dark skies. Comet Garradd lies amidst the background stars in the constellation of Hercules.

* For information, orbital elements and ephemerides on observable comets visit the Observable Comets page from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (http://cfa-www.harvard.edu/iau/Ephemerides/Comets/index.html).

* For more information about Comets, visit Gary Kronk's Cometography.com web page at http://cometography.com/.

* A partial solar eclipse occurs on the 25th for observers in parts of New Zealand, South Africa, Tasmania and Antarctica.

Observational Opportunities
* Besides the Moon and Venus, Jupiter is the brightest object in the evening sky this month.
* Good photo op on November 26th, when the crescent Moon passes within 3° of Venus.

Asteroids (From west to east)
* Vesta is in the constellation of Capricornus.
* Amphitrite is at opposition on the 4th in the constellation of Aries.
* Leto is at opposition on the 10th in he constellation of Taurus.
* Harmonia is at opposition on the 11th in the constellation of Taurus.
* Urania is at at opposition on the 13th in the constellation of Taurus.
* Thyra is at at opposition on the 21st in the constellation of Taurus.
* Eunomia is at at opposition on the 28th in the constellation of Taurus.

* 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 - October 19, 2011
Latest Cassini Images of Enceladus on View

"Raw, unprocessed images from the successful Oct. 19 flyby of Saturn's moon Enceladus by NASA's Cassini spacecraft provide new views of the moon and the icy jets that burst from its southern polar region.

This flyby gave Cassini its first opportunity to observe Enceladus' plumes with two stars shining behind them, a dual stellar occultation.

To see the raw images, go to http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/photos/raw/ and click on "Search Images."

Cassini flew within about 765 miles (1,230 kilometers) of Enceladus' surface at 2:22 a.m. PDT (09:22 UTC) on Oct. 19."

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 - October 24, 2011
On the Path to Pluto: New Horizons App Now Available

"The team behind NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt has launched a free app that takes iPhone and iPad users along on this historic voyage to the planetary frontier. 

Now available in the iTunes App Store, "New Horizons: A NASA Voyage to Pluto" brings users the latest news and pictures from the mission, as well as details on the spacecraft and science instruments, and offers access to educational programs and activities. Main features include reports from the New Horizons news center and Twitter feed; stunning images of New Horizons or those taken by the spacecraft's cameras; videos that tell the New Horizons story; and a "tour" of the New Horizons spacecraft.

Find New Horizons in the iTunes App Store here. (http://itunes.com/apps/newhorizonsanasavoyagetopluto)

The app includes a locator for following New Horizons along its path toward Pluto, and a countdown clock to check exactly how much time remains - down to the second - before New Horizons sails past the dwarf planet and four moons on July 14, 2015. Another tool connects users to the "Ice Hunters" program to find potential New Horizons flyby targets in the Kuiper Belt beyond Pluto."

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 - October 12, 2011
NASA's Dawn Science Team Presents Early Science Results

"Scientists with NASA's Dawn mission are sharing with other scientists and the public their early information about the southern hemisphere of the giant asteroid Vesta. The findings were presented today at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Minneapolis, Minn.
Dawn, which has been orbiting Vesta since mid-July, has found that the asteroid's southern hemisphere boasts one of the largest mountains in the solar system. Other findings show that Vesta's surface, viewed by Dawn at different wavelengths, has striking diversity in its composition, particularly around craters. Science findings also include an in-depth analysis of a set of equatorial troughs on Vesta and a closer look at the object's intriguing craters. The surface appears to be much rougher than most asteroids in the main asteroid belt. In addition, preliminary dates from a method that uses the number of craters indicate that areas in the southern hemisphere are as young as 1 billion to 2 billion years old, much younger than areas in the north."

For more information on the Dawn mission, visit the Dawn home page: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/dawn/main/index.html.

* MESSENGER - October 24, 2011
Fourth Orbit Adjustment Stretches MESSENGER's Orbit around Mercury

"The MESSENGER spacecraft successfully completed its fourth orbit-correction maneuver today to increase the period of the spacecraft's orbit around the innermost planet from 11 hours 46 minutes to a precise 12 hours.

MESSENGER was 198 million kilometers (123 million miles) from Earth when the 159-second maneuver began at 6:12 p.m. EDT. Mission controllers at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., verified the start of the maneuver about 11 minutes, 1 second later, when the first signals indicating spacecraft thruster activity reached NASA's Deep Space Network tracking station outside Goldstone, Calif. 

This is the fourth of five maneuvers planned for the primary orbital phase of the mission to keep orbital parameters within desired ranges for optimal scientific observations. MESSENGER's orbital velocity was changed by a total of 4.2 meters per second (9.4 miles per hour) to make the corrections essential for continuing the planned measurement campaigns."

For more information on the MESSENGER mission, visit the MESSENGER home page: http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/.

* 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.
* Past, Present, Future and Proposed JPL Missions - http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/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

JMARS is an acronym that stands for Java Mission-planning and Analysis for Remote Sensing. It is a geospatial information system (GIS) developed by ASU's Mars Space Flight Facility to provide mission planning and data-analysis tools to NASA's orbiters, instrument team members, students of all ages, and the general public.

* Mars Odyssey Orbiter 

"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: (http://themis.la.asu.edu/latest.html)

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 http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/odyssey/index.html.

* Mars Exploration Rover Mission (Spirit and Opportunity) - October 25, 2011

SPIRIT UPDATE: Spirit Remains Silent at Troy - sols 2621-2627, May 18-24, 2011:

"No communication has been received from Spirit since Sol 2210 (March 22, 2010).

More than 1,300 commands were radiated to Spirit as part of the recovery effort in an attempt to elicit a response from the rover. No communication has been received from Spirit since Sol 2210 (March 22, 2010). The project concluded the Spirit recovery efforts on May 25, 2011. The remaining, pre-sequenced ultra-high frequency (UHF) relay passes scheduled for Spirit on board the Odyssey orbiter will complete on June 8, 2011.

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

OPPORTUNITY UPDATE: Opportunity Continues to Drive North - sols 2751-2756, October 20-25, 2011:

"The seasonal plan is for Opportunity to winter over on the north end of Cape York on the rim of Endeavour crater where northern tilts are favorable for energy production.

As such, the project has been driving the rover in the direction of the north end of the cape with a route along the west side that creates opportunities for science along the way. The science team is on the lookout for veins of light-toned material, putative fracture-fill.

On Sol 2751 (Oct. 20, 2011), Opportunity traveled over 161 feet (49 meters) in the northeasterly direction. The three-sol plan over the weekend had Opportunity heading just west of north with almost a 197-foot (60-meter) drive. With that drive, the rover exceeded 21 miles (34 kilometers) of odometry. On Sol 2756 (Oct. 25, 2011), the rover drove over 135 feet (41 meters), first northwest then due north. The plan ahead is more driving north.

As of Sol 2756 (Oct. 25, 2011), solar array energy production was 297 watt-hours with an increased atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.913 and a solar array dust factor of 0.510.

Total odometry is 21.18 miles (34,081.11 meters, or 34.08 kilometers)."

Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page at

* Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - September 08, 2011
Orbiter Resumes Use of Camera

"PASADENA, Calif. -- Operators of NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter are resuming use of the mission's highest resolution camera following a second precautionary shutdown in two weeks.

The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) instrument powered off on Aug. 27 and again on Sept. 6. In each case, commanding for an observation was not properly received by the memory module controlling one of the instrument's 14 electronic detectors (CCDs, or charge-coupled devices).

Between those two incidents, the camera successfully resumed observations for five days using its other 13 detectors. The second entry into the power-off, thermally protected mode occurred during an attempt to add use of the 14th detector. The camera is resuming observations with 13 detectors today while plans are developed for other diagnostic tests."


All of the HiRISE images are archived here:

More information about the MRO mission is available online at http://www.nasa.gov/mro.

* 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.)

* "TheSky" Software - http://www.bisque.com - Astronomy software by Software Bisque.

* A Short Guide to Celestial Navigation - http://www.celnav.de/ - Celestial navigation is the art and science of finding one's geographic position by means of astronomical observations, particularly by measuring altitudes of celestial objects − sun, moon, planets, or stars.

* Astrogirl Homepage - http://www.astrogirl.org - Family-friendly educational astronomy website.

* 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 - A different picture of the cosmos every day.

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

* Celestron Telescopes - http://www.celestron.com/ - Celestron telescopes.

* 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 stars.

* Denver Astronomical Society - http://www.denverastrosociety.org - Promotes the enjoyment and understanding of astronomical phenomena, history and lore by providing educational and observing opportunities for our members, general public, and outreach activities at the University of Denver's historic Chamberlin Observatory, schools, and nature centers.

* Distant Suns - http://www.distantsuns.com/ - Desktop Astronomy package for PCs.

* Eric's Black Sun Eclipse website - http://www.ericsblacksuneclipse.com

* 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.

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

* Heavens Above - http://www.heavens-above.com/ - As the name implies - What's up in the heavens, particularly satellite passes.

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

* JPL Solar System Ambassador Program - http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/ambassador/front.html - "Volunteers Bringing the Solar System to the Public"

* JPL Solar System - http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/solar_system/ - Jet Propulsion Laboratory information on our 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/ - NASA missions, updates, astronomy news, excellent resource.

* Northern Colorado Astronomical Society - http://ncastro.org/ - The purpose of our organization is to encourage the understanding & interest in the science & hobby of astronomy.

* Sangre Stargazers - http://sangrestargazers.skymtn.com/ - New astronomy club in the Wet Mountain Valley of Custer County (about 45 miles due west of Pueblo, CO).

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

* Skymaps.com - http://www.skymaps.com/ - Free sky maps each month.

* 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 location.

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

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

* SpaceLinks/Space Careers - http://www.spacelinks.com/SpaceCareers/ - SPACELINKS is a specialist staffing consultancy sourcing and supplying high caliber professionals for a wide range of world class organisations in the Space and Defense industry.

* Spaceflight Now - http://spaceflightnow.com/ - Launches and satellite news.

* "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.

* Space Weather - http://www.spaceweather.com - Check out what the Sun is doing as seen from space.

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

* Universe Today - http://www.universetoday.com - Short, interesting articles about space and related topics.

* 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, 2011

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