[astronews] IAAS monthly Astronomy Newsletter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 1 Jul 2010 14:56:17 -0700 (PDT)

IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
July 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 
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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

* Last Quarter Moon occurs on the 4th.
* New Moon occurs on the 11th.
* First Quarter Moon occurs on the 18th.
* Full Moon occurs on the 25th.

* The Moon is at Apogee on the 1st, 251,678 miles from Earth.
* The Moon is at Perigee on the 13th, 224,386 miles from Earth.
* The Moon is at Apogee on the 28th, 252,249 miles from Earth.

Moon/Planet Pairs:
* The Moon passes 7° north of Uranus on the 3rd.
* The Moon passes 7° north of Jupiter on the 3rd.
* Venus passes 1.1° north of Regulus on the 9th.
* The Moon passes 4° north of Mercury on the 12th.
* The Moon passes 6° south of Venus on the 14th.
* The Moon passes 8° south of Saturn on the 16th.
* Mercury passes 0.3° south of Regulus on the 27th.
* The Moon passes 5° north of Neptune on the 28th.
* The Moon passes 6° north of Uranus on the 30th.
* The Moon passes 7° north of Jupiter on the 31st.

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 July - Three planets grace the evening sky right 
after sunset. Venus, Mars and Saturn are visible, low in the west in early 
evening. Mercury joins the trio later in the month. Jupiter and Uranus are a 
close pair, visible in the early morning hours before sunrise. On the day of 
the New Moon, there will be a total solar eclipse visible across the South 
Pacific and South America.

* Mercury - Has returned to the evening sky this month but will not be visible 
until later in the month as it is still buried in the Sun's twilight glow 
during the first weeks of July. Mercury sets at 8:55 p.m. on the 1st and about 
9:21 p.m. by month's end. Look for Mercury about 6° above the western horizon 
during the last two weeks of July. Mercury moves from the constellation of 
Gemini into Leo this month shining at magnitude 0.1.

* Venus - Continues to grow in brightness this month, brightening from 
magnitude -4.1 to -4.3 by month's end. Venus is visible in the west soon after 
sunset. Venus sets at 10:53 p.m. on the 1st and about 9:21 p.m. by month's end. 
Venus moves from the constellation of Leo into Virgo this month.

* Earth - Is at aphelion (94.5 million miles from the Sun) on the 6th.

* Mars - Following Venus, sets at 11:47 p.m. on the 1st and about 10:26 p.m. by 
month's end. Mars moves from the constellation of Leo into Virgo this month 
shining at magnitude 1.4.

* Jupiter - Is stationary on the 23rd. Jupiter rises is 12:28 a.m. on the 1st 
and about 10:28 p.m. by month's end. Jupiter rises about the same time as 
Saturn sets this month. Look for Jupiter in the east and south before sunrise. 
Jupiter is in the constellation of Pisces this month shining at magnitude -2.6.

* Saturn - Another one of the evening trio, follows Mars. Saturn sets at 12:29 
a.m. on the 1st and about 10:32 p.m. by month's end. Look for Saturn in the 
evening in the west after sunset. Saturn is in the constellation of Virgo 
shining at magnitude 1.1.

* Uranus - Is stationary on the 5th. Again, Uranus should be relatively easy to 
spot this month with the help of Jupiter as a guide. Uranus lies within 1° of 
Jupiter for most of the month making it easier to spot than usual. Uranus rises 
at 12:21 a.m. on the 1st and about 10:18 p.m. by month's end, preceding Jupiter 
by just a few minutes all month. Uranus is in the constellation of Pisces 
shining at magnitude 5.8.

* Neptune - Rises at 11:01 p.m. on the 1st and about 8:58 p.m. by month's end. 
Even though Neptune rises earlier in the evening as July progresses, observers 
will still need good binoculars or a small telescope to spot Neptune. Neptune 
is in the constellation of Aquarius this month shining at magnitude 7.8.

Dwarf Planets  
* Ceres - Rises at 6:28 p.m. on the 1st and about 4:13 p.m. by month's end. 
Ceres is in the constellation of Ophiuchus this month shining at magnitude 7.7. 

* Pluto - Rises at 7:36 p.m. on the 1st and about 5:31 p.m. by month's end. 
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 Southern Delta Aquarids - This meteor shower has a duration of July 14 - 
August 18. Maximum hourly rates of 15-20 occur on July 27.

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

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

* Comet 10P/Temple should approach 8th magnitude this month. Look for Comet 
Temple around the 19th or 20th when the comet's tail will appear bright and 
straight as seen edge on. Comet Temple can be found traveling through Pisces 
and Cetus 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/.

* A total solar eclipse occurs on the 11th. This solar eclipse will be visible 
across the southern Pacific and the southern tip of South America. The Sun will 
disappear to over 5 minutes at maximum. Visit 
http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEmono/TSE2010/TSE2010.html for more info.

Observational Opportunities
* On July 15th, look for the crescent Moon passing near Venus, Mars and Saturn.

* On the evening of the 31st, Mercury joins Venus, Mars and Saturn in the 
evening sky. 

Asteroids (From west to east)
* Vesta is in the constellation of Virgo.
* Pallas is stationary on the 3rd in the constellation of Boötes.
* Eunomia is in the constellation of Sagittarius.
* Amphitrite is at opposition on the 3rd in the constellation of Sagittarius.
* Flora is in the constellation of Cetus.
* Hebe is in the constellation of Cetus.

* 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 - June 03, 2010
What is Consuming Hydrogen and Acetylene on Titan?

"PASADENA, Calif. – Two new papers based on data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft 
scrutinize the complex chemical activity on the surface of Saturn's moon Titan. 
While non-biological chemistry offers one possible explanation, some scientists 
believe these chemical signatures bolster the argument for a primitive, exotic 
form of life or precursor to life on Titan's surface. According to one theory 
put forth by astrobiologists, the signatures fulfill two important conditions 
necessary for a hypothesized 'methane-based life.'

One key finding comes from a paper online now in the journal Icarus that shows 
hydrogen molecules flowing down through Titan's atmosphere and disappearing at 
the surface. Another paper online now in the Journal of Geophysical Research 
maps hydrocarbons on the Titan surface and finds a lack of acetylene."

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 - June 17, 2010
Check it Out: System Tests, Science Observations and a Course Correction

"New Horizons' fourth annual checkout is nearing its mid-point, and continues 
with a workout for the spacecraft systems, cameras and other instruments that 
will deliver the first data from Pluto and its moons. Preparations for a small 
but necessary course-correction maneuver are also on track.

Since "ACO-4" began on May 25, mission operators have uploaded new software for 
New Horizons' on-board autonomy system, and checked out most of the 
spacecraft's backup systems, including guidance and control, communications, 
command and data handling, thermal control, power and propulsion. All of these 
backup systems have performed well."

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 - 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 - No new news since May 21, 2010
MESSENGER Thermal Engineer and Co-Investigator Receive Honors

"Two members of the MESSENGER team have been honored by their peers. Carl Jack 
Ercol, the man largely responsible for ensuring that MESSENGER can withstand 
solar radiation up to 11 times greater than at Earth as it orbits the planet 
closest to the Sun, has received the 2008 SAE Arch T. Colwell Merit Award. 
Independently, MESSENGER Co-Investigator James W. Head, III, was awarded the 
Runcorn-Florensky Medal by the European Geosciences Union (EGU) at their 
General Assembly earlier this month.

SAE International, a global association of more than 128,000 engineers and 
related technical experts in the aerospace, automotive, and commercial-vehicle 
industries, annually recognizes authors of papers of outstanding technical or 
professional merit presented at a meeting of the society during the calendar 
year. Papers are judged primarily for their value as new contributions to 
existing knowledge of mobility engineering."

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 - June 17, 2010
Seventh Graders Find a Cave on Mars

"California middle school students using the camera on NASA's Mars Odyssey 
orbiter have found lava tubes with one pit that appears to be a skylight to a 

The students in science teacher Dennis Mitchell's class at Evergreen Middle 
School in Cottonwood, Calif., were examining Martian lava tubes as their 
project in the Mars Student Imaging Program offered by NASA and Arizona State 
University. Students in this program develop a geological question, then target 
a Mars-orbiting camera to take an image that helps answer the question."

"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) - June 22, 2010

SPIRIT UPDATE: Spirit Standing by At Troy - sols 2295-2300, June 17-22, 2010:

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

As stated previously, 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. While sleeping, the rover will use the available solar array 
energy to recharge her batteries. When the batteries recover to a sufficient 
state of charge, Spirit will wake up and begin to communicate.

There is the additional risk that the rover may trip a mission clock fault. If 
that happens, the rover would remain asleep until the batteries have recharged 
sufficiently and there is enough sunlight on the solar arrays to wake the 
rover. With the southern winter solstice back on May 13, 2010, solar energy 
levels and temperatures are expected to be improving.

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

OPPORTUNITY UPDATE: Opportunity Completes Three Drives This Week - sols 
2273-2279, June 16-22, 2010:

"Opportunity has been making good progress toward Endeavour crater with three 
drives in the past week.

On Sol 2274 (June 17, 2010), the rover completed over 60 meters (197 feet) 
driving due east. On Sol 2276 (June 19, 2010), the rover made a small J-turn to 
avoid a ripple and then headed 72 meters (236 feet) east. With this drive, 
Opportunity has passed the distance for a half-marathon (21,097.5 meters, or 13 

The rover drove again on Sol 2279 (June 22, 2010), covering over 70 meters (230 
feet) to the east/southeast.

As of Sol 2279 (June 22, 2010), solar array energy production has improved to 
320 watt-hours, atmospheric opacity (Tau) was 0.257 and the solar array dust 
factor is 0.5585.

Total odometry is 21,209.69 meters (21.21 kilometers, or 13.18 miles)."

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

Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page at

* Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - June 24, 2010
New Clues Suggest Wet Era on Early Mars Was Global

"PASADENA, Calif. -- Minerals in northern Mars craters seen by two orbiters 
suggest that a phase in Mars' early history with conditions favorable to life 
occurred globally, not just in the south.

Southern and northern Mars differ in many ways, so the extent to which they 
shared ancient environments has been open to question.

In recent years, the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter and NASA's 
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have found clay minerals that are signatures of a 
wet environment at thousands of sites in the southern highlands of Mars, where 
rocks on or near the surface are about four billion years old. Until this week, 
no sites with those minerals had been reported in the northern lowlands, where 
younger volcanic activity has buried the older surface more deeply."


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 *** 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: July 01, 2010


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