Astronomy News for the Month of April 2020


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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 WØWYX 146.94 MHz and 449.825 MHz repeaters.
Due to hardware issues, links with the Allstar node, Echolink and the Cripple Creek repeater are down until further notice.
The net meets on Tuesday nights at 7 P.M. Mountain Time (US).

Obtain your Amateur Radio (Ham) License or your General Radio Operator's License (GROL)! Visit the South Metro VE Team website for more information. The South Metro VE Team provides test sessions on the 1st Saturday of each month at our new Eagle Street Facility, The City of Centennial, 7272 South Eagle Street, Centennial, Colorado 80112-4244 at 9am.

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 Excerpts from JPL mission updates are provided as a public service as part
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For special JPL programs and presentations in your area visit the JPL Solar System Ambassador website.
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In this Newsletter...


Background screen credits: NGC5775
Imaged March 21/22, 2001
using the 16" Kitt Peak Visitors Center telescope
as part of the Kitt Peak Advanced Observing Program.



The Month At-A-Glance
A calendar displaying the daily astronomical events.


07 day moon

The Moon

Phases

Apogee/Perigee

Moon/Planet Pairs

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

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The Planets & Dwarf Planets

Planetary Reports generated by "TheSkyX" software. These reports provide predicted data for the planets for 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 as well as meteor shower radiants 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 March

"Venus meets the Seven Sisters early this month in a spectacular show that will appeal to visual observers and photographers alike. It's the main planetary attraction until the predawn hours, when Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars will dominate the morning sky. And in the third week of the month, the April Lyrid meteor shower makes a fine return during the dark of the Moon." Astronomy Magazine, April 2020, P. 36.

Mercury

Rises at 5:52 a.m. on the 1st and about 5:53 a.m. by month's end. Look for Mercury low to the east-southeast about 30 minutes before sunrise. Mercury moves from the constellation of Aquarius into Aries this month shining at magnitude 0.0 on the 1st.

Venus

Shines at greatest brilliancy (magnitude -4.7) on the 27th. Venus sets at 11:25 p.m. on the 1st and about 11:17 p.m. by month's end. Venus passes through the Pleiades star cluster during the first few days of April. Look for Venus soon after sunset to the southwest. Venus is in the constellation of Taurus shining at magnitude -4.7.

Earth

N/A.

Mars

Rises at 3:43 a.m. on the 1st and about 2:50 a.m. by month's end. Look to the southeast before sunrise to spot Mars. Mars is in the constellation of Capricornus this month shining at magnitude 0.6.

Jupiter

Rises at 3:16 a.m. on the 1st and about 1:27 a.m. by month's end. Look for Jupiter in the southeast before sunrise. Jupiter is in the constellation of Sagittarius shining at magnitude -2.2.

Saturn

Rises at 3:37 a.m. on the 1st and around 1:47 a.m. by month's end. Look for Saturn in the southeast before sunrise. Saturn is in the constellation of Capricornus shining at magnitude 0.6.

Uranus

Is in conjunction with the Sun on the 26th. Uranus sets at 9:14 p.m. on the 1st. After conjunction, Uranus returns to the morning sky, rising around 5:50 a.m. by month's end. Uranus will be difficult to spot during the first week of the month, but after that, the planet will be lost in the Sun's twilight glow until mid-May. Uranus is in the constellation of Aries shining at magnitude 5.9.

Neptune

Rises at 5:54 a.m. on the 1st and about 3:59 a.m. by month's end. Look for Neptune low in the east before sunrise late in the month. Neptune is in the constellation of Aquarius shining at magnitude 7.9.

Dwarf Planets

Ceres

Rises at 5:15 a.m. on the 1st and around 3:48 a.m. by month's end. Look for Ceres, low in the east before sunrise. Ceres moves from the constellation of Capricornus into Aries shining at magnitude 9.3.

Pluto

Rises at 3:20 a.m. on the 1st and around 1:22 a.m. by month's end. Pluto is situated near Jupiter and may be visible if skies are dark enough. Pluto is in the constellation of Sagittarius shining at magnitude 14.8.

As always, good luck at spotting Neptune, Ceres and Pluto, a large telescope and dark skies will be needed.

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Astronomical Events

Meteor Showers

  • The Lyrids [meteor showers] are typically visible between April 16 and 25. Maximum occurs during April 21-22. Although the maximum rate is about 10, there have been instances during the last 200 years when rates were near or over 100 per hour. The average magnitude of the meteors is near 2.4 and the speed is described as rapid. About 15% of the meteors leave persistent trains.

    Meteor Shower Radiant Report

    For more information about Meteor Showers, visit Gary Kronk's Meteor Showers Online web page.

    Meteor Scatter (or Meteor burst communications) - "is a radio propagation mode that exploits the ionized trails of meteors during atmospheric entry to establish brief communications paths between radio stations up to 2,250 kilometres (1,400 mi) apart." Tune your shortwave or your HF amateur radio to 54.310 MHz SSB and see if you can hear any pings. Try other frequencies as well... 6m FT8 digital - 50.313 Mhz & 50.276 Mhz, JP-65 digital mode and the carrier frequencies of the lower VHF bands for TV channels 2, 3 & 4.

  • Comets

  • "Come enjoy the unhurried pace of the telescopic Comet PanSTARRS (C/2017 T2). Arcing toward its close approach to the Sun in the first week of May, its 9th-magnitude glow is visible in a 4-inch scope from dark country skies. Wait until midmonth for the Moon to slide out of the way." Astronomy Magazine, April 2020, P. 42.

  • 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 webpage.

  • Eclipses

    Solar Eclipses

  • No solar eclipse activity this month.

    Lunar Eclipses

  • No lunar eclipse activity this month.
  • Observational Opportunities

  • Look for Venus and Uranus in the early evening sky soon after sunset.
  • Look for Mercury, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn in the early morning before sunrise.
  • Look for Comet PanSTARRS in Camelopardalis.

  • Asteroids

    (From west to east)
    • Vesta is in the constellation of Taurus.
    • Juno is in the constellation of Virgo.

    • Information about the Minor Planets can be found at the Minor Planet Observer website.
    Ocultations

    IOTA Logo

  • Information on various occultations can be found by clicking the IOTA logo.
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    Subscriber Gallery

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    Member Meteor Sightings

    This is a new section where I will post meteor, fireball, etc sightings that have been published on the American Meteor Society's web site. I want to make this an active section of the web pages and newsletter and would like to publish the links to member sightings. If you have any published sightings, please provide me with the links and I will post them here for all to enjoy.

    Event ID Date/Time Location Observer Link
    3587-2015 2015-11-22 17:38 MST CO Kevin S 3587aw
    3829-2015 2015-12-05 18:06 MST Highlands Ranch, CO Burness A 3829a
    3871-2015 2015-11-13 01:55 MST CO Charles N 3871a
    986-2020 2020-02-21 22:20 MST CO Lukas S 986

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    Planetary/Lunar Exploration Missions

    (Excerpts from recent JPL mission updates)

    JPL Latest News
    The Latest from Space

    JPL Latest News

    March 31, 2020
    #NASAatHome - Let NASA Bring the Universe to Your Home

    Full Article & Images

    "NASA's new internet and social media special, NASA at Home, will show and engage you in the agency's discoveries, research, and exploration from around the world and across the universe - all from the comfort of your own home.

    NASA at Home offers something for the whole family. It brings together a repository of binge-worthy videos and podcasts, engaging e-books on a variety of topics, do-it-yourself projects, and virtual and augmented reality tours, which include the agency's Hubble Space Telescope and International Space Station, as well as an app that puts you in the pilot's seat of a NASA aircraft."

    Read the latest news and discoveries from JPL's dozens of active space missions exploring Earth, the solar system and worlds beyond.

    Past, Present, Future and Proposed JPL Missions.

    For special JPL programs and presentations in your area visit the JPL Solar System Ambassador web site.

    Juno - February 18, 2020
    DEEP MOTION

    Full Article & Images

    "NASA's Juno mission has provided its first science results on the amount of water in Jupiter's atmosphere. Published recently in the journal Nature Astronomy, the Juno results estimate that at the equator, water makes up about 0.25% of the molecules in Jupiter's atmosphere - almost three times that of the Sun. These are also the first findings on the gas giant's abundance of water since the agency's 1995 Galileo mission suggested Jupiter might be extremely dry compared to the Sun (the comparison is based not on liquid water but on the presence of its components, oxygen and hydrogen, present in the Sun)."

    Images from NASA's JunoCam.

    More information on the Juno mission is available at: Juno and Mission Juno.

    The public can follow the Juno mission on Facebook and Twitter.

    New Horizons - February 18, 2020
    Pluto at 90

    Full Article & Images

    "Ninety years ago today, Clyde Tombaugh, a young astronomer working at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, discovered Pluto. In doing so he unknowingly opened the door to the vast "third zone" of the solar system we now know as the Kuiper Belt, containing countless planetesimals and dwarf planets—the third class of planets in our solar system."

    New Horizons gallery

    Find New Horizons in the iTunes App Store.

    For more information on the New Horizons mission - the first mission to the ninth planet - visit the New Horizons home page.

    TESS - January 24, 2020
    How Earth Climate Models Help Scientists Picture Life on Unimaginable Worlds

    Full Article & Images

    "In a generic brick building on the northwestern edge of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center campus in Greenbelt, Maryland, thousands of computers packed in racks the size of vending machines hum in a deafening chorus of data crunching. Day and night, they spit out 7 quadrillion calculations per second. These machines collectively are known as NASA's Discover supercomputer and they are tasked with running sophisticated climate models to predict Earth's future climate.

    But now, they're also sussing out something much farther away: whether any of the more than 4,000 curiously weird planets beyond our solar system discovered in the past two decades could support life."

    For more information on the TESS mission, visit the Latest Tess Stories page.

    Past, Present, Future and Proposed JPL Missions

    Visit JPL's mission pages for current status.

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    Mars Missions

    Be A Martian

    Mars website mobile version is here!

    MARS WEATHER
    Mars Daily Weather Report

    Mars on the Go! NASA Be A Martian Mobile App
    If you want the latest news as it happens, try our Be A Martian app.
    Download on Mobile Devices
    Android | iPhone | Windows Phone
    JMARS

    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.

    Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics

    "The Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU) began in 1948, a decade before NASA. We are the world's only research institute to have sent instruments to all eight planets and Pluto.

    LASP combines all aspects of space exploration through our expertise in science, engineering, mission operations, and scientific data analysis. As part of CU, LASP also works to educate and train the next generation of space scientists, engineers and mission operators by integrating undergraduate and graduate students into working teams. Our students take their unique experiences with them into government or industry, or remain in academia to continue the cycle of exploration.

    LASP is an affiliate of CU-Boulder AeroSpace Ventures, a collaboration among aerospace-related departments, institutes, centers, government labs, and industry partners."

    LASP/MAVEN - March 6, 2020
    LASP awarded Earth Venture Mission Libera

    Full Article & Images

    "This week, NASA announced that it has given the green light to Libera, a new space mission that will record how much energy leaves our planet's atmosphere on a day-by-day basis--data that can provide crucial information about how Earth's climate is evolving over time."

    Visit LASP and MAVEN for more information.

    Mars Science Laboratory - Curiosity - March 20, 2020
    NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover Takes a New Selfie Before Record Climb

    Full Article & Images

    "NASA's Curiosity Mars rover recently set a record for the steepest terrain it's ever climbed, cresting the "Greenheugh Pediment," a broad sheet of rock that sits atop a hill. And before doing that, the rover took a selfie, capturing the scene just below Greenheugh.

    In front of the rover is a hole it drilled while sampling a bedrock target called "Hutton." The entire selfie is a 360-degree panorama stitched together from 86 images relayed to Earth. The selfie captures the rover about 11 feet (3.4 meters) below the point where it climbed onto the crumbling pediment."

    Follow the Mars Curiosity rover on Foursquare.

    For information about NASA's partnership with Foursquare.

      Mars Rover Landing - Free for the Xbox 360 (requires Kinect)

      Visit the Mars Science Laboratory page.

    Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - February 18, 2020
    NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Undergoes Memory Update

    Full Article & Image

    "From Feb. 17 to Feb. 29, 2020, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) will go on hiatus from its science mission and its relay operations while engineers on Earth conduct long-distance maintenance. During the hiatus, other orbiters will relay data from the Mars Curiosity rover and Mars InSight lander to Earth.

    The maintenance work involves updating battery parameters in the spacecraft's flash memory - a rare step that's been done only twice before in the orbiter's 15 years of flight. This special update is necessary because it was recently determined that the battery parameters in flash were out of date and if used, would not charge MRO's batteries to the desired levels."

    MARS RECONNAISSANCE ORBITER HIRISE IMAGES
    All of the HiRISE images are archived here.

    More information about the MRO mission is available online.

    Mars Odyssey Orbiter - August 23, 2019
    What's Mars Solar Conjunction, and Why Does It Matter?

    Full Article and Images

    "The daily chatter between antennas here on Earth and those on NASA spacecraft at Mars is about to get much quieter for a few weeks.

    That's because Mars and Earth will be on opposite sides of the Sun, a period known as Mars solar conjunction. The Sun expels hot, ionized gas from its corona, which extends far into space. During solar conjunction, this gas can interfere with radio signals when engineers try to communicate with spacecraft at Mars, corrupting commands and resulting in unexpected behavior from our deep space explorers."

    Daily Mars Odyssey THEMIS Images
    Can be found at the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) website.

    The Odyssey data are available through a new online access system established by the Planetary Data System.

    Visit the Mars Odyssey Mission page.

    Journey to Mars - InSight - Revealing the Heart of Mars - February 24, 2020
    A Year of Surprising Science From NASA's InSight Mars Mission

    Full Article and Images

    "A new understanding of Mars is beginning to emerge, thanks to the first year of NASA's InSight lander mission. Findings described in a set of six papers published today reveal a planet alive with quakes, dust devils and strange magnetic pulses."

    Interactive selection of raw images taken by the cameras aboard InSight.

    Learn more about the InSight Mission.

    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 and the Mars Exploration page.

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    Astronomy Links and Other Space News

    (If you have a link you would like to recommend to our readers, please feel free to submit it.)

    Green Laser

    Colorado Astronomy Links

    Radio Astronomy Links

    Other Astronomy Links

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    Astronomical Lexicon

    Definitions of astronomical terms. Many of the astronomical terms used in this newsletter are defined here.

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    UT Logo

    Read the Universe Today Newsletter by clicking on the logo.

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    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, and other astronomical sources that I have stashed on my bookshelves.

    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!

    More Acknowledgements and References

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