Astronomy News for the Month of July 2016


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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 146.94 MHz and 449.825 MHz repeaters. The RMRL 146.94 repeater is also linked with the WB0WDF Cripple Creek 447.400 MHz repeater and Allstar nodes 28298, 28299 and 29436. We are also linked via Echolink, links are k0jsc-r and canoncty. More information on the WB0WDF repeater links and Allstar nodes and Echolinks can be found at k0jsc.com. The net meets on Tuesday nights at 7 P.M. Mountain Time (US).

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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...


Questions to my Readers

The newsletter is getting rather long and at 30+ pages, I have wondered if this might be too long for most readers. So, I would like your opinions and responses to the following questions. Answers such as "It's ok", "I like it", "I don't like it" don't really help. Your honest opinions, criticisms and suggestions are much more beneficial to me in finding out what is useful, of interest, not useful and not of interest to my general readership.

Please send responses to ki0ar@ki0ar.com with the subject: "Newsletter responses". Just copy/paste the questions in your email and answer accordingly.

Thank you in advance for your participation in helping me make this newsletter better.

1) Is the length of the newsletter too long, too short or just right?
2) Based on the table of contents above, which sections do you read/use the most?
3) Based on the table of contents above, which sections do you read/use the least?
4) For website visitors, Do you know you can subscribe to an email version of the newsletter?
5) For email subscribers, have you also visited the website?
6) I provide links to many astronomical terms I use in the web version of the newsletter, would you like me to add links to the terms in the email version as well?
7) What links do you use regularly?
8) What links should I eliminate?
9) The JPL/NASA/Mars missions sections are getting rather long. Should I just provide links, shorter excerpts, longer excerpts?
10) What do you think of the newsletter?
11) What suggestions do you have that might improve the newsletter?


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


24 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 "TheSky" 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 July

"It’s not often you can see eight worlds in one evening, but if skies are clear after sunset in late July, you should be able to observe from Mercury to Pluto. The Moon isn’t shy this month either, passing directly in front of Neptune and Taurus the Bull’s brightest star, Aldeb­aran. It all makes for an action-packed viewing season despite the short summer nights." Astronomy Magazine, July 2016, p. 36.

Mercury

Is in superior conjunction (passing on the far side of the Sun) on the 6th. Mercury rises at 5:04 a.m. on the 1st. After the 6th, Mercury returns to the evening sky. Wait about two weeks before trying to observe Mercury setting soon after the Sun. Mercury sets about 9:17 p.m. by month's end. Mercury is best viewed after the 21st of July after sunset. Mercury moves from the constellation of Gemini into Leo this month shining at magnitude -0.2 on the 31st.

Venus

Has returned to the evening sky this month but is still lost in the evening twilight glow until after midmonth. Venus sets at 9:01 p.m. on the 1st and about 9:01 p.m. by month's end. This is interesting to note that even though Venus appears to set at the approximately the same time all month, the Sun sets a few minutes earlier each evening, thus Venus becomes more visible as the month progresses. As with Mercury, the best time to view Venus will be after the 21st. Venus moves from the constellation of Gemini into Leo shining at magnitude -3.9 on the 31st.

Earth

Is at aphelion (94.5 million miles from the Sun) on the 4th.

Mars

Rises at 4:49 p.m. on the 1st and about 3:22 p.m. by month's end. Look for Mars about an hour or so after sunset to the south about a third of the way above the horizon. Mars is in the constellation of Libra shining at magnitude -1.1.

Jupiter

Sets at 11:55 p.m. on the 1st and about 10:05 p.m. by month's end. Look for Jupiter in the early evening towards the west soon after sunset. Jupiter is in the constellation of Leo shining at magnitude -1.8.

Saturn

Rises at 6:06 p.m. on the 1st and about 3:58 p.m. by month's end. Look for Saturn towards the southeast following Mars in the evening sky. Saturn is in the constellation of Ophiuchus shining at magnitude 0.2.

Uranus

Rises at 1:19 a.m. on the 1st and about 11:14 p.m. by month's end. Uranus is visible in the early morning hours before sunrise. Uranus is stationary on the 29th. Uranus is in the constellation of Pisces shining at magnitude 5.8.

Neptune

Rises at 11:35 p.m. on the 1st and about 9:32 p.m. by month's end. Look for Neptune in the late evening and early hours before dawn to the east-southeast. Neptune is in the constellation of Aquarius shining at magnitude 7.8.

Dwarf Planets

Ceres

Rises at 3:06 a.m. on the 1st and about 1:27 a.m. by month's end. Look for Ceres in the pre-dawn skies before sunrise this month. Ceres is in the constellation of Cetus this month shining at magnitude 9.0.

Pluto

Is at opposition on the 7th, rising as the Sun sets. Pluto rises at 8:38 p.m. on the 1st and about 6:33 p.m. by month's end. Look to the south to spot Pluto in the evening skies. Pluto appears at its best for 2016 this month. Pluto is in the constellation of Sagittarius shining at magnitude 14.1.

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 Southern Delta Aquarids - This Meteor Shower has a duration of July 14 - August 18. Maximum hourly rates of 15-20 occur on July 28/29.

  • 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.

    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.

  • Comets

    "July's brightest comet lurks low in the south during early evening. To avoid bright moonlight, hunt down Comet PANSTARRS (C/2013 X1) either at the beginning or end of the month. The dirty snowball should glow at 6th magnitude in early July, one or two magnitudes brighter than it will be by month's end. It should be easier to see late in the month, however, because it lies higher in the sky.

    For observers in the northern United States and Canada, PANSTARRS will be hard to see as it skims south of Scorpius in early July. In the month's final 10 days, it makes its way through northern Centaurus, passing 0.6° west of magnitude 4.1 c1 Centauri on the 23rd. C/2013 X1 should be visible through binoculars then, though barely, and a nice target for small telescopes." Astronomy Magazine, July 2016, 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 Jupiter, Saturn and Mars in the evening.
  • Enjoy the Southern Delta Aquarids meteor shower at the end on the month as well.
  • See how many of the planets you can spot in the evening skies by the end of the month. (See the table below for Rise and Set times for the Sun and planets for the evening of July 29. Try to spot as many planets as you can after sunset and before midnight.)

    Object Rise Transit Set Phase Constellation Magnitude
    Sun 05:57 13:06 20:15 0.00% Cancer unknown
    Venus 07:09 14:06 21:03 96.72% Leo -3.9
    Mercury 07:45 14:32 21:19 74.85% Leo -0.2
    Jupiter 09:43 15:59 22:16 99.57% Leo -1.8
    Mars 15:28 20:10 00:55 87.66% Libra -0.8
    Saturn 16:10 21:01 01:57 99.82% Ophiuchus 0.3
    *Pluto 18:45 23:33 04:25 100.00% Sagittarius 14.1
    Neptune 21:44 03:19 08:58 99.99% Aquarius 7.8
    Uranus 23:26 06:01 12:33 99.94% Pisces 5.8

    * Viewing Pluto will require very dark skies and at least a 12-14 inch telescope to be spotted.
    Spot Venus, Mercury and Jupiter in the west very soon after sunset before they also set.
    Spot Neptune and Uranus in the east soon after they rise.
    Mars, Saturn and Pluto can be spotted to the south once the skies darken.

  • Asteroids

    (From west to east)
    • Flora is in the constellation of Ophiuchus.
    • Iris is in the constellation of Scorpius.
    • Pallas is in the constellation of Pegasus.
    • Melpomene is in the constellation of Pisces.

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

    On the morning of the 29th, a waning crescent Moon occults 1st-magnitude Aldebaran. This occultation is visible for observers in the eastern and southern United States.

    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

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    Planetary/Lunar Exploration Missions

    (Excerpts from recent JPL mission updates)
    Juno - July 2, 2016
    NASA Juno Mission T-Minus Two Days From Jupiter

    "MISSION STATUS REPORT On July 4, at 8:18 p.m. PDT, Juno will fire its main engine, beginning a 35-minute burn that will place it into orbit around Jupiter."

    More information on the Juno mission is available at: http://www.nasa.gov/juno

    The public can follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter at:
    http://www.facebook.com/NASAJuno
    http://www.twitter.com/NASAJuno

    JPL manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. Juno is part of NASA's New Frontiers Program, which is managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft. The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA.

    Cassini - June 30, 2016
    Cassini Significant Events 06/22/16 - 06/28/16

    "Cassini is orbiting Saturn with a period of 23.9 days in a plane inclined 43 degrees from the planet's equatorial plane. The most recent spacecraft tracking and telemetry data were obtained on June 29, using the 70-meter diameter Deep Space Network station in Spain. The spacecraft continues to be in an excellent state of health with all of its subsystems operating normally except for the instrument issues described at http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/anomalies.

    Cassini sped inbound this week towards a June 30 periapsis passage. Along the way, it made different kinds of observations of Saturn's rings. The optical remote-sensing instruments viewed the rings from their sunlit side and then from their dark side. The Cosmic Dust Analyzer directly observed ring-plane dust as it encountered the instrument, and two occultation experiments tracked bright stars while the rings passed in front of them, attenuating the starlight and revealing ring detail."

    The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

    Raw images are available at http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/photos/raw/index.cfm.

    More information about Cassini is available at the following sites:
    http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov

    http://www.nasa.gov/cassini

    Cassini Imaging Team - Archives from Dec. 2015 and earlier.

    New Horizons - June 9, 2016
    The Jagged Shores of Pluto's Highlands

    Annotated Image

    "This enhanced color view from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft zooms in on the southeastern portion of Pluto's great ice plains, where at lower right the plains border rugged, dark highlands informally named Krun Macula.

    Krun Macula - Krun is the lord of the underworld in the Mandaean religion, and a macula is a dark feature on a planetary surface – is believed to get its dark red color from tholins, complex molecules found across Pluto. Krun Macula rises 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) above the surrounding plain – informally named Sputnik Planum – and is scarred by clusters of connected, roughly circular pits that typically reach between 5 and 8 miles (8 and 13 kilometers) across, and up to 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) deep.

    At the boundary with Sputnik Planum, these pits form deep valleys reaching more than 25 miles (40 kilometers) long, 12.5 miles (20 kilometers) wide and almost 2 miles (3 kilometers) deep (almost twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in Arizona), and have floors covered with nitrogen ice. New Horizons scientists think these pits may have formed through surface collapse, although what may have prompted such a collapse is a mystery."


    It's always Pluto Time somewhere, and NASA wants to see your view.

    What is Pluto?

    On Video: How Do We Get to Pluto? Practice, Practice, Practice

    Part I: The Encounter Begins
        - Small mp4 (38 MB, 640x360)
        - Large mp4 (116 MB, 1280x720)

    Part II: Passing Pluto
        - Small mp4 (34 MB, 640x360)
        - Large mp4 (102 MB, 1280x720)"

    LORRI Looks Back

    New Horizons gallery

    Find New Horizons in the iTunes App Store here.

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

    Dawn - April 19, 2016
    New Ceres Images Show Bright Craters

    "On June 30, just in time for the global celebration known as Asteroid Day, NASA's Dawn spacecraft completes its primary mission. The mission exceeded all expectations originally set for its exploration of protoplanet Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres.

    The historic mission is the first to orbit two extraterrestrial solar system targets, and the first to orbit any object in the main asteroid belt, between Mars and Jupiter. On March 6, 2015, Dawn also became the first spacecraft to enter orbit around a dwarf planet.

    An infographic highlights some of the accomplishments of Dawn's journey since launching in September 2007. Dawn has traveled 3.5 billion miles (5.6 billion kilometers) since launch, and has made 2,450 orbits around Vesta and Ceres. The spacecraft has returned about 69,000 images, combined, of both bodies.

    Dawn's advanced ion propulsion system made it possible for the spacecraft to orbit two targets in the main asteroid belt. The spacecraft has logged about 48,000 hours of ion engine thrusting."

    Take a tour of weird Ceres!

    "Visit a 2-mile-deep crater and a 4-mile-tall mountain in the video narrated by mission director Marc Rayman. Get your red/blue glasses ready for the finale - a global view of the dwarf planet in 3D."

    Ceres Topographic Globe Animation

    Ion propulsion isn't something found only in science fiction. Ion engines are a real deal and drive NASA's Dawn spacecraft, en route to dwarf planet Ceres. Big things do come in small packages.

    Dawn's Virtual Flight over Vesta

    Ceres Fly By

    A gallery of images can be found online.

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

    MESSENGER - May 30, 2016
    The MESSENGER mission is officially ended but there is a lot to learn about the planet closest to our Sun. Visit the new, updated MESSENGER website:

    "UNLOCKING THE MYSTERIES OF PLANET MERCURY"

    for resources, to learn, and to explore.

    Video Animation

    The MESSENGER app is available for download from iTunes.

    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.

    Past, Present, Future and Proposed JPL Missions - http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/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 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 is an affiliate of CU-Boulder AeroSpace Ventures, a collaboration among aerospace-related departments, institutes, centers, government labs, and industry partners."

    MAVEN - June 10, 2016
    MAVEN Status Update

    "Some of the wind-sculpted sand ripples on Mars are a type not seen on Earth, and their relationship to the thin Martian atmosphere today provides new clues about the atmosphere's history.

    The determination that these mid-size ripples are a distinct type resulted from observations by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover. Six months ago, Curiosity made the first up-close study of active sand dunes anywhere other than Earth, at the "Bagnold Dunes" on the northwestern flank of Mars' Mount Sharp.

    "Earth and Mars both have big sand dunes and small sand ripples, but on Mars, there's something in between that we don't have on Earth," said Mathieu Lapotre, a graduate student at Caltech in Pasadena, California, and science team collaborator for the Curiosity mission. He is the lead author of a report about these mid-size ripples published in the July 1 issue of the journal Science.

    Both planets have true dunes -- typically larger than a football field -- with downwind faces shaped by sand avalanches, making them steeper than the upwind faces.

    Earth also has smaller ripples -- appearing in rows typically less than a foot (less than 30 centimeters) apart -- that are formed by wind-carried sand grains colliding with other sand grains along the ground. Some of these "impact ripples" corrugate the surfaces of sand dunes and beaches."

    Visit LASP and MAVEN for more information.

    Mars Science Laboratory - Curiosity - June 30, 2016
    NASA Rover's Sand-Dune Studies Yield Surprise

    Two Sizes of Ripples on Surface of Martian Sand Dune

    "Some of the wind-sculpted sand ripples on Mars are a type not seen on Earth, and their relationship to the thin Martian atmosphere today provides new clues about the atmosphere's history.

    The determination that these mid-size ripples are a distinct type resulted from observations by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover. Six months ago, Curiosity made the first up-close study of active sand dunes anywhere other than Earth, at the "Bagnold Dunes" on the northwestern flank of Mars' Mount Sharp.

    "Earth and Mars both have big sand dunes and small sand ripples, but on Mars, there's something in between that we don't have on Earth," said Mathieu Lapotre, a graduate student at Caltech in Pasadena, California, and science team collaborator for the Curiosity mission. He is the lead author of a report about these mid-size ripples published in the July 1 issue of the journal Science.

    Both planets have true dunes -- typically larger than a football field -- with downwind faces shaped by sand avalanches, making them steeper than the upwind faces.

    Earth also has smaller ripples -- appearing in rows typically less than a foot (less than 30 centimeters) apart -- that are formed by wind-carried sand grains colliding with other sand grains along the ground. Some of these "impact ripples" corrugate the surfaces of sand dunes and beaches."

    To follow the Mars Curiosity rover and NASA on Foursquare, visit: http://www.foursquare.com/MarsCuriosity and http://www.foursquare.com/NASA

    For information about NASA's partnership with Foursquare, visit:http://www.nasa.gov/connect/foursquare.html.

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

      Visit the Mars Science Laboratory page.

    Mars Exploration Rover Mission (Spirit and Opportunity) - June 27, 2016

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

    "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: Finishing Science Investigations at the Center of 'Marathon Valley' - sols 4413-4417, June 22, 2016-June 27, 2016: :

    "Opportunity is exploring 'Marathon Valley' on the rim of Endeavour crater, investigating outcrops for evidence of clay minerals.

    The rover is nearing the completion of its exploration within Marathon Valley with investigations in the center of the valley. Opportunity is finishing one of its final in-situ campaigns inside the valley.

    On Sol 4413 (June 22, 2016), the rover continued with the investigation of the surface target 'York' with the collection of another set of Microscopic Imager (MI) mosaics followed by an offset placement of the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS). On the next sol, Opportunity continued with some targeted Panoramic Camera (Pancam) color imagery.

    With the in-situ (contact) work complete at 'York,' the rover drove away with a 118 feet (36-meter) drive to the northwest. Before leaving the target, Opportunity snapped some 13-filter Pancam imagery of the in-situ work site. However, due to relay bandwidth variability these Pancam images were not received on the ground. Other Pancam and Navigation Camera (Navcam) images of the north wall of Marathon Valley were collected and received. The project is considering a drive back to 'York' to re-take these high-value Pancam images of the surface target.

    As of Sol 4417 (June 27, 2016), the solar array energy production is 645.8 watt-hours with an atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.561 and a solar array dust factor of 0.725.

    Total odometry is 26.63 miles (42.85 kilometers), more than a marathon."

    Landing sites

    Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page.

    Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - June 9, 2016
    NASA Mars Orbiters Reveal Seasonal Dust Storm Pattern

    Full caption and related image

    "After decades of research to discern seasonal patterns in Martian dust storms from images showing the dust, but the clearest pattern appears to be captured by measuring the temperature of the Red Planet's atmosphere.

    For six recent Martian years, temperature records from NASA Mars orbiters reveal a pattern of three types of large regional dust storms occurring in sequence at about the same times each year during the southern hemisphere spring and summer. Each Martian year lasts about two Earth years."

    New Gravity Map Gives Best View Yet Inside Mars:

    Simulated Flyover of Mars Canyon Map

    This animation simulates a flyover of a portion of a Martian canyon detailed in a geological map produced by the U.S. Geological Survey and based on observations by the HiRISE camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The landforms include a series of hills called Candor Colles.

    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 - July 01, 2016
    Mars Explorers Wanted Posters

    Download free posters at MARS.NASA.GOV

    BE A MARTIAN!

    "Mars needs YOU! In the future, Mars will need all kinds of explorers, farmers, surveyors, teachers . . . but most of all YOU! Join us on the Journey to Mars as we explore with robots and send humans there one day. Download a Mars poster that speaks to you. Be an explorer!"

    Video - What might it look like if you were walking around on Mars?

    See the Mars As Art Gallery

    Dulles Airport Full News Release

    Global Martian Map

    "A simulated fly-through using the newly assembled imagery is available online.

    The fly-through plus tools for wandering across and zooming into the large image are at THEMIS."

    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 - March 09, 2016
    InSight - Revealing the Heart of Mars
    NASA Targets May 2018 Launch of Mars InSight Mission

    "NASA's Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission to study the deep interior of Mars is targeting a new launch window that begins May 5, 2018, with a Mars landing scheduled for Nov. 26, 2018.

    InSight's primary goal is to help us understand how rocky planets -- including Earth -- formed and evolved. The spacecraft had been on track to launch this month until a vacuum leak in its prime science instrument prompted NASA in December to suspend preparations for launch.

    InSight project managers recently briefed officials at NASA and France's space agency, Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES), on a path forward; the proposed plan to redesign the science instrument was accepted in support of a 2018 launch.

    "The science goals of InSight are compelling, and the NASA and CNES plans to overcome the technical challenges are sound," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "The quest to understand the interior of Mars has been a longstanding goal of planetary scientists for decades. We're excited to be back on the path for a launch, now in 2018."

    NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, will redesign, build and conduct qualifications of the new vacuum enclosure for the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), the component that failed in December. CNES will lead instrument level integration and test activities, allowing the InSight Project to take advantage of each organization's proven strengths. The two agencies have worked closely together to establish a project schedule that accommodates these plans, and scheduled interim reviews over the next six months to assess technical progress and continued feasibility."

    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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    Subscription Information

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    ScienceandNature BarnesandNoble.com HomePage

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    FH

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