Astronomy News for the Month of June 2013


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An Open Invitation

For amateur radio and scanner enthusiasts, when in the Denver metro area, please join the Colorado Astronomy Net on the Rocky Mountain Radio League 146.94 MHz repeater on Tuesday nights at 7PM local time.


Special Notice to Denver, CO 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 The Plains Conservation Center for more information and directions.

Also S&S Optika hosts Backyard Star Parties in Littleton several times a month, weather permitting. Come down and enjoy the fun and check out their fine selection of optical instruments.


 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 Advanced Observing Program.


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


21

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 are also included in the reports.

(All times are local unless otherwise noted.)

Planetary Highlights for June - Look for Jupiter, Venus and Mercury low on the western horizon at twilight. However, Jupiter and Mercury quickly disappear into the sunset, leaving Venus as it continues to climb in the western sky. Look high in the south to spot Saturn once the skies darken. Pluto, Neptune and Uranus appear in the morning sky after midnight. Summer officially begins in the northern hemisphere and winter begins in the southern hemisphere on the 21st. Comet PANSTARRS can still be spotted with a large telescope under dark skies.
Mercury - Is at greatest eastern elongation (24° above the western horizon) on the 12th. For northern observers, this is the highest Mercury appears in the evening sky for 2013. Mercury is stationary on the 25th. Mercury is visible for most of June, low on the western horizon. Mercury sets about 10:06 p.m. on the 1st and about 08:58 p.m. by month's end. Mercury is in the constellation of Gemini shining at magnitude 0.6 on the 15th.
Venus - Continues to climb higher in the evening sky at the month progresses. Venus sets about 9:43 p.m. on the 1st and about 10:06 p.m. by month's end. Venus moves from the constellation of Taurus into Cancer shining at magnitude -3.8.
Earth - The Summer Solstice occurs at 1:04 a.m. EDT on the 21st.
Mars - Returns to the morning sky this month. Observers may catch a glimpse of Mars rising before the Sun during the last week of June. Mars rises around 4:17 a.m. by month's end. Mars is in the constellation of Taurus this month shining at magnitude 1.5 on the 30th.
Jupiter - Is in conjunction with the Sun on the 19th. Jupiter rapidly disappears in the evening sky during the first week of June. Jupiter sets at 9:18 p.m. on the 1st and about 7:51 p.m. by month's end. Look for Jupiter, Mercury and Venus low above the western horizon soon after sunset during the first week of the month. Jupiter moves from the constellation of Taurus into Gemini shining at magnitude -1.9.
Saturn - Sets at 4:04 a.m. on the 1st and about 2:02 a.m. by month's end. Look to the south about midway to zenith to spot Saturn in the evening. Look for Saturn's moons this month through a backyard telescope. Saturn is visible until the early morning hours. Saturn is in the constellation of Virgo shining at magnitude 0.4.
Uranus - Rises at 2:48 a.m. on the 1st and about 12:52 a.m. by month's end. Uranus is visible in the early morning sky after midnight. Spot Uranus with binoculars or a small telescope. Uranus is in the constellation of Pisces shining at magnitude 5.8.
Neptune - Is also visible in the morning sky with a small telescope this month rising at 1:21 a.m. on the 1st and about 11:19 p.m. by month's end. Neptune is in the constellation of Aquarius shining at magnitude 7.9.

Dwarf Planets

Ceres - Ceres sets at 12:39 a.m. on the 1st and about 11:26 p.m. by month's end. Ceres moves from the constellation of Gemini into Cancer shining at magnitude 8.8.
Pluto - Is visible in the late evening and early morning sky this month. Pluto rises at 10:08 p.m. on the 1st and about 8:08 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.

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Astronomical Events

Meteor Showers

  • The Arietids Meteor Shower - This is the strongest daylight meteor shower of the year. The duration extends from May 22 to July 2, with maximum activity occurring on June 8. The hourly rate is near 60 at maximum.

  • The June Lyrids - This shower is active during June 10 to 21, producing predominantly blue and white meteors at a maximum hourly rate of 8 per hour on June 15. The average magnitude of this shower is near 3, while 32% of the meteors leave trains.

  • The Zeta Perseids - This daylight shower occurs during May 20 to July 5. Maximum occurs on June 13. Radar surveys have revealed the activity of this shower to be near 40 per hour.

  • The June Boötids - This shower is currently active during June 27 to July 5 and possesses a maximum of activity that falls on the 28th... The shower is notable in that its meteors are primarily faint, with an average magnitude near 5; however, bright meteors do occur regularly.

  • The Gamma Delphinids - This shower is predicted to peak around 4:30 a.m. EDT on the morning of June 11. Not much is known about this shower but is predicted to be fairly strong this year.

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

  • Comets

  • Comet C/2011 L4 PANSTARRS is rapidly receding and dimming to 9th or 10th magnitude this month, so will be difficult to spot. However, it should still be relatively easy to spot all evening for northern hemisphere observers as it passes through the constellation of Ursa Minor. Observers need to find dark sky viewing areas north of cities. Good luck with this one!

  • 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

  • No eclipse activity this month.

  • Observational Opportunities

  • Catch Jupiter, Mercury and Venus low in the west the first week of June before Jupiter and Mercury disappear.
  • Watch Venus as it continues to climb higher in the evening sky.
  • Catch Saturn in the evening sky in the south.
  • Comet PANSTARRS is barely visible all night in the northern sky.
  • Multiple meteor showers are visible this month.
  • Amateur radio operators, check out meteor scatter propagations during the daylight meteor showers.
  • Asteroids

    (From west to east)
    Ocultations

    IOTA Logo

  • Information on various occultations can be found by clicking the IOTA logo.
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    Planetary/Lunar Exploration Missions

    (Excerpts from recent JPL mission updates)
    Cassini - May 29, 2013
    Cassini Finds Hints of Activity at Saturn Moon Dione

    "From a distance, most of the Saturnian moon Dione resembles a bland cueball. Thanks to close-up images of a 500-mile-long (800-kilometer-long) mountain on the moon from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, scientists have found more evidence for the idea that Dione was likely active in the past. It could still be active now.

    "A picture is emerging that suggests Dione could be a fossil of the wondrous activity Cassini discovered spraying from Saturn's geyser moon Enceladus or perhaps a weaker copycat Enceladus," said Bonnie Buratti of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., who leads the Cassini science team that studies icy satellites. "There may turn out to be many more active worlds with water out there than we previously thought."

    Other bodies in the solar system thought to have a subsurface ocean - including Saturn's moons Enceladus and Titan and Jupiter's moon Europa - are among the most geologically active worlds in our solar system. They have been intriguing targets for geologists and scientists looking for the building blocks of life elsewhere in the solar system. The presence of a subsurface ocean at Dione would boost the astrobiological potential of this once-boring iceball."

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

    Cassini Imaging Team

    For the latest mission status reports, visit Cassini Mission Status web page. The speed and location of the spacecraft along its flight path can be viewed on the Present Position webpage.

    New Horizons - May 16, 2013
    The PI's Perspective: Encounter Planning Accelerates

    "The New Horizons team studied numerous alternate flybys, called SHBOTs, before recommending to NASA a pair of backups to protect New Horizons from possible impact hazards in the Pluto system.

    All exploration comes with both rewards and risks.

    Back in 2005 and 2006, when Pluto's second and third moons (Nix and Hydra) were discovered, searches by astronomers for still more moons didn't reveal any. So the accidental discovery of Pluto's fourth moon by the Hubble Space Telescope in mid-2011 (during a search for Plutonian rings) raised the possibility that the hazards in the Pluto system might be greater than previously anticipated. Those concerns were amplified when Hubble discovered a fifth moon in 2012. As a result of those discoveries, the New Horizons science and operations teams began to more carefully scrutinize the true level of hazards to our spacecraft at closest approach and devise mitigation strategies to make sure the encounter with Pluto would be successful."

    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 - March 25, 2013
    NASA Scientists Find Moon and Asteroids Share Cosmic History

    "NASA and international researchers have discovered that Earth's moon has more in common than previously thought with large asteroids roaming our solar system.

    Scientists from NASA's Lunar Science Institute (NLSI), Moffett Field, Calif., discovered that the same population of high-speed projectiles that impacted our lunar neighbor four billion years ago, also hit the asteroid Vesta and perhaps other large asteroids.

    The research unveils an unexpected link between Vesta and the moon, and provides new means for studying the early bombardment history of terrestrial planets. The findings are published in the March issue of Nature Geoscience.

    "It's always intriguing when interdisciplinary research changes the way we understand the history of our solar system," said Yvonne Pendleton, NLSI director. "Although the moon is located far from Vesta, which is in the main asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, they seem to share some of the same bombardment history."

    The findings support the theory that the repositioning of gas giant planets like Jupiter and Saturn from their original orbits to their current location destabilized portions of the asteroid belt and triggered a solar system-wide bombardment of asteroids billions of years ago called the lunar cataclysm.

    The research provides new constraints on the start and duration of the lunar cataclysm, and demonstrates that the cataclysm was an event that affected not only the inner solar system planets, but the asteroid belt as well."

    Dawn's Virtual Flight over Vesta

    A gallery of images can be found online.

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

    MESSENGER - May 24, 2013
    MESSENGER Completes Its 2,000th Orbit of Mercury, Provides Data on Solar Magnetic Field

    "MESSENGER began its 2,000th orbit around Mercury earlier this week, on May 22. The spacecraft completed its primary mission on March 17, 2012, and its first extended mission on March 17, 2013. The team is awaiting word from NASA on a proposal for a second extended mission. In the meantime, instruments aboard the spacecraft continue to gather new data on Mercury and its environment.

    From May 6 to May 14, MESSENGER traversed a superior solar conjunction, during which the spacecraft was on the far side of the Sun from Earth. Scientists used the opportunity to measure the characteristics of the solar magnetic field from the Faraday rotation of its radio-frequency carrier.

    "We found the orientation of the magnetic field within a coronal mass ejection (CME) that crossed the line of sight on May 10," says Elizabeth Jensen, of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona. "We saw the rotation of the plane of polarization of MESSENGER's radio-frequency signal as it moved deeper into the corona, giving information on the Sun's magnetic field configuration on May 11; and on May 12, we saw magnetohydrodynamic waves, a very important mode of energy transfer in the corona."

    Solar storms cause communications disruptions, expose spacecraft and personnel in airplanes to radiation, and threaten electrical grids. Jensen says that the observations of the CME demonstrate the utility of this technique to predict the threat of solar storms headed toward Earth almost immediately after they erupt."

    These nine newly named craters join 95 other craters named since the MESSENGER spacecraft's first Mercury flyby in January 2008."

    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.

    Mars Science Laboratory - Curiosity - May 30, 2013
    Data From NASA Rover's Voyage To Mars Aids Planning

    "Sources of Ionizing Radiation in Interplanetary Space
    The Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover monitors high-energy atomic and subatomic particles coming from the sun, distant supernovae and other sources."

    "PASADENA, Calif. -- Measurements taken by NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission as it delivered the Curiosity rover to Mars in 2012 are providing NASA the information it needs to design systems to protect human explorers from radiation exposure on deep-space expeditions in the future.

    Curiosity's Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) is the first instrument to measure the radiation environment during a Mars cruise mission from inside a spacecraft that is similar to potential human exploration spacecraft. The findings reduce uncertainty about the effectiveness of radiation shielding and provide vital information to space mission designers who will need to build in protection for spacecraft occupants in the future.

    "As this nation strives to reach an asteroid and Mars in our lifetimes, we're working to solve every puzzle nature poses to keep astronauts safe so they can explore the unknown and return home," said William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for human exploration and operations in Washington. "We learn more about the human body's ability to adapt to space every day aboard the International Space Station. As we build the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket to carry and shelter us in deep space, we'll continue to make the advances we need in life sciences to reduce risks for our explorers. Curiosity's RAD instrument is giving us critical data we need so that we humans, like the rover, can dare mighty things to reach the Red Planet."

    The findings, which are published in the May 31 edition of the journal Science, indicate radiation exposure for human explorers could exceed NASA's career limit for astronauts if current propulsion systems are used."

    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) - May 22, 2013

    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: Departing 'Cape York' - sols 3310-3316, May. 16, 2013-May. 22, 2013 :

    "Opportunity has begun the departure from 'Cape York' and started the push to reach 'Solander Point' over 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) away.

    The rover drove five out of the last seven days (sols). Opportunity drove on Sols 3310, 3312, 3314, 3315 and 3316 (May 16, 18, 20, 21 and May 22, 2013), totaling over 0.23 miles (376 meters), mostly in the southeasterly direction.

    Atmospheric opacity (tau) has been decreasing after it spiked from the passing of a regional dust storm. Opportunity benefitted from a modest solar array dust cleaning event between Sol 3311 and 3315 (May 17 and 21, 2013). The plan ahead is more to drive as the rover pushes towards Solander Point.

    As of Sol 3316 (May 22, 2013), the solar array energy production was 541 watt-hours with an atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.903 and a solar array dust factor of 0.649.

    Total odometry is 22.45 miles (36.14 kilometers)."

    Landing sites

    Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page.

    Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - May 15, 2013
    NASA Probe Counts Space Rock Impacts on Mars

    "PASADENA, Calif. -- Scientists using images from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have estimated that the planet is bombarded by more than 200 small asteroids or bits of comets per year forming craters at least 12.8 feet (3.9 meters) across.

    Researchers have identified 248 new impact sites on parts of the Martian surface in the past decade, using images from the spacecraft to determine when the craters appeared. The 200-per-year planetwide estimate is a calculation based on the number found in a systematic survey of a portion of the planet.

    The orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera took pictures of the fresh craters at sites where before-and-after images by other cameras bracketed when the impacts occurred. This combination provided a new way to make direct measurements of the impact rate on Mars. This will lead to better age estimates of recent features on Mars, some of which may have been the result of climate change."

    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 - May 08, 2013
    Mars As Art Lands At Dulles Airport

    "The majestic beauty of the Red Planet is featured in a vivid collection of images taken by Mars spacecraft, now on exhibit at Dulles airport in Washington, DC through November 30."

    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.

    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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    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

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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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