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IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter
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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
Background screen credits: NGC5775 - Imaged March 21/22, 2001 using the 16" Kitt Peak Visitors Center telescope as part of the Advanced Observing Program.
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|Planetary Highlights for October - Venus and Saturn can be spotted low in the west-southwest all month. Mercury joins Venus and Saturn during the first weeks of the month. However, due to the low angle of the ecliptic (the path the planets take through the sky), these three planets do not get very high above the horizon. Observe Venus, Saturn and Mercury in the early evening. Neptune and Uranus are prime for evening and late night viewing. Uranus is at its best viewing for the year. Mars and Jupiter rise early in the morning and are both prominent in the constellations of Leo and Gemini and are visible before sunrise. Comet ISON is also visible in the morning sky this month, so get up early and see if you can spot it.|
|Mercury - Is at greatest eastern elongation (25° above the western horizon) on the 9th. Mercury is stationary on the 21st. Mercury is visible, low on the western horizon about 30 minutes after sunset. Mercury sets about 7:31 p.m. on the 1st and about 5:53 p.m. by month's end. Mercury moves from the constellation of Virgo into Libra shining at magnitude 0.0 on the 15th.|
|Venus - Sets about 8:29 p.m. on the 1st and about 8:23 p.m. by month's end. Look for Venus in the early evening towards the west-southwest. Venus will be easy to spot as it moves from the constellation of Libra into Sagittarius shining at magnitude -4.4.|
|Earth - N/A.|
|Mars - Rises at 3:00 a.m. on the 1st and about 2:31 a.m. by month's end. Look for Mars in the east before sunrise. Mars is in the constellation of Leo this month shining at magnitude 1.6.|
|Jupiter - Rises at 12:18 a.m. on the 1st and about 10:21 p.m. by month's end. Look for Jupiter in the early morning skies after midnight. Jupiter is in the constellation of Gemini shining at magnitude -2.3.|
|Saturn - Sets at 8:10 p.m. on the 1st and about 6:18 p.m. by month's end. Look low in the west-southwest to spot Saturn in the early evening. Saturn is relatively easy to spot about 15° west of Venus in the early twilight while it is still fairly high above the horizon. Saturn is in the constellation of Libra shining at magnitude 0.6.|
|Uranus - Is at opposition on the 3rd, rising as the Sun sets. Uranus rises at 6:42 p.m. on the 1st and about 4:37 p.m. by month's end. Uranus is visible in the evening sky. Uranus is at its best viewing this month. Spot Uranus with binoculars or a small telescope. Uranus is in the constellation of Pisces shining at magnitude 5.7.|
|Neptune - Sets at 4:06 a.m. on the 1st and about 2:02 a.m. by month's end. Neptune is in the constellation of Aquarius shining at magnitude 7.8.|
|Ceres - Sets at 7:22 p.m. on the 1st and about 5:55 p.m. by month's end. Ceres moves from the constellation of Leo into Virgo shining at magnitude 8.8.|
Sets at 11:46 p.m. on the 1st and about 9:45 p.m. by month's end. 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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For more information about Meteor Showers, visit Gary Kronk's Meteor Showers Online web page.
Elements and Ephemeris for C/2012 S1 (ISON)
For more information about Comets, visit Gary Kronk's Cometography.com webpage.
(From west to east)
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|Cassini - September 23, 2013
By the Pale Saturn-light
( Full-Res: PIA17129)
Raw images are available at http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/photos/raw/index.cfm.
|New Horizons - August 23, 2013
The PI's Perspective
Late in Cruise, and a Binary Ahoy
"New Horizons has just completed a summer of intensive activities and entered hibernation on Aug. 20. The routine parts of the activities included thorough checkouts of all our backup systems (result: they work fine!) and of all our scientific instruments (they work fine too!). We also updated our onboard fault protection (a.k.a. "autonomy") software, collected interplanetary cruise science data, and tracked the spacecraft for hundreds of hours to improve our trajectory knowledge. Added to this mix of routine summer wake-up activities for New Horizons were two major activities that had never been performed before.
The first of these, conducted in early July, was planned imaging of Pluto and its largest satellite, Charon. As you can see from the image and caption above, we accomplished this using our LORRI long-focal length camera. Seeing these images, revealing our target as a true planetary binary, viscerally signaled to me that we’re nearing our destination and the end of the long, 3-billion-plus mile cruise we set out on back in January 2006."
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 - September 27, 2013
Dawn Reality-Checks Telescope Studies of Asteroids
Full image and caption
"Tantalized by images from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based data, scientists thought the giant asteroid Vesta deserved a closer look. They got a chance to do that in 2011 and 2012, when NASA's Dawn spacecraft orbited the giant asteroid, and they were able to check earlier conclusions. A new study involving Dawn's observations during that time period demonstrates how this relationship works with Hubble and ground-based telescopes to clarify our understanding of a solar system object.
"Since the vast majority of asteroids can only be studied remotely by ground-based and space-based facilities, confirming the accuracy of such observations using in-situ measurements is important to our exploration of the solar system," said Vishnu Reddy, the lead author of a paper published recently in the journal Icarus. Reddy is based at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Ariz., and the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany."
A gallery of images can be found online.
For more information on the Dawn mission, visit the Dawn home page.
|MESSENGER - September 10, 2013
1,000th Featured Image from MESSENGER Posted on the Project's Web Gallery
"The MESSENGER project is celebrating the posting today of the 1,000th featured image from Mercury. The Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) team has posted a new image to the MESSENGER website approximately once per business day since March 29, 2011, when the first image obtained from orbit about the innermost planet was made public.
Today's image is a collage comprised entirely of earlier featured images. "I thought it sensible to produce a collage for the 1,000th web image because of the sheer volume of images the team has already posted, as no single picture could encompass the enormous breadth of Mercury science covered in these postings," explained MESSENGER Fellow Paul Byrne, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. "Some of the images represent aspects of Mercury's geological characteristics, and others are fun extras, such as the U.S. Postal Service's Mercury stamp. The '1,000' superimposed on the collage is a reminder of the major milestone the team has reached in posting 1,000 featured images -- and even a motivation to post 1,000 more."
"During this two-year period, MESSENGER's daily web image has been a successful mechanism for sharing results from the mission with the public at large," said Nancy Chabot, MDIS Instrument Scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). Chabot has been leading the release of web images since MESSENGER's first flyby of Mercury, 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 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 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 - September 26,, 2013
Science Gains From Diverse Landing Area of Curiosity
"PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Curiosity rover is revealing a great deal about Mars, from long-ago processes in its interior to the current interaction between the Martian surface and atmosphere.
Examination of loose rocks, sand and dust has provided new understanding of the local and global processes on Mars. Analysis of observations and measurements by the rover's science instruments during the first four months after the August 2012 landing are detailed in five reports in the Sept. 27 edition of the journal Science.
A key finding is that water molecules are bound to fine-grained soil particles, accounting for about 2 percent of the particles' weight at Gale Crater where Curiosity landed. This result has global implications, because these materials are likely distributed around the Red Planet.
Curiosity also has completed the first comprehensive mineralogical analysis on another planet using a standard laboratory method for identifying minerals on Earth. The findings about both crystalline and non-crystalline components in soil provide clues to the planet's volcanic history.
Information about the evolution of the Martian crust and deeper regions within the planet comes from Curiosity's mineralogical analysis of a football-size igneous rock called "Jake M." Igneous rocks form by cooling molten material that originated well beneath the crust. The chemical compositions of the rocks can be used to infer the thermal, pressure and chemical conditions under which they crystallized.
"No other Martian rock is so similar to terrestrial igneous rocks," said Edward Stolper of the California Institute of Technology, lead author of a report about this analysis. "This is surprising because previously studied igneous rocks from Mars differ substantially from terrestrial rocks and from Jake M."
The other four reports include analysis of the composition and formation process of a windblown drift of sand and dust, by David Blake of NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., and co-authors."
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) - September 17, 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: Robotic Arm Goes to Work on Rock Target - sols 3426-3431, Sept. 12, 2013-Sept. 17, 2013 :
"Opportunity is at the northern edge of 'Solander Point' on the rim of Endeavour Crater. The rover is investigating the geologic contact at the base of Solander Point.
On Sol 3426 (Sept. 12, 2013), Opportunity drove 28 feet (8.62 meters) to reach a surface target. On the next sol, the rover deployed the robotic arm to investigate the surface target named, 'Poverty Bush.' First, the rover imaged the Rock Abrasion Tool (RAT) bit to assess the remaining grind life. Then, the rover collected some calibration sky flat images with the Microscopic Imager (MI). After that, a Microscopic Imager mosaic was collected of Poverty Bush, followed by the placement of the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) for a multi-sol integration.
On Sol 3430 (Sept. 16, 2013), Opportunity drove away heading about 39 feet (12 meters) to the west/northwest. On the next sol, the rover continued driving another 74 feet (22.5 meters) to reach another candidate outcrop for in-situ (contact) science investigation.
As of Sol 3431 (Sept. 17, 2013), the solar array energy production was 346 watt-hours with an atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.619 and a solar array dust factor of 0.520.
Total odometry is 23.82 miles (38.34 kilometers)."
Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page.
|Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - August 14, 2013
Swapping Motion-Sensing Units
"The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is now using its Inertial Measurement Unit 2 and has resumed normal relay operations and science observations.
PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is switching from one motion-sensing device to a duplicate unit onboard.
The veteran orbiter relies on this inertial measurement unit (IMU) for information about changes in orientation. This information is important for maintaining spacecraft attitude and for pointing the orbiter's large antenna and science-observation instruments.
The spacecraft has two identical copies of this motion-sensing device, called IMU-1 and IMU-2. Either of them can be used with either of the spacecraft's redundant main computers. Each contains three gyroscopes and three accelerometers.
"The reason we're doing this is that one of the gyroscopes on IMU-1 is approaching its end of life, so we want to swap to our redundant unit early enough that we still have some useful life preserved in the first unit," said Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission Manager Reid Thomas of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif."
MARS RECONNAISSANCE ORBITER HIRISE IMAGES
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."
"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
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|
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More Acknowledgements and References
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