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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 September - Venus and Saturn can be spotted low in the west-southwest all month. Mercury joins Venus and Saturn during the last 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. Neptune reached opposition in August and Uranus will reach opposition in October. Mars and Jupiter rise early in the morning and are both prominent in the constellations of Gemini and Cancer and are visible before sunrise. Comet ISON may also be visible in the morning sky as well.|
|Mercury - Is visible during the last week of the month, low on the western horizon about 30 minutes after sunset. Mercury sets about 7:31 p.m. on the 30th. Mercury moves from the constellation of Leo into Virgo shining at magnitude -0.1 on the 30th.|
|Venus - Continues it's sideways motion across the early evening sky as the month progresses. Venus sets about 9:03 p.m. on the 1st and about 8:29 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 Virgo into Libra shining at magnitude -4.1.|
|Earth - The Autumnal equinox occurs at 4:44 p.m. EDT on the 22nd.|
|Mars - Rises at 3:23 a.m. on the 1st and about 3:00 a.m. by month's end. Look for Mars in the east before sunrise. Also look for Mars on the mornings of the 8th and 9th before sunrise near M44, the Beehive cluster. Mars moves from the constellation of Cancer into Leo this month shining at magnitude 1.6.|
|Jupiter - Rises at 1:55 a.m. on the 1st and about 12:18 a.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 -2.1.|
|Saturn - Sets at 10:00 p.m. on the 1st and about 8:10 p.m. by month's end. Look to the west-southwest to spot Saturn in the early evening. Try to spot Saturn in the early twilight while it is still fairly high above the horizon. Saturn is in the constellation of Libra shining at magnitude 0.7.|
|Uranus - Rises at 8:42 p.m. on the 1st and about 6:42 p.m. by month's end. Uranus is visible in the evening and early morning sky after midnight. Uranus is approaching opposition next month so is also approaching its best viewing as well. Spot Uranus with binoculars or a small telescope. Uranus is in the constellation of Pisces shining at magnitude 5.7.|
|Neptune - Having reached opposition last month, remains close to its best viewing in September. Neptune rises at 7:11 p.m. on the 1st and about 5:12 p.m. by month's end. Neptune is in the constellation of Aquarius shining at magnitude 7.8.|
|Ceres - Sets at 8:44 p.m. on the 1st and about 7:22 p.m. by month's end. Ceres is in the constellation of Leo shining at magnitude 8.6.|
Is stationary on the 20th. Pluto sets at 1:48 a.m. on the 1st and about 11:46 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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For more information about Meteor Showers, visit Gary Kronk's Meteor Showers Online web page.
For more information about Comets, visit Gary Kronk's Cometography.com webpage.
(From west to east)
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|Cassini - August 28, 2013
Cassini Data: Saturn Moon May Have Rigid Ice Shell
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 - 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."
A gallery of images can be found online.
For more information on the Dawn mission, visit the Dawn home page.
|MESSENGER - July 22, 2013
Looking Back at Us
"The pair of bright star-like features in the upper panel are not stars at all, but the Earth and Moon! MESSENGER was at a distance of 98 million kilometers (61 million miles) from Earth when this picture was taken. The computer-generated image in the lower left shows how the Earth appeared from Mercury at the time. Much of the Americas, all of Europe and Africa, the Middle East, and much of Asia were visible.
MESSENGER took this image as part of a campaign to search for natural satellites of Mercury. Mercury has no moons that we know of. If any exist, they must be small (less than a few kilometers), or we would have seen them by now. The strategy for the satellite search involves taking multiple images of locations at predetermined distances from Mercury, from 2.5 to 25 times the planet radius. Pictures of these points in space are captured at intervals ranging from seconds to nearly an hour, depending on their distances from Mercury. A moving satellite will appear at different positions in images of the same region of space taken at different times.
The Earth and Moon appear very large in this picture because they are overexposed. When looking for potentially dim satellites, long exposures are required to capture as much light as possible. Consequently, bright objects in the field of view become saturated and appear artificially large. In fact, the Earth and Moon are each less than a pixel in size, and no details on either can be seen. The "tails" pointing downward from the Earth and Moon are artifacts caused by the image saturation. These can be seen clearly in the zoomed image in the center lower panel.
This image was taken on the same day that images with Earth in the scene were acquired by the Cassini spacecraft, as part of a mosaic of the backlit Saturn system (http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/news/waveatsaturn)."
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 - August 28, 2013
NASA Mars Rover Views Eclipse of the Sun by Phobos
"PASADENA, Calif. - Images taken with a telephoto-lens camera on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity catch the larger of Mars' two moons, Phobos, passing directly in front of the sun -- the sharpest images of a solar eclipse ever taken at Mars.Phobos does not fully cover the sun, as seen from the surface of Mars, so the solar eclipse is what's called a ring, or annular, type. A set of three frames from Curiosity's Mast Camera (Mastcam), taken three seconds apart as Phobos eclipsed the sun, is at http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA17356.
The images are the first full-resolution frames downlinked to Earth from an Aug. 17, 2013, series. The series may later provide a movie of the eclipse. Curiosity paused during its drive that day to record the sky-watching images.
"This event occurred near noon at Curiosity's location, which put Phobos at its closest point to the rover, appearing larger against the sun than it would at other times of day," said Mark Lemmon of Texas A&M University, College Station, a co-investigator for use of Curiosity's Mastcam. "This is the closest to a total eclipse of the sun that you can have from Mars."
Observations of the Martian moons, Phobos and Deimos, by Curiosity and by the older, still-active Mars rover Opportunity are helping researchers get more precise knowledge of the moons' orbits. During the Aug. 17 observation, the position of Phobos crossing the sun was a mile or two (two or three kilometers) closer to the center of the sun's position than researchers anticipated."
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) - August 27, 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: Examining Rocks Around Boulder Field - sols 3405-3410, Aug. 22, 2013-Aug. 27, 2013 :
"Opportunity is at the base of 'Solander Point' on the rim of Endeavour Crater. The rover is navigating around a large boulder field examining the geologic contacts in this area.
On Sol 3405 (Aug. 22, 2013), Opportunity backed away from the target 'Platypus' to image it with the color Panoramic Cameras, then moved about 13 feet (4 meters) navigating around the boulder field for surface targets to investigate. Navigation Camera images of the rover tracks were also collected.
On Sol 3407 (Aug. 24, 2013), Opportunity moved 35 feet (10.7) meters further within the boulder field, skirting some large rocks. On the following sol, the rover collected a measurement of atmospheric argon using the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer.
On Sol 3410 (Aug. 27, 2013), Opportunity drove about 118 feet (36 meters) approaching an exciting geologic contact.
As of Sol 3410 (Aug. 27, 2013), the solar array energy production was 373 watt-hours with an atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.646 and a solar array dust factor of 0.525.
Total odometry is 23.77 miles (38.26 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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