Astronomy News for the Month of July 2020


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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.


"Jupiter (center)and Saturn (lower left) shine against the backdrop of our galaxy's dusty disk last year. This month, the two giant planets appear even closer together in the sky as they reach opposition within a week of each other." Astronomy Magazine, p. 36, July 2020.
Timothy Corbin/Flickr


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 June

"All seven major planets are on display these short summer nights. Take in Saturn's rings, Jupiter's dynamic atmosphere, and the red deserts of Mars late at night. Stay up for dramatic views of Venus and its phases near a waning crescent Moon and two bright star clusters in Taurus. Binocular views of Uranus and Neptune, plus Mercury's late July predawn show, provide a full course of planetary delights." Astronomy Magazine, July 2020, P. 36.

Mercury

Is stationary on the 12th. Mercury is at greatest western elongation (20°) on the 22nd. Mercury rises at 5:51 a.m. on the 1st and about 4:39 a.m. by month's end. Look for Mercury low to the east about 30 minutes before sunrise during the last two weeks of the month. Mercury is in the constellation of Gemini this month shining at magnitude -0.8 on the 15th.

Venus

Is at greatest brilliancy (magnitude -4.7) on the 10th. Venus rises at 3:36 a.m. on the 1st and about 2:43 a.m. by month's end. Look for Venus in the east before sunrise. Venus is in the constellation of Taurus shining at magnitude -4.7 on the 15th.

Earth

Is at aphelion (94.5 million miles from the Sun) at 8:00 a.m. EDT on the 4th.

Mars

Rises at 12:36 a.m. on the 1st and about 11:14 p.m. by month's end. Look to the south before sunrise to spot Mars. Mars is in the constellation of Pisces shining at magnitude -0.8.

Jupiter




Is at opposition on the 14th, rising as the Sun sets. Jupiter rises at 9:13 p.m. on the 1st and about 6:58 p.m. by month's end. Jupiter is now positioned low to the east soon after sunset and should be one of the first objects to be spotted once the Sun sets. Jupiter is at its best by mid-July. Follow Jupiter across the sky all night long this month. Jupiter is in the constellation of Sagittarius shining at magnitude -2.8.

Saturn

Is at opposition on the 20th, rising as the Sun sets. Saturn rises at 9:34 p.m. on the 1st and around 7:24 p.m. by month's end. As with Jupiter, look for Saturn in the evening sky after sunset. Now is a great time to get your binoculars or telescope out and observe Saturn for most of the night. Saturn is at its best by late July. Saturn moves from the constellation of Capricornus into Sagittarius shining at magnitude 0.1.

Uranus

Rises at 1:58 a.m. on the 1st and around 11:55 p.m. by month's end. Uranus is now rising late enough this month to be spotted to the south before sunrise. Uranus is in the constellation of Aries shining at magnitude 5.8.

Neptune

Rises at 11:57 p.m. on the 1st and about 9:54 p.m. by month's end. Neptune is still best viewed after midnight even though it is now rising earlier in the evening. Look for Neptune to the southwest before sunrise. Neptune is in the constellation of Aquarius shining at magnitude 7.9.

Dwarf Planets

Ceres

Is stationary on the 12th. Ceres rises at 12:30 a.m. on the 1st and around 10:36 p.m. by month's end. Look for Ceres, to the south-southwest before sunrise. Ceres is in the constellation of Aquarius shining at magnitude 8.3.

Pluto

Is at opposition in the 15th. Pluto rises at 9:16 p.m. on the 1st and around 7:12 p.m. by month's end. Pluto is within a half degree of Jupiter and may be visible if skies are dark enough. Pluto is in the constellation of Sagittarius shining at magnitude 14.5.

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.

    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.

    Meteor Rx How-To by Terry Bullett (WØASP)

  • Comets

  • Comet PanSTARRS (C/2017 T2) has dimmed slightly from 9th magnitude to 10th magnitude as it is headed back out to the oort cloud. Comet PanSTARRS is passing out of the constellation of Ursa Major into and through the constellations of Canes Venatici and Coma Berenices. A four inch telescope or larger and nice dark skies will be need to spot this comet.

  • 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 and Saturn in the late evening.
  • Look for Neptune, Mars and Uranus in the late evening and early morning.
  • Look for Comet PanSTARRS in late evening.
  • Look for Venus in the morning before sunrise.
  • for Mercury in the early morning sky.

  • Asteroids

    (From west to east)
    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

    In this section 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

    June 30, 2020
    NASA's ASTER Sees Arizona's Bighorn Fire Burn Scar From Space

    Full Article & Images

    "On the night of June 5, a lightning strike started the Bighorn Fire in the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson, Arizona. Extremely dry vegetation and windy conditions caused the fire to spread quickly. By June 30, the multi-agency incident information system, InciWeb, reported that it had ballooned to more than 114,000 acres and that it was about 45% contained.

    NASA's Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) instrument aboard the Terra satellite imaged some of the burned area on June 29. In this image, vegetation is shown in red and burned areas appear dark gray. It covers an area 20 by 30 miles (33 by 48 kilometers)."

    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 - May 21, 2020
    JUPITER'S RACING STRIPES

    Full Article & Images

    "This enhanced-color image from NASA's Juno spacecraft captures the striking cloud bands of Jupiter's southern latitudes. Jupiter is not only the largest planet in the solar system, it also rotates at the fastest rate, completing a full day in just 10 hours. This rapid spinning creates strong jet streams, separating Jupiter's clouds into bright zones and dark belts that wrap around the planet."

    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 - June 11, 2020
    NASA's New Horizons Conducts the First Interstellar Parallax Experiment

    Full Article & Images

    "For the first time, a spacecraft has sent back pictures of the sky from so far away that some stars appear to be in different positions than we see from Earth.

    More than four billion miles from home and speeding toward interstellar space, NASA's New Horizons has traveled so far that it now has a unique view of the nearest stars. "It's fair to say that New Horizons is looking at an alien sky, unlike what we see from Earth," said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado. "And that has allowed us to do something that had never been accomplished before -- to see the nearest stars visibly displaced on the sky from the positions we see them on Earth."

    On April 22-23, the spacecraft turned its long-range telescopic camera to a pair of the closest stars, Proxima Centauri and Wolf 359, showing just how they appear in different places than we see from Earth. Scientists have long used this "parallax effect" -- how a star appears to shift against its background when seen from different locations -- to measure distances to stars."

    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 - June 30, 2020
    NASA's TESS Delivers New Insights Into an Ultrahot World

    Full Article & Images

    "Measurements from NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) have enabled astronomers to greatly improve their understanding of the bizarre environment of KELT-9 b, one of the hottest planets known.

    "The weirdness factor is high with KELT-9 b," said John Ahlers, an astronomer at Universities Space Research Association in Columbia, Maryland, and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "It's a giant planet in a very close, nearly polar orbit around a rapidly rotating star, and these features complicate our ability to understand the star and its effects on the planet." "

    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 - April 22, 2020
    LASP awarded Earth Venture Mission Libera

    Full Article & Images

    "A new spacecraft proposed by scientists at CU Boulder could soon be NASA's nose in space, sniffing out the environments beyond Earth's solar system that might host planets with thick atmospheres.

    Astrophysicist Kevin France is leading the development of that mission, called the Extreme-ultraviolet Stellar Characterization for Atmospheric Physics and Evolution (ESCAPE). He's hoping it will provide the critical reconnaissance work in humanity's search for life far away from home."

    Visit LASP and MAVEN for more information.

    Mars 2020 - Perseverance - June 17, 2020
    The Launch Is Approaching for NASA's Next Mars Rover, Perseverance

    Full Article & Images

    "NASA's Perseverance Mars rover is just over a month from its July 20 targeted launch date. The rover's astrobiology mission will seek signs of past microscopic life on Mars, explore the geology of the Jezero Crater landing site, and demonstrate key technologies to help prepare for future robotic and human exploration. And the rover will do all that while collecting the first samples of Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust) for return to Earth by a set of future missions."

    Learn more about the upcoming Mars 2020 (Perseverance) mission.

    Mars Science Laboratory - Curiosity - June 15, 2020
    While Stargazing on Mars, NASA's Curiosity Rover Spots Earth and Venus

    Full Article & Images

    "NASA's Curiosity Mars rover occasionally stops to stargaze. Recently, it captured a shot of Earth and Venus in the Red Planet's night sky.

    Curiosity aimed its Mast Camera, or Mastcam, at the heavens about 75 minutes after sunset on June 5, 2020, the 2,784th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. A two-image twilight panorama reveals Earth in one frame and Venus in the other. Both planets appear as mere pinpoints of light, owing to a combination of distance and dust in the air; they would normally look like very bright stars.

    The brief photo session was partly to gauge the twilight brightness: During this time of year on Mars, there's more dust in the air to reflect sunlight, making it particularly bright, said Mastcam co-investigator Mark Lemmon of the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado."

    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 - June 8, 2020
    Three New Views of Mars' Moon Phobos

    Full Article and Images

    "Three new views of the Martian moon Phobos have been captured by NASA's Odyssey orbiter. Taken this past winter and this spring, they capture the moon as it drifts into and out of Mars' shadow.

    The orbiter's infrared camera, the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS), has been used to measure temperature variations across the surface of Phobos that provide insight into the composition and physical properties of the moon. Further study could help settle a debate over whether Phobos, which is about 16 miles (25 kilometers) across, is a captured asteroid or an ancient chunk of Mars that was blasted off the surface by an impact."

    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 - May 5, 2020
    InSight mole making slow progress into Martian surface

    Full Article and Images

    From SPACENEWS...
    "WASHINGTON -- An instrument on NASA's InSight Mars lander that has struggled for more than a year to make its way into the Martian surface is now making steady, but slow progress with the help of the lander's robotic arm.

    The Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package instrument on the InSight lander was to deploy a probe, or "mole," into the surface of the planet, using a hammering mechanism to burrow as deep as five meters below the surface to measure the heat flow from the planet's interior. The probe, though, got stuck shortly after it started burrowing in February 2019, getting no deeper than about 30 centimeters.

    The project has tried several ways to get the mole moving into the surface again. Most recently, spacecraft controllers positioned the scoop on the end of the lander's robotic arm on top of the mole, pushing down on it to help it move into the surface and to prevent it from moving back out, which has happened in the past."

    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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