Astronomy News for the Month of February 2018


    This news letter is provided as a service by
The International Association for Astronomical Studies
provides this newsletter as a service for interested persons worldwide.

Downloadable version of the newsletter in
PDF Format
(Right click and select "Save target as" to begin download.)
(Always check the PDF link above if the web page is not updated.
I always publish the PDF before I upload the web page.)
PDF updated 1st of every month!

Visit the Home Page of KIØAR


Subscribe to the
IAAS Monthly Astronomy Newsletter

(Email version)
SUBSCRIBE

Subscription notes below.


Donate to the IAAS!
If you shop Amazon.com, sign up or sign in to
smile.amazon.com
and select the
International Association for Astronomical Studies.
0.5% of every purchase will be donated to the group.
Thank you!


Web and email hosting by

TotalChoice Hosting


Locations of Site Visitors
Create your own visitor map!


An Open Invitation

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 W0WYX 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 courtesy of K0JSC and K0GUR. More information on the WB0WDF repeater links and Allstar nodes and Echolinks can be found at k0jsc.com. We are also linked with Allstar nodes in Florida as well, courtesy of KA4EPS. The net meets on Tuesday nights at 7 P.M. Mountain Time (US).

Interested in obtaining your Amateur Radio (Ham) License or your General Radio Operator's License (GROL)? Visit the South Metro VE Team website for more information. The South Metro VE Team provides test sessions on the 1st Saturday of each month at our new Eagle Street Facility, The City of Centennial, 7272 South Eagle Street, Centennial, Colorado 80112-4244 from 9am until 1pm.

The Colorado Astronomy Net is now on Facebook.
Please be sure to "Like" us!


 Excerpts from JPL mission updates are provided as a public service as part
of the JPL Solar System Ambassador/NASA Outreach program.

For special JPL programs and presentations in your area visit the JPL Solar System Ambassador website.
(Click on the logo to link to the JPL SSA homepage.)


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.


"Three planets adorned the sky in June 2016. Mars is the brightest object
left of center, and Saturn lies to its left next to the Milky Way. Jupiter gleams
above the horizon at right. The same three planets return in February."
Alan Dyer
Astronomy Magazine, February 2018, p.36.


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


15 day moon

The Moon

Phases

Apogee/Perigee

Moon/Planet Pairs

For reference: The Full Moon subtends an angle of ~0.5°.

Return to Top


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 February

Venus has returned to the evening sky this month. Mercury will return to the evening sky by month's end. Both will be visible shortly after sunset. Uranus and Neptune are still visible in evening sky as well. The brighter planets, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are visible in the morning sky before dawn. On the 15th, there will be a partial solar eclipse visible for observers in southern South America. The Moon will cover about 35% of the Sun. There is no full Moon this month.

Mercury

Is in >superior conjunctionconstellation of Capricornus into Aquarius this month shining at magnitude -1.4 on the 28th.

Venus

Has returned to the evening sky this month, but observers will have to be quick to spot it earlier in the month. Venus sets at 5:45 p.m. on the 1st and about 6:51 p.m. by month's end. Venus moves from the constellation of Capricornus into Aquarius this month shining at magnitude -3.9 on the 28th.

Earth

N/A.

Mars

Rises at 2:28 a.m. on the 1st and about 2:00 a.m. by month's end. On the morning of the 8th, look for a waning crescent Moon about half-way between Mars and Jupiter. Look to the southeast to spot Mars as it moves from the constellation of Scorpius into Ophiuchus shining at magnitude 1.0.

Jupiter

Rises at 1:26 a.m. on the 1st and about 11:41 p.m. by month's end. Look for Jupiter to the southeast and south in the early morning sky before dawn. Jupiter is in the constellation of Libra shining at magnitude -2.1.

Saturn

Rises at 4:51 a.m. on the 1st and about 3:11 a.m. by month's end. Look for Saturn to the east in the early morning sky, just above the top of the "teapot" asterism of Sagittarius, shining at magnitude 0.6.

Uranus

Sets at 11:17 p.m. on the 1st and about 9:32 p.m. by month's end. By the time the Sun sets, Uranus will be visible towards the southwest through a good pair of binoculars or a small telescope. Uranus is in the constellation of Pisces shining at magnitude 5.9.

Neptune

Sets at 7:47 p.m. on the 1st and about 6:02 p.m. by month's end. Neptune will be a little more difficult to spot this month as it steadily makes its way towards the western horizon. Dark, unhindered skies and a larger telescope will be required to spot Neptune. Neptune is in the constellation of Aquarius shining at magnitude 8.0.

Dwarf Planets

Ceres

Rises at 4:25 p.m. on the 1st and about 2:02 p.m. by month's end. Once the skies darken, Ceres may be spotted to the southeast maybe an hour or two after sunset. Ceres can be spotted just above the apex of the constellation Cancer shining at magnitude 7.0.

Pluto

Has returned to the morning sky this month, rising at 5:51 a.m. on the 1st and about 4:04 a.m. by months end. Pluto still remains very low to the eastern horizon and will be very difficult to spot this month. Pluto is in the constellation of Sagittarius shining at magnitude 14.3.

As always, good luck at spotting Neptune, Ceres and Pluto, a large telescope and dark skies will be needed.

Return to Top


Astronomical Events

Meteor Showers

  • There are a few minor meteor showers this month but none that produce rates much higher than 2-5 meteors per hour at their peaks. However, there's a possibility that observers may see a fireball or a bolide in the early hours before sunrise associated with the Beta Herculids or Delta Serpentids minor meteor showers.

    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.

  • Comets

  • Comet PANSTARRS (C/2016 R2) Comet PANSTARRS (C/2016 R2) is passing just north of the Pleiades in the constellation of Taurus headed towards Perseus. The best time to spot this comet will be during the second and third weeks of the month. A 5-6 inch telescope (or larger) and dark skies will be required to spot this 10th to 11th magnitude fuzzball.

  • 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

  • A partial solar eclipse occurs on the 15th for observers in southern South America and parts of Antarctica.

    Lunar Eclipses

  • No lunar eclipse activity this month.
  • Observational Opportunities

  • Enjoy Uranus and Neptune in the evening skies after sunset.
  • Look for Mars, Jupiter and Saturn in the morning skies before sunrise.
  • Look for Venus and Mercury low in the west towards the end of the month.
  • Try to spot Comet PANSTARRS in Taurus headed to Perseus

  • Asteroids

    (From west to east)
    • Iris is in the constellation of Taurus.
    • Pallas is in the constellation of Eridanus.
    • Massalia is in the constellation of Taurus.
    • Flora is in the constellation of Gemini.
    • Vesta is in the constellation of Ophiuchus.

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

    IOTA Logo

  • Information on various occultations can be found by clicking the IOTA logo.
  • Return to Top


    Subscriber Gallery

    Return to Top


    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

    Return to Top


    Planetary/Lunar Exploration Missions

    (Excerpts from recent JPL mission updates)
    JPL Latest News
    The Latest from Space

    JPL Latest News

    January 23, 2018
    Explorer 1: The Beginning of American Space Science

    Full Article & Images

    "Sixty years ago next week, the hopes of Cold War America soared into the night sky as a rocket lofted skyward above Cape Canaveral, a soon-to-be-famous barrier island off the Florida coast.

    The date was Jan. 31, 1958. NASA had yet to be formed, and the honor of this first flight belonged to the U.S. Army. The rocket's sole payload was a javelin-shaped satellite built by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Explorer 1, as it would soon come to be called, was America's first satellite."

    "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 - January 18, 2018
    Jupiter's Swirling South Pole

    Full Article & Images

    "This image of Jupiter's swirling south polar region was captured by NASA's Juno spacecraft as it neared completion of its tenth close flyby of the gas giant planet.

    The "empty" space above and below Jupiter in this color-enhanced image can trick the mind, causing the viewer to perceive our solar system's largest planet as less colossal than it is. In reality, Jupiter is wide enough to fit 11 Earths across its clouded disk.

    The spacecraft captured this image on Dec. 16, 2017, at 11:07 PST (2:07 p.m. EST) when the spacecraft was about 64,899 miles (104,446 kilometers) from the tops of the clouds of the planet at a latitude of 83.9 degrees south — almost directly over Jupiter's south pole.

    The spatial scale in this image is 43.6 miles/pixel (70.2 kilometers/pixel)."

    NASA's JunoCam website can be visited at:

    https://www.missionjuno.swri.edu/junocam

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

    The public can follow the Juno mission on Facebook and Twitter.

    Cassini - January 17, 2018
    Cassini Finds Saturn Moon Has 'Sea Level' Like Earth

    "Saturn's moon Titan may be nearly a billion miles away from Earth, but a recently published paper based on data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft reveals a new way this distant world and our own are eerily similar. Just as the surface of oceans on Earth lies at an average elevation that we call "sea level," Titan's seas also lie at an average elevation."

    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 - January 04, 2018
    Spend Next New Year's Eve with New Horizons

    Full Article & Images

    "The New Year's celebration to usher in 2019 will include an event like no other - more than four billion miles from Earth.

    In just under a year - shortly after midnight Eastern Time on Jan. 1, 2019 - NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will buzz by the most primitive and most distant object ever explored. New Horizons' encounter with Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69, which orbits a billion miles beyond Pluto, will offer the first close-up up look at such a pristine building block of the solar system - and will be performed in a region of deep space that was practically unknown just a generation ago."

    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 - December 12, 2017
    Bright Areas on Ceres Suggest Geologic Activity

    Full Article & Images

    "If you could fly aboard NASA's Dawn spacecraft, the surface of dwarf planet Ceres would generally look quite dark, but with notable exceptions. These exceptions are the hundreds of bright areas that stand out in images Dawn has returned. Now, scientists have a better sense of how these reflective areas formed and changed over time -- processes indicative of an active, evolving world.

    "The mysterious bright spots on Ceres, which have captivated both the Dawn science team and the public, reveal evidence of Ceres' past subsurface ocean, and indicate that, far from being a dead world, Ceres is surprisingly active. Geological processes created these bright areas and may still be changing the face of Ceres today," said Carol Raymond, deputy principal investigator of the Dawn mission, based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Raymond and colleagues presented the latest results about the bright areas at the American Geophysical Union meeting in New Orleans on Tuesday, Dec. 12."

    A gallery of images can be found online.

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

    MESSENGER

    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.

    (Click Link above for Full Article & Images)

    TOP 10 SCIENCE RESULTS AND TECHNOLOGY INNOVATIONS

    "After more than 10 years in operation, the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft impacted the surface of Mercury on April 30, 2015, at a speed of more than 3.91 kilometers per second (8,750 miles per hour), marking the end of operations for the hugely successful Mercury orbiter. At the MESSENGER Nears End of Operations media and public event, scientists and engineers discussed the mission's accomplishments, providing the top 10 scientific discoveries, as well as the technological innovations that grew out of the mission."

    The MESSENGER app is available for download from iTunes.

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

    Past, Present, Future and Proposed JPL Missions

    Visit JPL's mission pages for current status.

    Return to Top


    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 - December 13, 2017
    MAVEN Sheds Light on Habitability of Distant Planets

    Full Article & Images

    "How long might a rocky, Mars-like planet be habitable if it were orbiting a red dwarf star? It's a complex question but one that MAVEN can help answer.

    "The MAVEN mission tells us that Mars lost substantial amounts of its atmosphere over time, changing the planet's habitability," said David Brain, a MAVEN co-investigator and a professor at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, or LASP, at the University of Colorado Boulder. "We can use Mars, a planet that we know a lot about, as a laboratory for studying rocky planets outside our solar system, which we don't know much about yet.""

    Visit LASP and MAVEN for more information.

    Mars Science Laboratory - Curiosity - January 24, 2018
    Sol 1945-46: Heading back to the main road

    Full Article & Images

    "Curiosity diverted from our primary "Mount Sharp Ascent Route" a couple weeks ago as we continued to investigate the outcrops of bluish-toned rock that are scattered around this region of the Vera Rubin Ridge. Our most recent drive put us near the edge of the Vera Rubin Ridge, overlooking the "clay unit" (the upper portion of this image) that Curiosity will eventually reach, but not yet! We still have work to do in the hematite-rich Vera Rubin Ridge and so we must return to our original path eastward along the ridge and will begin that with a drive on the second sol of today's plan."

    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 360 (requires Kinect)

      Visit the Mars Science Laboratory page.

    Mars Exploration Rover Mission (Spirit and Opportunity) - January 23, 2018

    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: Opportunity Prepares for a Flight Software Update - sols 4971 to 4977, Jan. 17, 2018 - Jan. 23, 2018:

    "Opportunity is continuing her winter exploration of "Perseverance Valley" on the west rim of Endeavour Crater.

    Opportunity is continuing her winter exploration of "Perseverance Valley" on the west rim of Endeavour Crater from a location in the north fork of the local flow channel.

    Color imaging of light toned bedrock and nearby streaked rocks occupied the first few sols. The Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) argon integration was done on Sol 4974 (Jan. 20, 2018). A short 3 foot (1 meter) drive on the next sol positioned the rover at the light toned outcrop and some missing images were retaken.

    On Sol 4977 (Jan. 23, 2018), the robotic arm was used to collect a Microscopic Imager (MI) mosaic of a surface target within the work volume of the arm. The APXS was then placed on that target. Also on that sol, the latest version of the flight software was copied over the older fallback version in preparation for a flight software update, later in the year.

    Additional dust cleaning has raised solar array energy production to 644 watt-hours with an atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.423 and an improved solar array dust factor of 0.839.

    Total odometry is 28.02 miles (45.09 kilometers)."

    Landing sites

    Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page.

    Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - January 23, 2018
    Dust Storms Linked to Gas Escape from Mars Atmosphere

    Full Article & Image

    "Some Mars experts are eager and optimistic for a dust storm this year to grow so grand it darkens skies around the entire Red Planet.

    This biggest type of phenomenon in the environment of modern Mars could be examined as never before possible, using the combination of spacecraft now at Mars.

    A study published this week based on observations by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) during the most recent Martian global dust storm -- in 2007 -- suggests such storms play a role in the ongoing process of gas escaping from the top of Mars' atmosphere. That process long ago transformed wetter, warmer ancient Mars into today's arid, frozen planet."

    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 - October 4, 2017
    Examining Mars' Moon Phobos in a Different Light

    Full Article and Images

    "NASA's longest-lived mission to Mars has gained its first look at the Martian moon Phobos, pursuing a deeper understanding by examining it in infrared wavelengths.

    The Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) camera on NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter observed Phobos on Sept. 29, 2017. Researchers have combined visible-wavelength and infrared data to produce an image color-coded for surface temperatures of this moon, which has been considered for a potential future human-mission outpost."

    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 - January 23, 2018
    NASA's Next Mars Lander Spreads its Solar Wings

    Full Article and Images

    "NASA's next mission to Mars passed a key test Tuesday, extending the solar arrays that will power the InSight spacecraft once it lands on the Red Planet this November.

    The test took place at Lockheed Martin Space just outside of Denver, where InSight was built and has been undergoing testing ahead of its launch. The mission is led by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California."

    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.

    Return to Top


    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

    Return to Top


    Astronomical Lexicon

    Definitions of astronomical terms. Many of the astronomical terms used in this newsletter are defined here.

    Return to Top


    UT Logo

    Read the Universe Today Newsletter by clicking on the logo.

    Return to Top


    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

    Return to Top


    Subscription Information

    Return to Top


    ScienceandNature BarnesandNoble.com HomePage

    Return to Top


    Keep looking UP!
    73 from KIØAR

    Return to Top


    Free Web Counters

    Home of KIØAR
    created by Burness F. Ansell, III,
    Email me
    IAAS - COO, Director of Aerospace Technologies
    JPL Solar System Ambassador, Colorado
    last modified: February 01, 2018

    URL:http://www.ki0ar.com/astro.html