Astronomy News for the Month of February 2020


    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!
Shop Smile.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 WØWYX 146.94 MHz and 449.825 MHz repeaters.
Due to hardware issues, links with the Allstar node, Echolink and the Cripple Creek repeater are down until further notice.
The net meets on Tuesday nights at 7 P.M. Mountain Time (US).

Obtain 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 at 9am.

The Colorado Astronomy Net and the IAAS are 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.


"Mercury's surface looked stunning to the MESSENGER spacecraft, though it appears unremarkable through amateur telescopes."
NASA/JHUAPL/CIW


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


05 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 "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 January

"The solar system's two inner planets, Mercury and Venus, light up the early evening sky during February. These naked-eye jewels make a sharp contrast with the Sun's outermost planets, Uranus and Neptune, which occupy the same neighborhood but show up only with optical aid. Meanwhile, the three midrange worlds -- Mars, Jupiter and Saturn -- add luster to the predawn sky." Astronomy Magazine, February 2020, P. 36.

Mercury

Is at greatest eastern elongation (18°) on the 10th. Mercury is stationary on the 16th. Mercury is in inferior conjunction on the 25th. Mercury sets at 6:32 p.m. on the 1st and about 5:03 p.m. by month's end. Look for Mercury low to the west-southwest soon after sunset. Mercury is in the constellation of Aquarius this month shining at magnitude 0.2 on the 15th.

Venus

Sets at 8:40 p.m. on the 1st and about 9:33 p.m. by month's end. Look for Venus soon after sunset to the southwest. Venus moves from the constellation of Aquarius into Pisces shining at magnitude -4.2 on the 15th.

Earth N/A.
Mars

Rises at 3:49 a.m. on the 1st and about 3:26 a.m. by month's end. Look to the southeast about an hour before sunrise to spot Mars. On the evening of the 17th, Mars passes between the Lagoon Nebula (M8) and the Trifid Nebula (M20). On the morning of the 18th, the Moon occults Mars for observers in the western two-thirds of North America. Mars moves from the constellation of Ophiuchus into Sagittarius shining at magnitude 1.3.

Jupiter

Rises at 5:30 a.m. on the 1st and about 4:03 a.m. by month's end. Look to the southeast to spot Jupiter trailing Mars by about an hour to 30 minutes, about an hour or so before sunrise. Jupiter is in the constellation of Sagittarius shining at magnitude -1.9.

Saturn

Rises at 6:14 a.m. on the 1st and around 4:33 a.m. by month's end. Saturn trails Jupiter by about 40 minutes all month long and can be spotted early in the morning before sunrise to the southeast. Saturn is in the constellation of Sagittarius shining at magnitude 0.6.

Uranus

Sets at 12:02 a.m. on the 1st and about 10:05 p.m. by month's end. By the time the Sun sets and the skies darken, Uranus is high in the southwest and can be seen through a good pair of binoculars. Uranus is in the constellation of Aries shining at magnitude 5.8.

Neptune

Sets at 8:09 p.m. on the 1st and about 6:57 p.m. by month's end. Look for Neptune to the west-southwest early in the evening. Use Venus and Mercury as guides to find Neptune as Neptune is in between the inner planets along this line (ecliptic). Neptune is in the constellation of Aquarius shining at magnitude 8.0.

Dwarf Planets

Ceres

Rises at 7:04 a.m. on the 1st and around 5:48 a.m. by month's end. Even though Ceres has returned to the morning sky it will remain lost in the morning twilight glow of sunrise. Ceres is in the constellation of Sagittarius shining at magnitude 9.0.

Pluto

Rises at 6:14 a.m. on the 1st and around 4:23 a.m. by month's end. Even though Pluto has returned to the morning sky it will remain lost in the morning twilight glow of sunrise. Pluto is in the constellation of Sagittarius shining at magnitude 14.4.

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. 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.

  • Comets

  • Comet PANSTARRS (C/2017 T2) should glow around 8th or 9th magnitude this month as it passes through the constellation of Cassiopeia. An 8-inch telescope should be able to pick out this dim object from the suburbs. The best time to observe the comet will be between the 11th and 26th, when the Moon will not interfere. Since Cassiopeia is a circumpolar constellation, Comet PANSTARRS is visible to northern hemisphere observers almost all night long.

  • 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 Mercury Venus in the early evening sky soon after sunset.
  • Follow Neptune and Uranus in the evening as well.
  • Look for Mars, Jupiter and Saturn in the early morning before sunrise.

  • Asteroids

    (From west to east)
    • Vesta is in the constellation of Aries, still near the tail of Cetus.
    • Astraea is in the constellation of Cancer.
    • Euterpe is in the constellation of Virgo.

    • 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.

  • On the morning of the 18th, the Moon occults Mars for observers in the western two-thirds of North America.
  • 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 28, 2020
    Voyager 2 Engineers Working to Restore Normal Operations

    Full Article & Images

    "Engineers for NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft are working to return the mission to normal operating conditions after one of the spacecraft's autonomous fault protection routines was triggered. Multiple fault protection routines were programmed into both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 in order to allow the spacecraft to automatically take actions to protect themselves if potentially harmful circumstances arise. At NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, engineers are still communicating with the spacecraft and receiving telemetry."

    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 24, 2020
    DEEP MOTION

    Full Article & Images

    "During its 24th close flyby of Jupiter, NASA's Juno spacecraft captured this view of a chaotic, stormy area of the planet's northern hemisphere known as a folded filamentary region. Jupiter has no solid surface in the same way Earth does. Data collected by Juno indicate that some of the giant planet's winds run deeper and last longer than similar atmospheric processes on Earth."

    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 - January 2, 2020
    Looking Back: A New Horizons New Year's to Remember

    Full Article & Images

    "Safe to say, 2020 came in more quietly for many members of the New Horizons mission team than did 2019.

    A year ago, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft flew past the Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69 (now known as Arrokoth) in the early hours of New Year's Day, ushering in an era of exploration of the enigmatic Kuiper Belt, a region of primordial objects that holds keys to understanding the origins of the solar system. That flyby was both the first ever close-up exploration of a Kuiper Belt object and the most distant exploration of any object in space -- more than a billion miles beyond Pluto, which New Horizons explored in 2015."

    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 - January 24, 2020
    How Earth Climate Models Help Scientists Picture Life on Unimaginable Worlds

    Full Article & Images

    "In a generic brick building on the northwestern edge of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center campus in Greenbelt, Maryland, thousands of computers packed in racks the size of vending machines hum in a deafening chorus of data crunching. Day and night, they spit out 7 quadrillion calculations per second. These machines collectively are known as NASA's Discover supercomputer and they are tasked with running sophisticated climate models to predict Earth's future climate.

    But now, they're also sussing out something much farther away: whether any of the more than 4,000 curiously weird planets beyond our solar system discovered in the past two decades could support life."

    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.

    Return to Top


    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 - December 12, 2019
    Brilliant Martian aurora sheds light on Mars' changing climate

    Full Article & Images

    "A type of Martian aurora first identified by NASA's MAVEN spacecraft in 2016 is actually the most common form of aurora occurring on the Red Planet, according to new results from the mission. The aurora is known as a proton aurora and can help scientists track water loss from Mars' atmosphere."

    Visit LASP and MAVEN for more information.

    Mars Science Laboratory - Curiosity - December 10, 2019
    Two Rovers to Roll on Mars Again: Curiosity and Mars 2020

    Full Article & Images

    "Curiosity won't be NASA's only active Mars rover for much longer. Next summer, Mars 2020 will be headed for the Red Planet. While the newest rover borrows from Curiosity's design, they aren't twins: Built and managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, each has its own role in the ongoing exploration of Mars and the search for ancient life. Here's a closer look at what sets the siblings apart."

    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 - December 10, 2019
    NASA's Treasure Map for Water Ice on Mars

    Full Article & Image

    "NASA has big plans for returning astronauts to the Moon in 2024, a stepping stone on the path to sending humans to Mars. But where should the first people on the Red Planet land?

    A new paper published in Geophysical Research Letters will help by providing a map of water ice believed to be as little as an inch (2.5 centimeters) below the surface."

    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 - August 23, 2019
    What's Mars Solar Conjunction, and Why Does It Matter?

    Full Article and Images

    "The daily chatter between antennas here on Earth and those on NASA spacecraft at Mars is about to get much quieter for a few weeks.

    That's because Mars and Earth will be on opposite sides of the Sun, a period known as Mars solar conjunction. The Sun expels hot, ionized gas from its corona, which extends far into space. During solar conjunction, this gas can interfere with radio signals when engineers try to communicate with spacecraft at Mars, corrupting commands and resulting in unexpected behavior from our deep space explorers."

    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 - November 6, 2019
    Common Questions about InSight's 'Mole'

    Full Article and Images

    "Q: Why can't you pick up the 'mole' and move it to another spot?

    A: The mole is part of the instrument called the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package, or HP3, and was designed to be housed within HP3's support structure. The support structure of HP3 was outfitted with a knob, or "grapple point," that the robotic arm can grasp in order to move it from the lander's deck onto the Martian surface. Designed to be housed within the support structure, the mole itself has no grapple point and was not intended to be grasped or moved.

    Even if the mole could be moved, relocating it would be an unlikely solution. The team is confident that the probe has been unable to dig because the soil doesn't provide enough friction. Anywhere you move the mole near the lander would likely pose the same problem. The strategy of "pinning" -- pressing the robotic arm's scoop against the side of the mole -- compensates for that lack of friction and helped the mole progress downward in early October."

    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.

    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


    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, 2020

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