Astronomy News for the Month of June 2017


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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.


Solar Eclipse 2017
August 21, 2017
Links and Information


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


20 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 "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 April

This month the giant planets Jupiter and Saturn dominate the evening and night sky. Jupiter shines brilliantly in the evening sky and Saturn shines all night long as it reaches opposition in June. Catch Mars very soon after sunset early this month before it disappears until September. Catch Mercury very soon before sunrise early this month before it too disappears. Night owls can spot Pluto, Neptune and Uranus in the early morning hours after midnight.

Mercury

Is in superior conjunction with the Sun on the 21st. Look for Mercury in the east about 30 minutes before sunrise during the first half of the month. Mercury rises at 4:38 a.m. on the 1st. Mercury will return to the evening sky after the 21st, but will still be lost in the twilight glow until the last few days of the month. Mercury sets around 9:25 p.m. by month's end. Mercury moves from the constellation of Aries into Gemini this month shining at magnitude -0.4 on the 1st.

Venus

Is at greatest western elongation (46° west of the Sun) on the 3rd. Venus rises at 3:28 a.m. on the 1st and about 2:59 a.m. by month's end. Look for Venus shining brightly in the early morning hours before sunrise. Venus moves from the constellation of Pisces into Taurus shining at magnitude -4.3.

Earth

The Summer solstice occurs at 12:24 a.m. EDT on the 21st.

Mars

Sets at 9:40 p.m. on the 1st and about 9:04 p.m. by month's end. Look for Mars about 30 minutes or so after sunset to the west during the first two weeks of June. After mid-month, Mars is lost in the Sun's twilight glow, returning to the morning sky in September. Mars moves from the constellation of Taurus into Gemini shining at magnitude 1.7 on the 1st.

Jupiter

Is stationary on the 10th. Jupiter sets at 3:01 a.m. on the 1st and about 1:04 a.m. by month's end. By the time the Sun sets, Jupiter is high in the evening sky and will be the first object visible as the skies darken besides the Moon. Follow Jupiter across the skies almost all night long. Jupiter is in the constellation of Virgo shining at magnitude -2.2.

Saturn

Is at opposition on the 15th, rising as the Sun sets. Saturn rises at 9:12 p.m. on the 1st and about 7:04 p.m. by month's end. Saturn also passes closest to Earth during opposition so views of the ringed planet should be quite good as seen through a telescope. Saturn is in the constellation of Ophiuchus shining at magnitude 0.0.

Uranus

Rises at 3:25 a.m. on the 1st and about 1:30 a.m. by month's end. Uranus is best viewed in the early morning hours before sunrise. Uranus passes within a couple of degrees north of Venus during the first few days of June. Uranus is in the constellation of Pisces shining at magnitude 5.9.

Neptune

Rises at 1:44 a.m. on the 1st and about 11:42 p.m. by month's end. Neptune is stationary on the 16th. Neptune is best viewed after midnight in the early morning hours. Neptune is in the constellation of Aquarius shining at magnitude 7.9.

Dwarf Planets

Ceres

Is in conjunction with the Sun on the 5th. Ceres is lost in the evening and morning twilight glow as it passes behind the Sun and is not visible this month. Ceres is in the constellation of Taurus shining at magnitude 8.6.

Pluto

Rises at 10:49 p.m. on the 1st and about 8:49 p.m. by month's end. Pluto is visible in the late evening and early morning skies before sunrise. Pluto is in the constellation of Sagittarius shining at magnitude 14.2.

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 Arietids Meteor Shower - This is the strongest daylight meteor shower of the year. The duration extends from May 22 to July 2, with maximum activity occurring on June 8. The hourly rate is near 60 at maximum.

  • The June Lyrids - This shower is active during June 10 to 21, producing predominantly blue and white meteors at a maximum hourly rate of 8 per hour on June 15. The average magnitude of this shower is near 3, while 32% of the meteors leave trains.

  • The Zeta Perseids - This daylight shower occurs during May 20 to July 5. Maximum occurs on June 13. Radar surveys have revealed the activity of this shower to be near 40 per hour.

  • The June Boötids - This shower is currently active during June 27 to July 5 and possesses a maximum of activity that falls on the 28th... The shower is notable in that its meteors are primarily faint, with an average magnitude near 5; however, bright meteors do occur regularly.

    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

    "A trio of Tempting targets"

  • "Our current comet cornucopia will last only a couple more months, so take advantage of it while you can. Comet Johnson (C/2015 V2) has been brightening for more than a year and should reach its peak in June. This first-time visitor to the inner solar system makes its closest approach to Earth on the 5th, one week before it passes closest to the Sun. And Johnson also remains visible all night. The 6th-magnitude object moves from Boötes into Virgo this month, passing east of magnitude 0.0 Arcturus on June 3 and 4.
    ...

  • Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak also stays out all night. Look for this 9th-magnitude object once the Moon exits the evening sky on the 11th. It's then heading south along the eastern border of Ophiuchus. It skims west of the open star cluster NGC 6633 from June 12-14.

  • Comet PANSTARRS (C/2015 ER61) rounds out our comet trio. It should reach 7th magnitude in this month's morning sky. The best views come in June's first week as it speeds eastward against the backdrop of Pisces." Astronomy Magazine, June 2017, p.42.

  • 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

  • Enjoy Jupiter and Saturn all night long.
  • Look for Venus in the morning skies before sunrise.
  • Try to spot Comets Johnson, 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak and PANSTARRS.
  • Try to see (and hear) some of the meteor activity this month.

  • Asteroids

    (From west to east)
    • Vesta is in the constellation of Cancer.
    • Victoria is in the constellation of Virgo.
    • Hebe reaches opposition on the 16th in the constellation of Ophiuchus.
    • Harmonia reaches opposition on the 23rd in the constellation of Sagittarius.
    • Hygiea reaches opposition on the 29th in the constellation of Sagittarius.
    • Juno is in the constellation of Scutum.
    • Iris is in the constellation of Pisces.

    • 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.
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    Subscriber Gallery

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    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

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    Planetary/Lunar Exploration Missions

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

    JPL Latest News

    Juno - May 25, 2017
    A Whole New Jupiter: First Science Results from NASA's Juno Mission

    Full Article & Images

    "Early science results from NASA's Juno mission to Jupiter portray the largest planet in our solar system as a complex, gigantic, turbulent world, with Earth-sized polar cyclones, plunging storm systems that travel deep into the heart of the gas giant, and a mammoth, lumpy magnetic field that may indicate it was generated closer to the planet's surface than previously thought.

    "We are excited to share these early discoveries, which help us better understand what makes Jupiter so fascinating," said Diane Brown, Juno program executive at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "It was a long trip to get to Jupiter, but these first results already demonstrate it was well worth the journey."

    Juno launched on Aug. 5, 2011, entering Jupiter's orbit on July 4, 2016. The findings from the first data-collection pass, which flew within about 2,600 miles (4,200 kilometers) of Jupiter's swirling cloud tops on Aug. 27, are being published this week in two papers in the journal Science, as well as 44 papers in Geophysical Research Letters."

    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 mission on Facebook and Twitter at:
    http://www.facebook.com/NASAJuno
    http://www.twitter.com/NASAJuno

    Cassini - May 24, 2017
    Cassini Looks on as Solstice Arrives at Saturn

    Full Article & Images

    "NASA's Cassini spacecraft still has a few months to go before it completes its mission in September, but the veteran Saturn explorer reaches a new milestone today. Saturn's solstice -- that is, the longest day of summer in the northern hemisphere and the shortest day of winter in the southern hemisphere -- arrives today for the planet and its moons. The Saturnian solstice occurs about every 15 Earth years as the planet and its entourage slowly orbit the sun, with the north and south hemispheres alternating their roles as the summer and winter poles.

    Reaching the solstice, and observing seasonal changes in the Saturn system along the way, was a primary goal of Cassini's Solstice Mission -- the name of Cassini's second extended mission."

    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 - May 25, 2017
    New Horizons Deploys Global Team for Rare Look at Next Flyby Target

    Full Article & Images

    "On New Year's Day 2019, more than 4 billion miles from home, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will race past a small Kuiper Belt object known as 2014 MU69 - making this rocky remnant of planetary formation the farthest object ever encountered by any spacecraft.

    But over the next six weeks, the New Horizons mission team gets an "MU69" preview of sorts - and a chance to gather some critical encounter-planning information - with a rare look at their target object from Earth.

    On June 3, and then again on July 10 and July 17, MU69 will occult - or block the light from - three different stars, one on each date. To observe the June 3 "stellar occultation," more than 50 team members and collaborators are deploying along projected viewing paths in Argentina and South Africa. They'll fix camera-equipped portable telescopes on the occultation star and watch for changes in its light that can tell them much about MU69 itself."

    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 - May 16, 2017
    Movie Shows Ceres at Opposition from Sun

    Full Article & Images

    "NASA's Dawn spacecraft successfully observed Ceres at opposition on April 29, taking images from a position exactly between the sun and Ceres' surface. Mission specialists had carefully maneuvered Dawn into a special orbit so that the spacecraft could view Occator Crater, which contains the brightest area of Ceres, from this new perspective.

    A new movie shows these opposition images, with contrast enhanced to highlight brightness differences. The bright spots of Occator stand out particularly well on an otherwise relatively bland surface. Dawn took these images from an altitude of about 12,000 miles (20,000 kilometers)." 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.

    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 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 - April 10, 2017
    MAVEN Discovers Metals in Mars' Atmosphere

    Full Article & Images

    "Mars has electrically charged metal atoms (ions) high in its atmosphere, according to new MAVEN results. The metal ions can reveal previously invisible activity in the mysterious electrically charged upper atmosphere (ionosphere) of Mars.

    "MAVEN has made the first direct detection of the permanent presence of metal ions in the ionosphere of a planet other than Earth," said Joseph Grebowsky of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "Because metallic ions have long lifetimes and are transported far from their region of origin by neutral winds and electric fields, they can be used to infer motion in the ionosphere, similar to the way we use a lofted leaf to reveal which way the wind is blowing." Grebowsky is lead author of a paper on this research appearing April 10 in Geophysical Research Letters."

    Visit LASP and MAVEN for more information.

    Mars Science Laboratory - Curiosity - May 04, 2017
    NASA Rover Samples Active Linear Dune on Mars

    Full Article & Images

    "As it drives uphill from a band of rippled sand dunes, NASA's Curiosity Mars rover is toting a fistful of dark sand for onboard analysis that will complete the rover's investigation of those dunes. From early February to early April, the rover examined four sites near a linear dune for comparison with what it found in late 2015 and early 2016 during its investigation of crescent-shaped dunes. This two-phase campaign is the first close-up study of active dunes anywhere other than Earth.

    Among the questions this Martian dune campaign is addressing is how winds shape dunes that are relatively close together, on the same side of the same mountain, into different patterns. Others include whether Martian winds sort grains of sand in ways that affect the distribution of mineral compositions, which would have implications for studies of Martian sandstones."

    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 (requires Kinect)

      Visit the Mars Science Laboratory page.

    Mars Exploration Rover Mission (Spirit and Opportunity) - May 22, 2017

    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: Preparations Continue Before Driving into 'Perseverance Valley' - sols 4733 to 4738, May 17, 2017 - May 22, 2017:

    "Opportunity is at the top of Perseverance Valley on the rim of Endeavour crater.

    The plan before proceeding down the valley is to survey the valley from the top and to perform a walk-about survey above the spillway.

    On Sol 4733 (May 17, 2017), the robotic arm was used to point the Microscopic Imager (MI) up at the sky for some long overdue sky flat calibration images, and in support of the valley surveying objectives a large Navcam panorama was collected. On Sol 4734 (May 18, 2017) the rover performed a 3-point "dogleg" drive of nearly 180 feet (55 meters) to set up for more survey imaging. Opportunity moved again on the next sol about 34 feet (10.5 meters) to position for an even better imaging position. In this location the rover spent the next four sols surveying the region atop the spillway and the valley below with both Pancam and Navcam panoramas. On Sol 4735 (May 19, 2017), an atmospheric argon measurement with the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) was also fit into the rover activities.

    As of Sol 4738 (May 22, 2017), the solar array energy production was 376 watt-hours with an atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.826 and a solar array dust factor of 0.536.

    Total odometry as of Sol 4738: 27.86 miles (44.8 kilometers)."

    Landing sites

    Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page.

    Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - April 21, 2017
    New Look at 2004's Martian Hole-in-One Site

    Full Article & Image

    "A new observation from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) captures the landing platform that the rover Opportunity left behind in Eagle Crater more than 13 years and 27 miles (or 44 kilometers) ago.

    A series of bounces and tumbles after initial touchdown plunked the airbag-cushioned lander into the crater, a mere 72 feet (22 meters) across, on Jan. 25, 2004, Universal Time (Jan. 24, PST).

    The scene includes Eagle Crater and Opportunity's nearby parachute and backshell, from the April 10, 2017, observation by MRO's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera.

    This is the first color view from HiRISE of the Eagle Crater scene. Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter began orbiting Mars more than two years after Opportunity's landing. One of the first images from HiRISE in 2006 showed Opportunity at the rim of a much larger crater, Victoria, nearly 4 miles (about 6 kilometers) south of the landing site. The camera also recorded a monochrome view of Eagle Crater that year.

    Eagle Crater is at the upper right of the new image. The lander platform's job was finished once the rover rolled off it. The parachute and backshell are at the lower left.

    The smattering of small craters on a broad plain is a reminder of the amazement expressed in 2004 about Opportunity achieving a "hole-in-one" landing. When the lander's petals opened and Opportunity sent home its first look at its surroundings, it provided the first-ever close-by view of sedimentary rocks on Mars, in Eagle's rim."

    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 - January 04, 2017
    NASA Mars Odyssey Orbiter Resumes Full Operations

    Full Article and Images

    "MARS ODYSSEY MISSION STATUS REPORT
    UPDATED Jan. 4, 2017, at 2 p.m. PST
    NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft has resumed full service following recovery after entering a safe standby mode on Dec. 26, 2016.

    The orbiter resumed communication relay assistance to Mars rovers on Dec. 30, 2016. Science observations of Mars by instruments on Odyssey resumed on Jan. 3, 2017, with its Thermal Emission Imaging System, and on the next day with its High Energy Neutral Spectrometer and the Neutron Spectrometer."

    Video - What might it look like if you were walking around on Mars?

    See the Mars As Art Gallery

    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 - September 02, 2016
    InSight - Revealing the Heart of Mars
    NASA Approves 2018 Launch of Mars InSight Mission

    "InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) is a NASA Discovery Program mission that will place a single geophysical lander on Mars to study its deep interior.

    NASA is moving forward with a spring 2018 launch of its InSight mission to study the deep interior of Mars, following final approval this week by the agency's Science Mission Directorate."

    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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    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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    FH

    Keep looking UP!
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