Astronomy News for the Month of July 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.


21 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 July

"The solar system's two largest planets, Jupiter and Saturn, put on superb shows every clear summer evening. Each has an orbiting spacecraft returning detailed images from close-up to complement your telescopic views from afar. Meanwhile, Uranus and Neptune stage nice but more-subtle displays after midnight. July nights wrap up with brilliant Venus making a dash across the splendid backdrop of Taurus the Bull." Astronomy Magazine, July 2017, p. 36.

Mercury

Is at greatest eastern elongation (27° east of the Sun) on the 30th. Mercury sets at 9:25 p.m. on the 1st and about 9:15 p.m. by month's end. Look for Mercury in the west about 30 minutes after sunset. Mercury will be best viewed by the end of the month when it is highest above the western horizon. Mercury moves from the constellation of Gemini into Leo this month shining at magnitude -0.2.

Venus

Rises at 2:59 a.m. on the 1st and about 3:02 a.m. by month's end. Look for Venus shining brightly in the early morning hours before sunrise. Venus moves from the constellation of Taurus into Gemini shining at magnitude -4.1.

Earth

Is at aphelion (94.5 million miles from the Sun) on the 3rd.

Mars

Is in conjunction with the Sun on the 26th. Mars sets at 9:04 p.m. on the 1st and about 8:10 p.m. by month's end. Mars is lost in the Sun's twilight glow all month, returning to the morning sky sometime in September. Mars moves from the constellation of Gemini into Cancer.

Jupiter

Sets at 1:04 a.m. on the 1st and about 11:38 p.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. Jupiter is in the constellation of Virgo shining at magnitude -2.0.

Saturn

Rises at 7:04 p.m. on the 1st and about 4:55 p.m. by month's end. Saturn is easily spotted soon after sunset towards the east. As Jupiter is setting, Saturn rides high in the south for best evening viewing. Saturn is in the constellation of Ophiuchus shining at magnitude 0.2.

Uranus

Rises at 1:30 a.m. on the 1st and about 11:25 p.m. by month's end. Uranus is best viewed in the early morning at least an hour before sunrise. Uranus is in the constellation of Pisces shining at magnitude 5.8.

Neptune

Rises at 11:42 p.m. on the 1st and about 9:39 p.m. by month's end. Neptune is best viewed in the late evening and early morning hours. Neptune is in the constellation of Aquarius shining at magnitude 7.8.

Dwarf Planets

Ceres

Rises at 5:38 a.m. on the 1st and about 4:29 a.m. by month's end. Ceres is lost in the morning twilight glow for most of the month, reappearing just a few degrees above the eastern horizon during the last week of July. Ceres moves from the constellation of Taurus into Gemini shining at magnitude 8.8.

Pluto

Is at opposition, rising as the Sun sets, on the 10th. Pluto rises at 8:49 p.m. on the 1st and about 6:44 p.m. by month's end. Pluto is visible all night long, but is best viewed around midnight on dark nights, when it is highest in the sky. 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 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.

  • Comets

  • "Comet hunters typically seek out dark skies and avoid the Moon like the plague. But July provides an exception in Comet Johnson (C/2015 V2), which should glow at 6th or 7th magnitude in the evening sky and show up quite easily through binoculars or a telescope from the suburbs. And the only time you’ll have to steer clear of the Moon is on the 2nd, when our satellite appears as a waxing gibbous less than 5° north of the comet.

    Comet Johnson passed closest to both the Sun and Earth in June, so it should deliver an excellent performance during July. Early in the month, binoculars will show it as a cotton ball some two fields of view to the upper left of 1st-magnitude Spica in Virgo. A 6-inch telescope should reveal a fuzzy ball with both a gas and dust tail flowing to the east. If we're lucky, the gas tail might glow bright enough to show a subtle green color through 10-inch instruments." Astronomy Magazine, July 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 in the evening.
  • Observe Saturn all night long.
  • Look for Venus in the morning skies before sunrise.
  • Try to spot Comets Johnson and PANSTARRS.
  • Try to see some of the meteor activity late in the month.

  • Asteroids

    (From west to east)
    • Hebe is in the constellation of Ophiuchus.
    • Harmonia is in the constellation of Sagittarius.
    • Hygiea is in the constellation of Sagittarius.
    • Juno reaches opposition on the 2nd in the constellation of Scutum.
    • Julia is in the constellation of Pisces just to the north of Neptune.
    • Iris is in the constellation of Pisces just to the north of Uranus.
    • Pallas is in the constellation of Cetus.

    • 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 - June 30, 2017
    NASA's Juno Spacecraft to Fly Over Jupiter's Great Red Spot July 10

    Full Article & Images

    "Just days after celebrating its first anniversary in Jupiter orbit, NASA's Juno spacecraft will fly directly over Jupiter's Great Red Spot, the gas giant's iconic, 10,000-mile-wide (16,000-kilometer-wide) storm. This will be humanity's first up-close and personal view of the gigantic feature -- a storm monitored since 1830 and possibly existing for more than 350 years."

    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 - June 28, 2017
    Launching Cassini Leaves Legacy of Lasting Pride

    Full Article & Images

    "As NASA's Cassini spacecraft spends its last few weeks in orbit around Saturn before making a controlled impact with the planet in what NASA dubbed Cassini's "Grand Finale," some of those who helped launch the mission 20 years ago are thrilled with the success of the massive probe they helped dispatch to one of the solar system's most intriguing worlds."

    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 - June 23, 2017
    NASA's New Horizons Mission Honors Memory of Engineer Lisa Hardaway

    Full Article & Images

    "Team Dedicates 'LEISA' Instrument to Ball Aerospace Program Manager

    NASA's New Horizons mission team honored the life and contributions of aerospace engineer Lisa Hardaway on Thursday by dedicating the spectrometer she helped to develop - which brought the first color close-up images of Pluto to the world - in her memory.

    Hardaway, who died in January at age 50, was the program manager at Ball Aerospace for "Ralph," one of seven instruments flying aboard the New Horizons spacecraft. Ralph contains a powerful infrared spectrometer called LEISA - an acronym for Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array, and pronounced "Lisa" - that the team has now named after Hardaway."

    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 - June 16, 2017
    1,000 Days in Orbit: MAVEN’s Top 10 Discoveries at Mars

    Full Article & Images

    "On June 17, the MAVEN mission will celebrate 1,000 Earth days in orbit around the Red Planet. Since its launch in November 2013 and its orbit insertion in September 2014, MAVEN has been exploring the upper atmosphere of Mars. MAVEN is bringing insight to how the sun stripped Mars of most of its atmosphere, turning a planet once possibly habitable to microbial life into a barren desert world."

    Visit LASP and MAVEN for more information.

    Mars Science Laboratory - Curiosity - June 28, 2017
    Sols 1741-1743: "Cat Sized Island"

    Full Article & Images

    "Last evening (June 27) between 8pm and 9pm PDT, Curiosity drove approximately 34 meters to the east to position herself just north of a large field of ripples on her way closer to ascending the iron oxide-bearing Vera Rubin Ridge. As Curiosity progresses towards the east, scientists back on Earth continue to look for opportunities to both gaze ahead towards interesting locations on the ridge itself, in addition to looking at the local rocks and sediment surrounding the rover. As we approach the lower units of Vera Rubin Ridge, our measurements of the "typical" rock that surrounds the rover will be vital to helping scientists understand how and why the ridge is different than the other units that have been investigated thus far in Gale Crater. Are we going to observe a very sharp transition in the composition and textures of rocks as we cross the threshold between the underlying mudstones of the Murray formation and the lowermost units of Vera Rubin Ridge? Or, alternatively, are we going to see a very subtle transition that might have gone unnoticed if not for the methodical measurements made upon approaching the ridge? Only time will tell, but we are making sure that we have the information necessary to definitively understand the nature of this transition."

    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) - June 27, 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: Opportunity Continuing Science Campaign at 'Perseverance Valley' - sols 4767 - 4773, June 21, 2017 - June 27, 2017:

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

    The rover is completing the remaining science as part of a walkabout campaign above Perseverance Valley before the solar conjunction moratorium in July.

    Although there are new considerations regarding steering (no use of the front steering actuators), Opportunity is continuing to drive. Solar conjunction is when the Sun comes between Earth and Mars, which occurs about once every 26 months. During this time, there will be diminished communications to Opportunity. More on solar conjunction here: https://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/allaboutmars/nightsky/solar-conjunction/

    On Sol 4767 (June 21, 2017), the rover headed southwest at just over 46 feet (14 meters). And as is typical, Navigation Camera (Navcam) and Panoramic Camera (Pancam) were collected at the end of the drive. On Sol 4769 (June 23, 2017), Opportunity drove again towards the northeast just over 33 feet (10 meters). These drives have been employing "tank steering" that does not require the use of the steering actuators, instead differentially runs the wheels on either side of the rover. On Sol 4772 (June 26, 2017), Opportunity drove just about 26 feet (8 meters), but this time used the rear steering actuators to perform a gentle arc and finished the drive with a turn-in-place that toes-in both rear wheels. On Sol 4773 (June 27, 2017), the test of the right-front steering actuator was tried, after more than 12 years of inactivity. No motion was observed, although another test is planned.

    As of Sol 4773 (June 27, 2017), the solar array energy production was 336 watt-hours with an atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.771 and a solar array dust factor of 0.535.

    Total odometry is 27.90 miles (44.90 kilometers)."

    Landing sites

    Visit the Mars Exploration Rover page.

    Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - June 20, 2017
    NASA Mars Orbiter Views Rover Climbing Mount Sharp

    Full Article & Image

    "Using the most powerful telescope ever sent to Mars, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter caught a view of the Curiosity rover this month amid rocky mountainside terrain.

    The car-size rover, climbing up lower Mount Sharp toward its next destination, appears as a blue dab against a background of tan rocks and dark sand in the enhanced-color image from the orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera. The exaggerated color, showing differences in Mars surface materials, makes Curiosity appear bluer than it really looks.

    The image was taken on June 5, 2017, two months before the fifth anniversary of Curiosity's landing near Mount Sharp on Aug. 5 PDT (Aug. 6, 2017, EDT and Universal Time)."

    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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    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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    FH

    Keep looking UP!
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