January 31 – February 6, 2011 / Vol 30, No 5 / Hawai`i Island, USA

Jupiter Rising in Strategic Importance in 2011

2011 promises to be a pivotal year for Jupiter exploration. The most massive planet in our solar system, with dozens of moons, an enormous magnetic field and possibilities of life must surely be the ultimate goal of solar system exploration plans. Alyssa Rhoden of UC Berkeley will initiate this year’s focus on Jupiter with a talk at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, CA on February 2. Dr Rhoden will present her case that obliquity and physical libration contribute to the pattern of tidal stress on Europa. She will also remark on the implication for non-synchronous rotation and polar wander. 2011 will also see the launch of NASA’s newest mission to Jupiter, Juno. Set to launch in August, the spacecraft will carry 9 scientific instruments to verify the existence of Jupiter’s solid core, map the intense magnetic field, measure the amount of water and ammonia in its deep atmosphere and observe the planet’s auroras. Juno will be the 9th spacecraft to visit Jupiter and the 2nd dedicated solely for Jupiter exploration. (Credit: NASA, SETI)

ESA / NASA Workshop in Morocco to Advance Geobiology in Space Exploration

ESA’s Topical Team Geomicrobiology for Space Settlement and Exploration (GESSE) along with NASA have organized a community workshop, ‘Geobiology in Space Exploration’ on February 7-9 at the University of Cadi Ayyad in Marrakech, Morocco. Investigators from numerous fields involved in geobiologic research including mineralogy, atmospheric science, geomicrobiology (investigating the interactions between microbes and minerals) and astrobiology will be on hand to make presentations as well as help devise a strategic document on the range of geobiology applications and possible space missions for ESA.  Several topics include biosignatures and life, the quantitative analysis of the effect of coronal mass ejections on the rate of formation of hydroxyls and water on the Moon’s surface, micro niches in Antarctica as examples for Mars analog habitats and growing water and soil microbes in space.  Eight scientists including Portland University Geology Professor Sherry Cady (B) and German Aerospace Center Institute of Planetary Research scientist Jean-Pierre de Vera (T) will chair over 30 presentations and 15 poster sessions. The event will also feature a field trip on Feb 10-14 to investigate several sites with geomicrobiological  / geological interests. (Credit: NASA, ESA, University of Cadi Ayyad, Portland University)

= All times for terrestrial events in local time unless noted.

= All times for international terrestrial events in local time unless noted.

= All times for space events, and…

= All times for international space / astro events in Hawaii Standard Time unless noted. Add 10 hours to obtain UT (‘Universal Time;’ Greenwich, England).

Weekly Planet Watch – Morning Planets: Venus (SE), Saturn (S) / Evening Planets: Jupiter (SW).


Jan 31 — International Space Station, LEO: E-26 crew members will be busy unloading cargo this week from Progress 41 which delivered 870kg of propellant, 50kg of oxygen, 421kg of water and 1400kg of spare parts and supplies to the station.

Jan 31 — NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), Lunar Orbit: LRO continues to make digital elevation and terrain maps that will be a fundamental reference for future human exploration.

Jan 31 — ESA Mars Express, Red Planet: Scientists continue to analyze imagery from a recent flyby of Mars’ moon Phobos which, for the 1st time, covered a large part of its Southern Hemisphere; data will be used to compose topographic maps used for Russia Phobos-Grunt mission NET 2011, early 2012.

Jan 31 — The National Academies, Washington DC: ‘Planetary Protection Standards for Icy Bodies in the Outer Solar System.’

Jan 31 — The SETI Institute, Rochester Museum and Science Center, Rochester NY: ‘The Scientific Hunt for Extraterrestrial Life,’ Seth Shostak.

Jan 31 — Foothill College, Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Sunnyvale CA: ‘Planets Everywhere: More Than 500 and Counting,’ free public lecture by Andrew Fraknoi.

Jan 31- Feb 10 — The European Organization for Nuclear Research, Geneva, Switzerland: ‘EDIT 2011 School of Excellence: Excellence in Detectors and Instrumentation Technologies.’

Jan 31 — Cassini OTM-276, Saturn Orbit: Spacecraft conducts Orbital Trim Maneuver #276 today.

Jan 31Moon: 7.6° SSW of Saturn; 18:00.

Jan 31Asteroid 1999 CG9: Near-Earth Flyby (0.095 AU).

Continued from . . .

Jan 5 — International Space University, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia: ‘Southern Hemisphere Summer Space Program,’ an intensive, interdisciplinary, live-in program for professionals, graduates and senior graduates with 40 core lectures, workshops and a group research project; through Feb 4.

Jan 26Virginia Tech, University of Colorado, NASA, Poker Flat Research Range, Fairbanks AK: Scientists from Virginia Tech and the University of Colorado make preparations to launch 2 NASA sounding rockets to obtain an electronic telescope image of a far-off galaxy; through Feb 15.

Jan 29The Astronomy School of the Institute for Research in Fundamental Science, Sharif University of Technology, Kish Island, Iran: ‘International Workshop on Extrasolar Planets;’ through Feb 8.

Jan 30Adler Planetarium, Salt Lake City UT: ‘3rd Annual SnowPAC Workshop on Particle Astrophysics, Astronomy & Cosmology,’ event to focus on experimental, observational, computational and theoretical aspects of high energy astrophysics and cosmology; through Feb 5.


Feb 1 — 8th Columbia STS-107 Observation, Nationwide USA: Shuttle crew members David M. Brown, Rick Husband, Laurel Clark, Kalpana Chawla, Michael P. Anderson, William McCool, and Ilan Ramon were tragically killed when the Columbia spacecraft broke apart on its return to Earth on February 1, 2003.

Feb 1Deep Space, Jupiter: Follow-up research into the Jupiter asteroid impact of July 2009 suggests the asteroid had a rock like density of approximately 2.5 grams per cubic centimeter with a diameter around 200 to 500 meters and released energy equivalent to 5 gigatons of TNT, or about 250,000 times more energy than was released by the atomic bomb the USA dropped on Nagasaki, Japan in 1945.

Feb 1Capricornid / Sagittarid Meteors: Daylight radio shower which radiates from constellation Capricorn and Sagittarius.

Feb 1Moon: 3.5° N of Mercury; 07:00.


Feb 2 — The SETI Institute, Mountain View CA: Colloquium Series Lecture: ‘Cracking Under the Stress: Europa’s Orbit, Tides and Fracture Systems,’ Alyssa Rhoden.

Feb 2 — NASA Headquaters, Washington DC: Media briefing to announce Kepler mission’s latest findings about planets outside our solar system at 13:00 EST.

Feb 2Moon: New Moon (Beginning of Lunation 1090), 16:31; 4.5° NNW of Mars; 16:00.


Feb 3 — US Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville AL: ‘Tranquility Base Rendezvous,’ event to feature honorary guest Neil Armstrong and honor George von Tiesenhausen with the Lifetime Achievement Award for Education.

Feb 3 — The World Network, Time Magazine, et al, New York NY: ‘Transcendent Man: The Life and Ideas of Ray Kurzweil.’

Feb 3-5 — Space Center Houston, Houston TX: ‘17th Space Exploration Educators Conference,’ a 3-day of complete submersion into the out-of-this world adventure of space exploration.

Feb 3Moon: 4.8° NNW of Neptune; 18:00.

Feb 3Asteroid (Near Earth Flyby): 2008 CK (0.043 AU); 2006 SU217 (0.085 AU); 1998 HE3 (0.097 AU).


Feb 4 — Adler Planetarium, Chicago IL: ‘Astro-Overnight,’ families will enjoy a one-of-a-kind experience offering exclusive programs which include recycling water, growing food in space and stories of the stars.

Feb 4-9 — American Astronautical Society Rocky Mountain Section, Breckenridge CO: ‘34th Annual AAS Guidance and Control Conference.’

Feb 4Moon: 2.6° N of Antares; 14:00.


Feb 5 — USAF, Launch Minotaur 1 / NROL-66, Vandenberg Air Force Base CA: The Air Force Minotaur 1 rocket set to launch classified satellite payload for the USA National Reconnaissance Office.

Feb 5 — Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena CA: ‘Comets and Asteroids Educators Conference,’ event to feature focus on real-life exploration and new discovery in a way that will excite and inspire students.


Feb 6-10 — The British University in Egypt, Luxor, Egypt: ‘1st International Conference on Gravity and Cosmology.’

Feb 6Moon: 5.9° NNW of Uranus, 10:00; At Apogee (Distance 63.64 Earth-radii), 13:00.

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