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Issue Number 3
March 2010
EAAE Webpage EAAE Official Blog EAAE Monthly Newsletter Archive
Light takes about 8 minutes and 20 seconds to make the journey of about 150 million kilometers from Sun to Earth.


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March 1st: Day 60 of the gregorian calendar.

History: In 1927, George Abell, that catalogued 2712 galactic clusters was born.
In 1967, the russian probe Venera 3 became the first to impact on another planet when it reaches Venus and fails before sending any data back.
In 1980, the Voyager 1 probe confirms the existence of Janus, a moon of Saturn.
In 1982, the russian probe Venera 13 send back the first coloured images of Venus (Venera 14 followed her 4 days later).

In 2002, mission STS-109 was launched with the task of making the maintenance of Hubble Space Telescope.
Observations: Mars and Saturn rise together shortly after dark.

March 2nd: Day 61 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1972, the american probe Pioneer 10 is launched. It should be the first probe to reach planet Jupiter Júpiter in 1973 and the first to leave the Solar System. Pioneer 10 transports a plate drawned to identendify its origin. In 2003, the emissions from Pioneer 10 were heard for the last time.
Observations: Moon still near Saturn but closer to Spica this night.

March 3rd: Day 62 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1959, the probePioneer 4, was lauched to study the Moon Moon with success. It missed the Moon by 59,500 km instead of the expected 32,000 km.
Observations:Use the Big Deaper to find Polaris and observe using a telescope. Can you see Polaris B?

Polaris B can be seen even with a modest telescope and was first noticed by William Herschel in 1780.

March 4th: Day 63 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1835 Giovanni Schiaparelli, director of the Osservatorio de Milano was born. Schiaparelli made the Mars Canali famous.
In 1979, the probe Voyager 1 discovers Jupiter's rings.
In 1999, Earth's flyby of the asteroid 1998 VD35(distance 0.169 UA).
Observations: Today there is a lunar occultation of Nausikaa that is only visible from North Pacific Ocean.
Here is an observational issue for tonight. A question that is frequently made by beginners is “How can I distinguish Ursa Minor and Ursa Major?” The answer for this is that, if you’re seeing only one dipper, it’s probably the Big Dipper in the constellation Ursa Major. This asterism is very familiar to astronomers because it really does look like a dipper.Ursa Minor, which contains the Little Dipper asterism, is much harder to see. because the dipper shape isn’t so obvious and its stars are fainter. North Star is the last star in its handle of the Little Dipper and usually two other stars (Kochab and Pherkad that are the front of the dipper) can be seen even in small cities. See how you might find them tonight here.

March 5th: Day 64 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1512 Gerardus Mercator, a famous cartographer was born.

In 1979 the first gamma ray burst, from magnetares was observed. in the same year, the Voyager probe made its biggest appproach to Jupiter when it approached at 206,700 km from the top of the planet's clouds.
Observations: Lunar Occultation of Victoria that can be seen in western Europe, Asia and Oceania .

March 6th: Day 65 of the gregorian calendar.
Today we celebrate the 1787 birth on this date of Joseph Fraunhofer that can be considered the father of astronomical spectroscopy. While designing the achromatic objective lens for telescopes that is still used today , he saw the spectrum of sunlight as it passed through a thin slit and the dark emission lines. Fraunhofer recognized that they could be used as wavelength standards. He designed and built the very first diffraction grating and is known for giving letters to the main lines in the high resolution spectrum of the Sun.
Observations: Try to find Arcturus the "herald" of Spring.

March 7th: Day 66 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1837 Henry Draper, was born.He was the first astronomer to make pictures of the stellar spectrum estelar. An important catalog of stars is also named after him.

Observations: Moon reaches Last Quarter at 15h42 (TDT). Lunar occultations of Athamantis and Urania almost only visible from Antartica. Lunar occultation of Leto visible from the Continent of Oceania.

March 8th: Day 67 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1977 Uranus rings were discovered during NASA's aerial occultation observations.

In 1999, began the first phase of Mars maping by the probe Mars Global Surveyor.
Observations: Try to see the Coma star cluster (Melotte111) in the constellation of Coma Berenice, an open cluster, estimated to be about 288 light years away that has at least 37 known stars that are 400 million years old. It is the third-closest open cluster to our Earth and sun. The cluster can be seen with naked eye, but vision will be improved using binoculars.

March 9th: Day 68 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1564, David Fabricius was born.,He discovered the first variable star (Mira, a.k.a. Omicron Ceti).
In 1974, flyby of Mars by the russian probe Mars 7.

Tonight point your telescope to the Orion Nebula.

March 10th: Day 69 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1999, closest approach of comet C/1998 M5 (LINEAR) to Earth (1,534 UA).

Observations: Lunar occultation of Patientia partially visible from Portugal and Spain. The lunar occultation of Themis will not be visible from Europe.

March 11th: Day 70 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1811, Urbain Le Verrier, that predicted the existence of Neptune, was born.

In 1897, a meteorite entered in the atmosphere over New Martinsville (West Virgínia) and its debris smahed all over this town with heavy losts.
Observations: Mars is stationary

March 12th: Day 71 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1824, Gustav Kirchhoff was born.

Observations: Moon is at Apogee at a distance of 406011km from Earth at 10h (UT). The lunar occultation of Hera is not visible from Europe.

March 13th: Day 72 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 2000, lonely black holes were discovered drifting along the Galaxy.

Observations: The lunar occultation of Klotho is not visible from Europe.

March 14th: Day 73 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1879, Albert Einstein was born.

In 1969, the Apollo 9 mission returned to Earth after testing the lunar module.
Observations: New Moon at 02h53(TDT). The conjunction of Neptune and Sun occurs at 17h (UT).

March 15th: Day 74 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1713 Nicolas Lacaille was born. His measuremente, confirmed that Earth was not a perfect sphere; he gave the name to 14 constellations of the Southern Hemisphere.

In 1972, NASA anounced its Space Shuttle Program.
Use your telescope to see Saturn's rings.

March 16th: Day 75 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1926, a rocket launched by Robert H. Goddard becomes the first rocket running on liquid fuel and convinces Goddard that one day Man will eventually land on the Moon.

In 1966 the Gemini 8 was launched and makes the first space docking (with Agena).
In 1999, the team of the Lunar Prospector at NASA Ames Research Center anounces that most of the Moon is materail ejected from Earth as result of an impact with an object of nearly the size of Mars.
Observations: The Moon can be seen as a wanning crescent immediately after sunset. The bright object close to the Moon is Venus.

March 17th: Day 76 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1958, Vanguard 1, the first probe working on solar power was launched.
Use your telescope and camera, a webcam or a CCD and make some pictures of the Moon and Venus. You can send them to us and we will post them on the EAAE webpage with due credit.

March 18th: Day 77 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1965, Aleksei Leonov becomes the first man to walk in space after leaving Voskod 2 for about 12 minutes.

In 1980, a Vostok rocket prepared for refueling explodes on the launch platform killing 50 persons.
Observations: Use your telescope and camera, a webcam or a CCD and make some pictures of Saturn. You can send them to us and we will post them on the EAAE webpage with due credit.

March 19th: Day 78 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1915, Pluto was photografed for the first time but it was not identified as a planet.

Observations: Tonight try to find M50 (read "Advanced Astronomical Observations" section).

March 20th: Day 79 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1916, the Theory of General Relativity was published.
In 1964 ESRO (European Space Research Organization) was founded. This agency was the the first step for the birth of ESA (European Space Agency).
The March equinox marks the beginning of Spring on that special moment when the sun crosses celestial equator, on its apparent from south to north. It happens today at 17h32(UT).
The lunar occultation of Eros is visble from almost all Europe but unfortunately during daytime.

March 21st: Day 80 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1901 the first nova of the 20th century was discovered.

It was discovered by the amateur astronomer T. D. Anderson and was the first nova to be studied photometrically.
Observations: Use your telescope and camera, a webcam or a CCD and make some pictures of M50 as sugested in "Advanced Astronomical Observations". You can send them to us and we will post them on the EAAE webpage with due credit.

March 22nd: Day 81 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1799 F.W.A. Argelander was born.
In 1995, the cosmonaut Valeryiv Polyakov returns to Earth after breaking the record of the longest stay on Mir (438 days).

In 1996, the STS-76 missionof Space Shuttle Atlantis was launched carrying aboard Shannon Lucid that became the first woman abord a Space Station.
Observations: First Quarter at 00h42 (TDT). Saturn is in opposition at 00h (UT). The lunar occultation of Hermione is not visible from Europe.

March 23rd: Day 82 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1840 the first picture (daguerreotype) of the Moon was taken.
In 1912 Wenher Von Braun was born.
In 1965, the USA launched the Gemini 3 probe up to orbit carrying Virgil (Gus) Grissom and John W. Young.
In 2001, Space Station Mir, at the age of 15, was taken out of orbit and brought back to Earth.

Observations: Moon at First Quarter at 10h(UT).

March 24th: Day 83 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1893, Walter Baade was born.

Observations: Tonight make some pictures of the Orion constellation.

March 25th: Day 84 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1665 the biggest moon of Saturn, Titan was discovered.

Observations: Palas is stationary at 02h(UT). Mars 5º north from the Moon. Neither the lunar occultation of Eleonora nor the lunar occultation of Angelina is visible from Europe.

March 26th: Day 85 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1958, United States Army launches the Explorer 3.

Observations: Use binoculars to look at the Pleiades. Try to make a picture of them.

March 27th: Day 86 of the gregorian calendar.
History:. In 1969, the probe Mariner 7 was launched.

The lunar occultation of Echo is not visible from Europe.

March 28th: Day 87 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1749 Pierre Laplace was born.

In 1993 supernova remnant in galáxia M81 (Ursa Maior) was discovered by the spanish amateur astronomer Francisco Garcia Diaz.
Observations: Moon is at Perigee at a distance of 361877km from Earth at 05h(UT).

March 29th: Day 88 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1807, Vesta, the brightest asteroid of the Solar System was discovered by Olbers.

In 1974, first flyby of Mercury by the Mariner 10 probe.
Observations: Saturn at 8ºN from the Moon at 18h (UT)

March 30th: Day 89 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 240 BC was recorded for the the first time the observation of Halley's comet at perihelion .
Observations: Full Moon at 02h26 (TDT).

March 31st: Day 90 of the gregorian calendar.
History: In 1781, William Herschel finds Uranus, the first planet to be discovered since the Babilonian civilization.
William Herschel (Fonte: Wikipedia)
Observations: Mars is at aphelion at 00h(UT).


This month the highlight news comes from the Collaborative Projects Working Group that has now opened season for the Eratosthenes Project, one of the gemstones of this Working Goup's activity. Along with th Surise Project and the Moonwalkers Project that is during next month, the Eratosthenes Project is opened to schools but also to all institutions that work with students and that wish to participate on this global measurement of Earth's perimeter.

This issue also talks about the Planck Mission on our section about research.

This month we had many problems with the News Blog due to a massive attack by spammers on our daily news that had been posted since the beggining of the blog. More than 1000 spam messages were posted along the first week of February on our news which created an urge to create procedures to avoid this kind of abusive use of our news blog.

After cleaning all the mess (which was normally done within some minutes after the spam post) and blocking all entrances we are confident that no further attempts of this kind will be possible. Unfortunately, EAAE members will not be able to post their comments directly neither. Nonetheless we will willingly post any comments that anyone wishes to send us by email. Due to all this "useless" huge amount of work we published less news than normal during the first two weeks of the month. You can see all news on the "It happened last Month" section.

Our Monthly Issues about observations are dedicated to Saturn, for begiunners, and to M50, for more advanced observations.

This month's software is "Lunar Occultation Workbench" and our selected online tool is "Solar Storm Watch"

We hope you enjoy the games we present on the Students Corner section, this month with an Astronomy Word Puzzle, an Astronomy Puzzle and, of course, our Astronomy Sudoku. Have fun solving them with your students if you have an Astronomy Club.

We wish you all clear skies during the next month.

The EAAE Webteam



Following the deliberations approved at the EAAE GA held in Madrid in December 2009, Working Group 1 "Collaborative Projects" has began to work in a new project related to the Eratosthenes Experiment.

A workshop about the Moon during the Summer School.

The President of the EAAE Rosa Maria Ros contacted directly with the Director of the Library of Alexandria and made an agreement for a “videoconference” envolving institutions from EAAE member states and the Library of Alexandria. This idea was accepted and contact with Alexandria and Syene will be guaranteed in order to see the Eratosthenes Experiment done on its original places.

WG1 Coordinator Charles-Henri will coordinate the mentioned videoconference and a marathon videoconference with institutions of all EAAE countries (more or less 20 schools, one for each country).

The EAAE webmaster has created a special website for this new project and a database to gather the information sent from schools or other institutions that want to promote this event with young people all around the world.

The project intends to allow schools to reproduce the Eartothenes Experiment locally.

Materials that will help the schools to reproduce the Eratosthenes Experiment locally where created and are available on the website. Calculators to help schools confirm their calculations based on their measurements were created.These calculators can also be used by small children school to make the calculations that the children cannot do because the don't have the mathematical skills to do them.

The Eratosthenes website also has links to several complementary Didactical Materials that can be used by teachers when preparing this project or for many other purposes.

A new EAAE member Antonio Perez Verde will now be the webmaster of this project.

Another EAAE new member, Anna Artigas, will coordinate the project.

The EAAE Eratosthenes Project




Planck Mission was launched with the Herschel Mission on May 14th 2009. After the appropriate operations of both missions the Space Telescopes are now in orbit around the Lagrangian point L2.

The WISE was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, USA.
Credit: ESA
(Click on the image to see a bigger image)

Planck is Europe’s first mission to study the relic radiation from the Big Bang. Ever since the detection of small fluctuations in the temperature of this radiation, announced in late 1992, astronomers have used the fluctuations to understand both the origin of the Universe and the formation of galaxies. The mission is named after the German physicist Max Planck, whose work on the behaviour of radiation won the Nobel Prize in 1918.

The Planck satellite is observing the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB). This is the radiation released into the Universe by the Big Bang itself, about 14 thousand million years ago. Since that time, what was once a searing fireball has cooled to become a background sea of microwaves. Planck has a difficult mission because it has to have a better image  of the Cosmic Microwave Background than WMAP, that already beated the data received by the COBE Mission. 

ACMB as expected to be seen by Planck.
Credit: ESA

On February 14th, Planck completed its first survey of the whole sky. Astronomers in general, but specially cosmologists are having high expectations on the data that shall soon be revealed by the Mission Team.

Planck has been measuring the temperature variations across this microwave background with much better sensitivity, angular resolution and frequency range than any previous satellite. The combination of these factors will give astronomers an unprecedented view of our Universe when it was extremely young: just 380 000 years old.

A trip towards the origin of space and time
Credit: ESA
(Click on the image to see a bigger image)

The nominal Planck mission is for two all sky surveys, with the second survey completed in 6 months from now. However, the satellite is using cryogens sufficiently sparingly that it’s capable of two further all sky surveys, for a total of 4. This will give it greater sensitivity, greater control of systematic effects, and a chance to extend its search for variable and moving, ie. solar system, objects. ESA has approved this extension, so the project will certainly go to 4 surveys.

Planck Mission's Home
Blogging the Plank Mission

Last Month's highlights from EAAE News Blog

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The Lord of the Rings is coming.

In the beginning of March Saturn is starting to appear at about 21h00 which is starting to be an acceptable time for students to make observations. Nonetheless it will become possible to see it earlier during the next months. Saturn will be visible above the Virgo and Corvus constellations as the brightest object of the East side of the sky.

Saturn at 21h30 in the beginning of March (07/03).This image was made using Stellarium.

A good project would be to try and see the retrogradation of Saturn before and after opposition. The opposition of Saturn will occur on March 21st, 2010.

Since Saturn's retrogradation period is of about 120 days, now is a good time to start observations.


Saturn seen by the Cassini mission.

This project should be motivational for students because Saturn is easy to find in the sky and is a wonderful sight even with samll telescopes. If you have a CCD camera, a webcam or a photographic camera it is an easy challenge that will surely mark the beggining of your students adventures on exploring astrophotography.

Have fun with Saturn along this month. If you take nice pictures send them to us that we will publish them with due credit.

Wikipedia - Saturn



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During this month start by finding what is called the Winter Triangle. This asterism is formed by three of the brighter stars of the winter sky. One of the other stars is Procyon that represents a dog, the beloved pet of Helen of Troy. At 0 magnitude, it’s in fair competition with the other trio members: dazzling Sirius and mighty Betelgeuse about whom we have already talked on previous numbers of the newsletter.

The three stars almost draw an equilateral triangle in the southern sky at the begining of the night in most Europe though in very high northern latitudes Sirius might not be seen.

Nebulas and clusters near the Winter Triangle. Image done with Stellarium.
(Click on the image to see a bigger image)

This month we challenge you to picture M50. Open cluster Messier 50 (M50, NGC 2323) is a pretty and considerably bright object located in a rich part of stars and nebulae in constellation Monoceros, near its border to Canis Major. The best way to find it with binoculars is to track along the line that goes from Sirius to Procyon and it will appear at about a little bit more than one third of the path.

Messier 50 Star Cluster
Credit: SEDS
(Click on the image to see a bigger image)


Open cluster M50 is about 3,200 light years away from us. Its angular diameter is of about 15'x20' that considering that distance corresponds to a linear extension of about 20 light-years, the central dense part being only about 10' or 10 light-years in diameter. Its population was estimated as about 200 stars in the main body.

This cluster was discovered by Charles Messier, on April 5, 1772, but many people think that G.D. Cassini had already discovered it in 1711, according to a note in Elements of Astronomy a book written by his son, Jacques Cassini, in 1742.

This is an intermediate level project to consider this month. If you make any pictures of the cluster send them to us and we will publish them with due credit.

Wikipedia - M50



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Lunar Occultation Workbench (LOW) is a software that can be used to predicted and prepare lunar occultations observations.

A screenshot from Lunar Occultation Workbench

The program is freeware and was developed by the Dutch Occultation Association, that promotes observations of celestial occultation phenomena in the Netherlands.

The software was developed to prepare their observations that consist mainly of:

  • occultations of stars and planets by the Moon
  • occultations of stars by asteroids
  • mutual occultations / eclipses of the Jovian
    and Saturnian's moons

The Lunar Occultation Workbench (LOW) version 4.1 (the latest version) can now be used to read and write IOTA2008 format files.
LOW 4.2 will come later this or early next year and it will be able to handle the fantabulous Kaguya data.
LOW 4.1 will automatically warn you when LOW 4.2 has become available for download. LOW 4.1 is freeware.

Its a good software tool for schools that want to make more advanced observations.

Lunar Occultation Workbench webpage






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A Coronal Mass Ejection. Credit: StormWatch

Now you can have the chance to help scientists spot and track solar storms and be involved in the latest solar research. The 'hottest' new Citizen Science project from the "Zooniverse" is Solar Storm Watch. Volunteers can spot storms and track their progress as they hurtle across space towards our planet. Your "clicks" and input will help solar scientists better understand these potentially dangerous storms and help to forecast their arrival time at Earth. "The more people looking at our data, the more discoveries we will make," said Dr. Chris Davis, Project Scientist with the STEREO mission. "We encourage everyone to track these spectacular storms through space. These storms are a potential radiation hazard for spacecraft and astronauts alike and together we hope to provide advanced warning of their arrival at Earth."

The project uses real data from NASA's STEREO spacecraft, a pair of satellites in orbit around the Sun which give scientists a constant eye on the ever-changing solar surface. STEREO's two wide-field instruments, the Heliospheric Imagers provide Solar Stormwatch with its data. Each imager has two cameras helping STEREO stare across the 150 million kilometers from the Earth to the Sun.

All you need is a computer and an interest in finding out more about what the Sun is really like. Solar Storm Watch has made their project very interactive with social media, as you can share your discoveries on the user forum and Flickr, as well as follow the space weather forecast on Twitter.







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Solar System Sudoku is an EAAE transformation of the famous Japanese Sudoku. You have to put on each the nine symbols on each row, each column and each of the nine small nine spaces squares. This means each one of the nine symbols has to appear nine times on the Sudoku puzzle.

Instead of numbers, we use symbols of the nine major celestial objects of the solar system (Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune).



This month's challenge is the puzzle we present bellow.



To confirm and print the solution click here.





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To confirm and print the solution click here.


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Figure out what words the clues represent. Then find the words in the grid. Words can go horizontally, vertically and diagonally in all eight directions.


1) Manned missions to the Moon
2) M42 Constellation
3) Satellite of Pluto
4) Lord of the Rings
5) Name that in greek mythology was the father of
Jupiter (Zeus)
6) Infrared mission to map the entire sky

7) Observation instrument
8) Satellite of Saturn
9) The hottest planet in the Solar System
10) What conditions observation
11) Where you can find water in three physical states
12) Biggest planet of the Solar System

To confirm and print the solution click here.

  M88 - A beautiful spiral galaxy - Credit: Adam Block, Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter, U. Arizona  
  (click on the image to see a bigger version)  

The 88th entry of Charles Messier's catalog of Nebulae and Star Clusters was a spiral nebula without stars. We now know that M88 is a galaxy full of stars, gas, and dust, similar to the Milky Way. M88 is one of the brightest galaxies in the Virgo Galaxy Cluster. It spans over 100,000 light-years is about 50 million light-years away from us. This galaxy has beautiful spiral arms that can be easily seen. In the spiral arms we can see young blue star clusters, a redish star-forming regions, as well as dust lanes. The core is yellower because it is dominated by an older population of stars. Spiral galaxy M88

European Association for Astronomy Education