March 3: A Waning Gibbous Moon (18.23 days old) is just 4 degrees SE of Spica at 11:30pm in east.
March 7: The Moon will be just 1 degree from Antares at 6:00am.
March 7: Last Quarter Moon.
March 13-14: Messier Marathon. Locating all the 110 Messier objects from the evening of 14th to the morning of 14th March 2010.
March 14: Mercury Superior Conjunction.
March 16: New Moon.
March 17: A very thin Crescent Moon stands about 6.3 degrees N-NW from bright Venus. The pair will be very low in west just after sunset.
March 20: Equinox.
March 20: A Waxing Crescent moon stands 5 degrees West of The Pleiades Cluster (M45) just after evening.
March 22: Saturn opposition. (Dist. 8.5 A.U., Angular Size 20 Arc Sec., Mag. 0.53). On the night of 22nd an observer according to the Indian Standard time will see Titan very close to the Saturn’s North Pole at 9:20pm.
March 23: First Quarter Moon.
March 25: Moon and Mars are 5 degrees apart at 9:00pm.
March 26: Pluto Western Quadrature.
March 27: Moon and Regulus are 5 degrees apart.


VENUS: Very low in west after sunset. Shining at magnitude -3.9, the planet will be just 4’09” from the star 20 Piscium (mag. 5.46) on March 4th. Venus will be paired with the moon on the evening of 17th. On 31st March, Venus will be paired with Mercury.
URANUS: Uranus will remain very low in west. The planet will be unable to observe during the month.
MARS: Mars now shines at magnitude -0.6 at the month’s beginning will remain in Cancer. Mars is well placed in the sky after sunset during March. The magnitude will drop down to 0.15 by month’s end.
SATURN: Saturn will rise around 8:20pm during month’s beginning. The ringed world will reach near opposition on March 22nd. The event of Moon Titan’s close passing to the planet’s North and South poles can be observed during this month. Here are the dates of Titan’s close passing according to Indian Standard Time.
· March 7 at 2:41am. North Pole
· March 14 at 10:35pm. South Pole
· March 22 at 11:31pm. North Pole
· March 30 at 8:25pm. South Pole
NEPTUNE: Neptune is very low in the eastern sky in the constellation Capricornus just before sunrise. It will move to Aquarius on March 24th.
MERCURY: Mercury is on Superior Conjunction on March 14th. Mercury will be paired with Venus on March 31st.
JUPITER: Jupiter will reappear in the morning sky on March 18th. Jupiter will be only 16’ from the Phi Aquarii star (mag. 4.21) on March 31st.


"TIPS FOR OBSERVING NIGHT SKY" - Public Lecture @ Trivandrum Planetarium

As part of its monthly public lecture series and the National Science day celebrations, Amateur astronomers Organization is conducting an invited public lecture on astronomy in collaboration with Kerala State Science and Technology Museum (KSSTM). Shri. R.Ramachandran (Member, British astronomy association) will be handling the session on “Tips for observing night sky” on 25th February ,thursday 4pm, at KSSTM Seminar hall, PMG, Thiruvananthapuram. The session will consist of a 1 hour lecture and an interactive session.

Everone is cordially invited.AASTRO Memberships can be obtained from the venue.Please be inside the hall before 4 PM.

Fore More details,Please do contact :
D S Vaishakhan Thampi , Ph :

Alappuzha to host a mega star party event on 28th

[caption id="attachment_444" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="AASTRO Alleppy District Chapter will be launched on feb 28th at Alleppy Beach"][/caption]

Alleppy,Kerala : AASTRO Alappuzha chapter formed here will have its inaugural programme - a mega sky watching event on Feb 28th,Sunday at Alappuzha Beach on the occasion of National Science day.AASTRO President prof.k.Pappootty will launch the district fraction officially.Celebrated amateur astronomers and astronomy enthusiasts from all over the district will be present.Planet observing through telescopes,astronomy exhibition,sky watching and allied activities are arranged for the occasion.

Earlier Alleppy District Chapter had its formation meet at Govt Girls High School,Alleppy on 20th February.Around 35 people gathered for the programme and discussed the action plan.Elected Office Bearers are Dr.T.Pradip (Chairman),Shri.P.Balachandran,Shri A J C Rao (Vice Chairman),Shri .N.Sanu ( Convener,District point of Contact),Shri K B Ajayakumar,Shri N S Santhosh (Joint convener)

A Short History of Life on Mars

The idea of “Men from Mars” has been with us for more than a century now, thanks to writers like H.G. Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs. And movies like “Mars Attacks” and “War of the Worlds” are good fun. But what’s the real story of the search for life on Mars?

In the 17th and 18th centuries, early telescopic astronomers glimpsed polar caps– much like Earth’s– that grew and shrank with the Martian seasons. The Martian day turned out to be about the same length as Earth’s. The axial tilt was similar to Earth, too, which meant Mars has seasons much as we do. And those strange dark surface markings… were they water? Or vegetation?

Then in the mid-1800’s, the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli claimed to see long, thin lines on the surface of Mars. He called them canals, and he mapped them meticulously.

American astronomer Percival Lowell saw the canals too and loudly claimed they were irrigation structures built by an advanced Martian civilization. Inspired by Lowell’s claim, H.G. Wells wrote “War of the Worlds”, which has been re-purposed into radio events and movies over the decades. The possibility of “Men from Mars” stoked the imagination of science fiction writers and readers through the first half of the 20th century.

But as telescopes improved, few other astronomers could see the canals which were– correctly– dismissed as an optical illusion. Some denounced Lowell as a crank. And the existence of life on Mars remained tantalizing, but unproven.

Then, in 1965, space probes were dispatched to Mars to get a better view.In 1965, the Mariner 4 space probe flew past Mars and snapped 22 black-and-white images of a tiny part of the Martian surface. The images showed craters– big ones– which suggested Mars was more like our moon than the Earth. So no Martian forests, or canals, or cities. The New York Times wrote a feature article declaring Mars “a dead world”. Later, Mariners 6 and 7 showed more craters, and many planetary scientists gave up hope of finding life on Mars.

But one scientist thought this conclusion was premature. Carl Sagan, along with a few colleagues, suggested the coverage and resolution of the early Mariner images were too poor to confirm the absence of life.
Five years later, NASA landed the two Viking probes on the surface of Mars. They sent back thousands of pictures of a dry, rusty, rocky surface. And they grabbed samples of the Martian soil and conducted on-site chemistry experiments to look for the telltale signs of life.

[caption id="attachment_439" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Carl Sagan with a mock-up of a Viking Lander"][/caption]

The results?

At first, they looked promising. But after a little thought, most scientists concluded there was no definitive evidence for life on the surface of Mars.

Sadly, other surface probes since Viking, right up to the current Phoenix Lander, have found no evidence for life. No palm trees or hubcaps, no bacteria or organic molecules. More missions are planned in the coming years, including the European ExoMars mission which will dig two meters into the surface to look for signatures of life.

One more strange thing…

In 1984, a meteorite was found in Antarctica. Scientists were certain the meteorite came from Mars. It was likely knocked of by a volcanic eruption or asteroid impact, and its chemical composition was the same as the surface of Mars. In 1996, a group of scientists suggested they found fossilized evidence of bacteria in this Martian meteorite. But these results have been in dispute on and off ever since; no strong conclusions one way or the other have been declared. Though late last year, the same scientists concluded once again that this meteorite contains evidence of life on Mars.

So no one’s found clear-cut evidence of life on Mars, but we’ve only examined a tiny part of the surface. Upcoming missions may yet lead to the most startling scientific conclusion ever made… that life exists somewhere other than Earth.

Stay tuned…


Nicolas Copernicus,founder of the modern astronomy.

[caption id="attachment_428" align="alignleft" width="200" caption="Nicolas Copernicus (1473-1543) , founder of modern astronomy. "][/caption]

Nicolaus Copernicus (19 February 1473 – 24 May 1543) was the first astronomer to formulate a comprehensive heliocentric cosmology, which displaced the Earth from the center of the universe.Nicolaus Copernicus is the Latin version of the famous astronomer's name which he chose later in his life. The original form of his name was" Mikolaj Kopernik" or "Nicolaus Koppernigk".

Copernicus is said to be the founder of modern astronomy. He was born in Poland,1 and eventually was sent off to Cracow University, there to study mathematics and optics; at Bologna, canon law. Returning from his studies in Italy, Copernicus, through the influence of his uncle, was appointed as a canon in the cathedral of Frauenburg where he spent a sheltered and academic life for the rest of his days. Because of his clerical position, Copernicus moved in the highest circles of power; but a student he remained. For relaxation Copernicus painted and translated Greek poetry into Latin. His interest in astronomy gradually grew to be one in which he had a primary interest. His investigations were carried on quietly and alone, without help or consultation. He made his celestial observations from a turret situated on the protective wall around the cathedral, observations were made "bare eyeball," so to speak, as a hundred more years were to pass before the invention of the telescope. In 1530, Copernicus completed and gave to the world his great work De Revolutionibus, which asserted that the earth rotated on its axis once daily and traveled around the sun once yearly: a fantastic concept for the times. Up to the time of Copernicus the thinkers of the western world believed in the Ptolemiac theory that the universe was a closed space bounded by a spherical envelope beyond which there was nothing. Claudius Ptolemy, an Egyptian living in Alexandria, at about 150 A.D., gathered and organized the thoughts of the earlier thinkers. (It is to be noted that one of the ancient Greek astronomers, Aristarchus, did have ideas similar to those more fully developed by Copernicus but they were rejected in favour of the geocentric or earth-centered scheme as was espoused by Aristotle.) Ptolemy's findings were that the earth was a fixed, inert, immovable mass, located at the center of the universe, and all celestial bodies, including the sun and the fixed stars, revolved around it. It was a theory that appealed to human nature. It fit with the casual observations that a person might want to make in the field; and second, it fed man's ego.

Copernicus was in no hurry to publish his theory, though parts of his work were circulated among a few of the astronomers that were giving the matter some thought; indeed, Copernicus' work might not have ever reached the printing press if it had not been for a young man who sought out the master in 1539. George Rheticus was a 25 year old German mathematics professor who was attracted to the 66 year old cleric, having read one of his papers. Intending to spend a few weeks with Copernicus, Rheticus ended up staying as a house guest for two years, so fascinated was he with Copernicus and his theories. Now, up to this time, Copernicus was reluctant to publish, -- not so much that he was concerned with what the church might say about his novel theory (De Revolutionibus was placed on the Index in 1616 and only removed in 1835), but rather because he was a perfectionist and he never thought, even after working on it for thirty years, that his complete work was ready, -- there were, as far as Copernicus was concerned, observations to be checked and rechecked.

(Interestingly, Copernicus' original manuscript, lost to the world for 300 years, was located in Prague in the middle of the 19th century; it shows Copernicus' pen was, it would appear, continually in motion with revision after revision; all in Latin as was the vogue for scholarly writings in those days.)

Copernicus died in 1543 and was never to know what a stir his work had caused. It went against the philosophical and religious beliefs that had been held during the medieval times. Man, it was believed (and still believed by some) was made by God in His image, man was the next thing to God, and, as such, superior, especially in his best part, his soul, to all creatures, indeed this part was not even part of the natural world (a philosophy which has proved disastrous to the earth's environment as any casual observer of the 20th century might confirm by simply looking about). Copernicus' theories might well lead men to think that they are simply part of nature and not superior to it and that ran counter to the theories of the politically powerful churchmen of the time.

Two other Italian scientists of the time, Galileo and Bruno, embraced the Copernican theory unreservedly and as a result suffered much personal injury at the hands of the powerful church inquisitors. Giordano Bruno had the audacity to even go beyond Copernicus, and, dared to suggest, that space was boundless and that the sun was and its planets were but one of any number of similar systems: Why! -- there even might be other inhabited worlds with rational beings equal or possibly superior to ourselves. For such blasphemy, Bruno was tried before the Inquisition, condemned and burned at the stake in 1600. Galileo was brought forward in 1633, and, there, in front of his "betters," he was, under the threat of torture and death, forced to his knees to renounce all belief in Copernican theories, and was thereafter sentenced to imprisonment for the remainder of his days.

The most important aspect of Copernicus' work is that it forever changed the place of man in the cosmos; no longer could man legitimately think his significance greater than his fellow creatures; with Copernicus' work, man could now take his place among that which exists all about him, and not of necessity take that premier position which had been assigned immodestly to him by the theologians.

Giordano Bruno -Burned alive For His Beliefs of The Universe

Four centuries ago, on February 16, 1600, the Roman Catholic Church executed Giordano Bruno, Italian philosopher and scientist, for the crime of heresy. He was taken from his cell in the early hours of the morning to the Piazza dei Fiori in Rome and burnt alive at the stake. To the last, the Church authorities were fearful of the ideas of a man who was known throughout Europe as a bold and brilliant thinker. In a peculiar twist to the gruesome affair, the executioners were ordered to tie his tongue so that he would be unable to address those gathered.

Throughout his life Bruno championed the Copernican system of astronomy which placed the sun, not the Earth, at the centre of the solar system. He opposed the stultifying authority of the Church and refused to recant his philosophical beliefs throughout his eight years of imprisonment by the Venetian and Roman Inquisitions. His life stands as a testimony to the drive for knowledge and truth that marked the astonishing period of history known as the Renaissance—from which so much in modern art, thought and science derives.

In 1992, after 12 years of deliberations, the Roman Catholic Church grudgingly admitted that Galileo Galilei had been right in supporting the theories of Copernicus. The Holy Inquisition had forced an aged Galileo to recant his ideas under threat of torture in 1633. But no such admission has been made in the case of Bruno. His writings are still on the Vatican's list of forbidden texts.

The Church is currently considering a new batch of apologies. A theological commission headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the modern successor of the Inquisition, has completed an inquiry entitled "The Church and the Faults of the Past: Memory in the Service of Reconciliation", which proposes making an apology for "past errors". The results have been handed to Pope John Paul II, who is due to make a statement on March 12. The execution of Bruno is one of the church's crimes being considered but it is unlikely that major concessions will be made in his case. A number of hard-line Catholic figures have opposed the investigation from the outset, saying that excessive penitence and self-questioning could undermine faith in the Church and its institutions.

The current attitude of the Roman Catholic Church to Bruno is defined by a two-page entry in the latest edition of the Catholic Encyclopaedia. It describes Bruno's "intolerance" and berates him, declaring "his attitude of mind towards religious truth was that of a rationalist”.

[caption id="attachment_425" align="alignleft" width="290" caption="Giordano Bruno,a man of insight and courage-philosopher and scientist, burnt at the stake 400 years ago"][/caption]

The article describes in detail Bruno's theological errors and his lengthy detention at the hands of the Inquisition, but fails to mention the best-known fact—that the church authorities burnt him alive at the stake.

Bruno has long been revered as a martyr to scientific truth. In 1889 a monument to him was erected at the location of his execution. Such was the feeling for Bruno that scientists and poets paid tribute to him and a book was written detailing his life's work. In a dedication for a meeting held at the Contemporary Club in Philadelphia in 1890, American poet Walt Whitman wrote: "As America's mental courage (the thought comes to me today) is so indebted, above all current lands and peoples, to the noble army of old-world martyrs past, how incumbent on us that we clear those martyrs' lives and names, and hold them up for reverent admiration as well as beacons. And typical of this, and standing for it and all perhaps, Giordano Bruno may well be put, today and to come, in our New World's thankfulest heart and memory."

Karl Marx's co-thinker Fredrick Engels summed up the period that produced figures, such as Bruno, who challenged the church and laid the basis for modern science. In an introduction written in the 1870s to his unfinished work the Dialectics of Nature, Engels wrote: “It was the greatest progressive revolution that mankind had so far experienced, a time which called for giants and produced giants—giants in power of thought, passion and character, in universality and learning. The men who founded the modern rule of the bourgeoisie had anything but bourgeois limitations. On the contrary, the adventurous character of the time inspired them to a greater or lesser degree. There was hardly any man of importance then living who had not travelled extensively, who did not speak four or five languages, who did not shine in a number of fields....

“At that time natural science also developed in the midst of the general revolution and was itself thoroughly revolutionary; it had indeed to win in struggle its right of existence. Side by side with the great Italians from whom modern philosophy dates, it provided its martyrs for the stake and the dungeons of the Inquisition. And it is characteristic that Protestants outdid Catholics in persecuting the free investigation of nature. Calvin had Servetus burnt at the stake when the latter was on the point of discovering the circulation of the blood, and indeed he kept him roasting alive during two hours; for the Inquisition at least it sufficed to have Giordano Bruno simply burnt alive."

What is most characteristic of Bruno is his vigorous appeal to reason and logic, rather than religious dogma, as the basis for determining truth. In a manner that anticipates the Enlightenment thinkers of the eighteenth century, he wrote in one of his final works, De triplici minimo (1591): “He who desires to philosophise must first of all doubt all things. He must not assume a position in a debate before he has listened to the various opinions, and considered and compared the reasons for and against. He must never judge or take up a position on the evidence of what he has heard, on the opinion of the majority, the age, merits, or prestige of the speaker concerned, but he must proceed according to the persuasion of an organic doctrine which adheres to real things, and to a truth that can be understood by the light of reason."

Filippo (Giordano) Bruno was born in Nola, Italy in 1548. His father was Giovanni Bruno, a soldier, and his mother was Fraulissa Savolino. In 1561, he enrolled in school at the Monastery of Saint Domenico, best known for its famous member, Thomas Aquinas. Around this time, he took the name Giordano Bruno and within a few years had become a priest of the Dominican Order.Giordano Bruno was a brilliant, if eccentric, philosopher, but the life of a Dominican priest in the Catholic Church apparently didn't suit him. He left the order in 1576 and started wandering Europe as a traveling philosopher, lecturing in various universities. His chief claim to fame was the Dominican memory techniques he taught, bringing him to the attention of royalty, including King Henry III of France and Elizabeth I of England. His memory enhancement techniques, described in his book "The Art of Memory" are still used today.

Though outspoken, and perhaps, not truly appreciated while in the Dominican Order, his troubles truly began around 1584 with the publication of his book "Dell Infinito, universo e mondi" ("Of Infinity, the Universe, and the World"). Being a philosopher and not an astronomer, Giordano Bruno would not have even warranted our attention if not for this book and the consequences of it.

Hearing the ideas of Copernicus about the nature of the universe sent Giordano Bruno into a veritable frenzy of philosophical thought. If the Earth was not the center of the universe, and all those stars clearly seen in the night sky were also suns, then there must exist an infinite number of earths in the universe, inhabited with other beings like ourselves.

This idea about the universe did not sit well with the Catholic Church. They lured Giordano Bruno to Rome with the promise of a job, where he was immediately turned over to the Inquisition and charged with heresy.

Giordano Bruno spent the next eight years in chains in the Castel Sant’Angelo, where he was routinely tortured and interrogated until his trial. Despite this, he remained unrepentant, stating to his Catholic Church judge, Jesuit Cardinal Robert Bellarmine, "I neither ought to recant, nor will I." Even a death sentence handed down by the Catholic Church did not change his attitude as he defiantly told his accusers, "In pronouncing my sentence, your fear is greater than mine in hearing it."

Immediately after the death sentence was handed down, Giordano Bruno’s jaw was clamped shut with an iron gag, his tongue was pierced with an iron spike and another iron spike was driven into his palate. On February 19, 1600, he was driven through the streets of Rome, stripped of his clothes and burned at the stake.


Galileo's Birthday

[caption id="attachment_420" align="alignleft" width="248" caption="Galileo Galilei (15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642)"][/caption]

Galileo Galilei was born on February 15, 1564. Neither his parents nor their neighbors in Pisa expected at the time that 436 years later a spacecraft named after him would be on its way to Jupiter, or that a crater on the moon would bear his name, or that more than two hundred thousand Galileo Internet sites could be accessed by a few computer keystrokes. But Galileo's road to fame was not without its pitfalls, and he ended up nearly blind (from looking directly at the sun through his telescope) and a prisoner in his own house, courtesy of the Inquisition.

How did Galileo get into such trouble with the Catholic Church? The Church had already accepted the heliocentric theory of Copernicus as a working hypothesis, and Galileo himself had enough fame and prestige to be granted audiences by two successive Popes. But Galileo's own daughter (a nun who was no mean thinker and astronomer herself, as their preserved correspondence proves) as well as many of Galileo's influential friends warned him not to force the debate over Copernican theory into the religious arena: the Church was in the midst of the Counter-Reformation and wasn't in the mood to be lectured on religion by a scientist.

In 1611 Galileo had made a well-publicized visit to Rome where Cardinals feted him and Pope Paul V praised his work. Cardinal Maffeo Barberini was particularly intrigued and met often with Galileo. But for the next twenty years, his relations with the Church deteriorated. Galileo became a politico-religious pamphleteer belligerently confronting both the Church and other scientists.

Galileo's pamphlets were not bland scientific arguments, and he finally infuriated even Cardinal Barberini, who in 1623 had been elected Pope Urban VIII. In his famous Dialogue, published in 1632, Galileo cast the defenders of Aristotelian cosmology as fools, and he gave Simplicio, the most foolish of the fools, lines that clearly reflected Urban VII's own publicized arguments in the ongoing cosmological debate. Almost simultaneously he alienated the Jesuits, who had previously defended him, by publicly and violently attacking their theory on the nature of comets (and Galileo was dead wrong on this one -- he thought comets were "exhalations of the atmosphere.") The Pope and the Jesuits did not participate in the attacks on Galileo, but they didn't defend him either when the many enemies he had made brought his case to the attention of the Inquisition.

Large Hadron Collider Update

After a lot of complications, Europe's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) particle accelerator is resuming operation on February 20, ramping up to a beam intensity of 3.5 TeV (trillion electron volts) sometime in March. It will then run for a period of 18 to 24 months, and will then shut down in early 2012 for winter repairs. (It was originally going to be shut down next winter for repairs, as well, but that plan has been revised.)

[caption id="attachment_396" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="A simulated event in the CMS detector, featuring the appearance of the Higgs Boson."][/caption]

The previous record was a beam of intensity of 0.98 TeV, which was broken by the LHC last November when it reached a beam intensity of 1.18 TeV. The LHC plan will result in collisions that are about three times more powerful than any that we've ever performed on Earth. The LHC was designed to circulate beams that have intensity of 7 TeV, but it'll be at least 2013 before we see it even trying to ramp up to this sort of power. In the meantime, physicists should be able to get a lot of great physics results to look over.


Outreach Activities by AASTRO Kozhikkode gains mass attention

Kozhikkode : AASTRO Kozhikkode Team is in a busy schedule conducting a series of astronomy popularisation programmes in various parts of the district.AASTRO district fractionconducted more than half a dozen programmes with in two weeks after its formation.Some of them include Skywatching session in Providence Womens College,Elathur CMS Girls High school and so on...

[caption id="attachment_361" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="AASTRO Outreach programme at Perambra Balasabha"][/caption]

Most of the places,large masses including students,parents,teachers and public gathered showing their keen interest in wonders of the universe and large no.of requests for programmes are pending in front.

In Providence Womens College,AASTRO organised a sky watching session in which students teachers and others turned up in large number

[caption id="attachment_362" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Sky watching,Providence Womens College,Calicut"][/caption]

AASTRO Kozhikkode will have more outrech programmes for  coming days since clear sky is available said AASTRO District Co Ordinator Shri M,P.C.Nambiar.For more details and arranging activities in your institution or at your place,one can contact AASTRO Kozhikkode team in +91-9447731394

[caption id="attachment_364" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="CCUP School Nadappuram - AASTRO Skywatching programme"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_365" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Around 200 people including students and parents turned up for AASTRO Outreach in Govt Fisheries School,Puthiyappa"][/caption]

Mercury in Conjunction with the Moon

On 12th February 2010, just before sunrise, you will see something
fantastic at the eastern horizon. You will see Mercury very close to the
Moon. They will be in Conjunction.Conjunction is a term normally used in positional astronomy.It means that as seen from same place,say earth, two celestial bodies appear near one another in the sky.The event also known as appulse.Mercury is the 1st planet from the Sun and not so easy object to detect with the naked eyes since most of the time it hides itself in the twilight. On 12th the Moon phase is very close to the New Moon, so only a very thin crescent of the Moon will be visible.

[caption id="attachment_368" align="aligncenter" width="554" caption="Moon - Mercury Conjunction"][/caption]

As viewed from a particular place on the Earth, when two objects in the
sky appear very close to each other, then they are said to be in
conjunction with each other. Planetary conjunctions look very beautiful
when they are visible by naked eyes. Sometimes paths of two objects in
the sky can cross each other and they tend to appear at the same
location in the sky this is the special case of conjunction which is
called Occultation where eventually one object hides the other. Another
special case of Conjunction is Transition it happens when a smaller
object appears to pass over the bigger size object.


AASTRO Kollam chapter is now all set for action.

Kottarakkara,Feb.09 : AASTRO Kollam district chapter is now ready for its activities throughout the district after its first meeting at DIET Kottarakkara on Feb 09th.The core committee for its activities formed in the meeting in which around 50 members participated representing various Colleges,Schools,SSA,KSSP and other bodies in the district.

[caption id="attachment_349" align="aligncenter" width="648" caption="AASTRO KOllam Chapter Meet"][/caption]

AASTRO will soon have its units in St.Johns College,Anchal,D B College Sasthamcotta,S N College Kollam and N S S College Nilamel.Some of the proposed activities are :

  • Forming an Academic expert group in astronomy and allied sciences

  • AASTRO Clubs in Colleges and Schools

  • District Level Astronomy camp

  • One day sky watching programmes throughout the district

  • Astronomy study tours

and many more......

The district point of contact and Co ordinator for AASTRO Kollam Chapter will be Shri.K.V.Sreenivasan Kartha,executive Engineer,KIP,Kottarakkara and co ordinator for AASTRO Clubs in the district will be Shri.G.Raju,principal,Govt Polytechnic,Punalur.


District co Ordinator

Shri.K.V.Sreenivasan kartha,Kottarakkara

Phone : +91-9447104909 E mail :

AASTRO Club Co Ordinator

Shri.G.Raju, Punalur

Phone : +91-9447205460  E mail :

  • K G Sivaprasad,9745225052

  • P.Humam Rasheed,9747446570

  • K R Anil,9446232834

  • Ajay Kumar,9497135148

  • Devi S Kumar,9961437993

  • Adeela Beegum,9947398399


  • St.Johns college,Anchal : MidhunS ,9496327843

  • D B College,sasthamcotta : Sarath Prabhav, 9809089108

  • N S S College,Nilamel : Muhammed Binas,9809706574

  • S N College,Kollam : Sujai surendran,9744835381

Chandrayaan’s M3 discovers new lunar rock type

The Moon Minerology Mapper (M3) on Chandrayaan-1, which famously discovered the presence of water and hydroxyl molecules on the lunar surface material last year, has now identified a new lunar rock type on the far side of the moon. The M3 is a NASA instrument. This was reported here on Monday by Carle Pieters of Brown University, lead author of the present study, at the Sixth Chandrayaan-1 Science Meeting being held at the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), a unit of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

The rock-type is dominated by a mineral termed as ‘magnesium spinel.’ Spinel is a generic name given to a class of minerals having the chemical formula AB{-2}O{-4} and the usual spinel formations found in lunar rocks is an iron-magnesium admixture of the form (Mg, Fe)(Al, Cr){-2}O{-4}. These rocks are usually found along with magnesium-iron silicate (olivine) and calcium-rich aluminium silicate (pyroxene).

Unique feature

According to Professor Pieters, the interesting feature of the new rock type is that it is exclusively composed of magnesium-rich spinel “with no detectable pyroxene or olivine present.” This, she said, does not easily fit with current lunar crustal evolution models.

Rich in anorthosites

The generally accepted characterisation of the lunar crust is based principally on retrieved lunar material by the Apollo-Luna missions and meteorite samples. The crust is described as a rocky accumulation, basically rich in calcium-aluminium silicates (anorthosites) infused with a mix of compounds containing magnesium and iron (‘mafic’ minerals).

However, the western ring of the Moscoviense Basin of the moon appears to be one of the several discrete areas that exhibit unusual compositions relative to their surroundings, but without morphological evidence for separate geological processes leading to their exposure.

The findings are based on data acquired by M3 in January 2009 during the first observation period of Chandrayaan-1 from its initial 100 km altitude orbit over a 40 km wide strip field of view, with a spatial resolution of 140 m/pixel. The mapping was done using the emission spectrum of the surface over the wavelength region 460-3000 nanometres with a spectral resolution of 20-40 nm.

Five anomalous areas

The general composition of the area observed had a low abundance of mafic minerals and a high abundance of feldspathic minerals such as pyroxene. While this was consistent with earlier observations, five anomalous areas that are widely separated were seen along the lower elevations of the ring (see pic.). Interestingly, no unusual feature or any compositional boundary was seen for any of these areas.

Calcium-rich pyroxene is prominent in areas 2 and some parts of 3 and 4. Olivine is prominent across 5 and parts of 4. In contrast, the whole of region 1 and part of region 3 were exceptionally dark in the images. This, according to Professor Pieters, is because of the high absorption that the areas seem to have in the 2000 nm region, together with the near complete absence of pyroxene or olivine (less than 5 per cent) as indicated by the lack of any absorption around 1000 nm.

While regions rich in olivine or pyroxenes have been seen in other basins, this is the first time a magnesium-rich spinel region has been identified. “The clear interpretation of these spectra is that the surfaces represent a new rock type dominated by magnesium-rich spinel with no other detectable mafic minerals,” Professor Pieters said.

No easy explanation

There does not seem to be any easy explanation for the occurrence of these spinel formations. Since magnesium-spinels have been seen in some asteroids, one possible explanation is that the source is exogenous asteroid or comet impacts. However, there is no evidence of any impact or dispersion of rubble pile and the like from the impact’s aftermath.

An interesting feature of the Moscoviense Basin is that the crust in the region is much thinner, compared to other basins. This is indicative of a magma upturning over much recent time scales as compared to other regions. Also this offers one possible explanation for the occurrence of magnesium-rich minerals because these are very dense and would have been deposited right at the bottom during the cooling and crystallization of the crust. The recent upturning may have brought it up from the lunar deep crust during the basin formation, Professor Pieters pointed out.

Lunar crust origin

But that still does not explain the localised nature of the anomalous regions that extend only about a few kilometres across, she said. “Creating foreign deposits without a trace of their origin is hard to do. We, therefore, favour a lunar crust origin,” she said. “But even that interpretation is not entirely satisfactory. We need to fully characterise the morphology of the anomalous regions with high resolution data from TMC [ISRO’s Terrain Mapping Camera] images,” she added.

AASTRO Kozhikkode chapter commenced its activities

[caption id="attachment_353" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="AASTRO Outreach programme at CMC Girls High School"][/caption]

For the astronomy lovers of Kozhikkode district,here is a good news.AASTRO formed its Kozhikkode  chapter and commenced various activities throughout the district.Headed by experts,AASTRO Kozhikkode will have its functional units - AASTRO Clubs - in schools & Colleges soon.AASTRO organises observation parties,sky-watching nights and helps organise astronomy classes for students and public.

AASTRO Kozhikkode Team

District Point of Contact


Phone : +91-9447731394

Executive committee members

1   Shri.K Vijayan
2  Shri.T K Aneesh
3  Shri.Vigneswaran
4  Shri.A.Surendran
5  Shri.Surendran Punnassery

Those who want to join AASTRO or  for further information on AASTRO activities at Kozhikkode,please do contact the district co-ordinator.


[caption id="attachment_248" align="aligncenter" width="1000" caption="Sky Map for February 2010"][/caption]

Feb 3: A Waning Gibbous Moon (81%) stands 8 degrees South of Saturn at 4:00am.

Feb 4: A Wining Gibbous Moon (71%) stands 5.3 degrees SW of Spica at 3:00am.

Feb 5: Mars will be 3 degrees North of the Beehive Cluster (M44).

Feb 6: Last Quarter Moon.

Feb 8: A Crescent Moon (30%) is just 3 degrees from Antares before dawn.

Feb 12: A very thin Moon is just 1.5 degrees from Mercury. The pair will be nicely fitted in a 10x50 Binocular. But you will have very little time to view this event as they will be low in the east.

Feb 14: New Moon.

Feb 15: Neptune Conjunction.

Feb 21: The Moon stands just 2.2 degrees from the Pleiades Cluster (M45) after dusk.

Feb 22: First Quarter Moon.

Feb 25: A Waning Gibbous (87%) Moon stands about 8 degrees from Mars at 9:00pm.

Feb 27: The Moon is 6 degrees from Regulus at 9:00pm.

Feb 3: A Waning Gibbous Moon (81%) stands 8 degrees South of Saturn at 4:00am.
Feb 4: A Wining Gibbous Moon (71%) stands 5.3 degrees SW of Spica at 3:00am.
Feb 5: Mars will be 3 degrees North of the Beehive Cluster (M44).
Feb 6: Last Quarter Moon.
Feb 8: A Crescent Moon (30%) is just 3 degrees from Antares before dawn.
Feb 12: A very thin Moon is just 1.5 degrees from Mercury. The pair will be nicely fitted in a 10x50 Binocular. But you will have very little time to view this event as they will be low in the east.
Feb 14: New Moon.
Feb 15: Neptune Conjunction.
Feb 21: The Moon stands just 2.2 degrees from the Pleiades Cluster (M45) after dusk.
Feb 22: First Quarter Moon.
Feb 25: A Waning Gibbous (87%) Moon stands about 8 degrees from Mars at 9:00pm.
Feb 27: The Moon is 6 degrees from Regulus at 9:00pm.