04/18/2014 – Ephemeris – The constellation Coma Berenices

April 18, 2014 Leave a comment

Ephemeris for Good Friday, Friday, April 18th.  The sun rises at 6:53.  It’ll be up for 13 hours and 37 minutes, setting at 8:31.   The moon, 3 days past full, will rise at 12:21 tomorrow morning.

High in the southeast at 10 p.m. is a tiny and faint constellation of Coma Berenices, or Berenice’s hair.  In it are lots of faint stars arrayed to look like several strands of hair.  The whole group will fit in the field of a pair of binoculars, which will also show many more stars.  The hank of hair was supposed to belong to Berenice, Queen of Egypt, of the 3rd century BCE.  Coma Berenices is the second closest star cluster to us at only 250 light years away, after the Hyades, the face of Taurus the bull now setting in the west.  It’s in an odd spot for a galactic star cluster, that’s supposed to lie in the plane of the Milky Way.  It actually lies at the galactic pole.  That’s an illusion because it’s so close to us.  It’s still really in the plane of the Milky Way.

Times are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan.  They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Coma Berenices finder chart

Coma Berenices finder chart for 10 p.m. April 18, 2014. Created using Stellarium.

Coma Berenices and the galactic pole

Coma Berenices and galactic coordinates showing how close to the galactic pole it is. Created using Cartes du Ciel

Milky Way and open clusters

Mercator projection of the Milky Way and some bright open or galactic clusters (brown disks). See how the distribution hugs the milky band. Clusters farther away are either close to us or very old for open clusters. Created using Cartes du Ciel.

04/17/2014 – Ephemeris – Leo and the bright star Regulus

April 17, 2014 1 comment

Ephemeris for Thursday, April 17th.  The sun rises at 6:54.  It’ll be up for 13 hours and 34 minutes, setting at 8:29.   The moon, 2 days past full, will rise at 11:19 this evening.

High in the south at 10 p.m. is a pattern of stars that’s in the shape of a backward question mark.  This informal star group or asterism, is also called the sickle.  It is the head and mane of the official zodiacal constellation of Leo the lion.  To the left is a triangle of stars is his hind end.  The bright star at the bottom of the question mark, or end of the sickle’s handle is Regulus, the “Little King Star”, alluding to the lion’s status as the king of the jungle.  Regulus is about 79 light years away and is a 4 star system that exists as two star pairs.  The bright star Regulus itself and a companion too close to be imaged directly in telescopes, and a nearby pair of dim stars make up the system.  The Moon often passes in front of Regulus, since it’s close its path.

Times are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan.  They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Leo's Sickle

Leo’s sickle and backward question mark asterisms circled in green. Note that it is within the range of the moon’s orbit so it can be covered or occulted by the Moon. Created using Stellarium.

Leo finder chart

Leo finder chart for 10 p.m. April 17, 2014. Created using Stellarium.

04/16/2014 – Ephemeris – It’s our weekly look at the classical planets

April 16, 2014 Leave a comment

Ephemeris for Wednesday, April 16th.  The sun rises at 6:56.  It’ll be up for 13 hours and 31 minutes, setting at 8:28.   The moon, 1 day past full, will rise at 10:14 this evening.

Wednesday is Bright Planets Day, or should I say classical planets day here on Ephemeris.   Bright Jupiter will be in the western sky as darkness falls tonight.  It will set at 2:42 a.m.  Reddish Mars is in Virgo and outshines the bright bluish star Spica below it as darkness falls.  Mars is up at sunset in the east.  It will pass due south at 1:03 a.m.  It’s 57.4 million miles away now, very near its closest.  It will set at 6:48 a.m.  Saturn will rise at 10:24 p.m. and be seen to the left of the bright moon tonight.  It will pass due south at 3:22 a.m.  The telescope will bring out Saturn’s beautiful rings, whose short dimension now is as wide as the planet.  Brilliant Venus will rise in the east at 5:22 a.m. and will stay pretty low to the horizon.

Times are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan.  They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Jupiter

Jupiter and the setting winter constellations in the west at 10 p.m. on April 16, 2014. Created using Stellarium.

Telescopic Jupiter

Jupiter and satellites through a telescope at 10 p.m. on April 16, 2014. Created using Stellarium.

Mars

Mars and some low spring constellations in the southeast at 10 p.m. on April 16, 2014. Created using Stellarium.

Telescopic Mars

Telescopic Mars. Actually Mars is much smaller in appearance than Jupiter. Interesting albedo* features can be seen. For 10 pm. April 16, 2014. Created using Stellarium.

* Albedo – reflectance value, dark and bright features.  Values are 1 for perfectly reflectant (white), to 0 for black.

Saturm and the Moon

Saturn and the Moon rising in the southeast at 11 p.m. Created using Stellarium.

Telescopic Saturn

Telescopic Saturn at 11 p.m. April 16, 2014. You may want to wait a bit for it to rise some more for clearer views. Created using Stellarium.

Saturn and Venus

Venus and Saturn at 6 a.m. April 17, 2014. Note that the Moon has scooted to the left of Saturn overnight. Created using Stellarium.

Telescopic Venus

Venus through a telescope at 6 a.m. April 17, 2014. Note that none of these planetary images are to the same scale. Created using Stellarium.

04/15/2014 – Ephemeris – One eclipse down, what’s next?

April 15, 2014 2 comments

Ephemeris for Tuesday, April 15th, Tax Deadline Day.  The sun rises at 6:58.  It’ll be up for 13 hours and 29 minutes, setting at 8:27.   The moon, at full today, will rise at 9:08 this evening.

Since I’m recording this before this morning’s eclipse, I don’t know if it was visible from the northern Lower Peninsula.  However we do have a shot at another total lunar eclipse this year.  That one is on October 8th.  Though it’s in the morning, it’s closer to dawn.  One which one can catch by going to bed early and getting up early to enjoy.  The weather prospects are somewhat better in October than they are in April.  That eclipse we’ll miss a bit of the ending partial phase as the moon sets during that time.  As a bonus, 15 days later we will see half of a partial solar eclipse, because the sun will set around mid eclipse.   That eclipse will not be total anywhere as the core of the moon’s shadow misses to the north of the Earth.

Times are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan.  They may be different for your location.

Addendum

There’s another eclipse I didn’t mention due to time.  It follows this one by 14 days, on April 29th.  It is an odd partial eclipse visible from the Indian Ocean, Australia and a bit of Antarctica.  It is an annular eclipse, where the moon is too far away to completely cover the bright ball of the sun.  The annular shadow touches the earth in Antarctica, but not the central part, which just misses the earth.  It’s truly an odd eclipse.  Next year will provide us with two more lunar eclipses.  The first one we’ll see a part of before the moon sets, and the second will be an evening eclipse well placed for viewing.  None of next years solar eclipses will be visible from North America.

Check out this and next year’s eclipses on the NASA Eclipse website.

 

04/14/2014 – Ephemeris – The total lunar eclipse is tonight after midnight.

April 14, 2014 1 comment

Updated 4 p.m. EDT:  See bottom of the post.

Ephemeris for Monday, April 14th.  The sun will rise at 7:00.  It’ll be up for 13 hours and 26 minutes, setting at 8:26.   The Moon, 1 day before full, will set at 7:05 tomorrow morning.

We’re hoping for clear skies for tonight’s total lunar eclipse.  Actually it’s in the wee hours of tomorrow morning.  So if you’re a night owl, stay up tonight or otherwise catch all or part of it by setting your alarm clock.  Here’s the timings:   The partial phase begins as the Moon enters the earth’s inner shadow at 1:58 a.m.  Totality starts at 3:06 a.m. Totality will last until 4:24,when the upper left edge of the moon again peeks into sunlight.  The ending partial phase will end at 5:33 a.m.   If it’s clear or at least partly cloudy there are two locations in the Grand Traverse area to view the eclipse, other than your own back yard, which is perfectly acceptable. The first is the NMC Rogers Observatory, and the other is the Dune Climb parking lot at Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Times are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan.  They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Lunar eclipse simulation

The April 15, 2014 lunar eclipse simulated by Stellarium.  Note that Mars and the star Spica will be nearby.

As of 24 hours before the eclipse the weather prospects don’t look good for northwestern lower Michigan or all the east coast for that matter.  We’re on the edge of the clouds.  The western shore Lake Michigan and parts of the U.P. may be clear.  But things could change.

There will be a live webcast from University of Georgia at http://www.ccssc.org/webcast.html, who may be stuck with the same overcast we may have.  Hat Tip to Spaceweather.com

There is also another live stream of the eclipse from Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.  Or go to http://www.griffithobservatory.org and click on the Griffith TV button.  Coverage starts at 9:45 PDT or 12:45 a.m. EDT which is a bit more than an hour before the partial phase of the eclipse starts.  Hat Tip to Carla Johns of the NASA Museum Alliance for the links.

Here’s a link to the official NASA eclipse website for this eclipse.

Here’s a link to my in-depth discussion of the April 15, 2014 eclipse.

 Update

Here’s another link to a live feed of the eclipse:  Virtual Telescope Project.

Universe Today has more links.

The Sleeping Bear eclipse viewing has been canceled.

 

 

04/11/2014 – Ephemeris – Get ready for Tuesday’s total lunar eclipse

April 11, 2014 Leave a comment

Ephemeris for Friday, April 11th.  The sun will rise at 7:05.  It’ll be up for 13 hours and 17 minutes, setting at 8:22.   The Moon, half way from first quarter to full, will set at 5:36 tomorrow morning.

Next Tuesday morning’s total eclipse of the moon is the first we’ve seen for several years.  The partial phase begins as the Moon enters the earth’s inner shadow at 1:58 a.m.  Totality starts at 3:06 a.m. The entire Moon should be a red or orange color.  The depth of color will slowly change during totality until 4:24, when totality ends and the upper left edge of the moon again peeks into sunlight.  The ending partial eclipse will end at 5:33 a.m.  If it’s clear or at least partly cloudy there are two locations in the Grand Traverse area to view the eclipse, other than your own back yard, which is perfectly acceptable. The first is the NMC Rogers Observatory, and the other is the Dune Climb parking lot at Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Times are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan.  They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Lunar Eclipse progression

Something like what Tuesday’s eclipse will look like from the eastern US. Total lunar eclipse in Egypt. Photo credit: Sean Bagshaw from sservi.nasa.gov.

In a composite photo like this the Earth’s rotation is carrying the moon westward (right) toward setting, while the Moon’s orbital motion is carrying it toward the east (left) more slowly through the Earth’s shadow.  This appears to be a real composite.  Morning twilight would approach from the opposite side of the sky.

04/10/2014 – Ephemeris – Get ready for the April 15, 2014 total lunar eclipse

April 10, 2014 2 comments

Ephemeris for Thursday, April 10th.  The sun will rise at 7:07.  It’ll be up for 13 hours and 14 minutes, setting at 8:21.   The Moon, 3 days past first quarter, will set at 5:09 tomorrow morning.

Next Tuesday morning we’re in for a treat as the Moon enters the Earth’s shadow producing a total lunar eclipse.  The eclipse will be a challenge especially if you wait for April 15th to do your taxes.  Next Tuesday is tax deadline day, and the eclipse will happen is the wee hours of that morning.  You don’t have to watch the whole thing, but I will if it’s clear.  The partial phase begins as the Moon enters the earth’s inner shadow at 1:58 a.m.  Totality starts at 3:06 a.m. The entire Moon should be a red or orange color.  The depth of color will slowly change during totality until 4:24, when totality ends and the upper left edge of the moon again peeks into sunlight.  The ending partial eclipse will end at 5:33 a.m.

Times are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan.  They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Lunar eclipse diagram

How a lunar eclipse happens. Credit spaceplace.nasa.gov

The outer shadow is the Earth’s penumbra which gradually darkens from the outside edge to the umbra, the Earth’s inner shadow.  It’s been my experience that it isn’t noticeable until about a half hour before the partial phase starts, when the Moon starts to dip into the umbra.

Here’s a link to the official NASA eclipse website for this eclipse.Here’s a link to my in-depth discussion of the April 15, 2014 eclipse.

 

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