04/23/2014 – Ephemeris – Where are those bright planets this week?

April 23, 2014 Leave a comment

Ephemeris for Wednesday, April 23rd.  The sun rises at 6:45.  It’ll be up for 13 hours and 52 minutes, setting at 8:37.   The moon, 1 day past last quarter, will rise at 4:06 tomorrow morning.

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 2:17 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 12:26 a.m.  It’s 58.1 million miles (95.5 million kilometers) away now, and moving away.  It will set at 6:14 a.m.  Saturn will rise at 9:54 p.m.  It’s in the faint constellation of Libra the scales this year.  It will pass due south at 2:52 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 5:14 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 23, 2014. Created using Stellarium.

Telescopic Jupiter

Jupiter and satellites through a telescope at 10 p.m. on April 23, 2014. Created using Stellarium.

Mars and Saturn

Mars, Saturn and some spring constellation at 10:30 p.m. April 23, 2014. Created using Stellarium.

Telescopic Mars

Telescopic Mars. Actually Mars is much smaller in appearance than Jupiter. Interesting albedo features can be seen. For 10:30 pm. April 23, 2014. Created using Stellarium.

Telescopic Saturn

Telescopic Saturn at 11 p.m. April 23, 2014. You may want to wait a bit for it to rise some more for clearer views. Created using Stellarium.

Venus and the Moon

Venus and the Moon looking eastward at 6 a.m. on April 24, 2014. Created using Stellarium.

The Moon

The moon as seen in binoculars at 6 a.m. on April 24, 2014. Created using Stellarium.

Telescopic Venus

Venus through a telescope at 6 a.m. April 24, 2014. Note that none of these planetary images are to the same scale. Created using Stellarium.

04/22/2014 – Ephemeris – The Great Bear and the Fisher Star

April 22, 2014 Leave a comment

Ephemeris for Earth Day, Tuesday, April 22nd.  The sun rises at 6:46.  It’ll be up for 13 hours and 49 minutes, setting at 8:36.   The moon, at last quarter today, will rise at 3:31 tomorrow morning.

This evening the Big Dipper is practically overhead.  The Europeans and some Native Americans say it as the hind end of a bear with dimmer stars making up the rest of the bear.  The official constellation of which the Big dipper is a part is Ursa Major, the Great Bear.  The native Americans were smart enough to depict the handle stars of the dipper as three hunters following the bear, rather than the bear’s unnaturally long tail.  The Anishinabek Indians who settled around here saw instead of a bear a weasel like creature, who did have a long tail called Fisher or Fisher Star, who through a great adventure, with his other animal friends, brought summer and the rest of the seasons to the frozen earth.

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

Addendum

Great Bear

The Great Bear as the Europeans saw it. Created using Stellarium.

The Fisher Star.

The Fisher Star. Created using Stellarium.

04/28/2014 – Ephemeris – The Lyrid meteor shower will reach peak tomorrow

April 21, 2014 Leave a comment

Ephemeris for Monday, April 21st.  The sun rises at 6:48.  It’ll be up for 13 hours and 46 minutes, setting at 8:34.   The moon, 1 day before last quarter, will rise at 2:52 tomorrow morning.

The second major meteor shower this year will reach its peak tomorrow afternoon (~18h UT).  The best shot to see it will be tonight from about 10 to near 3 a.m. when the moon rises.  The meteor shower is called the Lyrids, because they seem to come from near the constellation Lyra the harp and the bright star Vega.  At 10 p.m. Vega is the brightest star low in the northeastern sky.  By 3 a.m. Vega will be high in the east.  The radiant of the meteors is to the west of Vega between Lyra and the dim constellation of Hercules.  The most meteors will be visible just before the moon begins to brighten the sky before 3 a.m.  Though a major shower the peak hourly rate is expected to be 18 meteors an hour.  However we won’t quite get close to that rate.

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

Addendum

Lyrid meteor radiant. The bright star is Vega

Lyrid meteor radiant. The bright star is Vega

The source of my information, the International Meteor Organization calendar can be downloaded from here.

David Dickinson’s post on this year’s Lyrid meteor shower on Universe Today is here.

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.

 

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