05/20/2019 – Ephemeris – Dark evening skies again and a look at Virgo

May 20, 2019 Leave a comment

Ephemeris for Monday, May 20th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours even, setting at 9:09, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:08. The Moon, 2 days past full, will rise at 11:10 this evening.

One of the large constellations we see in the south at 11 p.m. can be found using the Big Dipper overhead, follow the arc of the handle to the bright star Arcturus, the straighten the arc to a spike to reach Spica, a bright blue-white star in the south. Spica is the brightest star in the constellation Virgo the virgin. She represents the goddess of the harvest, Virgo is holding a sheaf of wheat in depictions of her, and Spica is placed at the head of the sheaf. In the space between Spica and Leo the lion to her upper right is, a great cluster just below naked eye visibility. The Virgo cluster of galaxies. Inside that cluster is galaxy M87 in whose center lies a black hole with the mass of 6.5 billion suns that was imaged last month.

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

Addendum

Virgo finder

Virgo finder animation for 11 p.m. May 20, 2019. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium.

Brighter members of the Virgo Cluster. Created using Stellarium.

Brighter members of the Virgo Cluster. Created using Stellarium. Open circles are galaxies, circles with crosses are globular star clusters, outlying members of our Milky Way galaxy.  M87 is just above center in that knot of galaxies.  Created using Stellarium.

Virgo Cluster

A closer look at some of the galaxies in the heart of the Virgo Cluster. M87 is near the center. Created with Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

 

05/17/2019 – Ephemeris – Astronomical viewing and exhibits at the Northwestern Michigan College’s Barbecue

May 17, 2019 Leave a comment

Ephemeris for Friday, May 17th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 53 minutes, setting at 9:06, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:11. The Moon, 1 day before full, will set at 6:22 tomorrow morning.

The Grand Traverse Astronomical Society will participate in the Northwestern Michigan College Barbecue this Sunday the 19th. The society will be in front of and inside the Health and Science Building, viewing the Sun outside if it will be clear. Members hope to give the society’s new solar telescope a workout, observing the Sun’s red chromosphere and any prominences visible off the edge. Inside there will be displays and continuously running videos plus giveaway items from NASA and NOAA the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Also in an adjacent room Joe Brooks will have his meteorite collection to examine and a video there too. The society will be there from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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

05/16/2019 – Ephemeris – Looking back at the Ranger program: Getting really close up pictures of the Moon

May 16, 2019 Leave a comment

Ephemeris for Thursday, May 16th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 51 minutes, setting at 9:05, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:12. The Moon, 2 days before full, will set at 5:51 tomorrow morning.

The reconnaissance missions that had to be accomplished before the United Stated could land on the Moon in 1969 started with the Ranger program. The idea was to send a spacecraft to crash on the Moon taking and transmitting television pictures all the way down. In addition to the camera some Ranger spacecraft had a lunar capsule with a seismometer with a retro rocket to slow that package down and survive the landing. That feature never worked. Nine Rangers were launched. Only the last three were successful in returning images. Each returned thousands of images each returning detail down to 20 inches. One surprise, the rays we see from craters like Copernicus are actually chains of craterlets caused by ejecta from the impact.

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

Addendum

Here’s a time lapse video of Ranger 9 hitting the crater Alphonsus. 17 minutes collapsed into 13 seconds:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpFifHgZyrg

05/15/2019 – Ephemeris – The bright planets this week

May 15, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Wednesday, May 15th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 49 minutes, setting at 9:04, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:13. The Moon, 3 days before full, will set at 5:22 tomorrow morning.

Let’s look at the planets for this week. Mars will be in the western sky this evening, entering Gemini near Castor’s foot. It will set at 12:04 a.m. In the morning sky we have Jupiter, in Ophiuchus, which will actually rise at 11:09 tonight in the east-southeast. Jupiter won’t be considered an evening planet until it rises before sunset, which will occur after June 10th. Saturn will be next to rise at 1:04 a.m., also in the east-southeast. It’s in Sagittarius. Both planets are easily visible in as morning twilight grows. Venus will rise 53 minutes before the Sun in the east. It will remain in our morning sky, though too close to the rising Sun to be easily glimpsed. In August it will pass behind the Sun to enter the evening sky.

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

Addendum

Evening Planets

Mars and the Moon tonight at 10 p.m. May 15, 2019. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium.

Binocular Moon

The waxing gibbous nearly full Moon at 10 p.m. May 15, 2019. Created using Stellarium.

Morning Planets

Morning planets at 5:30 a.m. May 16, 2019. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium.

Telescopic Planets

Jupiter and Saturn with the same magnification at 5:30 a.m. tomorrow morning May 16, 2019. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

Planets and the Moon on a single night

Planets and the Moon at sunset and sunrise of a single night starting with sunset on the right on May 15, 2019. The night ends on the left with sunrise on the 16th. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using my LookingUp program.

05/14/2019 – Ephemeris – The Apollo 11 crew weren’t alone at the Moon

May 14, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, May 14th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 47 minutes, setting at 9:03, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:14. The Moon, 3 days past first quarter, will set at 4:54 tomorrow morning.

By the time Apollo 11 launched on July 16th, 1969 the Soviet union had its two launch failures of their massive lunar rocket the N-1 that year. In a last ditch attempt to scoop the United States, literally, the Soviet Union launched their Lunar 15 spacecraft that was to return a sample of the lunar surface material before Apollo 11 could return from the Moon with theirs. The Soviets launched Luna 15 on July 13th, and entered lunar orbit on the 17th. It descended to the lunar surface while Armstrong and Aldrin were still on the Moon. However communication was lost during descent and it crashed into the Sea of Crises several hundred miles northeast of where the Eagle had landed. The US was kept apprised of the Lunar 15 mission by the Soviets.

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

Addendum

Luna-15

Luna-15 type vehicle the Soviets sent to the Moon to bring back surface samples. Credit NASA.

05/13/2019 – Ephemeris – The Moon Rockets

May 13, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, May 13th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 44 minutes, setting at 9:01, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:15. The Moon, 2 days past first quarter, will set at 4:26 tomorrow morning.

In the race to the Moon in the 1960s we never really knew what the Soviet Union was doing, or of how far they progressed. We knew that we seemed to be behind because we would get glimpses of their progress when they pulled off some first, some long duration record, or the first woman in space. We never heard of their failures until after the Soviet Union fell in 1991. Their answer to the Saturn V rocket was the N-1, the first test of which was several months before Apollo 11 was launched. In all four N-1 launch attempts were made, none successful. However their counterpart to the Apollo Command and Service Modules still lives after 5 decades, it’s call the Soyuz, used to carry cosmonauts and astronauts to the International Space Station.

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

Addendum

Comparison between The United States Saturn V and the Soviet N-1. Credit: Griffith Observer, the magazine of Griffith Observatory.

N-1

Base of the N-1 and its 36 rocket engines. The N-1 is assembled horizontally while the Saturn V was assembled vertically.

 

05/10/2019 – Ephemeris – The Astronomy Day event in the Grand Traverse Region

May 10, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, May 10th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 37 minutes, setting at 8:58, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:19. The Moon, 1 day before first quarter, will set at 2:41 tomorrow morning.

The Grand Traverse Astronomical Society will host a public viewing night for International Astronomy Day tomorrow night, that’s Saturday the 11th, starting at 9 p.m. It will be at Northwestern Michigan College’s Joseph Rogers Observatory. If its clear the first quarter Moon will be featured along with other wonders of the spring sky. The observatory is located south of Traverse City, on Birmley Road between Garfield and Keystone roads. For the society members these, normally monthly star parties at the observatory are part of their outreach. They include sidewalk astronomy outings like Friday Night Live, and International Observe the Moon Night, to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and other locations.

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