01/15/2021 – Ephemeris – The constellation Lepus the hare

January 15, 2021 Leave a comment

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Friday, January 15th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 12 minutes, setting at 5:28, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:15. The Moon, 2 days past new, will set at 8:17 this evening.

Orion, the central winter constellation is seen in the southern sky this evening. He is a hunter, as artists depict him, he is preoccupied with the charge of Taurus the bull from the upper right. At Orion’s feet, and unnoticed by him is the small constellation of Lepus the hare. It’s very hard to see a rabbit in its eight dim stars: however, I can see a rabbit’s head ears and shoulders. A misshapen box is the head and face of this critter facing to the left. His ears extend upwards from the upper right star of the box, and the bend forward a bit. Two stars to the right of the box and a bit farther apart hint at the front part of the body. In Lepus telescopes can find M79, a distant globular star cluster, one of the few visible in the winter sky.

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

Addendum

My view of Lepus the hare.

My view of Lepus the hare. Star field from Cartes du Ciel. Desert Cottontail drawing from Arizona-Senora Desert Museum website. Superimposed with GIMP.

Lepus

An animation showing the stars, constellations and artwork of Lepus, Orion and Taurus from Stellarium. The constellation lines suggest a rabbit ears TV antenna. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

01/14/2021 – Ephemeris – The constellation of Auriga the charioteer

January 14, 2021 Leave a comment

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Thursday, January 14th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 10 minutes, setting at 5:27, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:16. The Moon, 1 day past new, will set at 7:06 this evening.

The constellation Auriga the charioteer is nearly overhead at 9 p.m. It is a pentagon of stars, with the brilliant star Capella at one of its corners. Capella represents a she-goat he’s carrying. A narrow triangle of stars nearby Capella are her kids. The Kids is an informal constellation or asterism. Within and near that pentagon, binoculars and telescopes will find several star clusters, groups of hundreds of stars born in the clump we still see them in. These star clusters will appear as fuzzy spots in binoculars. One called M38 is near the center of the pentagon. Another, M36 is to the east of it. Still another star cluster, M37, is farther east, just outside the pentagon. The M designations come from Charles Messier who 250 years ago ran into them while looking for comets.

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

Addendum

Auriga finder animation

Auriga finder animation showing the Kids, nearby stars including Aldebaran and the sideways V shape of the Hyades (unlabeled) of Taurus the bull and the Pleiades AKA M 45. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

01/13/2021 – Ephemeris – Let’s take a look for the naked-eye planets for this week

January 13, 2021 Leave a comment

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Wednesday, January 13th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 8 minutes, setting at 5:26, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:16. The Moon is new today, and won’t be visible.

Let’s take a look for the naked-eye planets for this week. Mercury has joined Jupiter and Saturn extremely low in the southwestern sky. I’m afraid Saturn will be lost in the twilight, but Jupiter, with Mercury above it might be visible. They are both extremely low in the southwestern sky around 6 pm. Jupiter will set at 6:20 pm with Mercury following 20 minutes later. Quite high in the south at 7 pm Mars can be found. It will be actually due south on the meridian at 7:10 pm tonight. The meridian is an imaginary line that runs from the north compass point on one’s horizon, through the zenith to the south compass point. Mars is beginning to increase its speed eastward and will set at 2:09 am. Venus, our brilliant morning star will rise at 7:15 am in the east-southeast.

Addendum

Jupiter and Mercury in evening twilight

Jupiter and Mercury in evening twilight st 6 pm, about a half hour after sunset over the Lake Michigan horizon. Saturn, though present can’t compete with the bright twilight. The less than one day old moon is setting. Created using Stellarium.

Mars finder animation

Mars finder animation for 8 pm tonight, January 13, 2021 (about 2 1/2 hours after sunset. Looking southward. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

Venus in the morning twilight

Venus in the morning twilight at 7:45 am tomorrow morning January 14, 2021 (about 1/2 hour before sunrise). Created using Stellarium.

The graphic that shows the planets as seen in small telescopes has been discontinued because Jupiter and Saturn are too close to the horizon and Venus and Mars are too small (less than 10 seconds of arc in diameter). It will be resumed in a couple of months when Jupiter and Saturn become visible in the morning sky.

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 January 13, 2021. The night ends on the left with sunrise on the 14th. I’m afraid that the labels for Jupiter and Saturn will overlap, since the planets are very close. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using my LookingUp program.

 

01/12/2021 – Ephemeris – The celestial river Eridanus

January 12, 2021 Leave a comment

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Tuesday, January 12th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 7 minutes, setting at 5:25, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:17. The Moon, 1 day before new, will rise at 8:58 tomorrow morning.

One of the more obscure constellations around is Eridanus, which depicts a river. The river starts near the lower right corner of Orion, near the bright star Rigel and flows to the right then down near the southwestern horizon, then it meanders along the horizon to the south before turning below the horizon. One has to travel to the far south to see the southern terminus of the river, the bright star Achernar. Writers over the ages have seen here the Nile and the Earth circling river Ocean of the flat earth days. Achernar is actually two stars, the brightest was discovered to be the flattest star known, due to its rapid spin. The dimensions of Achernar A has been determined to be twice as wide across its equator than from pole to pole. It’s 139 light years away.

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

Addendum

Eridanus

An animation of the constellation Eridanus which is a river that flows from Rigel in Orion to the star Achernar below our southern horizon at latitude 45 degrees north. Create using Stellarium and GIMP.

01/11/2021 – Ephemeris – Procyon, the before the Dog Star

January 11, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Monday, January 11th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 5 minutes, setting at 5:23 pm, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:17 am. The Moon, 2 days before new, will rise at 8:05 tomorrow morning.

Visible low in the east at 8 p.m. appears the star Procyon. To its right and below is Sirius the brightest night-time star. Procyon is the bright star in the constellation Canis Minor, or lesser dog. I can find only one other star in Canis Minor. Perhaps it’s a hot dog. If Sirius, in Canis major is the Dog Star then Procyon should be the Little Dog Star. However, Procyon is an interesting name. It means “Before the dog”, which is an allusion to the fact that Procyon, though east of Sirius actually rises before it. This is due to Procyon’s more northerly position. This effect doesn’t work south of the equator, however. Sirius will rise at about 7:30 tonight. Procyon is a star much like Sirius but is 32% farther away. It’s 11.4 to Sirius’ 8.6 light years away.

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

Addendum

Orion and his hunting dogs in early winter

Orion and his hunting dogs in early winter (8 pm, January 11, 2021) showing that Procyon does rise before Sirius.

01/08/2021 – Ephemeris – There will be a virtual star party tonight

January 8, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Friday, January 8th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 1 minute, setting at 5:20, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:19. The Moon, 2 days past last quarter, will rise at 4:31 tomorrow morning.

The Grand Traverse Astronomical Society will host a virtual star party at 8 pm tonight. It is via the Zoom app for smartphones, tablets or computers. Instructions and a link can be found on the society’s website gtastro.org. It will be hosted by Dr. Jerry Dobek, astronomy professor at Northwestern Michigan College. During a virtual star party the images are produced real time or near real time using a telescope mounted CCD camera. That is if it’s clear. If cloudy we’ll have a virtual, virtual star party using recently acquired images captured for his astronomy students. A couple of months ago we got a tantalizing look at the Great Orion Nebula as it rose in moonlight. Now it’s higher in the sky with no Moon. It should be spectacular!

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

01/07/2021 – Ephemeris – The constellations Orion and Taurus interact

January 7, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Thursday, January 7th. Today the Sun will be up for 8 hours and 59 minutes, setting at 5:19, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:19. The Moon, 1 day past last quarter, will rise at 3:13 tomorrow morning.

There are several instances in the Greek heavens where constellations appear to interact with one another. This is true with Orion the hunter and Taurus the bull. Taurus, whose face is the letter V of stars with orangish Aldebaran as his angry bloodshot eye is charging down on Orion, who has raised a lion skin shield on one arm and an upraised club in the other, ready to strike. They have been frozen in this pose for millennia. Stars below and right of the letter V of the Bull’s face suggest the front part of his body and his front legs charging at Orion. Orion also has two hunting dogs, Canis Major and Canis Minor. Canis Major with its dazzling star Sirius will rise around 7:30 on a line extended down from Orion’s belt.

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

Addendum

The Orion-Taurus Tableau. Seen around 8 pm, January 7, 2021. Created using Stellarium.

Categories: Constellations Tags: ,

01/06/2021 – Ephemeris – Let’s take our first look at the naked-eye planets for 2021

January 6, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Wednesday, January 6th. Today the Sun will be up for 8 hours and 58 minutes, setting at 5:18, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:19. The Moon, at last quarter today, will rise at 1:57 tomorrow morning.

Let’s take our first look at the naked-eye planets for 2021. Jupiter and Saturn are both extremely low in the southwestern sky around 6 pm. Jupiter is the very bright one. Below and right of it is the dimmer Saturn it by two degrees or four moon widths. They crossed paths for us 16 nights ago. They can still be seen in the same binocular field. Saturn will set first tonight at 6:33 pm with Jupiter following nine minutes later. Quite high in the southeast at that hour will be Mars, still in Pisces. It will pass due south at 7:25 tonight. Mars’ distance is increasing to 88 million miles (141 million km) away. It will set at 2:19 tomorrow morning. Venus, our brilliant morning star will rise at 7:03 am in the east-southeast as it seems to retreat slowly toward the Sun, but actually it’s heading way around behind the Sun.

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

Addendum

Jupiter and Saturn in the twilight

Jupiter and Saturn just above the distant trees at 6 pm January 6, 2021. We might lose them in twilight next week. We’ll have to move to a Lake Michigan horizon to try to spot them. Created using Stellarium.

Mars in the evening

Mars in the evening sky at 8 pm January 6, 2021 looking southward. Mars is on the boarder between Pisces on the right and Aries above and left. Also seen on the left is the tiny dipper shape of the Pleiades or Seven Sisters star cluster and farther to the left the letter V of stars that is the face of Taurus the bull with the bright star Aldebaran. Created using Stellarium.

Waning crescent Moon

The waning crescent Moon at around 7 am January 7, 2021 as it might be seen in binoculars or a small telescope. Created using Stellarium.

Venus in the morning

Venus seen low on the southeastern horizon at 7:30 in the morning on January 7, 2021. Created using Stellarium.

The planets Jupiter and Saturn as they might be seen in a small telescope at 6 pm, January 6, 2021. These planets are seen in twilight so Saturn’s moons will be invisible, and Jupiter’s moons nearly so. Mars is not shown because its apparent size is less than 10″ (seconds of arc in diameter), and Venus, nearly so. Apparent diameters: Jupiter, 32.73″; Saturn, 15.20″, rings, 35.42″; Mars, 9.82″, and Venus, 10.55″ 95% full.

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 January 6, 2021. The night ends on the left with sunrise on the 7th. I’m afraid that the labels for Jupiter and Saturn overlap, since the planets are very close. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using my LookingUp program.

 

01/05/2021 – Ephemeris – Orion’s named stars and their meanings

January 5, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Tuesday, January 5th. Today the Sun will be up for 8 hours and 57 minutes, setting at 5:17, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:19. The Moon, 1 day before last quarter, will rise at 12:42 tomorrow morning.

The constellation of Orion the hunter is visible in the southeast at 8 p.m. The names of the stars of Orion are interesting in themselves. Starting at the top left of the seven bright stars of Orion’s torso is Betelgeuse the bright red star, whose name means something like “Armpit of the Giant”. The star in Orion’s other shoulder is Bellatrix the “Amazon Star”. Below are the three stars of Orion’s belt, from left to right; Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka. Their names mean “Girdle”, “Belt of Pearls”, and “Belt” respectively. Down to Orion’s knees we look on the left to the star Saiph pronounced “Safe”* which means “Sword”, though it is a star in his knee. Finally, there’s the bright blue-white star Rigel whose name means “Left Leg of the Giant” in Orion’s other knee. These are the important stars that make up the figure of Orion in the sky. [BTW. most star names are Arabic, and what survives of them is just a part of the original Arabic phrases.]

* In the radio program I pronounced the word then spelled it out.

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

Addendum

Orion with star names.

The named stars of Orion. Created using Stellarium.

Categories: Constellations, Star Names Tags:

01/04/2021 – Ephemeris – A belated preview of January skies

January 4, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Monday, January 4th. The Sun will rise at 8:20. It’ll be up for 8 hours and 56 minutes, setting at 5:16. The Moon, 2 days before last quarter, will rise at 11:29 this evening.

Let’s look ahead at the rest of January. Daylight hours will increase from 8 hours 56 minutes a day today to 9 hours 47 minutes on the 31st. The Sun’s noontime altitude above the southern horizon will increase from 22 ½ degrees today to 28 degrees on the 31st. The time of local noon, when the Sun is due south will be 12:52 pm on the 15th. The Straits area will have the Sun lower by a degree, and slightly shorter daytime hours. This month we’ll get into the heart of winter, and it’s going to be cold. This is moderated or intensified by the weather, which is always a wild card. In the night skies the winter stars, and Orion will make a bright display. Only Mars of all the naked-eye planets will be visible after twilight in the evening.

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

Note: The addendum of information about the month ahead has been added to my January 1st post here.