07/22/2016 – Ephemeris – Tomorrow is Astronomy Fest at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

July 22, 2016 Leave a comment

Ephemeris for Friday, July 22nd.  Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours even, setting at 9:19, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:19.  The Moon, 3 days past full, will rise at 10:55 this evening.

Tomorrow the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore will hold its first, possibly annual, Astronomy Fest.  There will be events all afternoon and evening at several locations in the park.  From one to three p.m. at the Platte River Campground Amphitheater, there will be talks by Dr. Jerry Dobek, director of the Northwestern College’s Rogers Observatory and NPS Science Intern Caprice Phillips concerning dark skies and how you can help.  Park Ranger Marie Scott will give her Starry night program.  And yours truly will give a talk about the astronomical discoveries of the last 100 years.   From 4 to 6 p.m. telescopes will be set up at the Dune Climb to view the Sun, and from 9 to 11 p.m. Telescopes will be set up at Platte River Point. to view the planets and wonders of the summer skies.

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

 

07/21/2016 – Ephemeris – This sunspot cycle is past peak

July 21, 2016 Leave a comment

Ephemeris for Thursday, July 21st.  Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 2 minutes, setting at 9:20, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:18.  The Moon, 2 days past full, will rise at 10:20 this evening.

The Sun is on the down side in this sunspot cycle.  Sunspots increase and decrease on the Sun in a roughly 11 year cycle.  This sunspot cycle wasn’t a very high peak in numbers of sunspots.  The peak of sunspot numbers occurred in both 2012 and 2014, an odd double peak.  The peak in activity for this cycle is among the lowest since systematic observations have been recorded over the last 200 or so years.  This year so far has seen 16 Sun spotless days according to SpaceWeather.com.  There was none last year and only one in 2014.  Coming up to this sunspot peak saw an extended period of years with mostly spotless days.  The Sun is actually brighter when it has lots sunspots, than when it is not.  Odd but true.  In not so distant past sunspots have been missing for years.

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

Addendum

All recorded sunspot cycles

All the recorded sunspot cycles back to the 18th century. Credit: Dr. David Hathaway, NASA /ARC.

 

07/20/2016 – Ephemeris – The evening planets are moving with the stars to the west

July 20, 2016 Leave a comment

Ephemeris for Wednesday, July 20th.  Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 4 minutes, setting at 9:21, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:17.  The Moon, 1 day past full, will rise at 9:42 this evening.

Our evening planets are moving with the stars to the west, and setting almost a half hour earlier each week.  Jupiter is in the west in the evening.  It will set at 11:33 p.m.  Binoculars can make out some of Jupiter’s moons, but a telescope is required to see all four bright moons and Jupiter’s cloud features.  Mars starts the evening in the southern sky, moving to the southwest.  It’s above and right of its dimmer look-a-like star Antares, whose name means Rival of Mars.  The planet will set at 1:46 a.m.  The Earth is pulling ahead of Mars so it’s now 61 million miles away and tiny in telescopes.  The ringed planet Saturn is low in the south.  It’s to the left of Mars.  Saturn will pass due south at 10:21 p.m. and will set at 2:58 a.m.

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

Addendum

Evening Planets

The evening planets at 10 p.m., July 20, 2016. Created using Stellarium.

Jupiter and moons

Jupiter and its Galilean moons at 10 p.m. July 20, 2016. Jupiter’s apparent diameter will be 32.7″. Callisto is about to be occulted by Jupiter at 10:08 p.m. (2:08 UT, July 21st). Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

Telescopic Mars

Mars as it might be seen in a large telescope with high power at 10 p.m. July 20, 2016. Mars’ apparent diameter is 14.1″. The central meridian will be 25.04 degrees. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

Saturn and its moons

Saturn and its moons at 10 p.m. July 20, 2016. The apparent diameter of the planet will be 17.8″, larger than Mars’ disk. The rings span 41.5″, larger than the apparent diameter of Jupiter. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

The planets and the Moon all night

Planets at sunset and sunrise of a single night starting with sunset on the right on July 20, 2016. The night ends on the left with sunrise on July 21. If you are using Firefox right-click on the image and select View Image to enlarge the image. That goes for all the large images.

07/19/2016 – Ephemeris – The bright Moon is seen low in the summer

July 19, 2016 Leave a comment

Ephemeris for Tuesday, July 19th.  Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 6 minutes, setting at 9:22, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:16.  The Moon, at full today, will rise at 9:00 this evening.

In the summer time the moon appears to be seen low in the south.  If you can remember back six month to winter and where the bright moon was then.  It was very high in the sky then.  The reason for the difference in altitude of the bright moon is that the Moon follows closely the Sun’s yearly track against the stars.  That track is the ecliptic, along which the constellations of the Zodiac lie.  The Moon’s own orbit of the Earth departs from that by five degrees.  Tonight the Moon will be about 3 degrees, or 6 Moon diameters above of north of that line.  The full Moon happens to be in the same place, plus or minus up to five degrees north or south of where the Sun was 6 months ago or will be 6 months hence.

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

Addendum

Moon is low in the summer

The Moon is low in the south on July 20, 2016. Created using Stellarium.

Moon is high in the winter

The Moon is high in the south on January 23, 2016. Created using Stellarium.

These images are the same scale.

Categories: Ephemeris Program, Seasons, The Moon Tags:

07/18/2016 – Ephemeris – A second gravitational wave detection and new thoughts about dark matter

July 18, 2016 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, July 18th.  Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 8 minutes, setting at 9:22, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:15.  The Moon, 1 day before full, will set at 6:04 tomorrow morning.

A couple of weeks ago a second gravitational wave event was reported.  This one was detected on December 26th last year.   Scientists determined that it came from the collision of a 14 and a 8 solar mass black holes resulting in a 21 solar mass black hole with one solar mass loss as gravitational wave energy.  The event happened 1.5 billion light years away.  Some scientists at NASA are speculating that, since no particles with the exotic properties of dark matter have been discovered that this matter might be primordial black holes, created at the time of the Big Bang itself.   These primordial black holes can also help solve some other problems of the evolving early universe.

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

Addendum

Dec 26, 2015 gravitational wave event

Gravitational wave signal in blue of the December 26, 2015 detection of the second gravitational wave event.

07/15/2016 – Ephemeris – The Moon tonight

July 15, 2016 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, July 15th.  Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 13 minutes, setting at 9:25, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:12.  The Moon, half way from first quarter to full, will set at 3:35 tomorrow morning.

The Moon is bright as it moves toward full.  In binoculars, the brightest spot on the Moon is visible on the left edge of the Moon at 10 p.m.  In telescopes it becomes a crater named Aristarchus.  The sea below Aristarchus where the terminator, the sunrise line cuts across is Oceanus Procellarum, the Ocean of Storms.  Below that is the small circular sea called Mare Humorum, the Sea of Moisture.  North of Humorum is a large crater with low walls and a multiple central peak called Gassendi.  Below that we’re back in the lunar highlands with lots of large craters.  One of those craters, near the terminator is oddly elongated.  It’s Schiller, 108 by 43 miles (174 X 69 km) in size.

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

Addendum

Gibbous Moon

The gibbous Moo at 10 p.m. July 15, 2016 showing some interesting features near the terminator. Created using Virtual Moon Atlas.

The crater Gassendi from Apollo 16 - NASA

The crater Gassendi from Apollo 16 – NASA

07/14/2016 – Ephemeris – The first anniversary of New Horizons flyby of Pluto

July 14, 2016 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, July 14th.  Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 14 minutes, setting at 9:25, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:11.  The Moon, 3 days past first quarter, will set at 2:57 tomorrow morning.

One year ago today the New Horizons Spacecraft flew past Pluto for our first closeup look at this small world and its satellites.  And wow, what we saw.  In actuality not all the data from the few hours of the flyby have been returned to the Earth.  We saw ice mountains as high as the Rockies,  Nitrogen plains that look like they flowed from what may be heat from below, and a possible subterranean water ocean, which was recently reported.  New Horizons has already tweaked its orbit to pass near another Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69.  Recently The New Horizons team received the go-ahead for the encounter with this, perhaps 20 mile diameter body.  The flyby will take place on January 1, 2019.

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

Addendum

Krun Macula

Krun Macula – Krun is the lord of the underworld in the Mandaean religion, and a macula is a dark feature on a planetary surface – is believed to get its dark red color from tholins, complex molecules found across Pluto. Krun Macula rises 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) above the surrounding plain – informally named Sputnik Planum – and is scarred by clusters of connected, roughly circular pits that typically reach between 5 and 8 miles (8 and 13 kilometers) across, and up to 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) deep.  Image and caption credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.

Pluto's faults

These odd fault lines are also seen on the Jovian moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus and could be the surface signs of an underground ocean. Credit New Horizons/ NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI.

Here’s more information from EarthSky.

New Horizon's curret position

New Horizon’s location as of yesterday. Heading out to 2014 MU69. Credit jhuapl.edu.

 

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