01/26/2022 – Ephemeris – Evening planets? Then there was one.

January 26, 2022 Leave a comment

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Wednesday, January 26th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 35 minutes, setting at 5:43, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:07. The Moon, 1 day past last quarter, will rise at 3:37 tomorrow morning.

Let’s search for the naked-eye planets for this week. There is just one planet left in the evening sky now. Jupiter will be visible in the southwest by 6:15 pm. Jupiter will set at 8:12 pm. Saturn is too close to the Sun to be seen, and will cross behind the Sun in 9 days to enter the morning sky. In the morning sky, Venus, our brilliant morning star, and the much dimmer Mars will rise about the same time about 6:05 am. Both will appear low in the southeastern twilight by 7 am. Mars will be to the right of Venus by 11 and a half degrees, about the width of a fist held at arm’s length. Mars’ rival in color and brightness, the red giant star Antares, is to its right and a bit higher, and nearer the waning crescent Moon.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EST, UT – 5 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Jupiter in evening twilight

Jupiter in evening twilight tonight, January 26, 2022. Created using Stellarium.

Waning crescent Moon

Waning crescent Moon as it might be seen at 7:15 am tomorrow morning, January 27, 2022. Created using Stellarium.

Telescopic views of Jupiter and Venus

Telescopic views of the bright planets and their brighter moons (north up) as they would be seen in a small telescope, with the same magnification, overnight, January 26/27, 2022. I do not show planets less than 10 seconds of arc in diameter. Apparent diameters: Jupiter, 33.85″. Mars is not shown, its apparent diameter is 4.27″. Venus has an apparent diameter of 52.85″ and is 11.0% illuminated. The ” symbol means seconds of arc (1/3600th of a degree.) Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

Planets and the Moon on a single night

The naked-eye planets and the Moon at sunset and sunrise on a single night, starting with sunset on the right on January 26, 2022. The night ends on the left with sunrise on the 27th. Click on the image to enlarge it. Created using my LookingUp program.

01/25/2022 – Ephemeris -The James Webb Space Telescope is now in orbit of Lagrange point 2 (L2)

January 25, 2022 Leave a comment

Note: This program was written and recorded prior to the thruster burn at 2 pm Monday, which nudged it into a halo orbit of the Earth-Sun L2 point. This post was posted after the burn.

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Tuesday, January 25th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 32 minutes, setting at 5:41, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:08. The Moon, at last quarter today, will rise at 2:19 tomorrow morning.

On the James Webb Space Telescope, which should now be in a big lazy halo orbit of the Lagrangian L2, point nearly a million miles directly opposite the Sun from the Earth. Its final mid-course correction should have dropped into the halo orbit. I’m recording this Sunday night before the scheduled 2 pm yesterday mid-course correction firing. While I’m always sure it’ll be clear tonight to see the stars, or when an eclipse will happen. I’m not so sure on when or what will happen where spacecraft and rockets are involved. As far as knowing, that it will be clear tonight. I’m sure that someone will hear or read these comments, also published on my blog, and have clear skies somewhere on the planet.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EST, UT – 5 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

James Webb Space Telescope trajectory to L2

James Webb Space Telescope trajectory to L2 with some milestones of deployment. “ISIM” stands for Integrated Scientific Instruments Module. Credit: Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI).

Clouds Over Great Lakes

Lake effect clouds over Michigan. Taken earlier this month by NASA via SpaceRef.com. I live somewhere on the northwestern part of the Lower Peninsula under the lake effect clouds. We haven’t had much snow from it… Yet! But winter isn’t half over, and we can get big snow storms a month into spring. We exchange sub-zero (F) cold on the western edge of the lakes for slightly warmer temperatures, clouds and snow, until the lakes freeze, if they freeze.

01/24/2022 – Ephemeris – The Great Orion Nebula

January 24, 2022 Leave a comment

This is Ephemeris for Monday, January 24th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 30 minutes, setting at 5:40, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:09. The Moon, 1 day before last quarter, will rise at 1:03 tomorrow morning.

The closest star nursery to us, places where stars are being born, is the Great Orion Nebula, 1,300 light years away. A light year is about 6 trillion miles, if you want to pace it out. It’s located in the constellation Orion’s sword that hangs below his belt. In as little as a pair of binoculars, it shines by emission and reflection of the light of a tiny clutch of four stars at its heart, which astronomers have called the Trapezium. These extremely hot young massive stars are not destined to live long. Unlike the Sun’s 10 billion year lifetime, these stars lifespans will be measured in millions of years. Yet do not mourn for them, even now stars are forming within their dusty cocoons in the nebula. The Trapezium stars’ deaths will provide heavy elements for new stars and planets.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EST, UT – 5 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

The lower part of Orion with the Great Orion Nebula. Created using Stellarium.

The lower part of Orion, with the Great Orion Nebula. Created using Stellarium.

The Great Orion Nebula (M42) long exposure photograph

The Great Orion Nebula (M42) long exposure photograph by Scott Anttila. Includes all the sword stars.

Inner part of the Great Orion Nebula. Image by Scott Anttila

The inner and brightest part of the Great Orion Nebula. Also, visible are the four stars of the Trapezium, whose ultraviolet emissions light up the nebula. This is pretty much one’s perception of the nebula as seen in a small telescope, except it would appear colorless. In larger telescopes, one would perceive a greenish color. The red color of hydrogen is outside our night adapted visual range. The green emission is due to mainly doubly ionized oxygen and the green emission of hydrogen. Image by Scott Anttila.

01/21/22 – Ephemeris – A river in the sky, but not the Milky Way

January 21, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Friday, January 21st. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 23 minutes, setting at 5:36, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:11. The Moon, halfway from full to last quarter, will rise at 9:31 this evening.

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. And 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 astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EST, UT – 5 hours). 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.

Achernar

A model of Achernar by the European Southern Observatory (ESO).

01/20/2022 – Ephemeris – Taurus and the half sisters of the Pleiades

January 20, 2022 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Thursday, January 20th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 21 minutes, setting at 5:34, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:12. The Moon, 3 days past full, will rise at 8:23 this evening.

High in the south-southeastern sky, and above-right of Orion, is the bright star Aldebaran. It’s at one tip of a letter V of fainter stars. The group of stars is the face of the constellation of Taurus the bull. Aldebaran is the angry bloodshot eye of the bull that’s charging Orion, whose defending himself with a lion skin shield and an upraised club. The stars in the V, and many more visible in binoculars, except for Aldebaran, belong to a star cluster called the Hyades. In Greek mythology, these are the half sisters of the Pleiades, visible as a tight group of stars above them. The V of stars is actually an upside down letter A, or Aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew and Mesopotamian alphabets. This was invented when Taurus, not Aries, was host to the Sun at the spring equinox.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EST, UT – 5 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Hyades and Pleiades

The  Hyades (left) and the Pleiades (right) in this photograph I took January 4, 2016. Aldebaran is the bright star at the left tip of the Pleiades (right)  of the Hyades.

Orion-Taurus animation

Orion and Taurus finder animation for mid-January. Created using Stellarium

01/19/2022 – Ephemeris – Let’s search for the naked-eye planets for this week

January 19, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Wednesday, January 19th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 19 minutes, setting at 5:33, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:13. The Moon, 2 days past full, will rise at 7:15 this evening.

Let’s search for the naked-eye planets for this week. There are two planets left in the evening sky now. Jupiter will be visible in the southwest by 6:15 pm. Saturn might be visible below and right of it, much closer to the Horizon. Finding Saturn might require the use of a pair of binoculars. Saturn will set at 6:44, while Jupiter will set at 8:22 pm. In the morning sky, Mars will rise at 6:10 am while Venus, our brilliant morning star, will rise at 6:40 am. Both will appear low in the southeastern twilight by 7:15. Mars will be to the right and a bit higher than Venus. Mars’ rival in color and brightness, the red giant star Antares, is to its right and a bit higher. Another bright star is low in the east at that time, the summer evening star Altair.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EST, UT – 5 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Jupiter and Saturn in the evening

Jupiter and Saturn at 6:15 pm, about 45 or so minutes after sunset over an unobstructed horizon. Jupiter will be quite bright in twilight, while Saturn may require binoculars to find. Created using Stellarium.

Binocular Moon

The waning gibbous Moon as it might appear in binoculars or small telescope at 8 pm (about 45 minutes after rising) tonight, January 19, 2022. Created using Stellarium.

Venus and Mars in the morning

Venus and Mars as they might appear at 7:15 am, about an hour before sunrise tomorrow morning, January 20, 2022. At that time, the waning gibbous moon will appear in the west. Click on the image to enlarge it. Created using Stellarium.

Telescopic views of Jupiter, Saturn and Venus

Telescopic views of the bright planets and their brighter moons (north up) as they would be seen in a small telescope, with the same magnification, overnight, January 19/20, 2022. I do not show planets less than 10 seconds of arc in diameter. Apparent diameters: Saturn 15.29″, its rings 35.63″; Jupiter, 34.19″. Mars is not shown, its apparent diameter is 4.19″. Venus has an apparent diameter of 58.07″ and is 5.2% illuminated. The ” symbol means seconds of arc (1/3600th of a degree.) Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts), though Venus’ image was enhanced in GIMP.

Planets and the Moon on a single night

The naked-eye planets and the Moon at sunset and sunrise on a single night, starting with sunset on the right on January 19, 2022. The night ends on the left with sunrise on the 20th. Click on the image to enlarge it. Created using my LookingUp program.

01/18/2022 – Ephemeris – James Webb Telescope Status

January 18, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Tuesday, January 18th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 17 minutes, setting at 5:32, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:13. The Moon, 1 day past full, will rise at 6:07 this evening.

Let’s take a look at what’s happening with the Webb Space Telescope as of Sunday night when I’m recording this program, the technicians are moving the 18 mirror segments of the primary mirror away from their stowed position for liftoff to near their final position. That’s moving each of them forward about a half inch by tiny increments. Then each will be tilted to concentrate each mirror into a single image and focus it. The mirrors can be tilted and also change the curvature of the mirror segment a bit. This is what takes the time, about 5 months. All the teeny tiny adjustments take time, especially with a nearly eight and a half second two-way light-time between the Earth and the telescope.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EST, UT – 5 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

MirrorAlignmentTracker for 1/17/22

Mirror Alignment Tracker for January 17, 2022. It looks like most mirrors are about 3 millimeters from their final position. Shown are 19 mirrors, the center on, labeled SM is the secondary mirror, out in front of the primary mirror segments. Mirrors A3 and A6 have not moved forward very much. From their position, I assume that’s intentional. Credit: NASA.

As of yesterday (January 17, 2022) the James Webb Space Telescope has journeyed to 91% of the distance to L2 (Lagrange point 2), and its speed has dropped to 577 miles per hour (929 kilometers per hour). They do not want to overshoot the velocity to drop into a halo orbit of L2. By next week’s report, the telescope should have entered its halo orbit of L2.

01/17/2022 – Ephemeris – Venus at dawn

January 17, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Martin Luther King Day, Monday, January 17th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 15 minutes, setting at 5:31, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:14. The Moon, at full today, will rise at 5:04 this evening.

Should it be clear these mornings, the planet Venus should be visible in the 7 to 8 o’clock hour low in the southeast. Venus, in this position, was known to the ancient Greeks as Phosphoros the Light-bringer, or Hesphoros which means the same thing. That is also what another name for Venus the Morning Star meant. That of Lucifer, which became the name of the Devil, a fallen angel. However, in Roman mythology, Lucifer was the son of Aurora, the goddess of dawn. Now Venus, despite its beautiful and brilliant appearance in the sky, is in reality a hellish place. It has sulfuric acid clouds, a nightmarish surface temperature of 850 degrees Fahrenheit, and 90 plus times the Earth’s atmospheric pressure at its surface.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EST, UT – 5 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Venus, Mars and two bright stars in the morning

Venus, Mars and two bright stars in the morning at 7:30, around 45 minutes before sunrise. Venus will pass Mars on for the first time this year on February 12th, only to have Mars pass Venus back on March 15th. That’s 5 days before Venus reaches its greatest separation from the Sun, and begins to head back around the Sun. Click in the image to enlarge it. Created using Stellarium.

01/14/2022 – Ephemeris – Mayan civilization and the planet Venus

January 14, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Friday, 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, 3 days before full, will set at 6:47 tomorrow morning.

The Mayan people of pre-Columbian Central America were diligent observers of the planet Venus. One of their few surviving records is the Dresden Codex. It counts through a long series of Venus’ 584 day cycles. The location of the Mayan cities are a lot closer to the equator than we are, so when Venus disappears as it moves between the Earth and the Sun as it did last weekend, it only disappeared for 8 days. For us, at our latitude, it can be a few days longer. So we should spot it on clear mornings next week in the southeast by 7:15 to 7:30 am. It will appear as a thin crescent in telescopes or even binoculars. Venus will stay in the morning sky until later this year, which will set it up to be a spectacular evening star next year.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EST, UT – 5 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Venus Cycle

Venus Cycle derived from John P Pratt who had another purpose for the diagram and annotated to include the day number of days in each phase. For my purposes, ignore points 1 and 4. The Mayan cycle starts with 7, the first appearance of Venus during the morning. Points 8 and 5 are the points where Venus is at greatest elongation from the Sun. Credit John P Pratt.

Venus section of the Dresden Codex

Pages of the Dresden Codex, produced by the Maya tracking Venus’ appearances in the skies over the Yucatán, for 104 years. The Dresden Codex is one of only 4 surviving Mayan Codices.

01/13/2022 – Ephemeris – The Moon, first target for a new telescope

January 13, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Thursday, January 13th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 8 minutes, setting at 5:26, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:17. The Moon, halfway from first quarter to full, will set at 5:47 tomorrow morning.

The Moon is probably the first astronomical object owners of a new telescope look at. The first discovery is that it’s not that easy to find. Most telescopes produce an upside down or a mirror reversed image, so steering the telescope may take a bit of getting used to. The Moon is at its gibbous phase tonight, so it’s quite bright, and a lot of it doesn’t have much contrast except for the large dark gray areas, called seas. There’s no water in them, of course, but they are huge lava basins caused by large asteroid impacts in the early days of the Moon’s history. The best detail on the Moon is near the terminator, in the time before full moon, it is the sunrise line. There the shadows are longest, and the detail of craters are best seen.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EST, UT – 5 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Virtual Moon Atlas showing Moon for tonight

This is a great guide to the Moon called Virtual Moon Atlas for a computer, showing the Moon for any date and time. It’s a free app which runs natively on Windows, but also can run with emulators on Linux and macOS. I find it to be an amazing program. Check it out under Free Astronomical Software on the right of this page.

The other free app I use is Stellarium (See the right column). Zoom in enough, so the Moon fills the frame, and It will show labels to some of its features if clicked on.