02/24/2017 – Ephemeris – Winter star party at the Sleeping Near Dunes tomorrow night

February 24, 2017 Leave a comment

Ephemeris for Friday, February 24th.  The Sun will rise at 7:27.  It’ll be up for 10 hours and 56 minutes, setting at 6:23.  The Moon, 2 days before new, will rise at 6:53 tomorrow morning.

Tomorrow night the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society and the Rangers of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore will hold a star party at the Dune Climb parking lot from 7 to 9 p.m. but only if it is clear.  Last Saturday night it happened to be clear, so I went out there to do some photography of the heavens, and the sky was spectacular with the brilliant constellation Orion dominating the southern sky.  Its great star forming region, the Great Orion Nebula displaying its bright heart and wispy outer tendrils of gas and dust heading away from that nest of bright baby stars that are illuminating it. Venus is a shining beacon in the west until it sets into the dune.  We might even be able to spot the faint Zodiacal Light in the west.

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

Addendum

Orion

Orion in a 30 second exposure taken at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Dune Climb February, 18, 2017 by Bob Moler. Click on image to enlarge a bit.

Centered on Perseus

Area of the sky from the Hyades and Pleiades on the left to the Double Cluster on the right. While processing the image for this post I discovered two possible meteor trails on the left and below center. A 2 minute exposure taken at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Dune Climb February, 18, 2017 by Bob Moler. Click on image to enlarge and see all the deep sky goodies in it..

02/23/2017 – Ephemeris – The Evening Star’s days are numbered

February 23, 2017 Leave a comment

Ephemeris for Thursday, February 23rd.  The Sun will rise at 7:29.  It’ll be up for 10 hours and 53 minutes, setting at 6:22.  The Moon, 3 days before new, will rise at 6:15 tomorrow morning.

The brilliant Evening Star, the planet Venus entered our evening sky last June.  It seemed it took forever to move far enough away from the Sun to be easily seen after sunset.  The summer and autumn time is a hard time to spot a planet near the Sun after sunset, because they appear more to the left of the Sun than above it.  Now, in late winter Venus is high in the west after sunset.  But that won’t last.  It’s nearly 9 month’s reign as the Evening Star are about up. In 27 days it will be gone, out of the evening sky as it rapidly passes between the Earth and the Sun.  Venus will be only 26 million miles (42 million km) from the Earth.  Back is 2012 it crossed the face of the sun at conjunction, On March 25th it will be 16 Sun diameters north of our star.

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

Addendum

Venus' orbit in the evening sky.

Venus and Mars showing Venus’ orbit showing how far north it will get above the ecliptic, the yellow line, which is the path of the Sun. Created using Stellarium.

 

Categories: Ephemeris Program, Venus Tags:

02/22/2017 – Ephemeris – The planets this morning and tonight

February 22, 2017 Leave a comment

Ephemeris for Wednesday, February 22nd.  The Sun will rise at 7:31.  It’ll be up for 10 hours and 50 minutes, setting at 6:21.  The Moon, half way from last quarter to new, will rise at 5:33 tomorrow morning.

Let’s check out the bright planets for this week.  Saturn can be glimpsed this morning in the southeast before 7 a.m.  It will rise tomorrow at 3:45 a.m. in the east-southeast.  Jupiter can be seen in the south-southwest this morning above the star Spica.  The giant planet will rise tonight in the east at 10:22 p.m.  Venus and Mars are in the evening sky. At 7 p.m. these planets will be seen in the western sky.  Venus is unmistakable as the brilliant evening star,  Mars will be left and above it and much dimmer.  Venus will set at 9:45 p.m. while Mars will set at 10:13.  Venus exhibits a dazzling crescent in small telescopes now, but a month from now it will be too close to the Sun to be seen.

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

Addendum

Morning planets

Jupiter in the south above the star Spica with Saturn in the southeast and the crescent Moon further to the left at 7 a.m. this morning, February 22, 2017. Created using Stellarium.

Jupiter and moons in a telescope

Jupiter and its moons as they might appear in telescopes this morning at 6:30 a.m. February 22, 2017. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

Saturn and its moons

Saturn and its brightest moons as they might appear in telescopes this morning at 6:30 a.m. February 22, 2017. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

Binocular Moon

The Moon as it might appear in binoculars at 6:30 a.m. this morning February 22, 2017. Created using Stellarium.

Evening planets

Venus and Mars in the evening twilight of about an hour after sunset. at 7 p.m. tonight February 22, 2017. Venus is now drawing away from Mars as it heads toward and north of the Sun. Their apparent paths won’t cross again until October in the morning sky. Created using Stellarium.

Telescopic Venus

Venus as it might appear in a telescope tonight February 22, 2017. I processed the image to overexpose it as it would appear in a telescope. Created using Stellarium.

Planets and Moon at sunset and sunrise of a single night

Planets and Moon at sunset and sunrise of a single night starting with sunset on the right on February 22, 2017. The night ends on the left with sunrise on February 23. Click on image to enlarge. Created using my LookingUp program.

 

 

02/21/2017 – Ephemeris – Finding Saturn this morning and Cassini’s future

February 21, 2017 Leave a comment

Ephemeris for Tuesday, February 21st.  The Sun will rise at 7:32.  It’ll be up for 10 hours and 47 minutes, setting at 6:19.  The Moon, 3 days past last quarter, will rise at 4:48 tomorrow morning.

This morning the crescent Moon will act as a pointer to the planet Saturn.  The ringed planet will appear to the right of our Moon.  Saturn’s rings will show in any telescope with 20 times magnification or greater.  Out at Saturn for the last 13 years and for the next 7 months the robot spacecraft Cassini has been orbiting the ringed planet using gravity assists from the giant moon Titan as a fulcrum to leverage itself into many different orbits to study Saturn’s rings and collection of moons.  In a bit over seven months it’s fantastic journey will be over.  Low on fuel, it will plunge between the rings and the cloud tops, spiraling in towards its doom September 30th into the planet’s atmosphere so as not to contaminate the icy moons which could possibly harbor life.

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

Addendum

Finding Saturn

Using the Moon to locate Saturn in the southeast at 7 a.m. or earlier on February 21, 2017. The Moon is enlarged to show it better. Created using Stellarium.

Cassini Spacecraft

The Cassini spacecraft at Saturn. Credit: NASA/JPL.

Prometheus and the F Ring

The shepherd satellite Prometheus leaving a wake in Saturn’s outer F Ring. Credit: NASA/JPL.

02/20/2017 – Ephemeris – The spring constellations are rising

February 20, 2017 Leave a comment

Ephemeris for President’s Day, Monday, February 20th.  The Sun will rise at 7:34.  It’ll be up for 10 hours and 44 minutes, setting at 6:18.  The Moon, 2 days past last quarter, will rise at 3:59 tomorrow morning.

With spring only a month away, lets turn our eyes eastward in the evening to the rising spring stars.  In contrast to the brilliant stars of the winter skies still holding forth in the south, and running along the Milky Way overhead and to the northwest, the stars to the east are rather sparse and dull.  The only exception is the Big Dipper to the northeast.  The one bright star in the east is Regulus, whose rank as a first magnitude star is dead last in brightness.  It is in the heart of the constellation of Leo the lion, and as such has gained a great amount of fame.  Regulus is at the base of a backward question mark of stars that is informally known a the Sickle.  It is also the characteristic head and mane of a male lion.  A triangle of stars to the lower left are his back end ending with Leo’s second brightest star Denebola, literally “Lion’s Tail”.

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

Addendum

 

Comparison of winter stars vs. spring stars.

Comparison of winter stars vs. spring stars. Created using Stellarium.

The constellation Leo animation

The constellation Leo animation. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

02/17/2017 – Ephemeris – The stars of the Belt of Orion

February 17, 2017 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, February 17th.  The Sun will rise at 7:39.  It’ll be up for 10 hours and 35 minutes, setting at 6:14.  The Moon, 1 day before last quarter, will rise at 1:15 tomorrow morning.

Let’s take a closer look at the central constellation of the winter sky, the giant hunter Orion.  His most remarkable feature in his Belt of three stars in a straight line.  It’s the brightest, straightest and most equidistant line of stars I know of.  It points down and left to the brightest star Sirius the dog star and up to the right of Aldebaran the angry bloodshot eye in Taurus the bull.  The star names as taught to me by Grand Rapids Public Museum curator Evelyn Grebel in my youth in the 1950s was from left to right Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka.  All the names reference a belt or girdle.   Alnitak lights up a faint cloud that can sometimes be glimpsed with binoculars called the Flame Nebula,  Just below it and invisible except in photographs is the Horsehead Nebula.

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

Addendum

Orion's named stars

Orion’s named stars including the belt stars. Created using Stellarium.

Orion's Belt

Orion’s belt stars showing the nebulae illuminated by Alnitak. The Flame Nebula above left of it and the Horsehead Nebula below.  At this scale the horse’s head figure appears as a dark  bump into the left edge of the red glow.

The Horsehead Nebula

The Horsehead Nebula: On the left in visible light from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, while the image on the right is from the Hubble Space Telescope’s near infrared camera. Infrared light penetrated dust and gas better than visible light. This image is rotated about 90 degrees counterclockwise from the above image.

02/16/2017 – Ephemeris – The Winter Circle

February 16, 2017 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, February 16th.  The Sun will rise at 7:40.  It’ll be up for 10 hours and 32 minutes, setting at 6:12.  The Moon, 2 days before last quarter, will rise at 12:17 tomorrow morning.

The winter skies are blessed with more first magnitude stars than any other season.  These are the twenty-one brightest stars in the sky.  Six of these stars lie in a large circle centered on the seventh.  This circle is up all evening now that we are in the heart of winter.  Starting high overhead is Capella in Auriga the charioteer.  Moving clockwise, we come to Aldebaran in the face of Taurus the Bull.  Then down to Orion’s knee we find Rigel.  Down and left is the brightest star of all Sirius the Dog Star in Canis Major Orion’s large hunting dog, lowest of these stars in the south.  Moving up and left there is Procyon in Canis Minor, Then above it is Pollux in Gemini the twins.  All are centered on Betelgeuse in Orion.

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

Addendum

The Winter Circle of 1st magnitude stars

The Winter Circle of 1st magnitude stars. Created using my LookingUp program.