01/17/2022 – Ephemeris – Venus at dawn

January 17, 2022 Leave a comment

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 Leave a comment

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 Leave a comment

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.

01/12/2022 – Ephemeris – Let’s search for the naked-eye planets for this week

January 12, 2022 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Wednesday, January 12th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 6 minutes, setting at 5:24, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:17. The Moon, 3 days past first quarter, will set at 4:45 tomorrow morning.

Let’s search for the naked-eye planets for this week. There are three planets left in the evening sky now. Jupiter will be visible in the southwest by 6:15 pm. Saturn should appear below and right of it, much closer to the Horizon, with the slightly brighter Mercury a bit below and right of it. Mercury is a bit brighter than Saturn, but in brighter twilight. Finding Saturn and Mercury might take a pair of binoculars. Mercury will set at 6:55 pm, Saturn at 7:07, and Jupiter at 8:52 pm. In the morning sky, Mars is now visible by 7:15 am low in the southeast. 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 time 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

3 Evening planets

The three planets in evening twilight at 6:15 pm tonight, January 12, 2022. Created using Stellarium.

Binocular Moon

The waxing gibbous Moon, seen at 9 pm tonight, January 12, 2022. The easily spotted craters of Plato, Copernicus and Tycho are labeled. Created using Stellarium.

Telescopic views of Jupiter and Saturn for tonight

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, this evening at 7 pm, January 12, 2022. I do not show planets less than 10 seconds of arc in diameter. Apparent diameters: Saturn 15.34″, its rings 35.74″; Jupiter, 34.59″. Mercury is not shown, its apparent diameter is 4.12″ and is 34.1% illuminated. Mars also is not shown, its apparent diameter is 4.12″. Jupiter is showing two of its moons transiting its face. They will actually be invisible. Ganymede’s start of transit will be at 6:50 pm and should be visible before then. 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 12, 2022. The night ends on the left with sunrise on the 13th. Click on the image to enlarge it. Created using my LookingUp program.

01/11/2022 – Ephemeris – The James Webb Space Telescope has been unfolded but more work is needed

January 11, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Tuesday, January 11th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 5 minutes, setting at 5:23, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:17. The Moon, 2 days past first quarter, will set at 3:41 tomorrow morning.

As of Sunday night, when I’m recording this program, the James Webb Space Telescope is nearly 700 thousand miles (1,100 million kilometers) from Earth, more than two thirds the way to the L2 Lagrange point., and slowing down. It doesn’t want to overshoot the mark. The telescope is fully deployed except for the alignment of all the mirrors. 18 of which make up the 6.4 meter primary mirror. They have to be adjusted to act like a monolithic mirror with millionths of an inch tolerance. That may take 5 months. Sometime around the end of that we may get to see the First Light image from the telescope, an image of something other than the calibration stars they were using for the previous months to get all the mirrors aligned.

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 temporatures 16 days after launch

James Webb Space Telescope temperatures 16 days after launch. It looks like the cold side temperatures are dropping by 1 or 2 degrees Celsius a day. Credit: James Webb Tracker by The Launch Pad YouTube Channel. Data from NASA.

 

01/10/2022 – Ephemeris – Venus starts a new cycle in the morning sky

January 10, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Monday, January 10th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 3 minutes, setting at 5:22, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:18. The Moon, 1 day past first quarter, will set at 2:36 tomorrow morning.

Two days ago, Venus passed between the Earth and the Sun in an event called an inferior conjunction. Inferior has nothing to due to quality, but denotes the fact that Venus is passing between the Earth and the Sun. The other Venus conjunction is the superior conjunction when Venus passes the Sun on the far side. We should be able to spot Venus rather suddenly in the late 7 to 8 am hour in a few days. Its appearance seems sudden and is sometimes reported as a UFO. It sometimes surprises airport control tower officials, because it may look like an airplane coming in with its landing lights on. But it never lands. In its morning appearance, Venus is sometimes called the Morning Star or Lucifer.

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 Mayans of pre-Columbian Central America were meticulous observers of Venus, as is seen in one of their surviving books, the Dresden Codex. A Venus Cycle lasts 584 days, from first appearance in the morning sky, its heliacal rising, through its morning appearance, disappearance behind the Sun, through its evening appearance and disappearance on front of the Sun to the next heliacal rising. Astronomers call that it’s synodic period. Five Synodic periods equal almost exactly 8 years.

Venus 9 days after Inferior conjunction

Venus, 9 days after Inferior conjunction, next Monday morning. Venus will be just under 5 degrees above an unobstructed horizon at 7:30 am in northwest lower Michigan. Created using Stellarium.

01/07/2022 – Ephemeris – Help with your telescope tonight

January 7, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Friday, 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, 2 days before first quarter, will set at 11:18 this evening.

Did you or someone in your family get a telescope for Christmas, or have one in a closet or attic because you don’t know how to put it together or how to operate it? Or maybe you are trying to figure out which one to buy. Well, tonight’s your night. The Grand Traverse Astronomical Society will host a virtual telescope clinic via Zoom starting at 8 pm. Professor Jerry Dobek of Northwestern Michigan College will demonstrate the types of telescopes and how to use them. He and other members may be able to help particular problems by seeing participants telescopes using their webcams or smartphones. This should be interesting, to say the least. Go to gtastro.org for information and a link for the meeting.

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

Here’s a quick guide to telescopes, how they work, and what’s important in selecting one that I wrote some time ago: Telescope Basics2.pdf

Alternately, when we get back to in-person star parties at the Northwestern Michigan College’s Joseph H. Rogers Observatory, we invite folks to bring their telescopes. Members can have a look at them at or near the end of the evening.

01/06/2022 – Ephemeris – The named stars of Orion

January 6, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Thursday, 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, 3 days before first quarter, will set at 10:07 this evening.

Orion is still on an angle, leaning to the left, at 8 to 9 pm in the southeastern sky. It’s seven brightest stars have names from antiquity, and some of them are familiar. Starting from the top left, the bright reddish star is famous Betelgeuse. The top right star is Bellatrix, a name familiar to Harry Potter fans. The three stars of his belt, from bottom to top, are Alnilam, Alnitak, and Mintaka. The final bottom two stars from left to right are Saiph, pronounced “safe”. And blue-white Rigel, usually the brightest star of the constellation. These are the stars of Orion’s shoulders, belt and knees. He has other stars that delineate an arm with an upraised club and an arm holding a lion skin shield and a sword hanging from his belt.

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

Orion's named stars

Orion’s named stars. Betelgeuse means “Armpit”. Bellatrix means “Female warrior”. The names of Orion’s belt stars refer to belt or girdle, Rigel refers to Orion’s foot. Saiph means sword, however Orion’s sword is the line of three stars below the belt stars. In binoculars, there’s more than three stars here. Around the second “star” of the sword is the Great Orion Nebula, barely visible here. Created using Stellarium.

01/05/2022 – Ephemeris – Let’s search for the naked-eye planets for this week

January 5, 2022 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Wednesday, January 5th. Today the Sun will be up for 8 hours and 57 minutes, setting at 5:16, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:19. The Moon, 3 days past new, will set at 8:53 this evening.

Let’s search for the naked-eye planets for this week. Venus is three days from passing between the Earth and the Sun in what is called an inferior conjunction. It really isn’t visible in the bright evening twilight. It will emerge later this month in the morning sky. Jupiter might be visible in the southwest by 6 pm, above the 3-day-old crescent Moon. Saturn should appear a bit later, halfway between Jupiter and the horizon, but on an angle to the lower right. Mercury might be spotted again halfway to the horizon from Saturn to the lower right of it. This isn’t the best appearance of Mercury in the evening this year, the one in early April will be better. Mercury will set at 6:48 pm, Saturn at 7:30, and Jupiter at 9:11 pm.

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

3 Evening planets and the Moon

Three Evening planets and the Moon at 6 pm on the southwest horizon tonight, January 5, 2022. Created using Stellarium.

3 day old Moon with earth shine

Three day old Moon with earth shine as it might look like in binoculars tonight, January 5, 2022. Created using Stellarium.

Mars and Antares in the morning

Mars and Antares at 7:00 tomorrow morning, January 6, 2022. The name Antares means “Rival of Mars”, Ares being the Greek equivalent to the Roman Ares. Created using Stellarium.

Telescopic views of Jupiter and Saturn for tonight

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, this evening at 7 pm, January 5, 2022. I do not show planets less than 10 seconds of arc in diameter. Apparent diameters: Saturn 15.41″, its rings 35.89″; Jupiter, 35.05″. Mercury is not shown, its apparent diameter is 6.67″ and is 64.2% illuminated. Mars also is not shown, its apparent diameter is 4.05″. Jupiter is showing 3 of its 4 bright moons. Io is in front of the planet. 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 5, 2022. The night ends on the left with sunrise on the 6th. Click on the image to enlarge it. Created using my LookingUp program.

 

01/04/2022 – Ephemeris – Planet show in the evening twilight tonight

January 4, 2022 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Tuesday, January 4th. The Sun will rise at 8:20. It’ll be up for 8 hours and 55 minutes, setting at 5:15. The Moon, 2 days past new, will set at 7:34 this evening.

Tonight, if it’s clear, there’s a chance that one could spot four planets, plus the Moon, in the southwestern evening twilight. However, not all at the same time. Venus should make an appearance at about 5:45 very low in the west-southwest, only 3 degrees or 6 moon-widths above a lake horizon. Jupiter might be visible then or in a few more minutes much higher in the southwest. The two-day-old Moon might be visible then, about halfway between Jupiter and Venus. By 6 pm, Mercury might be visible halfway between the Moon and where Venus was, because Venus will be setting at that time. By this time, too, Saturn will appear just above right of the Moon. This is the last chance to spot Venus in the evening sky until the last months of this 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

4 Evening planets and the Moon

Four Evening planets and the Moon at 5:45 pm on a flat horizon at 5:45 pm tonight, January 4, 2022. Venus, because it is so low on the horizon, and Saturn, the dimmest of the four planets, may not be visible. Created using Stellarium.

Telescopic view of Venus 4 days before inferior conjunction

Venus is only 4 days away from inferior conjunction. Back in 1969 I took this photo of Venus then only 4 days from inferior conjunction from the Grand Rapids Amateur Astronomical Society’s Veen Observatory outside of Lowell, MI.

Venus was low in the sky, and the atmosphere made it very fuzzy.