10/19/2020 – Ephemeris – This zodiacal constellation seems fishy

October 19, 2020 Leave a comment

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Monday, October 19th. Today the Sun will be up for 10 hours and 46 minutes, setting at 6:50, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:05. The Moon, 3 days past new, will set at 8:58 this evening.

High in the southeast at 9 p.m. are the four bright stars of the Great Square of Pegasus, the upside down flying horse. Lying along the left and bottom sides of the great square is the constellation of Pisces the fish, one of the 12 constellations of the Zodiac. Even though the constellation is called the fish, the fish themselves are not well represented in the stars. What can be traced in the stars is the rope, that’s tied to their tails, anchored at the extreme southeastern part of the constellation that is seen in the stars. It is near where the bright red planet Mars currently is. The right or western end of Pisces is the asterism, or informal constellation, of the Circlet. It’s the loop of 5 stars, the rope around the tail of one of the two fish.

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

Addendum

Pisces finder animation

Pisces finder animation showing the Great Square of Pegasus as a way to find it, though this year bright Mars will show where it is. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

Mars' apparent path for the rest of 2020

Mars’ apparent path for the rest of 2020 stays within Pisces. Mars doesn’t do a loop de loop as the ancients thought when they thought the Earth was motionless. It’s the effect of the Earth passing Mars in their orbits. Mars will stop its westward or retrograde motion around November 13th and resume its normal eastward motion. This view created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

10/16/2020 – Ephemeris – There’s an online star party tonight if it’s clear

October 16, 2020 Leave a comment

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Friday, October 16th. Today the Sun will be up for 10 hours and 55 minutes, setting at 6:55, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:01. The Moon is new today, and won’t be visible.

Tonight the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society may hold the another of the park’s 50th anniversary online star parties this evening starting around 8 pm via the Zoom app available for Android smart phones, iPhones and computers. Instructions for joining are on the society’s web site gtastro.org and the Sleeping Bear Dunes Facebook page. The images will be captured live from Northwestern Michigan College’s Rogers Observatory south of Traverse City. If it is cloudy, the event will be rescheduled for Saturday night at 8 pm. Another backup night will be Friday the 23rd. The images will be pretty much what is visible at the telescope eyepiece, and definitely not Hubble Space Telescope quality.

gtastro.org will announce cancellations and alternate plans as soon as the decision to cancel is made.

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

Nights of star parties past

These pictures were taken before the star parties actually began and most of the crowds showed up, when there was enough light for photography. We don’t take flash pictures during the events.

Sleeping Bear Dunes 40th anniversary cake lighting

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore’s 40th anniversary cake lighting at the Stop 3, Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive (Dunes Overlook) October 21, 2010. This was the GTAS’ second star party with the park in the society’s now a bit over 10 year collaboration with the park. Credit: Eileen Carlisle.

Star party 2

Star Party at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Thoreson Farm August 2013. Credit Eileen Carlisle.

Preparing to start the star party

Preparing to start the May star party at the Dune Climb. A few of the telescopes are visible including the GTAS 25″ “Emmettron” telescope at the far right. Credit: Eileen Carlisle.

Star Party

Star Party at the Dunes Overlook. Credit: Eileen Carlisle. We’ve since had to abandon hosting star parties here. A victim of our success, due to a lack of enough parking here and at Picnic Mountain next door.

SBDNL

A Star Party at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore’s Platte River Point. Credit: Eileen Carlisle

 

10/15/2020 – Ephemeris – The Great Andromeda Galaxy

October 15, 2020 Leave a comment

This is Ephemeris for Thursday, October 15th. Today the Sun will be up for 10 hours and 58 minutes, setting at 6:57, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:00. The Moon, 1 day before new, will rise at 7:30 tomorrow morning.

The closest large galaxy to our Milky Way galaxy is the Great Andromeda Galaxy seen in the eastern sky when it gets dark. It is barely visible to the naked eye. To locate it first find the Great Square of Pegasus high in the east, standing on one corner. The left star of the square is the head of the constellation Andromeda. Follow two stars to the left and a bit downward, then two stars straight up. The galaxy is near that last star as a small smudge of light. Binoculars are the best way to see it as a thin spindle of light. Visually through a telescope one can see only the bright nucleus of the galaxy, that spans six Moon diameters in photographs. M31 is its most famous catalog designation and it is two and a half million light years away.

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

Addendum

Andromeda and M31 animated finder

Andromeda animated finder, including the Great Andromeda Galaxy. I’ve added Cassiopeia that some folks use to find the galaxy. I start with the leftmost star of the Great Square of Pegasus that connects to Andromeda. I count off two star on the lower curve because they are brighter than the upper curve. Then count two stars up. Next to that top star is a little smudge. That is the core of the Great Andromeda Galaxy. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

The moon superimposed on M31 for apparent size comparison

The moon superimposed on the Great Andromeda Galaxy, M31, for apparent size comparison. Created using Stellarium and the embedded image of the galaxy with that of the full Moon of October 31, 2020. M31 Image credit: Herm Perez License: “Feel free to use these images, if you use them in a commercial setting please attribute the source.”

 

10/14/2020 – Ephemeris – Let’s look for the naked-eye planets for this week

October 14, 2020 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Wednesday, October 14th. Today the Sun will be up for 11 hours and 1 minute, setting at 6:58, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:58. The Moon, 2 days before new, will rise at 6:10 tomorrow morning.

Let’s look for the naked-eye planets for this week. Jupiter and Saturn are both low in the south-southwestern sky at 9 pm. Jupiter is the very bright one. Left and a bit above it will be the somewhat dimmer Saturn. They are closing slowly, so they will cross paths on December 21st and be in the same telescope field that evening. Jupiter will set first tonight at 11:52 with Saturn following at 12:29 am. Off in the east-southeast at 9 pm will be Mars. Since the Earth passed it yesterday its distance is slowly increasing to 38.9 million miles (62.7 million kilometers) away. Brilliant Venus will rise at 4:39 am in the east as it retreats slowly toward the Sun. It’s brilliant and looks like a tiny featureless gibbous moon in telescopes.

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

Addendum

Evening Planets animation

Evening Planets animation showing Jupiter, Saturn and Mars with the constellations of the zodiac for 9 pm October 14, 2020. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium.

Morning planet animation

Morning planet animation for 6:45 am tomorrow October 15, 2020. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium.

Binocular Moon

The waning thin crescent Moon about a day and a half from new. as it might be seen in binoculars with earthshine at 6:45 am tomorrow morning October 15, 2020. Created using Stellarium.

Telescopic planets

The planets as seen in a telescope (north up) with the same magnification for the night of October 14/15, 2020. Times of the display are: Jupiter and Saturn, 9 pm; Mars, 11 pm; Venus, 7 am. Apparent diameters: Jupiter, 38.82″; Saturn, 16.81″, rings, 39.15″; Mars, 22.27″; and Venus 14.27″. Mars also displays an enlargement showing surface detail. Mars was closest to the Earth this go-a-round on October 6, and at opposition yesterday. 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

Planets and the Moon at sunset and sunrise of a single night starting with sunset on the right on October 14, 2020. The night ends on the left with sunrise on 15th. Click on the image to enlarge. Mars, near opposition and a bit south of the ecliptic, actually rises after sunset, so I included it in the sunset chart even though it is below the horizon at sunset. Created using my LookingUp program.

10/13/2020 – Ephemeris – Mars at opposition and Ada Lovelace Day

October 13, 2020 2 comments

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Ada Lovelace Day, Tuesday, October 13th. Today the Sun will be up for 11 hours and 4 minutes, setting at 7:00, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:57. The Moon, 3 days before new, will rise at 4:50 tomorrow morning.

Mars will be in opposition from the Sun this afternoon and will officially enter the evening sky and begin rising before sunset. Ada Lovelace or more properly Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace was the daughter of Lord Byron and worked for Charles Babbage, and is considered the first computer programmer, even though Babbage was unable to build his mechanical computer the Analytic Engine in the mid 1800s. This day is set aside to celebrate the accomplishments of women of science, technology, engineering and math, STEM. This year three women were awarded Nobel Prizes: Two in chemistry, and one shared with two men in physics. The computer language Ada was created for the US Department of Defense.

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

Addenda

Mars Opposition

Inner solar system on October 13, 2020 showing Mars at opposition from the Sun. The Sun, Earth and Mars are in a straight line. Note the motion of the planets and space probes are counterclockwise. Mars was closest to the Earth a week ago. It is moving away from the Sun in its orbit. Its closest point to the Sun, called perihelion, at about the 2 o’clock point in its orbit. The Mars 2020 Rover “Percy” has a bit more than 4 months to go to reach Mars. Credit: NASA Eyes App https://eyes.nasa.gov/.

Don’t worry, that the Mars 2020 is behind both the Earth and Mars. In being sent to Mars, it is now moving slower than the Earth, but faster than Mars, which it will reach on February 18, 2021.

Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace

Ada, Countess of Lovelace (1815-1852) considered the first computer programmer, even though the machine she wrote code for was never built. Credit: Science & Society Picture Library

AnalyticalMachine

Trial model of a part of the Analytical Engine, built by Charles Babbage, as displayed at the Science Museum (London). By Bruno Barral (ByB), CC BY-SA 2.5.

Women winning the Nobel Prizes in Chemistry and Physics

The 59 second program length of Ephemeris prevented me from naming the Nobel prize winners. Here they are.

Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work on CRISPR-Cas9 as a way to edit genomes. Andrea Ghez shared the Physics Prize with Roger Penrose who got half the prize for discovering that black holes were a prediction of Einstein’s general theory of relativity, and Reinhard Genzel for the discovery of the supermassive black hole in our Milky Way galaxy. Ghez and Genzel shared the other half of the prize.

 

10/12/2020 – Ephemeris – Columbus’ lucky mistake

October 12, 2020 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples Day, Monday, October 12th. Today the Sun will be up for 11 hours and 7 minutes, setting at 7:02, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:56. The Moon, 3 days past last quarter, will rise at 3:32 tomorrow morning.

Columbus has become a controversial person in recent years mainly on how he treated the indigenous peoples and the havoc subsequent Europeans wrought on them and their culture for the last 600 plus years. I maintain that he was also bad at geography. That the Earth was round was not an issue among the educated of his day. The Earth’s size, however, was. The Earth’s circumference accepted by most scholars of that day was pretty close to the modern value of about 25 thousand miles. Columbus thought it was about 7 thousand miles less putting the Orient that much closer by sailing west from Europe. This was a minority opinion, but he convinced the king and queen of Spain to finance his venture based on it.

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

Addendum

Wikipedia entry for Eratosthenes who calculated the circumference of the Earth in the 3rd century BCE.

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10/09/2020 – Ephemeris – There’s a virtual star party tonight via Zoom

October 9, 2020 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Friday, October 9th. Today the Sun will be up for 11 hours and 16 minutes, setting at 7:07, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:52. The Moon, at last quarter today, will rise at 12:03 tomorrow morning.

The Grand Traverse Astronomical Society will host a virtual star party at 8 pm tonight. It is via the Zoom app for the smart phone, tablet or computer at zoom (dot) us. 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 with commentary by yours truly and other society members. 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. Featured celestial objects will be Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars at its closest. Images of dimmer objects like star clusters or nebulae, what we call DSOs or deep sky objects may take exposures of several seconds or minutes to build up an image. But have the advantage of being in color. If cloudy we’ll have a virtual, virtual star party using recently acquired images. Dr. Dobek has used for his classes.

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

10/08/2020 – Ephemeris – A lady with a not so hidden jewel

October 8, 2020 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Thursday, October 8th. Today the Sun will be up for 11 hours and 19 minutes, setting at 7:09, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:51. The Moon, 1 day before last quarter, will rise at 11:09 this evening.

The stars of the constellations Andromeda the chained princess look like they’re supposed to be the hind legs of Pegasus the flying horse which is high in the southern sky above Mars at 9 p.m. Andromeda is high in the southeast She is seen in the sky as two diverging curved strings of stars that curve to the left and up from the upper leftmost star of the Great Square of Pegasus. Her predicament was caused by her boastful mother Cassiopeia, and the wrath of the god Poseidon. She was rescued by the hero Perseus, a nearby constellation, riding his steed Pegasus. Andromeda’s claim to astronomical fame is the large galaxy barely visible to the unaided eye just above the upper line of stars, the Great Andromeda Galaxy 2.5 million light years away.

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

Addendum

Andromeda and M31 animated finder

Andromeda animated finder, including the Great Andromeda Galaxy. I’ve added Cassiopeia that some folks use to find the galaxy. I start with the leftmost star of the Great Square of Pegasus that connects to Andromeda. I count off two star on the lower curve because they are brighter than the upper curve. Then count two stars up. Next to that top star is a little smudge. That is the core of the Great Andromeda Galaxy. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

The Great Andromeda Galaxy (M31). Image taken by Scott Anttila.

The Great Andromeda Galaxy (M31) and two of its satellite galaxies M31 (left) and M110. Image taken by Scott Anttila.

 

10/07/2020 – Ephemeris – Let’s look for the naked-eye planets for this week

October 7, 2020 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Wednesday, October 7th. Today the Sun will be up for 11 hours and 22 minutes, setting at 7:11, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:50. The Moon, 2 days before last quarter, will rise at 10:23 this evening.

Let’s look for the naked-eye planets for this week. Jupiter and Saturn are both low in the southern sky at 9 pm. Jupiter is the very bright one. To the left of it will be the somewhat dimmer Saturn which is just about due south at that hour. They are closing slowly, so they will cross paths on December 21st. Jupiter will set first at 12:23 tomorrow morning with Saturn following at 1 am. Off in the east will be Mars which will rise at 7:33 pm. It’s now down to 38.6 million miles (62.1 million km) away, as the Earth is about to overtake it. Brilliant Venus will rise at 4:24 am as it retreats slowly toward the Sun. It looks like a tiny featureless gibbous moon in telescopes. Its clouds of sulfuric acid are quite featureless in visible light.

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

Addendum

Evening planets

Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars arrayed from south-southwest to east at 9 pm tonight October 7, 2020. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium.

Planets and the Moon among the winter stars in the morning

Venus, the Moon and Mars among the stars of winter but at 7 am October 8, 2020. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium.

Binocular Moon

The waning gibbous Moon as it might be seen in binoculars at 7 am tomorrow October 8, 2020. Created using Stellarium.

Telescopic Planets

The planets as seen in a telescope (north up) with the same magnification for the night of October 7/8, 2020. Times of the display are: Jupiter and Saturn, 9 pm; small Mars, 9 pm; enlarged Mars, 11 pm, Venus, 7 am. Apparent diameters: Jupiter, 39.64″; Saturn, 17.00″, rings, 39.60″. Mars, 22.56″, and Venus 14.86″. Mars also displays an enlargement showing surface detail. On the Mars enlargement the large dark feature to the upper left of center is Syrtis Major, and the bright area below it is the Hellas Basin. Mars was closest to the Earth this go-a-round on October 6. 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

Planets and the Moon at sunset and sunrise of a single night starting with sunset on the right on October 7, 2020. The night ends on the left with sunrise on 8th. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using my LookingUp program.

10/06/2020 – Ephemeris – Mars is closest today, also the Draconid meteors are at peak

October 6, 2020 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Tuesday, October 6th. Today the Sun will be up for 11 hours and 25 minutes, setting at 7:13, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:48. The Moon, 3 days before last quarter, will rise at 9:46 this evening.

Today Mars is at its closest to the Earth of this close approach, what astronomers call an apparition. The last close approach was at the end of July two years ago. It is still pretty small in telescopes. However being this close, 38.6 million miles (62.1 million kilometers) away, it is actually slightly brighter than Jupiter. Check them out. Mars is the bright orange tinged star in the east while Jupiter is in the south-southwest at 9 pm tonight. It’s still a week before Mars lines up with the Earth and Sun in opposition. Mars is closer now because it is moving away from the Sun in its orbit. We are at the peak of a weak meteor shower most years. It’s the Draconids, which appear to come from the head of Draco the dragon near the bright star Vega, nearly overhead in the evening.

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

Addenda

Mars

Inner solar system on October 6, 2020 showing Mars at it’s closest to the Earth. Note the motion of the planets and space probes are counterclockwise. Mars is moving away from its closest point to the Sun at about the 2 o’clock point in its orbit. Note that at this time Mars, the Earth and Sun are not yet in line, so Mars isn’t directly opposite the Sun from the Earth, called opposition. That will occur on the 13th. The Mars 2020 Rover “Percy” has a bit more than 4 months to go to reach Mars. Credit: NASA Eyes App https://eyes.nasa.gov/

Draconid Meteor Shower

The Draconid radiant in the head of Draco. Looking high in the northwest at 9 pm October 6th. The source of the Draconids is the Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner. The stars of the Summer Triangle are named.

Comet Giacobini-Zinner was the third comet I had ever seen. It was through my newly completed 8″ reflector in 1959, when the comet was quite close to the Earth. The comet just skims the Earth’s orbit at its perihelion, so the Earth passes through its trail of debris each year at this time. The meteor shower is very weak, 5-10 meteors an hour, unless the comet is near to the Earth at the time, as it was in 2018. The comet has an orbital period of about 6.6 years, so this year’s peak isn’t supposed to be the best. However this year me might have two mini peaks tonight in the 9 to 10 pm hour as the Earth is expected to pass through two old meteoroid trails. according to the International Meteor Organization’s 2020 Meteor Shower Calendar we are expected to pass through the 1704 trail at 9:25 pm, EDT and the 1711 trail at 9:57 pm EDT. This is October 7th at 1:25 UT and 1:57 UT. The normal projected peak is October 8 at 12:30 UT, that’s Thursday at 8:30 am, after sunrise.