01/24/2017 – Ephemeris – The Moon is near Saturn this morning

January 24, 2017 Leave a comment

Ephemeris for Tuesday, January 24th.  The Sun will rise at 8:09.  It’ll be up for 9 hours and 31 minutes, setting at 5:40.  The Moon, 3 days before new, will rise at 6:08 tomorrow morning.

This morning look low in the southeast to see the thin crescent Moon with the planet Saturn below and to the right.  The Moon passed Saturn a little after they rose.  Saturn is quite far south in our skies, almost as far south as the Sun was on the winter solstice on December 21st.  It will take a while to rise high enough in deep twilight or darkness for good views with a telescope.  When Saturn or any planet is low on the horizon we are looking at it through a lot of our atmosphere.  Beside draining about half its brightness that atmospheric motions make the planet fuzzy in telescopes.  Yes, you can still see the rings, but the gaps on each end between the rings and the planet may not be distinct, and its large moon Titan may not be visible at all.

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

Addendum

The morning planets and the Moon at 7 a.m. this morning, January 24th.  Because planetarium programs don't show a thin crescent very well, I've enlarged the Moon by a factor of 4 times.  Created using Stellarium.

The morning planets and the Moon at 7 a.m. this morning, January 24th. Because planetarium programs don’t show a thin crescent very well, I’ve enlarged the Moon by a factor of 4 times to make the Moon show up at all.  Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium.

01/23/2017 – Ephemeris – The rabbit that got away

January 23, 2017 Leave a comment

Ephemeris for Monday, January 23rd.  The Sun will rise at 8:10.  It’ll be up for 9 hours and 29 minutes, setting at 5:39.  The Moon, half way from last quarter to new, will rise at 5:17 tomorrow morning.

Orion, the central winter constellation is seen in the south-southeast at 9 p.m. He is a hunter, but is preoccupied in defending himself from the charge of Taurus the bull to the upper right.  At Orion’s feet, and unnoticed by him is the small constellation of Lepus the hare.  It’s very hard to see a whole rabbit in its eight dim stars: however, I do see a rabbit’s head, ears and shoulders.  A misshapen box is the head and face of this critter facing to the left.  His ears extend upwards from the upper right star of the box, and the bend forward a bit.  Two stars to the right of the box and a bit farther apart show the front part of the body.  The free computer program at Stellarium.org shows a whole rabbit facing the opposite direction.

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

Addendum

Lepus

An animation showing the stars, constellations and artwork of Lepus, Orion and Taurus. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

01/20/2017 – Ephemeris – Orion’s greater hunting dog

January 20, 2017 Leave a comment

Ephemeris for Friday, January 20th.  The Sun will rise at 8:12.  It’ll be up for 9 hours and 22 minutes, setting at 5:35.  The Moon, 1 day past last quarter, will rise at 2:29 tomorrow morning.

The great winter constellation or star group Orion the Hunter, is located in the south-southeastern sky at 9 p.m.  His elongated rectangle of a torso is almost vertical.  In the center of the rectangle are three stars in a line that make his belt.  As a hunter, especially one of old, he has two hunting dogs.  The larger, Canis Major can be found by following the three belt stars of Orion down and to the left.  There lies the  brilliant star called Sirius, also known as the Dog Star.  It’s in the heart of a stick figure dog low in the southeast facing Orion that appears to be begging.  I’ll have more to say about Sirius in the future, but there’s a fine star cluster, called M41, at the 5 o’clock position from Sirius easily visible in binoculars or a small telescope.

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

Addendum

Orion and Canis Major

Orion and Canis Major Animation for 9 p.m. January 20, 2017. Click on image to enlarge.  Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

 

01/19/2017 – Ephemeris – Tonight bring the kids, it’s Greenspire School’s STEM Night.

January 19, 2017 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, January 19th.  The Sun will rise at 8:13.  It’ll be up for 9 hours and 20 minutes, setting at 5:33.  The Moon, at last quarter today, will rise at 1:31 tomorrow morning.

Tonight the Greenspire School is sponsoring its annual STEM Night from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the school on Red Drive at the Grand Traverse Commons. Red Drive is a block west of Silver Drive that connects to Silver Lake Road at Franke Road. STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.  The Grand Traverse Astronomical Society will be there for the fourth year with yours truly finding out what comets are made of by helping the kids create dry ice comets.  We’ll have other exhibits too.  If it happens to be clear there will be viewing of the planet Venus and other wonders of the sky.  Plus there will be fun things to give away.   There’s also cookies and hot chocolate.

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

Addendum

stem-night-2017

01/18/2017 – Ephemeris – Where are the bright planets this week?

January 18, 2017 Comments off

Ephemeris for Wednesday, January 18th.  The Sun will rise at 8:13.  It’ll be up for 9 hours and 18 minutes, setting at 5:32.  The Moon, 1 day before last quarter, will rise at 12:32 tomorrow morning.

Let’s check out the bright planets for this week.  Saturn can be glimpsed this morning at 7 a.m.  It will rise tomorrow at 5:49 in the east-southeast.  Jupiter can be seen in the south-southwest this morning above the star Spica in Virgo.  Jupiter will rise tomorrow at 12:40 a.m.  Tomorrow the last quarter Moon will appear near Jupiter.  Venus and Mars are in the evening sky. At 6:30 p.m. these planets will be seen in the southwestern sky.  Venus is unmistakable as the brilliant evening star,  Mars will be above and left of it and much dimmer and will set at 10:14.  Venus itself will set at 9:39 p.m.  Venus exhibits a fat crescent in small telescopes now, but next month as it gets closer the thinning crescent will be big enough to be seen in binoculars.

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

Addendum

Evening planets

Venus, and Mars in the evening twilight of about an hour after sunset. 6:30 p.m. January 18, 2017. Created using Stellarium.  Click image to enlarge.

Telescopic Venus

Venus as it might appear in a telescope tonight January 18, 2016. I processed the image to overexpose it as it would appear in a telescope. Created using Stellarium.

Morning planets

The Moon and Jupiter in the south above the star Spica with Saturn and Mercury peeking over the horizon in the southeast at 7 a.m. tomorrow morning, January 19, 2017. Created using Stellarium.  Click image to enlarge.

Conjunction of Jupiter and the Moon

The Moon, Jupiter, and the star Spica tomorrow at 7 a.m., January 19, 2017. Created using Stellarium.

Jupiter and its moons at 7 a.m. January 19, 2017

Jupiter and its moons tomorrow morning at 7 a.m., January 19, 2017. 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 January 18, 2017. The night ends on the left with sunrise on January 19. Click on image to enlarge. Created using my LookingUp program.

In Memorium

Yesterday we lost the 11th man to set foot on the Moon and the last one to leave it.  Eugene Cernan, the commander of Apollo 17 hated the title of “The last man to walk on the Moon”, and hoped before he died that another would walk on the Moon, lifting that title from his shoulders.  Of the 12 men who walked on the Moon, half are now gone.  The way things are going the next person to walk on the Moon will probably be Chinese.  Godspeed Eugene Cernan.

Gene Cernan on the Moon

Eugene Cernan with the American Flag and the lunar rover. Credit: NASA/Harrison Schmitt

Arnstrong and Cernan

The first and last men on the Moon. Neil Armstrong, left and Eugene Cernan. File photo.

01/17/2017 – Ephemeris – Denial is not a river in the sky

January 17, 2017 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, January 17th.  The Sun will rise at 8:14.  It’ll be up for 9 hours and 16 minutes, setting at 5:31.  The Moon, 2 days before last quarter, will rise at 11:32 this evening.

One of the more obscure constellations around is Eridanus, which depicts a river. At 9 p.m. the river starts near the lower right corner of Orion, near the bright star Rigel and flows to the right then zigzags down to the left, then down to the right near the southern horizon, then it heads south 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 world circling river Ocean of the flat Earth days.  Achernar was recently discovered to be the flattest star known, due to its rapid spin.  The dimensions of Achernar have been determined to be twice as wide across its equator than from pole to pole.  It’s 139 light years away.

Times are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. 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).

01/16/2017 – Ephemeris – The bright cloud in Orion, the Great Orion Nebula

January 16, 2017 Comments off

Ephemeris for Martin Luther King Day, Monday, January 16th.  The Sun will rise at 8:15.  It’ll be up for 9 hours and 14 minutes, setting at 5:30.  The Moon, 3 days before last quarter, will rise at 10:30 this evening.

The constellation Orion the hunter, which is in the south-southeast at 9 p.m., is the brightest of constellations with 2 first magnitude stars and 5 second magnitude stars in its torso.  Orion’s most famous feature is the Great Orion Nebula which lies in and around the stars of his sword.  It is bright, and lies about 1,344 light years away. By the way, the word nebula is Latin and means cloud or haze.  The plural of nebula is nebulae.  It can be seen with binoculars as a haze around what to the naked eye looks like the center of the three stars of Orion’s sword.  It is the lit end of a large dark cloud where stars are being formed.  It is illuminated by a clutch of four young stars in a tiny group called the Trapezium.

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

Addendum

Orion via Stellarium

Orion with two nebulae.  The Great Orion Nebula is M42.  M78 is another small 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

Inner part of the Great Orion Nebula with the four stars of the Trapezium. Image by Scott Anttila.