01/30/2023 – Ephemeris – Two planetary events are happening today

January 30, 2023 Leave a comment

This is Ephemeris for Monday, January 30th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 44 minutes, setting at 5:48, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:03. The Moon, 2 days past first quarter, will set at 4:34 tomorrow morning.

Today, the planet Mercury was seen as far away from the Sun as it can get for this time of year in the morning sky. It’s called “greatest western elongation”, and it’s distance from the sun and angle is 25 degrees. It’s going to stay pretty close to that for about the next week or so, it’ll be visible if it ever clears up. This is about the latest time one can see Mercury morning elongations this for this time of year. We’re running out of the correct angles for it. This evening, if it’s clear, the planet of Mars will appear near the waxing gibbous Moon. Early on in the evening Mars will be to the upper left of the Moon, which will be approaching it by about its own diameter every hour, until about 1 o’clock in the morning when Mars will it’s closest above the Moon it should be a striking sight.

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

Mercury, brighter than it would appear with orbit, created by Stellarium. Mercury is going up, left and down in a counterclockwise motion.
The Moon and Mars as created in Stellarium for 12:50 am tonight, January 31, 2023. Mars will actually appear less bright compared to the Moon than it appears here.

01/27/2023 – Ephemeris – Where is comet ZTF this weekend?

January 27, 2023 Leave a comment
Here’s the next 4 nights of Comet ZTF. It is for 3 am on the dates posted, rather than moonset. Full moon is a coming, which will pretty much wipe out the comet. Then we can wait for dark skies once again. The tail rendering simply suggests the direction of the ion tail, blown away from the sun. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts), labeled with LibreOffice Draw.

This is Ephemeris for Friday, January 27th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 36 minutes, setting at 5:44, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:06. The Moon, 1 day before first quarter, will set at 1:08 tomorrow morning. | Comet ZTF is now passing the star Kochab in the Little Dipper and is heading out to the barren wastes of Camelopardalis, the giraffe, which I’m sure not very many people have heard of because there’s no bright stars in it. The big question people have is why this comet was supposedly green. It is not particularly rare, even though the news reports I’ve seen of it and in social and main media seem to have intimated this. And they also say it comes around every 50,000 years or that it’s the only green comet and it comes every 50,000 years which is incorrect. There’s a certain amount of hype that comes with comets. They can be spectacular and they can be duds. I remember back in 1973 a large new comet was supposed to zip around the sun and be super bright called comet Kohoutek people my age might remember that. It was a pretty much dustless comet. I it’s the dust tail it really makes comets bright, not the ion tail of ionized gasses.

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.

01/26/2023 – Ephemeris – Where’s Comet ZTF tonight?

January 26, 2023 Leave a comment
Comet ZTF finder chart for 12:01 am, January 27, 2023, shortly after moonset (evening of the 26th). The tail rendering simply suggests the direction of the ion tail, blown away from the sun. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts), labeled with LibreOffice Draw.

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Friday, January 27th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 36 minutes, setting at 5:44, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:06. The Moon, 1 day before first quarter, will set at 1:08 tomorrow morning.

Comet ZTF is now passing the star Kochab in the Little Dipper and is heading out to the barren wastes of Camelopardalis, the giraffe, which I’m sure not very many people have heard of because there’s no bright stars in it. The big question people have is why this comet was supposedly green. It is not particularly rare, even though the news reports I’ve seen of it and in social and main media seem to have intimated this. And they also say it comes around every 50,000 years or that it’s the only green comet, which is incorrect. There’s a certain amount of hype that comes with comets. They can be spectacular, or they can be duds.

I remember back in 1973 a large new comet was supposed to zip around the sun and be super bright called Comet Kohoutek, people my age might remember that. It was a pretty much dustless comet. It’s the dust tail that really makes comets bright, not the ion tail of gasses. A few years later, Comet West came by for the Bicentennial in early 1976. As the comet came around the sun near perihelion, its solid nucleus started to break apart, liberating a vast dust tail. It was wonderful.

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.

This post is actually longer than I have time for the Ephemeris program (59 seconds). I created this speech to text, due to my current physical and mental problems, it’s more stream of consciousness than my normal writing. So if it still makes sense, I’ll leave it in.

01/25/2023 – Ephemeris – Let’s see where the naked-eye planets have wandered off to this week

January 25, 2023 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Wednesday, 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, 3 days before first quarter, will set at 10:42 this evening.

Let’s see where the naked-eye planets have wandered off to this week. Very early after sunset, Venus might be spotted very low in the southwest by a little past 6 pm. Mars, and Jupiter will be visible this evening, in the east to southwestern sky by 6:30 or 7 pm. Mars will be above Orion in the east-southeast and is pulling away from the Pleiades. Jupiter is brighter than Mars, and will be in the south-southwest, and tonight it’s directly above the crescent Moon. Saturn is below Venus now, so it’s pretty much gone until it reappears in the morning sky in a few months. Mercury is now in the morning sky, after it passed inferior conjunction with the Sun on the 7th, that is, it passed between the Earth and the Sun. It should be briefly visible before sunrise by month’s end.

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

All the evening planets before Venus sets are in this panorama looking southward from east to west at 7 tonight, January 25, 2023. I dropped lines from some of the dimmer constellations. Click on the image to enlarge it. Created using Stellarium.
The waxing crescent Moon, tonight, January 25, 2023, as it might be seen in binoculars or a small telescope. Created using Stellarium, LibreOffice Draw and GIMP.
Telescopic views of Venus, Jupiter and Mars (north up) as they would be seen in a small telescope, with the same magnification. The image of Mars doesn’t show it, but the white north polar cap will appear at the top or north limb of Mars. The planets are shown at 7 pm tonight, January 25, 2023. Apparent diameters: Venus 10.95″; Jupiter 36.63″, Mars 11.38″. Mars’ distance is 76.5 million miles (123.1 million kilometers). The ” symbol means seconds of arc (1/3600th of a degree.) Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).
The naked-eye planets and the Moon at sunset and sunrise on a single night, starting with sunset on the right on January 25, 2023. The night ends on the left with sunrise on the 126th. Click on the image to enlarge it. Created using my LookingUp app and GIMP.

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01/24/2023 – Ephemeris – The “green” comet’s designation is C/2022 E3 (ZTF)

January 24, 2023 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Tuesday, January 24th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 29 minutes, setting at 5:40, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:09. The Moon, 3 days past new, will set at 9:26 this evening.

Yesterday, I began covering new comet that’s in our skies. I didn’t mention its name. It’s got an odd one. Its designation is C/2022 E3, which means it was discovered in 2022. E means that it was in the 5th half month of the year, which puts it in early March, and three is the third object in that period. The name that goes along with it is actually the initials ZTF which stand for Zwicky Transient Facility which is actually 2 observatory complexes, one in California and the other one in Chile which looks for things that go bump in the night. Basically, things that change their brightness or movement in the short period of time. They cover the whole sky eventually and get back and see what’s changed. The facility is named after astronomer Fritz Zwicky.

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 track of Comet ZTF from tonight at 9 pm to January 30, 2023. Two constellations are named. The unnamed constellation line running through the image is the tail of Draco the dragon. The red dots are galaxies, much dimmer than the comet. The depiction of the comet’s tail simply suggests the direction of the tail. Comet positions are set for 9 pm on the dates shown. For each position, the date and magnitude are shown as in “mm-dd mag”, the year is omitted. Magnitudes are very subjective.

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01/23/2023 – Ephemeris – New “green” comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF)

January 23, 2023 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Monday, January 23rd. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 27 minutes, setting at 5:38, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:10. The Moon, 2 days past new, will set at 8:05 this evening.

I’m sure that many of us have now heard of a bright new comet that’s supposed to be visible in our sky that’s green. One, it is a newly discovered comet from 9 months ago. Two, it is green. Three, it won’t look green to the eye. And four, it isn’t really that bright. One of the rules of I have in mentioning objects to observe on this program is that it has to be found with the naked eye. This comet does not meet that criteria. One could find it with binoculars when it’s near a bright star which it’s not tonight, so that’s one thing but in order to see it, it will probably look like a little fuzzy blob in a pair of binoculars. I’m not sure that the tail that would be visible. The observer has to wait until after the moon sets, because moonlight washes out a comet, big time.

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

Comet ZTF finder

Comet ZTF finder chart for 1/24/23 through 1/29/23 at 9 pm. Plotted daily at 9 pm EST, though the best time to spot the comet will be after moonset which will advance by about an hour a night. The plot of the comet’s tail simply suggests a direction and not the appearance of the tail. Created using Cartes du Ciel. (Sky Charts). The plots are marked with the month-day and expected magnitude or brightness. Magnitudes are like golf scores. The larger the number, the poorer the golfer, and the dimmer the celestial object is.

01/20/2023 – Ephemeris – Gemini’s Castor is six stars orbiting each other

January 20, 2023 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Friday, 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, 1 day before new, will rise at 8:34 tomorrow morning.

At 9 p.m. the constellation of Gemini the twins will be seen high in the east-southeast. The namesake stars of the two lads are the two bright stars at the left of the constellation. Pollux the pugilist, or boxer, is the lower and slightly brighter of the two, while Castor, the horseman, is the other star, or rather a six-star system. In telescopes two close stars may be seen, each is a spectroscopic binary, meaning the lines of two stars can be seen in the spectrum, shifting as they orbit each other. Another faint spectroscopic binary also belongs. Pollux, though a single star, does have at least one planet with over twice the mass of Jupiter orbiting the star. Pollux and Castor are respectively 34 and 50 light years away. Not too far away as stars go.

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

Castor star system
The Castor star system exploded in this JPL/NASA infographic.

01/19/2023 – Ephemeris – Gemini, twins with a secret

January 19, 2023 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Thursday, 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 before new, will rise at 7:38 tomorrow morning.

Another famous winter constellation is Gemini. The constellation of Gemini the Twins is visible halfway to the zenith in the east, at the top and left of Orion the hunter, at 9 pm. The namesake stars of the two lads, are the two bright stars at the left end of Gemini, and are high and are due east. Castor is on top, while Pollux is below. From them come two lines of stars that outline the two, extending horizontally toward Orion. In Greek mythology the lads were half brothers, Castor was fathered by a mere mortal, while Pollux was fathered by Zeus, but were born together as twins. When Castor was killed during the quest for the Golden Fleece, Pollux pleaded with Zeus to let him die also, so Zeus placed them together in the sky.

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

Gemini finder animation

Gemini finder animation for the second half of January 2023. It’s dated because Mars is dawdling in Taurus near the Pleiades. Mars is now back to heading eastward once again, after being in retrograde or westward motion as the Earth passed it in early December. Mars will officially enter Gemini in March. Created using Stellarium, and GIMP.

01/18/2023 – Ephemeris – Let’s see where the naked-eye planets have wandered off to this week

January 18, 2023 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Wednesday, January 18th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 17 minutes, setting at 5:32, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:14. The Moon, 3 days before new, will rise at 6:28 tomorrow morning.

Let’s see where the naked-eye planets have wandered off to this week. Very early after sunset, Venus might be spotted very low in the southwest by 6 pm. Mars, Jupiter and Saturn will be visible this evening, in the east to southwestern sky by 6:30 or 7 pm. Mars will be above Orion in the east-southeast and near the Pleiades. Jupiter is the brightest of the three and will be in the south-southwest., while dimmer Saturn will be very low in the southwest at that time. Saturn, the westernmost of these bright planets, will set around 7:42 this evening. It’s a bit above and left of Venus. Mercury is now in the morning sky, after it passed inferior conjunction with the Sun on the 7th, that is, it passed between the Earth and the Sun. It should be briefly visible before sunrise by month’s end.

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 and Saturn low in the southwest at 6:15 pm tonight, January 18, 2023. Saturn will probably not be visible yet, but Venus should be plenty bright enough. Created using Stellarium.

All the evening planets before Venus sets

All the evening planets before Venus sets are in this panorama looking southward from east to west at 7:15 tonight, January 18, 2023. I dropped lines from some of the dimmer constellations. Click on the image to enlarge it. Created using Stellarium.

Telescopic views of Venus, Saturn Jupiter and Mars

Telescopic views of Saturn Jupiter and Mars (north up) as they would be seen in a small telescope, with the same magnification. The image of Mars doesn’t show it, but the white north polar cap will appear at the top or north limb of Mars. The planets are shown at 7 pm tonight, January 18, 2023. Apparent diameters: Venus 10.77″ and is 93.5% illuminated; Saturn 15.52″, its rings 36.16″; Jupiter 37.32″. Mars 12.25″. Mars’ distance is71.6 million miles (114.4 million kilometers). The ” symbol means seconds of arc (1/3600th of a degree.) Click on the image to enlarge it. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

The naked-eye planets and the Moon at sunset and sunrise on a single night, starting with sunset on the right on January 18, 2023. The night ends on the left with sunrise on the 19th. Click on the image to enlarge it. Created using my LookingUp app and GIMP.

01/17/2023 – Ephemeris – The Sun is getting active again

January 17, 2023 Comments off

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This is Ephemeris for Tuesday, January 17th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 15 minutes, setting at 5:30, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:14. The Moon, 3 days past last quarter, will rise at 5:11 tomorrow morning.

The Sun is getting active again, there are a lot of sunspots on the sun today. The sunspot number which isn’t really a count of the sunspots on the face of the Sun, but it’s sort of a weighted average was 177 yesterday, which is a really high number even for the last few sunspot cycle peaks, and we haven’t reached the peak yet. You can find this number on the website called spaceweather.com. These sunspots cannot be seen with solar eclipse glasses that we had for the last eclipse back in 2017 because they are too small, even though they are much larger than the Earth. For the most part it would require a telescope with an approved solar filter in front to see them or go to that aforementioned website to see a daily picture from them.

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

Sunspots on the Sun the evening of January 17, 2023.

This image, from NOAA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) downloaded last night, shows a many spotted Sun. The sunspot number by this time was up to 186. Sunspot groups are numbered as active regions. The most active region is AR 3190. Click on the image to enlarge it. Credit: NOAA’s SDO via spaceweather.com.