Archive

Archive for May, 2014

05/30/2014 – Ephemeris – Previewing June skies or Where’d the night go?

May 30, 2014 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, May 30th.  Today the sun will be up for 15 hours and 17 minutes, setting at 9:18.   The moon, 2 days past new, will set at 10:51 this evening.  Tomorrow the sun will rise at 6:01.  |  Let’s preview June skies.  There will be a lot of sun in June and very little night.  The daylight hours will increase a bit from 15 hours and 20 minutes Sunday to 15 hours and 33 minutes on the 21st, retreating back to 15 hours 30 minutes at month’s end.  The altitude of the sun above the southern horizon at local noon will hover around 68 to 69 degrees.  Local noon, when the sun is actually due south will occur at about 1:43 p.m.  Summer begins on the 21st at 6:52 a.m. when the sun reaches its farthest north.    The actual amount of night-time will be quite short mostly due to the length of daylight, but also because twilight last much longer than average because the sun sets at a shallow angle. On the 21st there’s only 3 ½ hours of total darkness, starting after midnight.

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

Addendum

June Star Chart

June star chart for 11 p.m. on June 15, 2014. Created by my LookingUp program.

Astronomical twilight ends about midnight in June.

Add a half hour to every week before the 15th and subtract and hour for every week after the 15th.

For a list of constellation names to go with the abbreviations click here.

Also shown is the Summer Triangle in red. Clockwise from the top star is Deneb in Cygnus, Vega in  Lyra and Altair in Aquila.

The green pointers from the Big Dipper are:

  • Pointer stars at the front of the bowl of the Big Dipper point to Polaris the North Star.
  • The leaky bowl drips on the back of Leo the lion.
  • The arc of the dipper’s handle points to Arcturus.
  • The straighten the ark to a spike to point to Spica.
Advertisements

05/29/2014 – Ephemeris – Boötes the Herdsman

May 29, 2014 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, May 29th.  Today the sun will be up for 15 hours and 15 minutes, setting at 9:18.   The moon, 1 day past new, will set at 10:04 this evening.  Tomorrow the sun will rise at 6:01.

High in the south southeastern sky at 10:30 tonight can be found the kite shaped constellation of Boötes the herdsman, chasing or herding the Great Bear Ursa Major of which the Big Dipper is the hind end, across the sky.  The bright star at the base of the kite is the 4th brightest night-time star Arcturus.  It can be found and name remembered by first locating the Big Dipper and by following the arc or curve of the handle to Arcturus.  This star is an orange-colored giant star, 37 light years away.  Its light was used open the 1933 Chicago Worlds Fair believing its light left the star in 1893 the year of the previous Chicago Worlds Fair.  It turns out that Arcturus is 3 light years closer than what they thought.

Addendum

Bootes and Ursa Major

Bootes and Ursa Major high overhead on late spring evenings at 11 p.m. Created using Stellarium.

05/28/2014 – Ephemeris – Wednesday is planet day on Ephemeris

May 28, 2014 Comments off

Ephemeris for Wednesday, May 28th.  Today the sun will be up for 15 hours and 14 minutes, setting at 9:17.  The moon is new today, and won’t be visible.   Tomorrow the sun will rise at 6:02.

It’s Wednesday and once again time to locate the bright planets for this week.   Mercury is showing up in the west shortly after sunset,  It was at its farthest from the Sun 3 days ago.  It will set at 11:09.  Brilliant Jupiter will be in the western sky in Gemini as darkness falls tonight.  It will set at 12:25 a.m.  Reddish Mars is in Virgo in the south as darkness falls.  It will pass due south at 9:52 p.m.  It’s 72 million miles (115 million km) away now, and moving away, and will set at 3:41 a.m.  Saturn will be low in the southeast as darkness falls.  It’s in the faint constellation of Libra the scales this year.  It will pass due south at 12:24 a.m.  Brilliant Venus will rise in the east at 4:29 a.m. in morning twilight.

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

Addendum

Evening Planets

The planets Mercury, Jupiter, Mars and Saturn at 10:30 p.m. on May 28, 2014. Created using Stellarium.

Mercury barely shows a disc in telescopes.

In the planetary images below the scale is the same.  It is the same as using the same magnifying power for each planet.

Jupiter is definitely the largest appearing planet.

Telescopic Jupiter

Jupiter and its four moons Galilean moons at 10:30 p.m. May 28, 2014. Created using Stellarium.

Telescopic Mars

Mars at 10:30 p.m. May 28, 2014. Detail is difficult to see. Created using Stellarium.

Telescopic Saturn

Saturn and moons as seen through a telescope at 10:30 p.m. on May 28, 2014. Created using Stellarium.

Telescopic Venus

Venus in a telescope at 5:30 a.m. May 29, 2014. Created using Stellarium.

Venus in the east

Venus in the eastern twilight at 5:30 a.m. May 29, 2014. Created using Stellarium.

05/27/2014 – Ephemeris – There was a meteor sprinkle but no storm

May 27, 2014 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, May 27th.  Today the sun will be up for 15 hours and 12 minutes, setting at 9:16.   The moon, 1 day before new, will rise at 6:11 tomorrow morning.  Tomorrow the sun will rise at 6:02.

The Camelopardalid meteors straggled in last Saturday morning.  No real shower and definitely not a storm, but waiting through the night I saw a few genuine Camelopardalids, moving slowly that could be traced back to the north.  There was no peak of activity, but what meteors we did see appeared randomly.  I and others reporting via Twitter from around the country remarked the large percentage of really bright meteors.  I saw one that left a smokey train that stayed visible a few seconds.  I didn’t have binoculars to follow it further.  Other observers had better luck with meteor trains.  So yes, the Camelopardalids were a disappointment, but at least they were not a no show.    This was a newly discovered comet which had no history of meteor shower activity before.

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

05/26/2014 – Ephemeris – In memory of the fallen Space Shuttle Astronauts

May 26, 2014 Comments off

Ephemeris for Memorial Day, Monday, May 26th.  Today the sun will be up for 15 hours and 10 minutes, setting at 9:15.   The moon, 2 days before new, will rise at 5:29 tomorrow morning.  Tomorrow the sun will rise at 6:03.

Memorial day is a day of remembrance for those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.  When astronomers name craters or other features on planets or moons, they are names of those who have gone before.  For instance craters near the moon’s north and south poles are named for explorers of the corresponding earthly pole.  The Challenger astronauts have craters named for them in the moon system of Uranus, from discovery pictures relayed to the earth by Voyager 2 a few days before the Challenger accident.  The Mars Rover Spirit is a memorial and located in the Columbia Hills, its features named for the astronauts who died 11 months before Spirit landed.

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

Addendum

Challenger crew

The Challenger crew. From the left: Ellison Onizuka, Michael Smith, Christa McAuliffe, Dick Scobee, Gregory Jarvis, Judith Resnick, and Ronald McNair. Credit: NASA

Columbia Crew

The Columbia crew. From the left: Mission Specialist David Brown, Commander Rick Husband, Mission Specialists Laurel Clark, Kalpana Chawla and Michael Anderson, Pilot William McCool and Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon. Credit: NASA.

I was remiss in my program to omit the Apollo 1 crew.

Apollo 1 crew

The Apollo 1 crew. From the left: Ed White, Gus Grissom, and Roger Chaffee. Credit: NASA

Apollo 1 never flew.  A spark and the faulty design of the spacecraft doomed the men during a test on the pad.  Roger Chaffee, from my home town of Grand Rapids, MI was the rookie and had never flown in space.  They are immortalized with craters on the far side of the moon.

For more  information check out Amy Shira Teitel’s excellent article in Universe Today.

Meteor Watch cloud and meteor status May 23/24, 2014

May 23, 2014 1 comment

May 24, 5;33 a.m. EDT

Just got back from the Dune Climb.  Yes Virginia there are Camelopardalids.  Just not many of them.  I saw about 10 meteors overnight with just over half Camelopardalids.  Now I was busy with other things, running the star party.  However it seemed that of the ones I saw, there were a better an average, compared to the Perseids, number of bright ones.  One also left a smokey train that was visible for a few seconds.  I didn’t have my binoculars with me to view it longer.  But it was impressive.  We had maybe 40-50 folks come out, coming and going over the night, with about 11 sticking it out to the bitter end at 4 a.m.

May 23, 5:32 p.m. EDT

Weather is still great.  Picked up a tweet saying the the Camelopardalids are being picked up via the radio reflection of their ionized trains.

Bob Moler (robertcmoler) on Twitter 2014-05-23 17-27-21I’m going to head out in a half hour to the Visitors Center (see below) for the talk and to pick up some traffic cones.

May 23, 12:45 p.m. EDT

The weather is holding.  The forecast is for clear skies through Sunday daytime.  It should be a great Memorial Day weekend. For those venturing out to observe the meteor storm (we hope) dress warmly.  The temperatures in northern Michigan will drop to the mid 40s.  I plan to bring a light coat and my winter coat.  For those who wish to lie on the ground to see the sky show bring two blankets one under you and one over you.  It will get dewy.  Hat, gloves and a thermos of warm drinks will also be welcome.   Winter boots might be welcome for those who tend to get cold feet.  Meteor watching is not an active pursuit, so you may want to walk around or climb up the dune a ways to keep warm. Remember there’s a talk by astronomer Tyler Nordgren at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Philip A. Hart Visitor Center near the corner of M72 and M22 in Empire at 7 p.m. Sunset will be at 9:15 p.m.. The Grand Traverse Astronomical Society (GTAS) will be ready to observe the planets at the Dune Climb by 10 p.m.

May 22, 11:00 p.m. EDT

This is a pre-post entry.  The blog will be published at noon on the 23rd and be updated as necessary.  New updates will appear above older ones.  I may also tweet.  My twitter handle is @robertcmoler.  The hashtag for the meteor shower appears to be #Camelopardalids.  I hope you’re a good speller. The National Weather Service for tomorrow (Friday) and tomorrow night is for decreasing clouds during the day and mostly clear tomorrow night.  Anttilla Danko’s Clear Sky Chart for the Leelanau School’s Lanphier Observatory also shows clear skies for the night of the 23rd/24th at this time.  The observatory is located a few miles northeast of the Dune Climb area. New to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore? Here’s their website:  http://www.nps.gov/slbe/index.htm Here’s a link to the map of the park.  The Dune Climb is at points 7 & 8 on highway M109 just south of Glen Haven.

05/23/2014 – Ephemeris – Possible Meteor Storm overnight tonight

May 23, 2014 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, May 23rd.  Today the sun will be up for 15 hours and 5 minutes, setting at 9:12.   The moon, 2 days past last quarter, will rise at 3:45 tomorrow morning.  Tomorrow the sun will rise at 6:05.

If you want to see a possible meteor storm, go out tomorrow morning and find a dark location.  The meteors will be seen all over the sky, but will seem to come from the north.  The Grand Traverse Astronomical Society will be at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore at the Dune Climb with telescopes starting at 10 p.m. tonight, weather permitting, to enjoy the other wonders of the sky while we wait for the meteor storm to start.  Dress warmly, bring a blanket or lounge chair so you can comfortably look up.  The first meteors may show by 1:40 a.m.  but the peak activity is expected about 3 a.m., but that estimate may be off by an hour or more.  Check bobmoler.wordpress.com for cloud and meteor status  from noon  through 4 a.m. if it’s clear.  The latter part depends on getting a decent data signal.  The dunes seem to be the end of the world as far as cell phone service goes.  I might have to climb the dune to get a good signal.

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

Addendum

Remember these meteors should be visible from anywhere in the continental United States.  Convert the times to your location.  3 a.m. EDT is 7 hours UT.

Start the evening tonight with a talk by Dr. Tyler Nordgren, astronomer, artist and dark sky advocate at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Philip A. Hart Visitor Center in Empire at 7 p.m. Afterward he will be signing copies of his beautiful new poster See the Stars from Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore featuring the Great and Little Bear constellations and the bluffs of the Sleeping Bear Dunes and the Manitou Islands.  After that, weather permitting see the sunset from many of the park’s locations, then, for the hardy, settle down for an all night vigil for the possible meteor storm with the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society at the Dune Climb.  We’ll be viewing out the planets and the other wonders of the spring and summer skies as we wait for the meteors to appear.

Camelopardalids Radiant

The expected radiant for the meteors of the May Camelopardalids, the meteors from the comet 209P/LINEAR at 3 a.m. on May 24, 2014. Credit: My LookingUp program.

Camelopardalids B&W

Same chart as above but black on white to save ink if you print it.

Here’s the culprit:  Comet 209P/LINEAR

This May 17, 2014 image of Comet 209/LINEAR is the average of 5, 180-second exposures, taken remotely with the PlaneWave 17″+ Paramount ME+STL-6303E robotic unit of the Virtual Telescope Project. The telescope tracked the comet, so stars are trailing. This comet has the potential to generate an exceptional meteor shower (Camelopardalids) on May 24, 2014. Gianluca Masi / Virtual Telescope Project

Image and caption above from the Planetary Society blog from Bruce Betts:  http://www.planetary.org/blogs/bruce-betts/20140522-one-night-only-a-new-meteor.html.

Want to find the comet?

209P/LINEAR finder chart

Finder chart for Comet 209P/LINEAR for 11 p.m. Note the dates are UT, 11 p.m. the 23rd is 3 a.m. UT on the 24th. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

Ephemeris

Ephemeris of positions for Comet 209P/LINEAR for May 20, 2014 to June 8, 2014 from the Minor Planet Center.

Got to http://www.minorplanetcenter.net/iau/MPEph/MPEph.html to print your own ephemeris for this or any comet.  For purposes of this comet the comet name is: 209P/LINEAR.

All these images may be enlarged by clicking on them.

Note that:

Delta is the distance from Earth in Astronomical Units (AU)

r is the comet’s distance from the sun in AU.

El is the elongation in degrees from the sun

Ph. is the phase angle, not a big deal for comets.

m2 is the magnitude of the comet’s coma.  Comets appear dimmer than their magnitude suggests.