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Archive for September, 2014

09/30/2014 – Ephemeris – Previewing October skies and events

September 30, 2014 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, September 30th.  The sun will rise at 7:39.  It’ll be up for 11 hours and 45 minutes, setting at 7:24.   The moon, 1 day before first quarter, will set at 11:43 this evening.

Let’s look at the skies for the month of October.  The sun will still be moving south rapidly.  Daylight hours in the Interlochen/Traverse City area and will drop from 11 hours and 42 minutes tomorrow to 10 hours, 14 minutes at month’s end.  The altitude of the sun above the southern horizon at local noon will be 42 degrees tomorrow in the Interlochen area, and will descend to 31 degrees on Halloween.  This month will see two eclipses visible from our area plus a close encounter that a comet will have near Mars and our assets on and around Mars.  We will be able to see, weather permitting a total lunar eclipse in the morning a week from today, the 8th and a partial solar eclipse on the 23rd, just before sunset.

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

Addendum

Star Chart

Star Chart for October 2014. Created using my LookingUp program.

The Moon is not plotted.  The planets and stars are plotted for the 15th at 8 p.m.  That is chart time.

Astronomical twilight ends at 9:00 p.m. on October 1st, decreasing to 8:11 on the 31st.

Add a half hour to the chart time 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 arc of the dipper’s handle points to Arcturus.

Information on the total lunar eclipse on the 8th will be posted starting Monday October 6th.

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09/29/2014 – Ephemeris – The Moon, Mars and Antares will line up tonight

September 29, 2014 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, September 29th.  The sun will rise at 7:37.  It’ll be up for 11 hours and 48 minutes, setting at 7:26.   The moon, 2 days before first quarter, will set at 10:49 this evening.

Tonight we’ll still have Mars hanging around the star Antares.  However we’ll have  the Moon joining the party.  The three will nearly be in line at 9 p.m. with the fat crescent Moon on top, Mars below it and Antares below Mars.  They will be in a straighter line but the Sun out makes them impossible to see.   With binoculars or a small telescope the lunar seas visible, kind of in order from the Moon’s sunlit edge are Crises, Fertility, Nectar, Tranquility and half of Serenity.  If you’re looking for the Man in the Moon, you’ll have to wait until the Moon is nearly full to completely discern his face.  However most of the upside down rabbit is visible.  The seas of Fertility and Nectar make up his ears, Tranquility, his head, and Serenity his body.

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

Addendum

Line up

The Moon, Mars and the bright red star Antares line up on the evening of September 29, 2014. Created using Stellarium.

Moon

The moon tonight September 29, 2014. Created using Virtual Moon Atlas.

09/26/2014 – Ephemeris – Mars meets its rival

September 26, 2014 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, September 26th.  The sun will rise at 7:34.  It’ll be up for 11 hours and 58 minutes, setting at 7:32.   The moon, 2 days past new, will set at 8:45 this evening.

The planet Mars and the bright star Antares will appear at their closest tomorrow night.  The name of the star Antares means “Rival of Mars”.  “Ant” meaning anti, “Ares”, the Greek equivalent to the Roman god Mars.  This is about a 26 month recurrence, give or take.  Usually Mars is way brighter than Antares, or way dimmer.  This time Mars and Antares are the same brightness.  Both planet and star have the same color, kind of a faded orange color, made redder by being low in our sky which drains even more of the blue out.  The reason Mars is red is that its surface is rusty.  Antares is another matter.  It is a cool red giant star.  Well, cool on the outside by hotter than the sun’s interior on the inside where it’s changing helium into carbon and oxygen for power.  Hint:  Mars is always on top.  Also tomorrow night the crescent Moon will be just to the right of Saturn.

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

Addenda

Mars & Antares

Mars appears its closest to Antares. Here seen low in the southwest at 8:30 p.m. on September 27, 2014. The Moon, near Saturn is too small to show a phase. Created using Stellarium.

Saturn & Moon

Saturn with the crescent moon. Earthshine may still be visible on the three day old Moon’s night side. Created using Stellarium.

Acme Fall Festival

The Grand Traverse Astronomical Society will be at the Acme Fall Festival at Flintfields Horse Park on Bates Rd, North of M72, which runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday the 27th.   The society will bring telescopes, including the 25 inch Dobsonian telescope and the Solar Telescope to view the Sun in white light and the light of the element hydrogen. There will also be exhibits and free stuff from NASA for the kids.

09/25/2014 – Ephemeris – Capella rising

September 25, 2014 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, September 25th.  The sun will rise at 7:33.  It’ll be up for 12 hours and 1 minute, setting at 7:34.   The moon, 1 day past new, will set at 8:13 this evening.

A bright star called Capella has slowly been rising in the northeastern sky in the evenings for the past few months.  At 9 p.m. now it is low in the north-northeast far below the letter “W” shaped constellation of Cassiopeia.  This winter Capella will be overhead the highest of winter’s seven brilliant first magnitude stars.  Capella never quite sets for anyone north of Ludington.  It is what is called a circumpolar star.  Due to its brightness, and being the closest first magnitude star to the north pole, Capella appears to move slowly as the earth rotates, and spends summer and autumn evenings close to the horizon, and has in years past elicited a few phone calls and other queries about that ‘bright object in the northeast’.  When it’s higher the rest of its constellation Auriga the Charioteer will be visible.

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

Addendum

Capella rising

Capella cruising up from the north (thanks to the Earth’s rotation) on September 25 at 9 p.m. Created using Stellarium.

09/24/2014 – Ephemeris – Where are the bright planets this week?

September 24, 2014 Comments off

Ephemeris for Wednesday, September 24th.  The sun will rise at 7:31.  It’ll be up for 12 hours and 4 minutes, setting at 7:36.  The moon is new today, and won’t be visible.

Let’s take our weekly look at the bright planets.  Mars and Saturn are in the southwestern sky at 9 p.m. with Saturn to the right and a bit below Mars by 17 degrees, about the two widths of your fist held at arm’s length.  Saturn will set at 9:38 p.m.  Saturn is in Libra, while Mars is in Scorpius.  Mars is closing in on a star that has the identical color, and this year the same brightness, its rival Antares.  Indeed that’s what the star’s name means:  Ant as in anti, Ares the Greek god of war, and the counterpart of the Roman Mars.  They will be closest Saturday.  Mars will set at 10:13..  In the morning sky brilliant Jupiter will rise in the east-northeast at 3:23 a.m., while Venus, will rise in the east at 6:51 a.m. only 42 minutes before the sun.  I’m not sure you’ll see it.

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

Addendum

Evening planets

Saturn with Mars approaching Antares low in the southwest at 8:30 p.m. on September 24, 2014. Created using Stellarium.

Saturn

Saturn in a telescope on September 24, 2014. Of the satellites, only Titan should be visible. Created using Stellarium.

Morning Jupiter

Jupiter and the winter and the western most spring constellations at 6:30 a.m. on September 25, 2014. Created using Stellarium.

Jupiter

Jupiter and its moon through a telescope at 6:30 a.m. on September 25, 2014. Created using Stellarium.

09/23/2014 – Ephemeris – NASA’s MAVEN satellite is in orbit of Mars

September 23, 2014 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, September 23rd.  The sun will rise at 7:30.  It’ll be up for 12 hours and 7 minutes, setting at 7:37.   The moon, 1 day before new, will rise at 7:53 tomorrow morning.

Last Sunday evening the MAVEN spacecraft fired its six main engines in alternating pairs for 33 minutes and was captured by Mars, entering orbit around the Red Planet.  MAVEN is one of those NASA acronyms, it stands for Mars Atmospheric and Volatile EvolutioN   Once in a capture orbit, the orbit will be changed from a 33 hour orbit to a 4 ½  hour a science orbit.  It will investigate how Mars lost its original atmosphere which was dense enough to support liquid water to the thin carbon dioxide atmosphere it has today.  It has several duties October 19th when Comet Siding Spring passes Mars to detect the interaction of the comet’s atmosphere with that of Mars.  There are no cameras* on Maven, just hard data will be returned.

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

Addendum

* Actually I was mistaken.  There is an Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph aboard which will take images in the ultraviolet of Mars upper atmosphere.

MAVEN

Artist’s rendition of the MAVEN spacecraft in Mars Orbit. Credit: Lockheed Martin/NASA.

 

Categories: Ephemeris Program, Mars, NASA Tags: ,

09/22/2014 – Epmemeris – Autumn begins tonight

September 22, 2014 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, September 22nd.  The sun will rise at 7:29.  It’ll be up for 12 hours and 10 minutes, setting at 7:39.   The moon, 2 days before new, will rise at 6:54 tomorrow morning.

Welcome to the last, almost full, day of summer.  The Sun will reach the autumnal equinox point in the sky at 10:30 this evening.  At that moment the Sun will cross the celestial equator, a projection of the Earth’s equator, heading southward.  All locations on the earth except two will experience 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night.  Well they would if the Earth didn’t have an atmosphere and sunset and sunrise were defined differently.  The two locations that don’t experience equal night, which is what equinox means, are the north pole where the sun will be setting and the south pole where the sun will be rising.  For us in the northern hemisphere daylight hours will be shorter and the Sun will peak lower in the south each day until the December solstice.

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

Addendum

Autumnal equinox

The Earth as seen from the direction of the Sun as it crosses over the Earth’s equator heading south. Created using Celestia.