Archive for January 1, 2016

01/01/2016 – Ephemeris – Happy New Year – It’s a busy few days to start off the year

January 1, 2016 Comments off

Happy New Year.  This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for New Years Day, Friday, January 1st, 2016.  The Sun will rise at 8:20.  It’ll be up for 8 hours and 52 minutes, setting at 5:12.   The Moon, 1 day before last quarter, will rise at 12:54 tomorrow morning.

It’s always a busy time, astronomically speaking, around the start of the year.  This year even more so.  Comet Catalina is found near the bright star Arcturus now, which is a good way to find it in binoculars.  Tomorrow at 7:59 p.m. (1:59 UT 3rd) the Earth will reach perihelion, the closest point in its orbit to the Sun at about 91.4 million miles (0.9833 AU).  It doesn’t add much to the heat we get from the Sun, but it does make winter a couple of days shorter than summer.  Monday at 3 a.m. will see the peak of the Quadrantid meteor shower.  Unfortunately that’s about the time the Moon will rise.  The radiant is north of the handle of the Big Dipper.  Good news:  tomorrow is the latest sunrise, it should be rising earlier until June.

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


January Star Chart

Javnuary Star Chart

Star Chart for January 2016. Created using my LookingUp program. To enlarge in Firefox Right-click on image then click View Image.

The planets and stars are plotted for the 15th at 9 p.m. EST.  That is chart time.  Note, Traverse City is located 45 minutes behind our time meridian.  To duplicate the star positions on a planisphere you may have to set it to 45 minutes earlier than the current time.

Evening astronomical twilight ends at 6:22 p.m. EST on January 1st, increasing to 6:55 p.m. EST on the 31st.

Morning astronomical twilight starts at 7:09 a.m. EST on January 1st, and decreasing to 6:57 a.m. EST 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.

  • Pointer stars at the front of the bowl of the Big Dipper point to Polaris the North Star.
  • QuadR is the Quadrantid meteor shower radiant

Calendar of Planetary Events

Credit:  Sky Events Calendar by Fred Espenak and Sumit Dutta (NASA’s GSFC)

To generate your own calendar go to

Times are Eastern Time.  Some additions made to aid clarity.

     Date   Local      Event
            Time EST
Jan  01  Fr            Venus: 37.9° W
     02  Sa 12:30 a.m. Last Quarter
     02  Sa  6:53 a.m. Moon Apogee: 404300 km
     02  Sa  7:59 p.m. Perihelion: 0.9833 AU
     03  Su  1:45 p.m. Moon-Mars: 1.6° S
     04  Mo  3:01 a.m. Quadrantid Shower: ZHR = 120
     06  We  6:57 p.m. Moon-Venus: 3.3° S
     06  We 11:57 p.m. Moon-Saturn: 3.6° S
     07  Th  6:32 a.m. Venus-Antares: 6.4° N
     08  Fr 12:56 p.m. Moon South Dec.: 18.4° S
     09  Sa  2:42 a.m. Venus-Saturn: 0.1° N
     09  Sa  8:30 p.m. New Moon
     14  Th  9:02 a.m. Mercury Inferior Conj.
     14  Th 10:48 a.m. Moon Descending Node
     14  Th  9:10 p.m. Moon Perigee: 369600 km
     16  Sa  6:26 p.m. First Quarter
     19  Tu  9:16 p.m. Moon-Aldebaran: 0.5° S (Occultation*)
     21  Th 11:41 a.m. Moon North Dec.: 18.4° N
     23  Sa  8:46 p.m. Full Moon
     26  Tu 12:10 a.m. Moon-Regulus: 2.8° N
     27  We  6:58 p.m. Moon Ascending Node
     27  We  8:14 p.m. Moon-Jupiter: 1.6° N
     30  Sa  4:10 a.m. Moon Apogee: 404600 km
     31  Su 10:28 p.m. Last Quarter
Feb  01  Mo            Venus: 31.4° W

* Occultation of Aldebaran For the Grand Traverse Area ± 1-2 minutes:
Disappearance 9:06 p.m.  Reappearance 10:25 p.m.  I’ll have more information on the 19th.

Occultation Map

Occultation Map

Occultation visibility map for January 20, 2016 (UT). Credit IOTA/Occult4 program.

Estimating occultation timings for your location

I used Cartes du Ciel the free software that I have a link to on the right.  Make sure that the program is set for topocentric positions under Setup/Solar System.  And you have entered your position under Setup/Observatory.  You can find your location in Google Earth, or your GPS device or smart phone.

You can also use Stellarium.  Just make sure the Moon is normal sized.

In both programs you can lock the Moon or Aldebaran in the center of the screen Pick a time in advance of the occultation and using the set time window walk the star towards the Moon, mark the time.  Then walk the star out from the Moon and record the reappearance time.  That’s it.

This should work with other planetarium programs too.

For better accuracy go to the International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA) website.  Download and install their Occult4 program for Windows computers.  Follow the instructions.  When I ran the program for my location, the location I use for Interlochen/Traverse City (Since I live approximately half-way between the two).  I got results within a half-minute of the IOTA Occult4 program results.  So the approximation method using these planetarium programs is valid.

Comet C/2013 US10 (Catalina)

Comet Catalina January 2016

The track of Comet C/2013 US10 (Catalina) for January 2016. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

The comet is roughly one magnitude fainter than given.  Comet is plotted every day at 4 a.m. EST (9 hr UT) with the date and magnitude labeled every 5th day.  According to the brightness graph the comet began to under perform in brightness back in September, however, according to a new brightness formula the comet may increase in brightness by a magnitude by late February when it will be well placed for viewing all night. To monitor the brightness reports from observers go to