Archive for December 31, 2017

12/31/2017 – Ephemeris Extra – January 2018 preview

December 31, 2017 Comments off

This isn’t going to be recorded as an actual program.  I’m not sure how much information one could retain at 6 or 7 New Years Day morning.

Year end is a busy time astronomically with Earth’s perihelion and the Quadrantid meteor shower following rapidly on New Years day

Let’s look ahead at January 2018. Tuesday the 2nd is the date of the latest sunrise. The Sun is already beginning to head north, as can be seen in the sunset time on the 1st, 11 minutes later than at its earliest three weeks ago. Both sunrise and sunset will be moving in January with sunrise time at 8:20 a.m. and sunset time at 5:12 p.m. on the 1st moving to 8:02 a.m. and 5:50 p.m. at month’s end. The sun’s altitude at noon will increase from 22 degrees on the 1st to nearly 28 degrees by the 31st. The Earth will reach its closest to the Sun in its orbit, called perihelion, on the 2nd at 91.4 million miles (147.1 million km).

We’ll have a full moon on the 1st and the 31st, the so-called blue moon.  Both those moons will be super moons, occurring at or near perigee.  On  top of all that the  full moon on the 31st will be totally eclipsed.  We in Michigan will see nearly the first half of the eclipse before the Moon sets at 8:04 in the grand Traverse area.  Folks farther west will see more, if not all of the eclipse. February will have no full moons, so March again will have two full moons.

The Quadrantid meteor shower will reach peak on the 3rd, in the afternoon.  The radiant is circumpolar here, being off the handle of the Big Dipper.  Mercury will reach its greatest western elongation on the 1st and be visible shortly before sunrise for the next week rising after 6:30, but brightening a bit each day.  It’s not a particularly favorable elongation, now that winter is here.  The next evening elongation in  March will be a lot better.  Venus will be in superior conjunction with the Sun on the 9th and will enter the evening sky, but don’t look for it this month.  Mars and Jupiter will have a close conjunction on the 6th.  It will look about equally OK on the morning of the 6th or 7th around here because it occurs on the evening of the 6th, when they are not up.


January Evening Sky Chart

January Evening Star Chart

Star Chart for January 2018 (9 p.m. January 15, 2018). Created using my LookingUp program. Click on image to enlarge.

The planets and stars are plotted for the 15th at 9 p.m. EST in the evening and 6 a.m. for the morning chart. These are the chart times. Note that Traverse City is located approximately 45 minutes behind our time meridian. (An hour 45 minutes behind our daylight saving time meridian. during EDT and 45 minutes behind our daylight standard time meridian. during EST). To duplicate the star positions on a planisphere you may have to set it to 1 hour 45 minutes (Daylight Time) or 45 minutes (Standard Time) earlier than the current time if you are near your time meridian.

Note the chart times of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. are for the 15th. For each week before the 15th add ½ hour. For each week after the 15th subtract ½ hour. The planet positions are updated each Wednesday on this blog. For planet positions on dates other than the 15th, check the Wednesday planet posts on this blog.

January Morning Star Chart

January Morning Star Chart

Star Chart for January 2018 mornings based on 6 a.m. January 15th. Created using my LookingUp program. Click on image to enlarge.

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.
  • Leaky Big Dipper drips on Leo.
  • Follow the arc of the handle of the Big Dipper to the star Arcturus.
  • The Summer Triangle is in red
  • QuadR is the Quadrantid meteor shower radiant. Peaks on January 2nd, but the almost full moon will interfere this year.


Evening nautical twilight ends at 6:22 p.m. EST on the 1st, increasing to 6:55 p.m. EST on the 31st.
Evening astronomical twilight ends at 6:57 p.m. EST on the 1st, increasing to 7:29 p.m. EST on the 31st.
Morning astronomical twilight starts at 6:35 a.m. EST on the 1st, and decreasing to 6:23 a.m. EST on the 31st.
Morning nautical twilight starts at 7:10 a.m. EST on the 1st, and decreasing to 6:57 a.m. EST on the 31st.

NASA Calendar of Planetary Events

    Date    Time    Event
Jan 01  Mo          Venus: 1.9° W
    01  Mo  2:59 pm Mercury Elongation: 22.7° W
    01  Mo  4:54 pm Moon Perigee: 356600 km
    01  Mo  7:01 pm Moon North Dec.: 20.1° N
    01  Mo  9:24 pm Full Moon
    02  Tu  9:59 pm Perihelion: 0.9833 AU
    03  We  2:50 pm Moon-Beehive: 2.3° N
    03  We  3:19 pm Quadrantid Meteor Shower: ZHR = 120
    04  Th  2:48 am Moon Ascending Node
    05  Fr  2:24 am Moon-Regulus: 0.9° S
    06  Sa  7:39 pm Mars-Jupiter: 0.2° N
    08  Mo  5:25 pm Last Quarter
    09  Tu  1:16 am Venus Superior Conjunction w/Sun
    11  Th 12:59 am Moon-Jupiter: 4.7° S
    13  Sa  2:58 am Mercury-Saturn: 0.7° N
    14  Su  9:09 pm Moon Apogee: 406500 km
    14  Su  9:13 pm Moon-Saturn: 2.9° S
    15  Mo 11:28 am Moon South Dec.: 20° S
    16  Tu  9:17 pm New Moon
    18  Th  9:28 am Moon Descending Node
    24  We  5:20 pm First Quarter
    27  Sa  5:09 am Moon-Aldebaran: 0.7° S
    29  Mo  6:32 am Moon North Dec.: 20° N
    30  Tu  4:54 am Moon Perigee: 359000 km
    31  We  2:19 am Moon-Beehive: 2.3° N
    31  We  8:27 am Full Moon
    31  We  8:30 am Total Lunar Eclipse (See Below)
    31  We  1:46 pm Moon Ascending Node
Feb 01  Th          Venus: 5.7° E

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

If you go to the above site you can print out a list like the above for the entire year
or calendar pages for your time zone.

Sun and Moon Rising and Setting Events

     LU                  Ephemeris of Sky Events for Interlochen/TC
     January, 2018    Local time zone: EST
     |      |  RISE    SET    HOURS |  END    START  |PHASE SET** TIME FRACTN|
     |Mon  1| 08:20a  05:13p  08:52 | 06:23p  07:09a |Full  Rise 05:11p  100%|
     |Tue  2| 08:20a  05:13p  08:53 | 06:24p  07:09a |      Rise 06:18p   99%|
     |Wed  3| 08:20a  05:14p  08:54 | 06:25p  07:10a |      Rise 07:30p   95%|
     |Thu  4| 08:20a  05:15p  08:55 | 06:25p  07:10a |      Rise 08:44p   88%|
     |Fri  5| 08:19a  05:16p  08:56 | 06:26p  07:10a |      Rise 09:56p   80%|
     |Sat  6| 08:19a  05:17p  08:58 | 06:27p  07:09a |      Rise 11:05p   70%|
     |Sun  7| 08:19a  05:19p  08:59 | 06:28p  07:09a |      Rise 12:12a   60%|
     |Mon  8| 08:19a  05:20p  09:00 | 06:29p  07:09a |L Qtr Rise 01:17a   49%|
     |Tue  9| 08:19a  05:21p  09:02 | 06:30p  07:09a |      Rise 02:19a   39%|
     |Wed 10| 08:18a  05:22p  09:03 | 06:31p  07:09a |      Rise 03:20a   30%|
     |Thu 11| 08:18a  05:23p  09:05 | 06:32p  07:09a |      Rise 04:19a   22%|
     |Fri 12| 08:18a  05:24p  09:06 | 06:33p  07:08a |      Rise 05:16a   14%|
     |Sat 13| 08:17a  05:25p  09:08 | 06:34p  07:08a |      Rise 06:11a    8%|
     |Sun 14| 08:17a  05:27p  09:10 | 06:36p  07:08a |      Rise 07:02a    4%|
     |Mon 15| 08:16a  05:28p  09:11 | 06:37p  07:07a |      Rise 07:49a    1%|
     |Tue 16| 08:15a  05:29p  09:13 | 06:38p  07:07a |New   Set  05:21p    0%|
     |Wed 17| 08:15a  05:31p  09:15 | 06:39p  07:06a |      Set  06:17p    1%|
     |Thu 18| 08:14a  05:32p  09:17 | 06:40p  07:06a |      Set  07:15p    3%|
     |Fri 19| 08:14a  05:33p  09:19 | 06:41p  07:05a |      Set  08:15p    8%|
     |Sat 20| 08:13a  05:34p  09:21 | 06:42p  07:05a |      Set  09:17p   14%|
     |Sun 21| 08:12a  05:36p  09:23 | 06:44p  07:04a |      Set  10:20p   21%|
     |Mon 22| 08:11a  05:37p  09:25 | 06:45p  07:04a |      Set  11:24p   30%|
     |Tue 23| 08:10a  05:38p  09:28 | 06:46p  07:03a |      Set  12:30a   40%|
     |Wed 24| 08:10a  05:40p  09:30 | 06:47p  07:02a |F Qtr Set  01:38a   51%|
     |Thu 25| 08:09a  05:41p  09:32 | 06:48p  07:01a |      Set  02:48a   62%|
     |Fri 26| 08:08a  05:43p  09:34 | 06:50p  07:01a |      Set  03:59a   72%|
     |Sat 27| 08:07a  05:44p  09:37 | 06:51p  07:00a |      Set  05:09a   82%|
     |Sun 28| 08:06a  05:45p  09:39 | 06:52p  06:59a |      Set  06:14a   90%|
     |Mon 29| 08:05a  05:47p  09:42 | 06:53p  06:58a |      Set  07:13a   96%|
     |Tue 30| 08:04a  05:48p  09:44 | 06:55p  06:57a |      Set  08:04a  100%|
     |Wed 31| 08:02a  05:50p  09:47 | 06:56p  06:56a |Full  Rise 06:15p  100%|
     * Nautical Twilight
     ** Moonrise or moonset, whichever occurs between sunrise and sunset

Total Lunar Eclipse January 31, 2018

Lunar Eclipse January 31, 2018

I’ll have more on this toward the end of the month. Credit NASA.

The original page for this graphic is:

    Total Lunar Eclipse January 31
Event               Time EST   Time UT
                    GT Area    
Enter penumbra      5:51 a.m.  10:51   Unseen
Begin partial phase 6:48 a.m.  11:48
Totality begins     7:51 a.m.  12:51
Moon sets           8:04 a.m.
Mid eclipse                    13:28
Totality ends                  14:07
End partial phase              15:11
Leave penumbra                 16:08   Unseen

The shading of the penumbra is generally seen within 1/2
hour before and after the partial begins and ends.


Lunch time at the bird feeder

Our bird feeder at about 2 p.m. It was cleaned off and filled 6 hours before. Dining are a downy woodpecker, behind the suet block; a flicker with a seed in its beak and three chickadees. Can you spot the third?

While I was writing this post on the afternoon of the 30th, we were getting a rather intense lake effect snow storm, at about an inch an hour.  By nightfall the snow on top of the feeder just about reached the hook.  We also get cardinals, blue jays, sparrows.   Poor juncos.  They seem to feed on the ground, and the snow came too fast and covered the seed that had dropped, so they were looking in vain.

I really love the chickadees, they’re fearless.  When I’m filling the bird feeder the other birds scatter, but the chickadees sit in the tree, a couple of feet over my head and wait patiently until I hang it back up.