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Archive for February, 2018

02/28/2018 – Ephemeris – Let’s take our weekly look at the bright planets

February 28, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Wednesday, February 28th. The Sun will rise at 7:22. It’ll be up for 11 hours and 7 minutes, setting at 6:29. The Moon, 1 day before full, will set at 7:17 tomorrow morning.

Let’s take our weekly look at the bright planets. Two of the bright naked eye planets are in the evening sky, but very close to the Sun. Venus will be visible low in the Western twilight from about 6:50 until before it sets at 7:29. Mercury is creeping up on Venus from below, tonight about 5 Moon widths at 5 o’clock down from Venus. It will set at 7:18. Mercury will appear to pass Venus Sunday night and will become higher than Venus in the sky until about March 20th. In the morning Jupiter will rise at 12:39 tomorrow morning, with Mars rising at 2:59. Saturn will end the procession, rising at 4:10 a.m. At 6 tomorrow morning bright Jupiter will be in the south to the left of it is dimmer Mars. Saturn is low in the southeast.
The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Moon rise

Moon rise at around 5:10 p.m. tonight February 28 2018 with daylight washing it out. Note the squished Moon due to atmospheric refraction which bends the light up. The lower in the sky it is the greater the bending of the light. This also happens to the Sun. Created using Stellarium as a built in effect.

Venus and Mercury

Venus and Mercury, low in the west at 6:45 p.m., February 28, 2018. Created using Stellarium.

Morning planets

The morning planets of Jupiter, Mars and Saturn. Seen at 6 a.m. tomorrow morning March 1, 2018. Click on image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium.

Telescopic Jupiter and Saturn

Jupiter and Saturn with heir brighter satellites tomorrow morning at 6 a.m. March 1, 2018. They are displayed at the same scale. Saturn in about twice as far as Jupiter. Its disk is a bit smaller than Jupiter’s so it appears about half as large. The extent of the rings appear to be about the same as Jupiter’s diameter. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).  Oops, left in Mimas, which is much smaller and dimmer than the other satellites.

Planets at sunset and sunrise of a single night

Planets at sunset and sunrise of a single night starting with sunset on the right on February 28, 2018. The night ends on the left with sunrise on March 1st. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using my LookingUp program.

 

 

 

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02/27/2018 – Ephemeris – The bright spot on the Moon tonight

February 27, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, February 27th. The Sun will rise at 7:23. It’ll be up for 11 hours and 4 minutes, setting at 6:27. The Moon, 2 days before full, will set at 6:38 tomorrow morning.

The moon tonight is bright. The sunrise line or terminator on the moon is crossing the large gray plain called Oceanus Procellarum, the largest of the moon’s seas. These seas were figments of the first telescopic observers imagination. They are really huge impact basins into which interior lava flowed. On the upper left edge of the moon near the terminator is a bright spot on the moon visible in binoculars. In a telescope it is a crater called Aristarchus. It is a fairly new crater, probably less than a billion years old. As a rule the brighter the crater the newer it is. Aristarchus is the brightest spot on the moon. Over the years visual astronomers have seen hazes and bright spots from time to time in and near Aristarchus.

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

Addendum

The Moon and Aristarchus

The Moon tonight at 9 p.m. February 27, 2018. Created using Virtual Moon Atlas.

Aristarchus close up

The crater Aristarchus. Credit: Lunar and Planetary Institute.

02/26/2018 – Ephemeris – The Falcon Heavy, a game changer

February 26, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, February 26th. The Sun will rise at 7:25. It’ll be up for 11 hours and 1 minute, setting at 6:26. The Moon, half way from first quarter to full, will set at 5:52 tomorrow morning.

It’s been 20 days since SpaceX launched their massive Falcon Heavy rocket. Basically three Falcon 9’s strapped together, it’s now the most powerful rocket now in service, whose payload mass to orbit was only exceeded by the Saturn V Moon rocket of the Apollo days. Where the Saturn 5 was more than a billion dollars to launch and the Space Launch System (SLS) now being built with a similar price tag, a Falcon Heavy launch is supposed to be less than 100 million dollars. The next version of the Falcon 9, Block 5, should be powerful enough to launch astronauts to the space station, the original task for the Falcon Heavy. This may mean that the Falcon Heavy may have a short life span. This is because the next rocket is coming off the drawing boards, or rather CAD programs, the BFR, the Mars rocket will be even more powerful and reusable.  However the low price tag of a Falcon Heavy launch may be too inexpensive to pass up, even for NASA for heavy satellites of deep solar system missions

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

Addendum

Falcon Meavy launch

Test launch of the Falcon Heavy, as it clears the tower on February 6, 2018. Click on the image to enlarge. Credit: SpaceX.

Side boosters landing

The side boosters landing back at the Cape. Click on the image to enlarge. Credit: SpaceX.

02/23/2018 – Ephemeris – Meet the stars Castor and Pollux

February 23, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, February 23rd. The Sun will rise at 7:30. It’ll be up for 10 hours and 52 minutes, setting at 6:22. The Moon, at first quarter today, will set at 2:54 tomorrow morning.

The star Pollux is at the head of the same named brother of Gemini the twins. Castor is the slightly dimmer star right above it. Pollux is about 34 light years away. It’s twice as massive as the Sun, and has run out of hydrogen in its core and is in the process of evolving into a red giant star. One planet, recently given the name Thestias, has been detected around it. Castor is at 51 light years away. There are 6 stars in its system. The brightest three are visible in telescopes. Each is a spectroscopic binary, meaning that the companion stars are detected by the Doppler shifts of the lines in their spectra as the stars orbit each other. The Doppler shift is just one of the many pieces of information revealed by the spectroscope.

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

Addendum

Gemini with the stars Castor and Pollux

Gemini with the stars Castor and Pollux. Created using Stellarium.

Castor star system

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

02/22/2018 – Ephemeris – The blue-white star at Orion’s knee

February 22, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, February 22nd. The Sun will rise at 7:32. It’ll be up for 10 hours and 49 minutes, setting at 6:21. The Moon, 1 day before first quarter, will set at 1:46 tomorrow morning.

The bright star at the bottom right corner of the big upright rectangle that is the giant hunter Orion’s body in the south-southeast is Rigel. It is a white star with a bluish tinge. It compares in brightness with Betelgeuse at the opposite end of Orion’s rectangle, though it’s usually a bit brighter. The mismatch in color makes brightness comparisons difficult. Rigel is about 860 light years away, It’s 23 times the mass of the Sun, 120 thousand the times brighter than the Sun, and a diameter almost the size of the orbit of Mercury. It’s age is thought to be about 8 million years. It has a visual companion star that can be seen in amateur telescopes. It’s not that dim, but suffers by being close to the arc light brightness of Rigel.

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

Addendum

Orion's named stars

Orion’s named stars including the belt stars. Created using Stellarium.

Rigel A & B

Rigel with its companion star as photographed through a telescope. No attribution. Source: http://washedoutastronomy.com/content/urban-orion?page=1

Categories: Ephemeris Program, stars Tags: ,

02/21/2018 – Ephemeris – Let’s take our weekly look at the bright planets

February 21, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Wednesday, February 21st. The Sun will rise at 7:33. It’ll be up for 10 hours and 46 minutes, setting at 6:19. The Moon, 2 days before first quarter, will set at 12:38 tomorrow morning.

Let’s take our weekly look at the bright planets. All of the bright naked eye planets save two are in the morning sky now. Mercury crossed behind the Sun 4 days ago and will become visible in the evening twilight in a couple of weeks. Also heading away from the Sun after sunset is Venus which sets 51 minutes after the Sun, and might be just visible low in the west-southwest from around 6:30 to about 6:50 p.m. At 7 in this morning’s twilight bright Jupiter is in the south-southwest to the left of it is dimmer Mars and below and right of it the red star Antares. The two are about the same brightness now. Saturn is low in the southeast. Jupiter will rise at 1:06 tomorrow morning, with Mars rising at 3:06. Saturn will end the procession, rising at 4:36 a.m.

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

Addendum

Venus after sunset.

Venus, low in the west-southwest at 6:30 p.m., February 21, 2018. Created using Stellarium.

Binocular Moon

The crescent Moon as it might be seen in binoculars at 8 p.m. tonight. February 21, 2018. Created using Stellarium.

Morning planets

The morning planets of Jupiter, Mars and Saturn. Seen at 7 a.m. as morning twilight brightens, February 21, 2018. Created using Stellarium.

Telescopic Jupiter and Saturn

Jupiter and Saturn with heir brighter satellites this morning at 7 a.m. February 21, 2018. They are displayed at the same scale. Saturn in about twice as far as Jupiter. Its disk is a bit smaller than Jupiter’s so it appears about half as large. The extent of the rings appear to be about the same as Jupiter’s diameter. Created using Stellarium.

Planets at sunset and sunrise of a single night

Planets at sunset and sunrise of a single night starting with sunset on the right on February 21, 2018. The night ends on the left with sunrise on February 22nd. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using my LookingUp program.

02/20/2018 – Ephemeris – Tonight’s the night to spot a chain of three of my favorite craters

February 20, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, February 20th. The Sun will rise at 7:35. It’ll be up for 10 hours and 43 minutes, setting at 6:18. The Moon, 3 days before first quarter, will set at 11:29 this evening.

I was a day off in my Moon calculations yesterday. The three of my favorite craters, just south of the partially illuminated Sea of Tranquility will be visible tonight. From north to south or top to bottom, near the terminator or sunrise line is Theophilus, which slightly overlaps the crater wall of Cyrillus, then a bit farther south another older crater Catharina. These craters were named by a Jesuit astronomer Giovanni Battista Riccioli (Ri’cholli). He even named a crater Copernicus, even though he followed the Church teachings of the time he didn’t believe in the Copernican Sun centered system, but the system put forth by Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe where the Moon and Sun circled the Earth, but the other planets circled the Sun.

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

Addendum

Crescent Moon

The crescent Moon on the evening of February 20th, 2018. showing the craters discussed in the test. Created using Virtual Moon Atlas and rotated to approximate its orientation in the sky after sunset.

Repeating from yesterday:  For anyone east of here who can see the Moon at 19:00 UT, on the 20th should see Theophilus shadow filled with the crater rim and the central peak poking into sunlight.  It should be visible from Europe and the Mid East.  Let me know with a comment if I guessed right.