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Archive for December, 2018

12/31/2018 – Ephemeris – New Year 2019 – A new solar system body is being explored right now!

December 31, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for New Years Eve, Monday, December 31st. The Sun will rise at 8:20. It’ll be up for 8 hours and 51 minutes, setting at 5:11. The Moon, 2 days past last quarter, will rise at 3:54 tomorrow morning.

Later tonight the New Horizons spacecraft, which flew by Pluto and its retinue of moons, will fly by Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) 2014 MU69, nicknamed Ultima Thule. It’s probably an odd looking contact binary body with lobes 12 ½ and 11 miles (20 & 18 km) in diameter. That’s the guess as of a week ago. It will pass this body by 1,366 miles (2200 km), traveling at over 32 thousand miles an hour (52,000 kph). The spacecraft will pass closest approach at 33 minutes after the ball drops in Times Square. Nearly 4 hours later it will phone home. We won’t receive that message here on Earth until 10:28 a.m. due to the over 6 hours of time it takes the radio signal to reach Earth. We should get the first images by tomorrow night.  The New Horizons spacecraft was built and is flown by Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (JHAPL) is collaboration with NASA and the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI).

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

Addendum

Path of New Horizons

The Trajectory and position of New Horizons as it approached 2014 MU69 two months ago showing some of the KBOs recently discovered near its path. Credit JHAPL.

Ultima Thule silhouette

Silhouette of KBO 2014 MU69 (Ultima Thule) created by occultation timings on July 17, 2017 from southern Argentina.  Credit NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker.

Links to information can be found here:  http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/News-Center/Where-to-Watch.php.

A cool app to follow New Horizons in real-time or to preview its passage of Ultima Thule is NASA’s Eyes:  https://eyes.nasa.gov/.

NASA's Eyes

NASA’s Eyes screen Captured as a real-time simulation as I write this post. At this time two instruments are active, LORRI the long-range imager and ALICE the Ultraviolet imaging spectrometer. Click on the image to enlarge. Credit NASA/JPL

 

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12/28/2018 – Ephemeris – Preview of space and astronomical events for 2019

December 28, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, December 28th. The Sun will rise at 8:19. It’ll be up for 8 hours and 49 minutes, setting at 5:09. The Moon, 1 day before last quarter, will rise at 12:30 tomorrow morning.

Lets look at some astronomical and space events for 2019. Right off the bat on January 1st the New Horizons space craft will encounter the Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69 nick named Ultima Thule. I’ll have more on that Monday. January 20th overnight will see a total lunar eclipse lasting from 10:34 p.m. to 1:51 a.m. November 11th will see the planet Mercury cross the face of the Sun, a transit of Mercury from a couple of minutes after sunrise until 1:04 p.m. Among the space launches next year are several SpaceX Falcon Heavy launches, and the first launch of a uncrewed Dragon 2 capsule to fly up to the International Space Station. Boeing’s first Starliner uncrewed capsule test will occur in 2020.

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

Addenda

New Horizons encounter of 2014 MU69 (Ultima Thule)

Due to the fact that NASA is affected by the partial shutdown we will probably not get much immediate information from them.  However the New Horizons spacecraft is being run by Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (JHAPL) and not NASA and it is a critical mission, it will not be affected.  All news will flow from JHAPL, rather than NASA.  NASA-TV appears to be operating, but on autopilot.

From JHAPL, Where to watch, timeline and links:  http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/News-Center/Where-to-Watch.php.

The Planetary Society has lots of information and links to follow the encounter:  http://www.planetary.org/blogs/emily-lakdawalla/2018/new-horizons-approaching-mu69-ultima-thule.html.

There is also a Planetary Society page of the time line of events for the spacecraft and the reception of data on the Earth :  http://www.planetary.org/blogs/emily-lakdawalla/2018/what-to-expect-new-horizons-mu69-ultima-thule.html.

I’ll have much more Monday, less than 24 hours before the fly by.

Lunar Eclipse January 20-21, 2019

Total Lunar Eclipse

The Moon’s passage through the Earth’s shadow January 20-21, 2019. P1 and P4 events are invisible. Credit Fred Espenak, NASA/GSFC.

Eclipse times

UT times are for January 21st. EST times are te nearest minute.

Transit of Mercury November 11, 2019

Transit of Mercury

Mercury will travel from lower left to upper right across the face of the Sun. Credit Occult4.

The transit will run from about 7:34 a.m. EST
(2:34 UT) to 1:04 p.m. (8:04 UT).

12/27/2018 – Ephemeris – A look back at some space events of 2018

December 27, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, December 27th. The Sun will rise at 8:19. It’ll be up for 8 hours and 49 minutes, setting at 5:08. The Moon, 2 days before last quarter, will rise at 11:18 this evening.

Lets take a look at some highlights and a low light in space and astronomy from this year. In space on February 6th SpaceX launched their much touted Falcon Heavy rocket on its maiden flight. It was a success and we now have a Tesla orbiting the Sun. The Japanese Hyabusa2 reached its asteroid Ryugu and dropped some robot hoppers on its surface, months later NASA’s OSIRIS-REx encountered its asteroid Bennu. Both spacecraft will orbit their asteroids for a year and retrieve samples for return to Earth. On October 11th A Soyuz rocket carrying a Russian and an American had a failure at launch. The capsule escaped and the two men were rescued unharmed down range. On July 31st Mars came closer to the Earth than at any time since 2003.

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

Addendum

Falcon Heavy Tesla

The Falcon Heavy had to launch a dummy mass. Instead of a chunk of iron or a block of concrete, Elon Musk launched his used Tesla roadster with a mannequin dressed in a SpaceX spacesuit. It has a 557 day orbit of the Sun that extends past the orbit of Mars. Credit SpaceX.

Ryugu

The asteroid Ryugu now orbited by the Japanese Hayabusa2 spacecraft. Ryugu is 3,707 feet (1.13 kilometers) in diameter. It is a Cg carbonaceous asteroid, a rare type. Credit JAXA.

Ryugu surface

A Hayabusa2 rover captured the surface of Ryugu mid-hop.  The motive power for the Hayabusa rovers operated the same way as Mexican jumping beans, by swinging an internal weight. Credit: JAXA.

The asteroid Bennu is 861 feet (226.5 meters) in diameter. It is a carbonaceous asteroid. OSIRIS-REx has already discovered water bearing clays on its surface. Credit NASA

Parker Solar Probe

Not mentioned in this program was the Parker Solar Probe., which was launched August 12th.  After passing Venus to lose speed, it dropped to 15.4 million miles (24.8 million kilometers) from the center of the Sun on November 6th. It will orbit he Sun two more times until it can catch Venus again to lower its perihelion again.  Over 7 years it will use Venus 6 more times to drop its perihelion to only 4.29 million miles (6.9 million kilometers) from the center of the Sun  Artist’s visualization credit: NASA Johns Hopkins APL.-Steve Gribben

Soyuz launch abort

This is the launch of Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft. When the stage 1 boosters were jettisoned, one of the hit the core stage. The Soyuz performed an abort, saving the crew of a Russian and an American. Credit Bill Ingalls / NASA.

Mars closest approach

The viewing of Mars at its closest approach to the Earth on July 31st, the closest since the record-breaking close approach in 2003 was hampered by a global dust storm. It has apparently killed the solar powered Opportunity rover, which had been operating on the Martian surface since 2004. Credit: Damian Peach / Chilescope team (left), Christophe Pellier.

Categories: Ephemeris Program, Year review Tags:

12/26/2018 – Ephemeris – Looking at the bright planets for the last time in 2018

December 26, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Wednesday, December 26th. The Sun will rise at 8:19. It’ll be up for 8 hours and 48 minutes, setting at 5:08. The Moon, 3 days before last quarter, will rise at 10:05 this evening.

Let’s look at the bright planets for the last time in 2018. In the evening sky we have Mars still visible, but Saturn is lost in the bright twilight. It will pass conjunction with the Sun on New Years day. Mars will be due south at 6:09 p.m., and it will set at 12:05 a.m. Mars is moving eastward, crossing the constellation of Pisces. Comet Wirtanen is moving northward and to the lower left of Capella, in dark skies again in the early evening, but is fading as it moves away from both the Earth and Sun. It should be visible in binoculars as a faint fuzzy spot. Venus, our brilliant morning star, will rise at 4:24 a.m. in the east-southeast. Jupiter will rise at 6:24 a.m. also in the east-southeast.

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

Addenda

Planets and the Moon

Mars in the evening

Mars at 7 p.m. tonight December 26, 2018. Created using Stellarium.

Morning planets

Morning planets Venus Jupiter this morning, December 26, 2018, at 7 a.m.. Created using Stellarium.

The Moon and Regulus

The Moon with the bright star Regulus in Leo the lion at 7 this morning, December 26, 2018.

Telescopic Venus

Telescopic view of Venus this morning December 26, 2018. Created using Stellarium.

Planets and the Moon on a single night

Planets, a comet and the Moon at sunset and sunrise of a single night starting with sunset on the right on December 20, 2018. The night ends on the left with sunrise on the 27th. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using my LookingUp program.

Comet Wirtanen

Comet 46P/Wirtanen

Comet 46P/Wirtanen positions for the next week. Positions are marked with month-date and magnitude. The observations are about 5 magnitudes brighter than shown here. Star field position is for 9 p.m. on the 26th. The comet is circumpolar, so it will not set overnight. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

12/25/2018 – Ephemeris – Our Christmas Star is in the morning sky

December 25, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Christmas Day, Tuesday, December 25th. The Sun will rise at 8:18. It’ll be up for 8 hours and 48 minutes, setting at 5:07. The Moon, 3 days past full, will rise at 8:49 this evening.

The Christmas star this year is Venus, seen this morning in the southeast if we are privileged enough to have clear skies this morning. Rising about 6:30 this morning we also have Jupiter, the second brightest planet after Venus. It might be high enough to spot by 7 this morning, in the southeast also, but near the horizon and to the left of Venus. The two extremely close conjunctions of these two planets in 3 and again in 2 BC are my favorite candidate for the appearances of the Star of Bethlehem that the Magi saw. One of the great things about the morning sky this time of year is that the stars out are those of April evenings and the seed catalogs I’m getting in the mail, make the promise that winter, only four days old will pass.

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

Addendum

Christmas morning

The Christmas morning sky at 7 a.m. looking to the south-southeast. Created using Stellarium.

12/24/2018 – Ephemeris – The Star of Bethlehem a possible solution

December 24, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Christmas Eve, Monday, December 24th. The Sun will rise at 8:18. It’ll be up for 8 hours and 48 minutes, setting at 5:06. The Moon, 2 days past full, will rise at 7:35 this evening.

Last Thursday I talked about the timing of Jesus’ birth being just before Herod the Great’s death, which I suggested was in 1 BC due to a lunar eclipse. So the Star of Bethlehem could appear several years later than the triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in 7 BC that’s been popular. In 3 and again in 2 BC there were star-like conjunctions or apparent joinings of the planets Jupiter and Venus against the backdrop of constellation of Leo the Lion. A lion is related to Judah,, son of Jacob by a blessing the latter gave his 12 sons in Genesis. The first conjunction occurred in August of 3 BC in the morning sky. In June the next year the two planets got together again, this time in the evening sky, a month or more after Jesus would have been born in the lambing season of spring.

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

Addendum

August 12, 3 BC conjunction

Here is an animation created using Stellarium of Jupiter and Venus, the brighter of the two seeming to pass very close on August 12, 3 BC in the early morning twilight.  Regulus is the brightest star in Leo.

The above conjunction would occur near Jupiter’s heliacal rising, its first appearance in the morning sky after having left the evening sky.  An event signifying beginnings or birth in many cultures.  10 months later they again conjoin, this time much closer.

The second appearance of the "Star"

On June 16th 2 BC, this time in the evening, Venus and Jupiter seem to coalesce as one, at least to the naked eye.  Created using Stellarium.

I’ll add in the triple conjunction  of 7 BC just to cover all bases.

Triple conjunction

The Jupiter-Saturn triple conjunction of 7 BC. This animation is at 5 day intervals.  The Moon will be popping in and out of the view. It end in February of 6 BC when Mars and the Moon enter\s the picture. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Cartes du Ciel.

To the problem i mentioned in my December 20th post is if Herod died in 1 BC the flight to Egypt of the Holy Family would have lasted, maybe 9 months or a year.  The traditional length of the flight to Egypt is 2 years.  If we gave Herod, according to Josephus, 16 months between the lunar eclipse in January of 1 BC and Passover of AD 1 when Herod died, then the Flight to Egypt could be 2 years in keeping with tradition.  My December 20th post is here: https://bobmoler.wordpress.com/2018/12/20/.

So was the Star the triple conjunction of 7 BC, the two conjunctions of 3 and 2 BC, a miraculous event outside of nature, or a bit of mythology tucked into Matthew’s Gospel.    We will probably never know.

Have a very merry and safe Christmas.

12/21/2019 – Ephemeris – Winter starts today

December 21, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, December 21st. The Sun will rise at 8:16. It’ll be up for 8 hours and 48 minutes, setting at 5:05. The Moon, 1 day before full, will set at 7:56 tomorrow morning.

Today is the shortest day of the year, well in daylight hours. The Sun will be up for only 8 hours and 48 minutes in the Interlochen/Traverse City area, 8 hours 53 minutes in Ludington, and 8 hours 40 minutes at the Straits. This is because the northern end of the Earth’s axis is pointing some 23 and a half degrees away from the Sun. Or it will at 5:22 this afternoon, the instant of winter solstice, when winter will begin. To find how high the Sun will get in the south at local noon take 90 minus your latitude and subtract also 23 and a half degrees. For Interlochen that’s 21.8 degrees above the southern horizon. We’re not getting much heat from the Sun. But as winter progresses the rising Sun will slow the cooling and begin to warm us up before spring.

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

Addendum

December solstice

The Earth and its axis on the first day of winter, the winter solstice. From my Sun and the Earth talk slides.

The Earth near the December solsitce

DSCOVR satellite’s Earth Polychromatic Camera image of the Earth at 18:09 UTC (1:09 p.m.) December 19, 2017. We’re way up at the top just under the clouds at the top. It was actually partly cloudy that day. The DSCOVR satellite was in a halo orbit about the Earth-Sun Lagrange L1 point, 934,498 miles (1,503,929 km) toward the Sun from Earth.

Solstices

Comparing the sun’s path at the summer and winter solstices for Interlochen/Traverse City. This is a stereographic representation of the whole sky which distorts the sky and magnifies the size of the sun’s path near the horizon.