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Archive for August, 2019

08/30/2019 – Ephemeris – Astronomy events at the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes tomorrow

August 30, 2019 2 comments

Ephemeris for Friday, August 30th. Today the Sun will be up for 13 hours and 20 minutes, setting at 8:23, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:03. The Moon is new today, and won’t be visible.

The second Sun and star party in August at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore will be held at the Dune Climb tomorrow if it is reasonably clear. The solar portion will start at 4 p.m., while dark sky viewing will start at 9 p.m.. It will be hosted by the Park Rangers and the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society. The society’s new solar telescope can generally tease out some interesting detail from the currently quiet Sun. Later on the wonders of the Milky Way, which will span the skies from horizon to horizon will be seen, along with the planets Jupiter and Saturn. The park has one of the darkest skies in the Lower Peninsula, and the Milky Way is especially impressive this time of year.

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

Addendum

Milky Way

The Milky Way from the Sleeping Bear Dunes four years ago by Mark Stewart.   This year Jupiter and Saturn would also be in this photograph.

A Sun Party at the Dune Climb. Credit: Eileen Carlisle.

Dune Climb Setup

This in the beginning of setup for the October 21, 2917 star party at the dune climb. Taken early while there was enough light. The dune blocks up to 12 degrees from the southwest to northwest, but the rest of the horizon is quite low.  Photo by the author.

The weather for this event is very iffy, so if it is cancelled members of the GTAS will have their telescopes at the Dune Climb Sunday night, if it is clear, to view the sky.  Though not an official star party, campers and the public to view the heavens.  For a voicemail on the status of the star party on Saturday please call 231-326-4700, ext. 5005.

08/29/2019 – Ephemeris – To astronomers constellations are just areas of the sky

August 29, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, August 29th. Today the Sun will be up for 13 hours and 23 minutes, setting at 8:25, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:02. The Moon, 1 day before new, will rise at 7:00 tomorrow morning.

What are constellations? I talk about them all the time on this program. There are 88 officially recognized constellations by the International Astronomical Union. Most, in the northern sky come from the ancient Greeks, and are given Latin names. For professional astronomers the constellations mark out specific areas of the sky in an interlocking set of puzzle pieces. In some cases it looks like there’s some gerrymandering with the shapes. Some star to star lines drawn do seem to represent the namesake, like Scorpius the scorpion. Most don’t. Stars of a constellation generally are not near one another, they’re just in the same direction from us. Asterisms, or informal star groups, like the Big Dipper however do look like what they represent.

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

Addendum

Summer constellations showing stars, lines, boundaries, and figures in succession. Click on the image to enlarge. Here you can see that Jupiter is in Ophiuchus, not Scorpius. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

08/28/2019 – Ephemeris – Looking at and for the 5 brightest planets

August 28, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Wednesday, August 28th. Today the Sun will be up for 13 hours and 26 minutes, setting at 8:27, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:01. The Moon, 2 days before new, will rise at 5:40 tomorrow morning.

Let’s look at the planets for this week. Mars, Venus and Mercury are too close to the Sun to be seen. Venus is on the evening or east side of the Sun, as is Mars which will pass conjunction with the Sun next Monday. Bright Jupiter will be in the south-southwestern sky as it gets dark. With steadily held binoculars a few of the 4 largest satellites of Jupiter can be seen. All four of Jupiter’s Galilean satellites can be spotted in telescopes tonight: one on the east and three west of the planet. Jupiter will set at 12:37 a.m. Saturn, the ringed planet, will be in the southern sky in the evening. It will pass the meridian, due south at 10:17 p.m. and will set at 3:12 a.m. Mercury will enter the evening sky next Tuesday.

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

Addendum

Evening Planets

Jupiter and Saturn with the constellations of the southern summer sky at 10 p.m. August 28, 2019. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium.

Telescopic Planets

Telescopic views of Jupiter and Saturn with the same magnification at 10 p.m.August 28, 2019. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

Planets and the Moon on a single night

Planets and the Moon at sunset and sunrise of a single night starting with sunset on the right on August 28, 2019. The night ends on the left with sunrise on the 29th. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using my LookingUp program.

08/27/2019 – Ephemeris – The obscure constellation of Scutum the shield

August 27, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, August 27th. Today the Sun will be up for 13 hours and 29 minutes, setting at 8:28, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:00. The Moon, 3 days before new, will rise at 4:23 tomorrow morning.

In the southern sky between the Teapot of Sagittarius below and Aquila the Eagle with its southernmost star of the Summer Triangle lies Scutum the shield of John Sobieski the Polish king who stopped the advance of the Turks at Kalenberg in 1683. The Polish half of me is very proud. Scutum is one of two official constellations which are related to real persons. The other one is Coma Berenices, a hank of the Egyptian Queen Berenice’s hair. However the stars here are so dim and embedded in the glow of the Milky Way as to be nearly impossible to discern. Scutum lies in one of the richest portions of the Milky Way, wonderful to scan with binoculars and telescopes for star clusters and nebulae or clouds of dust and gas.

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

Addendum

Deep sky objects in Scutum & Sagittarius

Binocular and telescope deep sky objects in Scutum and Sagittarius. Created using Stellarium.

08/26/2018 – Ephemeris – The Great Rift

August 26, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, August 26th. Today the Sun will be up for 13 hours and 32 minutes, setting at 8:30, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:59. The Moon, 3 days past last quarter, will rise at 3:13 tomorrow morning.

High overhead the Milky Way is seen passing through the Summer Triangle of three bright stars. Here we find the Milky Way split into two sections. The split starts in the constellation of Cygnus the Swan or Northern Cross very high in the east. The western part of the Milky Way ends southwest of the Aquila the eagle. This dark dividing feature is called the Great Rift. Despite the lack of stars seen there, it doesn’t mean that there are fewer stars there than in the brighter patches of the Milky Way. The rift is a great dark cloud that obscures the light of the stars behind it. Sometimes binoculars can be used to find the edges of the clouds of the rift, as stars numbers drop off suddenly. This is especially easy to spot in Aquila the eagle.

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

Addendum

Great Rift in the Summer Triangle

The Great Rift finder animation as seen in the Summer Triangle, also showing the constellations of Cygnus the swan and the the northern part of Aquila the Eagle. This image a stack of 5 30 second exposures taken the morning of the Perseid meteor shower the is year in a vain attempt to capture some meteors.

Actual Aquila

Annotated and animated photograph taken of Aquila August 13, 2018 during the Perseid meteor shower. Alas, no Perseids in this photograph. Taken by me and processed using Registax and GIMP.

08/23/2019 – Ephemeris – Two small constellations around the Summer Triangle

August 23, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, August 23rd. Today the Sun will be up for 13 hours and 41 minutes, setting at 8:35, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:55. The Moon, at last quarter today, will rise at 12:43 tomorrow morning.

Located below the eastern edge of the Summer Triangle of three of the brightest stars in the sky, which is overhead in our sky at 10 p.m., is the tiny constellation of Delphinus the dolphin. Delphinus’ 6 stars in a small parallelogram with a tail, really does look like a dolphin leaping out of the water. The parallelogram itself has the name Job’s Coffin. The origin of this asterism or informal constellation is unknown. Of the dolphin itself: the ancient Greeks appreciated this aquatic mammal as we do, and told stories of dolphins rescuing shipwrecked sailors. There’s another tiny constellation to the right of Delphinus, Sagitta the arrow a small thin group of 5 stars, which represents Cupid’s dart. Above-right of Sagitta binoculars will find a little star group called the Coat hanger.

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

Addendum

Delphinus and Sagitta finder animation

Delphinus and Sagitta finder animation. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

Closeup of Sagitta and the binocular asterism the Coathanger. Created using Stellarium.

08/22/2019 – Ephemeris – Scanning the Milky Way in and around Sagittarius

August 22, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, August 22nd. Today the Sun will be up for 13 hours and 44 minutes, setting at 8:37, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:54. The Moon, 1 day before last quarter, will rise at 12:10 tomorrow morning.

Tuesday I talked about finding the teapot shaped asterism or informal shape in the stars where the constellation Sagittarius is. Once that is found, a pair of binoculars will help find many fuzzy wonders in the Milky Way here. Mostly we are looking at the next spiral arm in toward the center of the Milky Way galaxy. The star clusters and nebulae here are from 5,000 to 10,000 light years away, a good deal farther than the Great Orion Nebula we see in winter, which is much closer. We are also looking at a much brighter and more populous arm of the Milky Way than the one the Sun happens to be in. We are in a vast spiral galaxy whose center is 27,000 light years away beyond the star and dust clouds above the teapot’s spout.

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

Addendum

The sky around Sagittarius and Scorpius at 10 p.m. August 22, 2019. The objects noted will appear as fuzzy objects in binoculars. Dotted circles are open or galactic star clusters which are easily resolved in small telescopes. Crossed circles are globular star clusters, which require larger telescopes to resolve. Squares are emission nebulae, bright clouds of gas, illuminated by the young stars born within them. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium.

We call these objects Deep Sky Objects or DSOs.  Unnamed objects are dimmer than named objects.