Archive for December, 2019

12/31/2019 – Ephemeris – Previewing the skies of January 2020

December 31, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for New Years Eve, Tuesday, 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 before first quarter, will set at 10:47 this evening.

Tomorrow starts a new year and a new decade. The daylight hours start slowly getting longer and will accelerate during the month. Daylight hours will increase from 8 hours and 52 minutes tomorrow to 9 hours and 45 minutes on the 31st. The sunrise time will decrease from 8:20 tomorrow to 8:03 at months end. The sunset times will increase from 5:12 tomorrow to 5:49 on the 31st. Along with that the altitude of the sun at noon will increase from 22 degrees tomorrow to nearly 28 degrees at month’s end. It will be a degree lower for folks in the Straits area because they are a degree of latitude farther north. Local noon, by the way for Interlochen and Traverse City is about 12:51 p.m. in January.

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


January Evening Star Chart

January Evening Star Chart

Star Chart for January 2020 (9 p.m. EST January 15, 2020). Click on image to enlarge.Created using my LookingUp program. Click on image to enlarge. Created using my LookingUp program.

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. The brilliant planet Venus will enter the sky at the chart time during the latter half of the month in the southwest.  Note that Traverse City is located approximately 45 minutes behind our time meridian, West 75° longitude. (An hour 45 minutes behind our daylight saving time meridian during EDT).

January Morning Star Chart

January Morning Star Chart

Star Chart for January mornings 2020 (6 a.m. EST January 15, 2020). Click on image to enlarge. Created using my LookingUp program.

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.
  • The leaky bowl of the Big Dipper drips on Leo.
  • Follow the arc of the handle of the Big Dipper to the star Arcturus, then
  • Follow the spike to Spica.
  • QuadR on the star charts is the radiant of the Quadrantid meteor shower which peaks on the 4th at 3:20 a.m. EST (8:20 UT).

Twilight Limits, Nautical and Astronomical

Morning twilight Evening twilight Dark night Moon
Date Astro. Nautical Nautical Astro. Start End Illum.
2020-01-01 6h35m 7h10m 18h21m 18h57m 23h48m 6h35m 0.38
2020-01-02 6h35m 7h10m 18h22m 18h57m 6h35m 0.48
2020-01-03 6h35m 7h11m 18h23m 18h58m 0h49m 6h35m 0.58
2020-01-04 6h35m 7h11m 18h24m 18h59m 1h50m 6h35m 0.67
2020-01-05 6h35m 7h11m 18h25m 19h00m 2h52m 6h35m 0.76
2020-01-06 6h35m 7h11m 18h26m 19h01m 3h57m 6h35m 0.85
2020-01-07 6h35m 7h10m 18h27m 19h02m 5h03m 6h35m 0.92
2020-01-08 6h35m 7h10m 18h28m 19h03m 6h10m 6h35m 0.97
2020-01-09 6h35m 7h10m 18h29m 19h04m 0.97
2020-01-10 6h35m 7h10m 18h30m 19h05m 1
2020-01-11 6h35m 7h10m 18h31m 19h06m 1
2020-01-12 6h34m 7h10m 18h32m 19h07m 19h07m 19h44m 0.97
2020-01-13 6h34m 7h09m 18h33m 19h08m 19h08m 21h01m 0.92
2020-01-14 6h34m 7h09m 18h34m 19h09m 19h09m 22h17m 0.84
2020-01-15 6h34m 7h08m 18h35m 19h10m 19h10m 23h32m 0.74
2020-01-16 6h33m 7h08m 18h36m 19h11m 19h11m 0.63
2020-01-17 6h33m 7h08m 18h37m 19h12m 19h12m 0h46m 0.51
2020-01-18 6h32m 7h07m 18h38m 19h13m 19h13m 1h59m 0.39
2020-01-19 6h32m 7h07m 18h39m 19h14m 19h14m 3h12m 0.28
2020-01-20 6h31m 7h06m 18h41m 19h15m 19h15m 4h22m 0.19
2020-01-21 6h31m 7h05m 18h42m 19h16m 19h16m 5h30m 0.11
2020-01-22 6h30m 7h05m 18h43m 19h17m 19h17m 6h30m 0.05
2020-01-23 6h30m 7h04m 18h44m 19h19m 19h19m 6h30m 0.01
2020-01-24 6h29m 7h03m 18h45m 19h20m 19h20m 6h29m 0
2020-01-25 6h28m 7h03m 18h46m 19h21m 19h21m 6h28m 0.01
2020-01-26 6h28m 7h02m 18h48m 19h22m 19h33m 6h28m 0.04
2020-01-27 6h27m 7h01m 18h49m 19h23m 20h35m 6h27m 0.08
2020-01-28 6h26m 7h00m 18h50m 19h25m 21h36m 6h26m 0.14
2020-01-29 6h25m 6h59m 18h51m 19h26m 22h37m 6h25m 0.22
2020-01-30 6h24m 6h59m 18h53m 19h27m 23h37m 6h24m 0.3
2020-01-31 6h23m 6h58m 18h54m 19h28m 6h23m 0.39

Twilight calendar was generated using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

See my blog post: Twilight Zone for the definitions of the different periods of twilight here:

NASA Calendar of Planetary Events

   Date      Time    Event
Jan 1  We            Venus: 34.6° E
    1  We  08:30 pm  Moon Apogee: 404600 km
    2  Th  11:45 pm  First Quarter
    4  Sa  03:20 am  Quadrantid Meteor Shower: ZHR = 120
    5  Su  04:59 am  Perihelion: 0.9832 AU
    9  Th  06:29 pm  Moon Ascending Node
   10  Fr  01:03 am  Moon North Dec.: 23.2° N
   10  Fr  10:01 am  Mercury Superior Solar Conjunction
   10  Fr  02:10 pm  Penumbral Lunar Eclipse
                         (Europe, Africa, Asia, Aus)
   10  Fr  02:21 pm  Full Moon
   11  Sa  06:54 pm  Moon-Beehive: 1° S
   13  Mo  09:23 am  Saturn Solar Conjunction
   13  Mo  03:20 pm  Moon Perigee: 366000 km
   17  Fr  07:58 am  Last Quarter
   17  Fr  06:03 pm  Mars-Antares: 4.8° N
   20  Mo  02:13 pm  Moon-Mars: 2.4° S
   22  We  03:31 pm  Moon Descending Node
   22  We  09:42 pm  Moon-Jupiter: 0.4° N
   22  We  10:37 pm  Moon South Dec.: 23.2° S
   24  Fr  04:42 pm  New Moon
   28  Tu  02:29 am  Moon-Venus: 4.5° N
   29  We  04:28 pm  Moon Apogee: 405400 km
Feb 1  Sa            Venus: 40.4° E

All event times are given for UTC-5 Eastern Standard Time.

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, 2020    Local time zone: EST
|Wed  1| 08:20a  05:12p  08:52 | 06:22p  07:09a |      Set  11:48p   39%|
|Thu  2| 08:20a  05:13p  08:53 | 06:23p  07:09a |F Qtr Set  12:48a   48%|
|Fri  3| 08:20a  05:14p  08:54 | 06:24p  07:09a |      Set  01:49a   58%|
|Sat  4| 08:20a  05:15p  08:55 | 06:25p  07:10a |      Set  02:52a   67%|
|Sun  5| 08:20a  05:16p  08:56 | 06:26p  07:10a |      Set  03:56a   76%|
|Mon  6| 08:19a  05:17p  08:57 | 06:27p  07:09a |      Set  05:02a   84%|
|Tue  7| 08:19a  05:18p  08:58 | 06:28p  07:09a |      Set  06:09a   91%|
|Wed  8| 08:19a  05:19p  09:00 | 06:29p  07:09a |      Set  07:15a   96%|
|Thu  9| 08:19a  05:20p  09:01 | 06:30p  07:09a |      Set  08:15a   99%|
|Fri 10| 08:18a  05:21p  09:02 | 06:31p  07:09a |Full  Rise 05:20p  100%|
|Sat 11| 08:18a  05:23p  09:04 | 06:32p  07:09a |      Rise 06:29p   98%|
|Sun 12| 08:18a  05:24p  09:05 | 06:33p  07:09a |      Rise 07:44p   94%|
|Mon 13| 08:17a  05:25p  09:07 | 06:34p  07:08a |      Rise 09:01p   87%|
|Tue 14| 08:17a  05:26p  09:09 | 06:35p  07:08a |      Rise 10:17p   78%|
|Wed 15| 08:16a  05:27p  09:11 | 06:36p  07:08a |      Rise 11:32p   67%|
|Thu 16| 08:16a  05:29p  09:12 | 06:37p  07:07a |      Rise 12:46a   56%|
|Fri 17| 08:15a  05:30p  09:14 | 06:38p  07:07a |L Qtr Rise 01:59a   45%|
|Sat 18| 08:15a  05:31p  09:16 | 06:40p  07:06a |      Rise 03:11a   34%|
|Sun 19| 08:14a  05:32p  09:18 | 06:41p  07:06a |      Rise 04:22a   24%|
|Mon 20| 08:13a  05:34p  09:20 | 06:42p  07:05a |      Rise 05:30a   15%|
|Tue 21| 08:12a  05:35p  09:22 | 06:43p  07:05a |      Rise 06:32a    9%|
|Wed 22| 08:12a  05:36p  09:24 | 06:44p  07:04a |      Rise 07:27a    4%|
|Thu 23| 08:11a  05:38p  09:27 | 06:45p  07:03a |      Rise 08:14a    1%|
|Fri 24| 08:10a  05:39p  09:29 | 06:47p  07:03a |New   Set  05:27p    0%|
|Sat 25| 08:09a  05:41p  09:31 | 06:48p  07:02a |      Set  06:29p    1%|
|Sun 26| 08:08a  05:42p  09:33 | 06:49p  07:01a |      Set  07:32p    4%|
|Mon 27| 08:07a  05:43p  09:36 | 06:50p  07:00a |      Set  08:35p    9%|
|Tue 28| 08:06a  05:45p  09:38 | 06:52p  06:59a |      Set  09:36p   15%|
|Wed 29| 08:05a  05:46p  09:40 | 06:53p  06:59a |      Set  10:37p   22%|
|Thu 30| 08:04a  05:48p  09:43 | 06:54p  06:58a |      Set  11:37p   31%|
|Fri 31| 08:03a  05:49p  09:45 | 06:55p  06:57a |      Set  12:38a   40%|
* Nautical Twilight
** Moonrise or moonset, whichever occurs between sunrise and sunset
Generated using my LookingUp for DOS program.

12/30/2019 – Ephemeris – Some space advances this year

December 30, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, December 30th. Today the Sun will be up for 8 hours and 50 minutes, setting at 5:10, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:20. The Moon, 3 days before first quarter, will set at 9:45 this evening.

Let’s look back at space activity this past year. SpaceX launched its Falcon Heavy rocket twice successfully for commercial payloads. It also performed the Demo 1 flight to send a uncrewed Dragon 2 to the International Space Station. That went off without a hitch. However when testing the same capsule a month later it was destroyed in a fueling mishap that postponed further flight tests until next month. The other Commercial Crew contractor Boeing was having problems with its Star Liner capsule. The latest being a mishap with their test flight to dock with the ISS. Supposedly a timing malfunction caused it to use too much fuel, so it ended in the wrong orbit. However it did land safely.

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


A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, carrying the U.S. Air Force’s Space Test Program 2 Mission, lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., June 25, 2019. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

The Demo 1 Dragon docking with the International Space Station. Credit NASA

Starliner Orbital Test Launch

Starliner Orbital Test Launch on an Atlas 5. Credit Boeing.

12/27/2019 – Ephemeris – A Decade of astronomical and space firsts

December 27, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, December 27th. Today the Sun will be up for 8 hours and 49 minutes, setting at 5:08, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:19. The Moon, 1 day past new, will set at 6:38 this evening.

The 2010s were quite a decade in astronomy and space. 24 years ago the first exoplanet, that is planet orbiting another star, was discovered: 51 Pegasi b. As of December 8th the number of confirmed exoplanets stands at 4,104. At mid decade we got a close look at the dwarf planet Pluto and its moons, and early this year at the distant object temporarily called Ultima Thule. Early this year the Event Horizon Telescope consortium released the image of a black hole over 50 million light years away. Also the LIGO and Virgo gravitational wave observatories detected two neutron stars colliding which set off a frenzy of activity by astronomers who viewed the aftermath from gamma rays to microwaves.

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


Kepler Spacecraft. Credit NASA.

Kepler Spacecraft studied a single patch of sky for several years and has discovered the bulk of the exoplanets. Credit NASA.


Enhanced color portrait of Pluto by the New Horizons spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

First closeup of Ultima Thule

486958 Arrokoth original dubbed Ultima Thule by the New Horizons team on approach combining low resolution image with the high resolution monochromatic image shows the body in almost true color. Credit NASA/JHAPL/SWRi

Black hole in M87

The first image of the black hole in M87. Credit Event Horizon Telescope.

Neutron Star Collision GW 170817 timeline

Neutron Star Collision GW 170817 timeline. Horizontal axis in seconds (exponential). Click on chart to enlarge. From the High Energy Stereoscopic System website.

12/26/2019 – Ephemeris – The last eclipse of the decade occurred this morning in Asia

December 26, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, December 26th. Today the Sun will be up for 8 hours and 48 minutes, setting at 5:07, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:19. The Moon is new today, and won’t be visible. |

Today’s new moon has already produced the last solar eclipse of the 2010s overnight, visible mostly in Asia. The first eclipse of the new decade, the 2020s, will be January 10th, a very slight lunar eclipse called a penumbral eclipse where the Moon appears slightly shaded, but will appear whole. That said, it occurs during our day time, so we won’t see it. We will have two more penumbral lunar eclipses visible from our area next year. In all there are 8 total or partial lunar eclipses visible from our area next decade. The first is a total eclipse May 26, 2021. There will be 6 solar eclipses visible from here next decade including the Total eclipse visible from the Mexican to Canadian borders on April 8, 2024. It will be a deep partial eclipse here.

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


Solar Eclipses visible from the GT Region in the 2020s
June 10 2021 Annular rises in ending partial eclipse here
October 14, 2023 Annular Oregon to Texas in US, 45% here
April 8, 2024 Total Texas to Maine in US, 85% here
August 12, 2026, Total, 15% here
Jan 26, 2028 Annular, 5% here
January 14, 2029 Partial, 65% here
Lunar Eclipses visible from the GT Region in the 2020s
November 30, 2020 83% Penumbral 2:32 a.m. to 6:53 a.m.
May 26, 2121 Total Moon sets totally eclipsed
May 16, 2022 Total completely visible from here
March 24, 2024 96% Penumbral completely visible from here
September 18, 2024 8% Partial completely visible from here
March 14, 2025 Total completely visible from here
August 28, 2026 93% Partial completely visible from here
February 20, 2027 92% Penumbral in progress at moonset
August 17, 2027 54% Penumbral completely visible from here
January 12, 2028 7% Partial completely visible from here
June 26, 2029 Very central total eclipse. Partial starts a bit after moonrise Totality lasts 1 hour 42 minutes
December 20, 2029 Total eclipse Moon rises during beginning partial phase here
Penumbral eclipse 11/30/2020

NASA chart of the November 30, 2020 penumbral lunar eclipse in the wee morning hours. The Earth’s penumbra is the fuzzy partial shadow of the Earth where the Sun’s light is only partially blocked. A duskiness appears on the Moon’s side closest to the umbra. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Fred Espanek.

12/25/2019 – Ephemeris – A look at the naked-eye planets for Christmas

December 25, 2019 Comments off

Merry Christmas. This is Ephemeris for Christmas Day, Wednesday, December 25th. Today the Sun will be up for 8 hours and 48 minutes, setting at 5:07, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:18. The Moon, 1 day before new, will rise at 8:42 tomorrow morning.

Let’s look at the naked-eye planets for this week. Venus is our Christmas Star low in the southwest in the early evening. It will set at 7:43 p.m. Saturn, the ringed planet, will be in the southwestern sky in the evening, and will set at 6:26 p.m. Tonight Saturn will be about 16 ½ degrees or more than the width of a fist held at arms length right and below the much brighter Venus. Jupiter is lost in twilight. It will pass behind the Sun on the Friday, entering the morning sky.

Mars is in the morning sky and will rise in the east-southeast at 5:07 a.m. It’s not very bright because it’s 206 million (332 million km) miles away, but it’s getting slowly closer to the Earth. Mercury is now too close to the Sun to be seen in the morning.

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


Evening planets

Venus and Saturn low on the southwest tonight at 6 p.m. December25, 2019. Saturn is only 3 1/2 degrees above the Lake Michigan horizon. Created using Stellarium.

Very enlarged Venus

Venus, much larger than it would appear in any telescope to show its gibbous phase, tonight December 25, 2019. Created using Stellarium.

Mars in the morning

Mars in the morning with the bright stars at 7 a.m. December 26, 2019. Created using Stellarium.

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 December 25, 2019. The night ends on the left with sunrise on the 26th. The Moon at the morning hour is south of the Sun having just completing a solar eclipse for Asia. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using my LookingUp program.

12/24/2019 – Ephemeris – Was this the star of Bethlehem?

December 24, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Christmas Eve, Tuesday, December 24th. Today the Sun will be up for 8 hours and 48 minutes, setting at 5:06, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:18. The Moon, 2 days before new, will rise at 7:41 tomorrow morning.

Many writers of the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD place Jesus’ birth around 2 BC, which had to be before Herod the Great’s death, which I suggest was in 1 BC marked by to a total 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.


August 12, 3 BC conjunction

Here is an animation created using Stellarium of Jupiter and Venus, the brighter of the two seeming to coalesce on August 12, 3 BC in the early morning twilight. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

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.  The first few frames contain the Sickle asterism of Leo the lion’s head and mane. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

I have much more information on this topic in my December 2, 2016 posting:

12/23/2019 – Ephemeris – Orion, rising even higher now

December 23, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, December 23rd. Today the Sun will be up for 8 hours and 48 minutes, setting at 5:05, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:18. The Moon, 3 days before new, will rise at 6:34 tomorrow morning.

The large and bright constellation of Orion the hunter is in the southeast at 9 p.m., with the bright star Sirius below it near the horizon. The equally spaced line of three stars of Orion’s belt are nearly vertical and point down to Sirius, also known as the Dog Star in Canis Major, Orion’s greater dog. Those three belt stars are in the center of an elongated rectangle of stars that tilt to the left. At the top left of Orion’s shoulder stars is the red giant star Betelgeuse. The right shoulder star is Bellatrix. Both Bellatrix and Sirius along with the names of other stars and constellations should be familiar to fans of the Harry Potter novels and movies, as members of the house of Black. The knee stars at the bottom of the rectangle are, from left to right Saiph and the brilliant blue giant star Rigel. Between his belt and knees are stars of his sword.

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


Bright named stars of Orion

The named bright stars of Orion and Canis Major, the dog rising below Orion with Sirius. Beside the stars mentioned in the program are the stars of Orion’s belt that have their own program later on in winter. Created using Stellarium.

In this season of Biblical stories it’s nice to note that Orion is mentioned four times in the Old Testament.  In Isaiah, Amos and twice in Job.  In Hebrew his name is “Kesîl”, meaning Fool.