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12/30/2020 – Ephemeris – Let’s take our last look at the naked-eye planets for this year

December 30, 2020 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Wednesday, December 30th. Today the Sun will be up for 8 hours and 51 minutes, setting at 5:11, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:20. The Moon, 1 day past full, will rise at 5:40 this evening.

Let’s take our last look at the naked-eye planets for this year. Jupiter and Saturn are both low in the southwestern sky around 6 pm. Jupiter is the very bright one. Below and right of it is the dimmer Saturn it by a degree or two moon widths. They crossed paths for us nine nights ago. They can still be seen in the same binocular field. Saturn will set first tonight at 6:57 pm with Jupiter following four minutes later. Quite high in the southeast will be Mars, still in Pisces. Mars’ distance is increasing to 82 million miles (132 million km) away. It will set at 2:29 tomorrow morning. Brilliant Venus will rise at 6:49 am in the east-southeast as it seems to retreat slowly toward the Sun, but actually it’s heading way around behind the Sun.

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

Addendum

Jupiter and Saturn in the evening

Jupiter and Saturn low on the southwestern horizon at 6 pm. Created using Stellarium.

Mars with stars of Taurus

Mars with the stars of Taurus the Bull including Aldebaran with the “V” of stars that are the Hyades that mark the bull’s face and the Pleiades. Seen at 8 pm, December 30, 2020. Created using Stellarium.

Binocular Moon

The Moon as it might be seen tonight at 8 pm, December 30, 2020. Created using Stellarium.

Venus in the SE at 7:30 am

Venus in the southeast at 7:30 am. Created using Stellarium.

Telescopic views of some bright planets

The planets as seen in a telescope (north up) with the same magnification for the night of December 30/31, 2020. Times of the display are: Jupiter and Saturn, 6 pm; Mars, 8 pm; Venus, 7:30 am. Apparent diameters: Jupiter, 32.92″; Saturn, 15.26″, rings, 35.54″; Mars, 10.52″, and Venus 10.71″. Mars also displays an enlargement showing surface detail. Mars was closest to the Earth this go-a-round on October 6. The ” symbol means seconds of arc (1/3600th of a degree.) Planets whose diameters drop below 10″, or are too close to the direction of the Sun to observe will not be shown. 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 December 30, 2020. The night ends on the left with sunrise on the 31st. I’m afraid that the labels for Jupiter and Saturn will overlap, since the planets are very close. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using my LookingUp program.

12/29/2020 – Ephemeris – 2020 the bad and the good in astronomy

December 30, 2020 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Tuesday, December 29th. Today the Sun will be up for 8 hours and 50 minutes, setting at 5:10, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:19. The Moon, at full today, will rise at 4:45 this evening.

2020 has been a terrible year due mostly to the COVID-19 pandemic that cost over 300 thousand American lives. It also saw the end of the 1,000 foot (305 meter) radio telescope dish set into a natural bowl near the north shore of Puerto Rico, 8.5 miles south of the city of Arecibo. The Arecibo Radio Telescope was until earlier this year the world’s largest single telescope. It also possessed a powerful radar transmitter allowing radar imaging of planets, moons and asteroids. It started to collapse several months ago and finally gave way December 1st.

On a positive note we were graced by the bright Comet NEOWISE visible first in the morning, then in the evening last July. It was the brightest comet in the northern skies since Comet Hale-Bopp appeared in 1997.

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

Addendum

Arecibo telescope collapse

Aerial view of the Arecibo telescope after the collapse of the 900 ton feed platform suspended above the dish on December 1, 2020. Credit: Ricardo Arduengo/AFP via Getty Images

NEOWISE in the morning

My photograph of Comet NEOWISE at 4:40 am over the west arm of Grand Traverse Bay south of the Discovery Pier off M22. (For non-Michigander astronomers M22 is not the globular star cluster in Sagittarius, but a very scenic Michigan state road.) Click on the image to enlarge.

NEOWISE from backyard over tall shrubery

Comet NEOWISE from backyard over tall shrubbery 11:18 pm July 16, 2020. I didn’t have time to focus properly which actually accentuates the stars.