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02/14/2018 – Ephemeris – Let’s take our weekly look at the bright planets

February 14, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for St. Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday, February 14th. The Sun will rise at 7:44. It’ll be up for 10 hours and 25 minutes, setting at 6:09. The Moon, 1 day before new, will rise at 7:42 tomorrow morning.

Let’s take our weekly look at the bright planets. All of the bright naked eye planets save one are in the morning sky now. Heading away from the Sun after sunset is Venus which sets 42 minutes after the Sun, and probably is not visible in the bright evening twilight. That will improve in a couple of weeks. At 7 in this morning’s twilight bright Jupiter is in the south to the left of it is dimmer Mars and below it the red star Antares. The two are about the same brightness now. The name Antares means “Rival of Mars”. Saturn is very low in the southeast. Jupiter will rise at 1:31 tomorrow morning, with Mars rising at 3:13. Saturn will end the procession, rising at 5:01 a.m.

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

Addendum

This morning

Morning planets

The morning planets of Jupiter, Mars and Saturn. Seen at 7 a.m. as morning twilight brightens, February 14, 2017. Created using Stellarium.

Telescopic Jupiter and Saturn

Jupiter and Saturn with their brighter satellites this morning at 7 a.m. February 14, 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.

This evening

Venus, the planet of love

Venus, the planet of love, about to set over Lake Michigan at 6:30 p.m., February 14, 2018. While a lovely planet in our skies, it is rather a hell hole inside it’s atmosphere. Created using Stellarium.

All night planets

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 14, 2018. The night ends on the left with sunrise on February 15th. Mercury is not shown because it is mostly south of the Sun. It will be in superior conjunction on the 17th. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using my LookingUp program.

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02/13/2018 – Ephemeris – Looking out the thin side of the Milky Way’s disk

February 13, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Fat Tuesday, February 13th. The Sun will rise at 7:46. It’ll be up for 10 hours and 22 minutes, setting at 6:08. The Moon, 2 days before new, will rise at 7:07 tomorrow morning.

With Orion and the winter stars grabbing our attention in the south, let’s look to the northeast to southeast where the stars are not as many, and with the exception of the Big Dipper and some other stars, not as bright. The inner stars of the Big Dipper are part of a sparse star cluster only about 80 light years away. The reason for the sparseness is that here we are looking out the thin side of the Milky Way’s disk.  It will be our spring sky. To the west is the autumn evening skies. The thick part of the disk runs from the south-southeastern horizon, to just west of the zenith to the northwestern horizon. The reason the Milky Way isn’t as bright as the summer sections, is that we are looking away from the center to the outer spiral arms. We are in a small arm with the Great Orion Nebula.

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

Addendum

he dome of the sky

The dome of the sky at 9 p.m. February 13, 2018 showing an enhanced Milky Way. Showing also the drop off in stars off that band to the east and west. Click on image to enlarge.  Created using Stellarium.

Our place in the Milky Way.

Our place in the Milky Way. Note that we appear to be in a barred spiral galaxy.  The arms are numbered and named.  3kpc is the 3 kiloparsec arm. 1 parsec = 3.26 light years. The Sun is about 27,000 light years from the center. Credit NASA and Wikimedia Commons, via EarthSky.org

Our galactic neighborhood

Our galactic neighborhood on the Orion spur or arm. Credit R. Hurt on Wikimedia Commons, via EarthSky.org.

The summer and winter Milky Way viewing directions.

The summer and winter Milky Way viewing directions. During Spring and Autumn, we look out the sides to the universe beyond. Credit: NASA with annotations by Bob King at Universe Today.

 

02/12/2018 – Ephemeris – The Winter Circle

February 12, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, February 12th. The Sun will rise at 7:47. It’ll be up for 10 hours and 19 minutes, setting at 6:07. The Moon, 3 days before new, will rise at 6:29 tomorrow morning.

The winter skies are blessed with more first magnitude stars than any other season. Six of these stars lie in a large circle centered on the seventh, It’s called the Winter Circle. This circle is up at 9 p.m. Starting high overhead is yellow Capella in Auriga the charioteer. Moving down clockwise is orange Aldebaran in the face of Taurus the Bull. Then down to Orion’s knee we find blue-white Rigel. Down and left is the brightest star of all the brilliant white Sirius the Dog Star in Canis Major, lowest of these stars in the south-southeast. Moving up and left is white Procyon in Canis Minor, Above Procyon is Pollux in Gemini the twins. All these are centered, well not quite, on Betelgeuse the bright red star in Orion’s shoulder.

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

Addendum

Winter Circle

The bright stars of winter arrayed in a circle (well almost). Created using Stellarium.

02/09/2018 – Ephemeris – Morning planet high jinx

February 9, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, February 9th. The Sun will rise at 7:51. It’ll be up for 10 hours and 11 minutes, setting at 6:02. The Moon, 2 days past last quarter, will rise at 4:05 tomorrow morning.

This past Wednesday morning the Moon passed Jupiter, Earlier this morning the Moon passed north of Mars, and on Sunday morning Saturn will appear south of The Moon. There is a once in about 2 year event, that is red Mars passing Antares, the red giant star in Scorpius, one of the easiest constellations to spot because it actually resembles a scorpion. The name Antares means “Rival of Mars” because they have the same color: Ant meaning anti and Ares is the Greek god of war and counterpart of the Roman god Mars. Mars will pass Antares on average of

every 22 ½ months, its period around the Sun. Since we are viewing it from a moving Earth, it varies. Mars will pass Antares next on January 19th, 2020.

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

Addendum

Morning planets and the Moon

Morning planets and the Moon at 7 a.m. on the mornings of February 9, 10 and 11, 2018.  See Mars changing position compared to Antares. Click on image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

02/08/2018 – Ephemeris – The wonderfully named stars of Orion

February 8, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, February 8th. The Sun will rise at 7:53. It’ll be up for 10 hours and 8 minutes, setting at 6:01. The Moon, 1 day past last quarter, will rise at 3:09 tomorrow morning.

The constellation of Orion the hunter is visible in the south at 9 p.m. The stars of Orion are interesting in themselves. Starting at the top left of the seven bright stars of Orion’s torso is Betelgeuse the bright red star, whose name means something like “Armpit of the Giant”. The star in Orion’s other shoulder is Bellatrix the “Amazon Star”. Below are the three stars of Orion’s belt, from left to right; Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka. Their names mean “Girdle”, “Belt of Pearls”, and “Belt” respectively. Down to Orion’s knees we look on the left to the star Saiph pronounced ‘safe’ which means “Sword”, though it is some ways from the stars of Orion’s sword. Finally there’s the bright blue-white star Rigel whose name means “Left Leg of the Giant”.

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

Addendum

Orion with star names.

The named stars of Orion. Created using Stellarium.

Betelgeuse, pronounced Beetlejuice is the name of a 1988 movie, where Betelgeuse (spelled properly) is a particularly mischievous demon.  Don’t say his name three times, or he’ll come and ‘help’ you.  Oops, I did.  It is a red giant star near the end of its life.

Bellatrix, is now known to most of us now as the first name as the first name of Bellatrix Lestrange from J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter book and movie series.  Other members of the Black family have astronomical names, such as Regulus (Leo) Black, and Sirius (Canis Major) Black.

The names of the belt stars were taught to me by Evelyn Grebel of the Grand Rapids Public Museum in the late 1950s.  She was one of the founders of the Grand Rapids Amateur Astronomical Association.  The names Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka have stuck with me ever since.  It was through her that I was able to worm my way into working at the museum’s new then unnamed planetarium.  I also remember being in her office with her, listening to the radio as Alan Shepard made his historic suborbital flight on May 5th, 1961.

Rigel is a hot blue-white star, and will probably become a red giant star like Betelgeuse.  There is another bright star named Rigel, but most don’t know it.  It’s Rigel Kentaurus, the leg of the centaur of Centaurus.  It’s better known as Alpha Centauri, a catalog designation, and the nearest star to the solar system.

02/07/2018 – Ephemeris – Where are the bright planets today?

February 7, 2018 1 comment

Ephemeris for Wednesday, February 7th. The Sun will rise at 7:54. It’ll be up for 10 hours and 5 minutes, setting at 6 p.m. The Moon, at last quarter today, will rise at 2:10 tomorrow morning.

Let’s take our weekly look at the bright planets. All of the bright naked eye planets save one are in the morning sky now, but Venus sets only 32 minutes after the Sun, and probably is not visible in the bright evening twilight. That will improve by month’s end. At 7 this morning Jupiter is in the south, below left of the Moon and is a lot brighter than Mars, below and left of it. Mars is above the red star Antares, and the two are about the same brightness now. The name Antares means “Rival of Mars”. Mars will appear to pass its closest to Antares Sunday morning. Saturn is very low in the southeast. Jupiter will rise at 1:56 a.m. tomorrow with Mars following at 3:19. Saturn will rise at 5:26 a.m.

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

Addendum

Morning planets and the Moon

Morning planets and the Moon at 7 a.m. this morning, February 7, 2018. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium.

Binocular Moon

The last quarter Moon as it might be seen in binoculars at 7 a.m. this morning February 7, 2018. Created using Stellarium.

Telescopis Jupiter and Saturn

Telescopic views of Jupiter and Saturn at the same scale or power at 7 a.m. this morning, February 7, 2018. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

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 7, 2018. The night ends on the left with sunrise on February 8th. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using my LookingUp program.

02/06/2018 – Ephemeris – Monoceros the Unicorn

February 6, 2018 1 comment

Ephemeris for Tuesday, February 6th. The Sun will rise at 7:55. It’ll be up for 10 hours and 2 minutes, setting at 5:58. The Moon, 1 day before last quarter, will rise at 1:09 tomorrow morning.

Among all the constellations in the sky of animals real and mythical, there is also a unicorn. It’s called Monoceros, and inhabits the southeastern sky at 9 p.m. bounded by Orion on the right, Canis Major, the great dog below and Canis Minor, the little dog to the left. Unfortunately for observers without optical aid Monoceros, though large, is devoid of any but the faintest stars. Maybe that’s why no one sees unicorns anymore. It has many faint stars because the Milky Way runs through it. To the telescope it is a feast of faint nebulae or clouds of gas and dust, the birth place of stars, including the red rose of the Rosette Nebula, and the strange and tiny Hubble’s Variable Nebula. It also contains beautiful telescopic triple star system, Beta (β) Monocerotis.

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

Addendum

Monoceros

Monoceros finder chart animation. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

Rosette Nebula

Rosette Nebula in the infrared from the Spitzer Space Telescope. Credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech

Hubble's Variable Nebula

Hubble’s Variable Nebula photographed appropriately enough by the Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: NASA/ESA and The Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI).

Monoceros DSO finder chart

Looking at some faint objects in Monoceros. NGC 2239 is the star cluster in the center of the Rosette Nebula. The nebula itself is extremely faint. It shows in photographs, but I’ve never seen it visually. The green circle shows Beta Monocerotis, the triple star. All these stars are extremely blue-white hot. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

Also in the chart above is the semicircular Barnard’s Loop, a supernova remnant a great long exposure photography target.