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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).

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12/19/2018 -Ephemeris – The Bright planets and a departing comet for this week

December 19, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Wednesday, December 19th. The Sun will rise at 8:15. It’ll be up for 8 hours and 48 minutes, setting at 5:04. The Moon, 3 days before full, will set at 5:34 tomorrow morning.

Let’s look at the bright planets for tonight. 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 6:19 p.m., and it will set at 12:08 a.m. Mars is moving eastward, crossing the constellation of Aquarius until the 21st, when it enters Pisces. Comet Wirtanen is moving northward, to the left of the Pleiades and fading as the moonlight gets brighter. On the 23rd at 9 p.m. it will be a degree and a half, that’s 3 moon widths below and a bit left of the star Capella. Venus, our brilliant morning star, will rise at 4:20 a.m. in the east-southeast. The planets Jupiter and Mercury will be low on the southeastern horizon by 7 a.m. tomorrow..

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

Addenda

Bright planets and the Moon

Evening planets

Mars, and the Moon at 8 p.m. tonight December 19, 2018. Click on image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium.

Binocular Moon

The waxing gibbous Moon as it should appear tonight in binoculars. Created using Stellarium.

Morning planets

Morning planets Venus, Mercury and Jupiter on December 20, 2018, 7 a.m.. Created using Stellarium.

Telescopic Venus

Telescopic view of Venus tomorrow morning December 20, 2018. Created using Stellarium.

Planets and the Moon on a single night

Planets, two comets and the Moon at sunset and sunrise of a single night starting with sunset on the right on December 19, 2018. The night ends on the left with sunrise on the 20th. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using my LookingUp program.

Comets

Comet C/2018 V1

Comet C/2018 V1 (Machholz-Fijikawa-Iwamoto) in twilight starting tonight December 19, 2018. This comet is basically invisible in the evening twilight of 6 p.m. on the rest of the nights because the stars in the field will set 4 minutes earlier each successive evening. The latest magnitude observed is two magnitudes brighter than shown here. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

Comet 46P/Wirtanen

Comet 46P/Wirtanen positions for the next week in a bright moonlit sky. Positions are marked with month-date and magnitude. The observations are about 5.5 magnitudes brighter than shown here. Star field position is for 9 p.m. on the 19th. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

12/18/2018 – Ephemeris – My observations and what to expect from Comet Wirtanen

December 18, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, December 18th. The Sun will rise at 8:15. It’ll be up for 8 hours and 48 minutes, setting at 5:03. The Moon, 3 days past first quarter, will set at 4:23 tomorrow morning.

This past weekend the skies finally cleared so I could see and photograph Comet Wirtanen at its brightest and closest to the Earth. The Moon was interfering and will be making the sky brighter until this next weekend. Also the Moon will be moving toward the comet, coming closest to it on the 20th. The comet is rapidly moving away from the Earth, so its brightness is dropping as the skies brighten. Last weekend I could not say that I saw it with the naked eye. It was visible in my 10X50 binoculars as a faint smudge. The comet had no discernible tail. Even though it’s living up to its magnitude estimates, the problem is that the comet’s brightness is spread over a large area, making its surface brightness so much less than a star of the same magnitude.

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

Addendum

Comet Wirtanen and the Pleiades

Comet Wirtanen below and the Pleiades above at 9:24 p.m. EST, December 14, 2018. Canon EOS Rebel T5, f/5.5, 30 second., ISO 3200, fl 55mm, tracking.  I processed this image with GIMP. increasing the contrast and removing some of the moonlight.  The greenish coma (head) is due to carbon (C2) emissions common in comets.

For more comet photographs go to http://spaceweather.com/.

12/15/2018 – Ephemeris Extra – Finally the skies cleared and I got a photograph of Comet Wirtanen

December 15, 2018 Comments off
Comet Wirtanen and the Pleiades

Comet 46P/Wirtanen and the Pleiades. 9:24 p.m. EST, December 14, 2018. Canon EOS Rebel T5, f/5.5, 30 sec., ISO-3200, fl 55mm, tracking.  Click on the image to enlarge.  Credit Bob Moler.

Finally, the skies cleared.  The last time we had clear skies was early in the evening on the 8th. Our family went to the Ballet that evening at Interlochen Center for the Arts, and by the time I got back and dressed to go outside and observe the comet, it had clouded up.  The Ballet was wonderful, by the way.

Anyway, Comet 46P/Wirtanen as a few hours ago was greatly hampered by the nearly first quarter Moon.  And it’s going to get worse as the moon’s phase gets fuller.  I thought I could see it in with the naked eye.  It was visible in binoculars.  As you can see it did photograph well.  I processed the image with GIMP to increase contrast, and reduce the background moonlight.  There is no discernible tail visually or in this photograph.  Longer exposures in a dark sky do show a faint ion tail.  Remember this is a short period comet, and has been around the Horn (perihelion) innumerable times.  It orbits the Sun from just inside Jupiter’s orbit to just outside Earth’s orbit every 5.4 years.

Happy comet hunting!

12/14/2018 – Ephemeris – Bright Comet Wirtanen will be easy to find this weekend

December 14, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, December 14th. The Sun will rise at 8:12. It’ll be up for 8 hours and 50 minutes, setting at 5:02. The Moon, 1 day before first quarter, will set at 12:06 tomorrow morning.

This weekend is the best time to spot Comet Wirtanen. Not only is near its brightest, but it will be passing just to the left of the beautiful star cluster the Pleiades from below. Comet Wirtanen will appear as a fuzzy spot, possibly to the naked eye, but is best seen in binoculars. The near first quarter Moon will be a bother, and make the comet harder to spot. On the 12th the comet passed its closest to the Sun, called perihelion, about 4.6 million miles outside the Earth’s orbit. On the 16th, Sunday, it will pass closest to the Earth at 7.2 million miles, as the 10th closest comet passage in modern times. Wirtanen is a member of the Jupiter family of comets captured by and orbit maintained by the planet Jupiter.

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

Addendum

Comet 46P/Wirtanen

Comet 46P/Wirtanen positions for the next week. Positions are marked with month-date and magnitude. The latest magnitude prediction for December 15th is 3.3, 5.5 magnitudes brighter than shown here. Star field position is for 9 p.m. on the 12th. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

12/12/2018 – Ephemeris – The bright planets and a comet this week

December 12, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Wednesday, December 12th. The Sun will rise at 8:10. It’ll be up for 8 hours and 51 minutes, setting at 5:02. The Moon, 3 days before first quarter, will set at 10:05 this evening.

Let’s look at the bright planets for tonight. In the evening sky we have Mars still visible, but Saturn is all but lost in the bright twilight, setting at 6:22 p.m. It will pass conjunction with the Sun on New Years day. Mars will be due south at 6:30 p.m., and it will set at 12:10 a.m. Mars is moving eastward, crossing the constellation of Aquarius until the 21st, when it enters Pisces. Comet Wirtanen is moving northward, to the right of the V of stars that’s the head of Taurus the bull, and should be an excellent binocular object. On the 15th and 16th it will pass to the left of the Pleiades or Seven Sisters. Venus, our brilliant morning star, will rise at 4:19 a.m. in the east-southeast. The elusive planet Mercury will be seen below and left of Venus after it rises at 6:20 a.m.

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

Addenda

Planets and the Moon

Evening planets

Mars, and Saturn over a Lake Michigan horizon seen at 5:45 p.m. tonight December 12, 2018. Created using Stellarium.

Binocular Moon

The waxing crescent Moon as it should appear tonight in binoculars. Created using Stellarium.

Morning Planets

Morning planets Venus and Mercury. Jupiter is rising. December 13, 2018, 7:15 a.m.. Created using Stellarium.

Telescopic Venus

Telescopic view of Venus tomorrow morning December 13, 2018. Created using Stellarium.

Planets and the Moon on a single night

Planets, two comets and the Moon at sunset and sunrise of a single night starting with sunset on the right on December 12, 2018. The night ends on the left with sunrise on the 13th. Click on the image to enlarge. Comet Wirtanen is very close to opposition and to the south, so it rises after sunset and sets before sunrise. Created using my LookingUp program.

Two comets

Comet C/2018 V1

Comet C/2018 V1 (Machholz-Fijikawa-Iwamoto) in twilight starting tonight December 12, 2018. The comet won’t climb that dramatically at 6 p.m. on the rest of the nights because the stars in the field will set 4 minutes earlier each successive evening. The latest magnitude estimate of the comet on December 15 is 7.3, two magnitudes brighter than shown here. It is just about impossible to spot in twilight. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

Comet 46P/Wirtanen

Comet 46P/Wirtanen positions for the next week. Positions are marked with month-date and magnitude. The latest magnitude prediction for December 15th is 3.3, 5.5 magnitudes brighter than shown here. Star field position is for 9 p.m. on the 12th. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

12/05/2018 – Ephemeris – The bright planets and a comet tonight

December 5, 2018 Comments off

Wednesday, December 5th. The Sun will rise at 8:04. It’ll be up for 8 hours and 58 minutes, setting at 5:02. The Moon, 2 days before new, will rise at 7:08 tomorrow morning.

Let’s look at the bright planets for tonight. In the evening sky we have Mars, but are about to lose Saturn. Saturn will be briefly visible very low in the southwestern sky from about 5:45 p.m. until it sets at 6:46 p.m. Mars will be in the south as the skies darken tonight. Mars will be due south at 6:41 p.m., and it will set at 12:13 a.m. Mars is moving eastward, crossing the constellation of Aquarius until the 21st, then it enters Pisces. Comet Wirtanen is moving northward, below and right of the V of stars that’s the head of Taurus the bull, and should be an excellent binocular object. Venus, our brilliant morning star, will rise at 4:24 a.m. in the east-southeast. The blue-white star Spica is still off to the right and a bit above it.  Mercury will rise at 6:31 a.m. and might be spotted after that.  Jupiter is near the Moon tomorrow morning, rising at 7:24 only 40 minutes before the Sun.

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

Addenda

The planets

Evening planets

Mars, and Saturn seen at 5:45 p.m. tonight December 5, 2018. Created using Stellarium.

Morning planets

Morning planets Venus and Mercury. Jupiter is about to rise at 7:15 a.m. December 6, 2018. Created using Stellarium.

Telescopic Venus

Telescopic view of Venus tomorrow morning December 6, 2018. Created using Stellarium.

Planets and the Moon on a single night

Planets, one comet and the Moon at sunset and sunrise of a single night starting with sunset on the right on December 5, 2018. The night ends on the left with sunrise on the 6th. Click on the image to enlarge. Comet Wirtanen is very close to opposition and to the south, so it rises after sunset and sets before sunrise. Created using my LookingUp program.

Bright comets

Comet C/2018 V1

Comet C/2018 V1 (Machholz-Fijikawa-Iwamoto) in twilight starting tonight November 28, 2018. The comet won’t climb that dramatically at 6 p.m. on the rest of the nights because the stars in the field will set 4 minutes earlier each successive evening. The latest magnitude estimate of the comet on December 8 is 5.9, two magnitudes brighter than shown here. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

Comet Wirtanen

Comet 46P/Wirtanen positions for the next week. Positions are marked with month-date and magnitude. The latest magnitude prediction for December 1st is 3.7, 5.4 magnitudes brighter than shown here. The comet may make magnitude 3 by mid-December. Star field position is for 9 p.m. on the 28th. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).