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07/19/2021 – Ephemeris – How does your telescope’s image orientation compare to how it looks to the naked-eye?

July 19, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Monday, July 19th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 6 minutes, setting at 9:22, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:16. The Moon, 2 days past first quarter, will set at 2:35 tomorrow morning.

When you look through a telescope at the Moon, how does it look compare to how it looks to the naked-eye? Yes, it’s bigger and probably brighter. But how did its orientation change? Astronomical telescopes generally give an upside-own image, that is rotated 180 degrees. Newtonian reflector telescopes, with their eyepiece near the top of the telescope, give such an image, as do refractor telescopes where the diagonal mirror near the eyepiece is not used. When such a mirror is used a right side up, but mirror image is the result. The mirror image results when an odd number of reflections occur in the light path. Binoculars use two or four reflections. Newtonian reflectors have two reflections. It can be confusing sometimes.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EDT, UT – 4 hr). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Telescope image orientations

Categories: Concepts, Observing, Telescopes Tags:

06/15/2021 – Ephemeris – Today we had the earliest sunrise of the year

June 15, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Tuesday, June 15th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 33 minutes, setting at 9:30, and it will rise tomorrow at 5:56. The Moon, 2 days before first quarter, will set at 1:29 tomorrow morning.

Today is the day of the year with the earliest sunrise, which in the Interlochen/Traverse City area is 6:56 am. We are 5 days before the summer solstice, the longest day in terms of sunshine hours. With the Sun nearing its maximum angle above the celestial equator, the projection of the Earth’s equator on the sky it cuts those longitude timelines quicker because they are closer together than at the equator. This is counters somewhat the Sun’s speed slowing down as the Earth is reaching the farthest point in its orbit. The latest sunset will occur about June 26th, a span of 11 days. In December the span between the earliest sunset and latest sunrise because of the Sun’s increased speed, by being nearly at its closest to us, is 24 days.

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

Addendum

Sun crossing time lines

How the Sun’s declination affects how rapidly it appears to cross time lines (meridians)

Analemma components animated

These graphs show how the earth’s orbit eccentricity and tilt of the Earth’s axis (obliquity) affect sundial time keeping vs. actual clocks. This also affects sunrise and sunset times. The figure 8 in the lower right is the analemma, sometimes seen on old Earth globes, a graphical representation of the equation of time (sundial corrections from apparent to mean solar time).

Earliest and Latest Sunrises and Sunsets

Table of Earliest and Latest Sunrises and Sunsets during the year for Interlochen/Traverse City area of Michigan. This table was created for 2017, 4 years ago. However, the instant of the summer solstice occurred just after midnight on June 21st, That instant slipped back into just before midnight in 2021. This is why we use the Gregorian calendar. The slide is corrected by having 3 out of four century years being normal years.

06/11/2021 – Ephemeris – Spotting the one-day-old Moon

June 11, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Friday, June 11th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 31 minutes, setting at 9:28, and it will rise tomorrow at 5:56. The Moon, 1 day past new, will set at 10:56 this evening.

Tonight the thin crescent Moon, some 40 hours old, or more properly 40 hours from eclipsing the Sun, will be to the right and a bit below the bright planet Venus. It might be possible to spot it. I do remember spotting the tiny sliver of a Moon the next evening after a solar eclipse in 1970. But that was in March*, when the ecliptic, the path of the Sun and near the path of all the planets and the Moon, was angled more vertically than it is this time of year. That means that the Moon and planets, when near the Sun, are lower in the sky after sunset than they would be in late winter and early spring. Venus is slowly moving away from the Sun, from our vantage point, while Mars, above and left of it, is slowly retreating toward the Sun. Their apparent paths will cross on July 13th.

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

* On the program, I mistakenly said April.

Addendum

Sunset ecliptic June 11, 2021

Sunset sky and ecliptic (orange line) 45 minutes after sunset tonight, June 11, 2021. Note the low angle of the ecliptic, the apparent path of the Sun and near the path of the planets. The angle will get even lower as summer progresses. So planets close to the Sun will set shortly after the Sun. Created using Stellarium.

Sunset ecliptic in March

This is the sky one day after the March 7, 1970 eclipse and 45 minutes after sunset. Being March, note how steep the angle of the ecliptic, so planets close to the Sun are higher in the sky. Also, twilight ends quicker in March than in June.

05/21/2021 – Ephemeris – For everything there is a season… even eclipses

May 21, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Friday, May 21st. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 3 minutes, setting at 9:11, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:07. The Moon, 2 days past first quarter, will set at 4:14 tomorrow morning.

There are seasons for everything: baseball season, football season, spring, summer, what have you. There are also eclipse seasons. The Moon’s orbit is tilted by about 5 degrees to the ecliptic, the path of the Sun in the sky. The points where they cross are called nodes, 180 degrees apart. When the Sun is near one of those nodes we are in an eclipse season, where a solar eclipse can occur at new moon, and a lunar eclipse can occur at full moon. We are guaranteed one of each per eclipse season, and on rare occasions a third eclipse. Of course one has to be at the right place to see an eclipse. This eclipse season we will be at a marginal place to see both eclipses. Both are at sunrise, so we’ll see just a part of each of them.

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

Addendum

Apparent paths of the Sun and Moon against the sky
A diagram of the paths of the Moon and Sun projected on the sky (celestial sphere). N1 and N2 are the nodes (crossing points). Nodes are ascending or descending depending on the northerly or southerly component of the Moon’s motion in crossing them. The Sun and Moon move in an easterly direction, but the Moon’s orbit precesses so that the line of nodes move in a westerly direction once around in 18.6 years. That’s why eclipse season intervals are 173.3 days and move backward in the calendar one year to the next. Eclipse seasons occur when the Sun is less than about 17.5 degrees from a node. Credit Earthsky.org.

For a more extensive treatment of this subject check out: https://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/definition-what-is-an-eclipse-season

04/27/2021 – Ephemeris – What is the opposite of the Harvest Moon effect?

April 27, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Tuesday, April 27th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 4 minutes, setting at 8:43, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:36. The Moon, 1 day past full, will rise at 9:43 this evening.

Let’s think back to last fall and the Harvest Moon. The big deal about the Harvest Moon is the Moon lingers, rising or being bright in twilight to help illuminate the harvesters of old by effective lengthening the effects of daylight. The spring bright Moon after full moon rises much later night to night. Six months ago the difference in the rise times of the Moon between the full moon and the next day was 20 minutes. Today the Moon will rise 96 minutes later than it did yesterday. The reason is the beside moving eastward, it is also moving southward to where the Sun was in late fall. So it rises much later each night than it did after full moon last fall. As it is the dark skies are moving to later and later in the evening due to the spring season and daylight time.

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

Addendum

The motion of the moon
The motion of the moon near the Harvest Moon as it rises from night to night. This is looking east at where the Moon will rise, and we’re able to see below the horizon. The celestial equator, a projection of the Earth’s equator on the sky cross the horizon at an angle equal to 90 minus one’s latitude. Around my location that’s 45.5 degrees. The Moon will rise parallel to the celestial equator. Its daily orbital motion is at the shallow angle of 5 degrees. So the advance in rise times starts off at 20 minutes later each night, rather than the average 50 minutes.
Spring Moon rising angle
How the Moon’s path near a spring full moon affects its rise time interval. Note the scale is not the same as the top image. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

03/22/2021 – Ephemeris – The Moon and the week

March 22, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Monday, March 22nd. Today the Sun will be up for 12 hours and 16 minutes, setting at 7:58, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:39. The Moon, 1 day past first quarter, will set at 5:08 tomorrow morning.

The Moon tonight is about as far north in the sky as it gets this month, and being six days before full, and this full Moon is the first full moon of spring, that means Easter is less than two weeks away. Did you notice that a week is nearly equal to a quarter of the Moon’s orbit of the Earth? If you look at a calendar that has the Moon’s phases on it the phases are 7 or 8 days apart. It’s a good thing that no one decided to adjust the length of the week to accommodate the Moon’s phases. It’d be hard to plan your weekend. Our calendar is pretty screwed up as it is with months of 28, 29, 30 and 31 days all set by politicians… Roman politicians at that. I haven’t heard much about calendar reform lately, so I guess we’re stuck with it.

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

Addendum

I wrote the above before actually checking out the historical origin of the time period we call a week. It turns out that the week is really related to a quarter of a lunation or lunar month. The Babylonians fixed the fact that seven days is a bit less than a quarter of a lunation by adding a day or two to the last week of the month, so the next month’s new moon started on the same day of the week.

Here the new moon is defined as the first appearance of the Moon in the evening sky after disappearing from the morning sky. We currently define the new moon as the Moon’s solar conjunction. Its first appearance in the evening sky would generally be the next day, or rather evening. The numbering still works out. Our new moon is day zero of the lunar month.

03/16/2021 – Ephemeris – Tonight we’ll have exactly 12 hours of night

March 16, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Tuesday, March 16th. Today the Sun will be up for 11 hours and 57 minutes, setting at 7:50, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:50. The Moon, 3 days past new, will set at 11:15 this evening.

Did you notice what I just said? Sunset’s at 7:50 pm and sunrise’s at 7:50 am. Tonight we’ll have exactly 12 hours of night. That’s what the word equinox means, equal night… But the vernal or spring equinox isn’t until Saturday when spring starts. By then night, including twilight, will be down to 11 hours, 50 minutes. The disparity comes down to modern versus older definitions. Equinox, being Latin is an older definition. The modern instant of sunrise and sunset occurs when the top of the Sun’s disc touches the sea horizon. Because our atmosphere bends light, and at its greatest when looking at the horizon, the Sun will have set already, geometrically, by the time the bottom edge of the Sun appears to touch that sea horizon. Making daylight a bit longer than you’d think.

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

Addendum

Atmospheric Refraction

How the atmosphere bends the light of the Sun or Moon rising or setting to appear higher than it actually is. S is the actual position of the Sun, S’ is the apparent position of the Sun. The blue line is the observer O’s horizon. The gray line is the actual, though much exaggerated, light path bent or refracted by the Earth’s atmosphere. The black line is the apparent sight line to the Sun. Credit Francisco Javier Blanco González, 2017

09/22/2020 – Ephemeris – Autumn starts this morning

September 22, 2020 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Tuesday, September 22nd. Today the Sun will be up for 12 hours and 8 minutes, setting at 7:39, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:31. The Moon, 1 day before first quarter, will set at 11:05 this evening.

Fall is about to a, well… fall upon us and in a few weeks so will the leaves. At 9:31 this morning (13:31 UTC*) the Sun will cross the celestial equator heading south. The celestial equator is an imaginary line in the sky above the earth’s equator. At that point the Sun will theoretically set at the north pole and rise at the south pole. The day is called the autumnal equinox and the daylight hours today is 12 hours and 8 minutes instead of 12 hours exactly. That’s due to our atmosphere and our definition of sunrise and sunset. The reason for the cooler weather now and the cold weather this winter is that the length of daylight is shortening, and the Sun rides lower in the sky, spreading its heat over a larger area, thus diluting its intensity.

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

Addendum

* UTC – Coordinated Universal Time. Greenwich Mean Time if you haven’t kept up. Zulu if you’re in the military.

Sun's motion near autumnal equinox

The Sun crossing the celestial equator in three steps: 9:31 am Sept 21, 22, and 23 2020. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

Sun's path through the sky on the equinox

The Sun’s path through the sky on the equinox day from Traverse City, MI. Created using my LookingUp program.

Sunrise on the autumnal equinox

That is not a pumpkin on the head of the motorcyclist. That’s the Sun rising as I’m traveling east on South Airport Road south of Traverse City Mi. on the autumnal equinox. This is the east-west section of the road. The Sun is rising over the hills some 6 miles to the east. Credit: Bob Moler.

09/21/2020 – Ephemeris – This is the last full day of summer

September 21, 2020 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Monday, September 21st. Today the Sun will be up for 12 hours and 11 minutes, setting at 7:41, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:30. The Moon, 2 days before first quarter, will set at 10:24 this evening.

Enjoy the last full day of summer. Summer will last until 9:31 am (05:31 UTC) tomorrow when the center of the Sun will cross the celestial equator, an imaginary line above the Earth’s equator, heading southward. At that instant autumn will begin for Earth’s northern hemisphere and spring will begin in the southern hemisphere. Shortly, for us, the Sun will be up less than half the day. The day and the point in the sky that the Sun crosses is called the autumnal or September equinox. The word equinox means equal night, implying the equality of day and night. Geometrically that’s true, but the Earth’s atmosphere and the definition of sunrise and sunset, prolong daylight by a few more minutes. The amount of heat we are getting and will get from the Sun cannot sustain our current temperatures, and it will get a lot colder on average before it gets warmer again.

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

Addendum

The Sun crossing the celestial equator in the sky moving southward in three steps: 9:31 am Sept 21, 22, and 23 2020. The vertical axis is declination, the exact match to latitude on the Earth. The horizontal line at 00°00′ is the celestial equator, a projection of the Earth’s equator on the sky. The diagonal line that the Sun appears to travel on is the ecliptic, the plane of the Earth’s orbit. Due to the tilt of the Earth’s axis it is inclined by 23.5° to the celestial equator. The horizontal values mark right ascension, the celestial analog of longitude. One hour equals 15°. Since the Earth rotates, the right ascension that is on one’s meridian, the north-south line passing through the zenith, is best kept track of by using a clock. A clock that runs 3 minutes 56 seconds fast a day. We call that a sidereal clock. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Chart) and GIMP.

09/14/2020 – Ephemeris – Not exactly a mermaid

September 14, 2020 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Monday, September 14th. Today the Sun will be up for 12 hours and 33 minutes, setting at 7:54, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:22. The Moon, 3 days before new, will rise at 4:42 tomorrow morning.

Nearly 2000 years ago the southernmost of the constellations of the zodiac was Capricornus which is a water goat. That’s why the latitude on the Earth where the Sun is overhead on the winter solstice is called the Tropic of Capricorn. Not any more, Sagittarius, one constellation west past Jupiter and Saturn this year, has that honor today. Actually Capricornus does need the press. It’s large, but made up of dim stars. To me it looks like a 45 degree isosceles triangle, long side up, but which all the sides are sagging. The constellation is found low in the south-southeast at 10 p.m. The image that is supposed to be represented by the stars is that of a goat whose hind quarters are replaced by a fish’s tail, not a mermaid but a mergoat.

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

Addendum

Capricornus finder animation

Capricornus finder animation for September 14, 2020 at 10 pm for western Michigan. Note that the Teapot of Sagittarius is pouring its contents on the southwestern horizon is to the right. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

Important seasonal latitudes on the Earth. Source: worldatlas.com