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04/09/2020 – Ephemeris – How to find the constellation of Leo the lion

April 9, 2020 Leave a comment

This is Ephemeris for Thursday, April 9th. Today the Sun will be up for 13 hours and 12 minutes, setting at 8:21, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:06. The Moon, 2 days past full, will rise at 10:36 this evening.

At 10 p.m. the spring constellation of Leo the lion will be high in the south-southeast. It can be found by locating the Big Dipper high in the northeast and imagining that a hole were drilled in the bowl to let the water leak out. It would drip on the back of this giant cat. The Lion is standing or lying facing westward. His head and mane are seen in the stars as a backwards question mark. This group of stars is also called the sickle. The bright star Regulus is at the bottom, the dot at the bottom of the question mark. A triangle of stars, to the left of Regulus, is the lion’s haunches. Leo contains some nice galaxies visible in moderate sized telescopes. The stars in Leo’s part of the sky are fewer than those in the winter sky.

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

Addendum

Leaky Dipper drips on Leo.

Leaky Big Dipper drips on Leo. Created using my LookingUp program.

Ursa Major and Leo

Ursa Major with the Big Dipper in her hind end and Leo. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

03/13/2020 – Ephemeris – Looking for Cancer the crab

March 13, 2020 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, March 13th. Today the Sun will be up for 11 hours and 49 minutes, setting at 7:47, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:56. The Moon, 3 days before last quarter, will rise at 1:01 tomorrow morning.

Between the stars Castor and Pollux in Gemini high in the southeast and the star Regulus in Leo the Lion in the east-southeast lies the dimmest constellation of the zodiac, Cancer the crab. To me its 5 brightest stars make an upside down Y. There’s the stars in the center of the constellation Asellus Borealis and Asellus Australis, the north and south donkeys. There’s a fuzzy spot between and just west of them called Praesepe, the manger from which they are supposedly eating. In binoculars it resolves into a cluster of stars called the Beehive cluster. We amateur astronomers also know it as M44, the 44th object on 18th century comet hunter Charles Messier’s list of fuzzy objects that might be mistaken for comets.

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

Addendum

Cancer the Crab

Cancer the crab finder chart. Note the beehive cluster, also known to amateur astronomers as M44, along with other catalog names. Prior to the invention of the telescope this cluster was known as Praesepe which means “Manger”. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

The constellation Cancer with star names and Praesepe. Asellus Borealis, the Northern Donkey; and Asellus Australis, the Southern Donkey are next to Praesepe the manger. Created using Stellarium.

We only hear about a manger at Christmas time.  It is simply a trough that horses, donkeys, and cattle eat from.

03/12/2020 – Ephemeris – The mythology behind the constellation of Gemini

March 12, 2020 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, March 12th. Today the Sun will be up for 11 hours and 46 minutes, setting at 7:45, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:57. The Moon, 3 days past full, will rise at 11:45 this evening.

Lets look at the next to last of the winter constellations, and member of the Zodiac. The constellation Gemini, the Twins is visible high in the southeast, above and left of Orion the hunter at 9 p.m. The namesake stars of the two lads, will be at the left end of Gemini, nearly vertically aligned. Castor is above, Pollux below. From them can be traced two lines of stars extending toward Orion that outline the two. In Greek mythology the lads were half brothers, Castor was fathered by a mere mortal, while Pollux was fathered by Zeus in the famous Leda and the swan affair and immortal, but were born together as twins. When Castor was killed during the quest for the Golden Fleece, Pollux pleaded with Zeus to let him die also, so he placed them together in the sky so they could be together forever.

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

Addendum

Gemini finder

Gemini finder looking south-southeast around 9 p.m. March 10th, 2020. Created using Stellarium.

Castor and Pollux namesakes of Gemini

Castor and Pollux namesakes of the twins of Gemini in its position around 9 p.m. EDT March 12th. Created using Stellarium.

02/24/2020 – Ephemeris – Conflict in the skies: Orion vs. Taurus

February 24, 2020 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, February 24th.  Today the Sun will be up for 10 hours and 53 minutes, setting at 6:23, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:27.  The Moon, 1 day past new, will set at 7:26 this evening.

The classical constellation figures of Orion the hunter and Taurus the bull appear to be interacting in the sky. Orion is in the south at 9 p.m. An angry Taurus, a bit above him in the southwest, appears to be charging at Orion who appears to be facing him with lion skin shield and an upraised club. Orion’s two hunting dogs, canes major and minor, appear to be unconcerned. The face of Taurus the bull is a letter V shape of faint stars with a bright reddish star at the upper left tip of the V called Aldebaran the bull’s angry bloodshot eye. There’s no mythological story that goes with this.  Both Orion and Taurus have their own myths associated with them separate from their apparent clash in the heavens.

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

Addendum

Orion vs Taurus

Conflict in the skis: Taurus is charging Orion. Seen at 9 p.m. in late February. Created using Stellarium and the dimming of Betelgeuse in GIMP.

022/21/2020 – Ephemeris – The almost invisible unicorn

February 21, 2020 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, February 21st. Today the Sun will be up for 10 hours and 44 minutes, setting at 6:19, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:32. The Moon, 2 days before new, will rise at 7:27 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 southern 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 contains no bright stars, but a wealth of wonders below naked eye visibility.

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

Addendum

Monoceros the unicorn

Monoceros the unicorn seen mostly inside the Winter Triangle of Betelgeuse, Sirius and Procyon. Note the star in the unicorn’s right hoof denoted with a funny B. That’s Beta Monocerotis,a triple star visible in small telescopes. Created using Stellarium with additions.

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).

Beta Monocerotis

Telescopic Beta Monocerotis. William Hershel, discoverer of Uranus, said that it was “One of the most beautiful sights in the heavens.” Credit: F. Ringwald, Fresno State.

02/20/2020 – Ephemeris – The Winter Triangle

February 20, 2020 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, February 20th. Today the Sun will be up for 10 hours and 41 minutes, setting at 6:17, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:34. The Moon, 3 days before new, will rise at 6:53 tomorrow morning.

I usually talk about the Winter Circle of bright stars, but some other astronomers talk about the Winter Triangle. The stars involved are Betelgeuse in the hunter Orion, Sirius in Canis Major, Orion’s large hunting dog, and Procyon in Canis Minor, his other small hunting dog. These three stars enclose a rather blank piece of sky with the faint Milky Way running through it and the equally invisible constellation of Monoceros the unicorn. The Summer Triangle has three bright stars with no other close competition. The Winter Triangle has 4 other bright stars near it. Any three of these would make a nice triangle. One of these stars, Betelgeuse has been the news recently because it is dimming to an unprecedented degree.

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

Addendum

Winter Triangle

The Winter Triangle. It enclose a pretty blank space where Monoceros the unicorn lies. Created using Stellarium with my annotations for the Winter Triangle. By the way, Betelgeuse is currently only as bright as Bellatrix, the star next to the “n” in Orion.

02/18/2020 – Ephemeris – Orion in three cultures

February 18, 2020 Comments off

Feb 18. This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Tuesday, February 18th. Today the Sun will be up for 10 hours and 35 minutes, setting at 6:14, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:37. The Moon, 3 days past last quarter, will rise at 5:24 tomorrow morning.

We observe the constellation of Orion in the south at 9 p.m. and think of the hapless Greek hero. To the Hebrews it was Kesil, the fool who built the tower of Babel hoping to reach heaven. To the Anishinaabe native peoples of this place it is the Wintermaker whose rising in the evening announces the coming of winter. Where Orion’s arms carry a lion skin shield and a club, the Wintermaker’s arms are exaggerated and extend from Aldebaran in Taurus to Procyon in Canis Minor, embracing just about all of the winter sky. Two other Anishinaabe constellations are entering the skies at this time in the east and northeast, to announce the coming of spring. One the pleasures and the other the dangers.

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

Addendum

Orion

Orion as he is seen tonight at 9 p.m. Created using Stellarium.

Wintermaker

The Wintermaker stretches his arms wide to embrace the winter stars. Created using Stellarium. Wintermaker figure from Ojibwe Sky Star Map by A. Lee, W. Wilson, C. Gawboy.  Stellarium contains the constellation art from many cultures.