Archive for the ‘Constellations’ Category

12/04/2018 – Ephemeris – Auriga the Charioteer

December 4, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, December 4th. The Sun will rise at 8:03. It’ll be up for 8 hours and 59 minutes, setting at 5:02. The Moon, 3 days before new, will rise at 6:03 tomorrow morning.

The constellation Auriga the charioteer is half way up the sky in the east northeast at 9 p.m. It is a pentagon of stars, with the brilliant star Capella at the upper left of its corners. Capella represents a mama goat he’s carrying. A narrow triangle of stars just right of Capella are her kids, that is her baby goats. The Kids is an informal constellation or asterism. The Milky Way runs through Auriga, but it’s not very bright here. We are looking away from the center of the Milky Way to the more sparse outer parts. Within and near that pentagon, one can sweep with binoculars and low power telescopes to find several star clusters, groups of hundreds of stars born in the clump we still see them in. These star clusters will appear as fuzzy spots in binoculars.

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



Auriga and neighboring constellations for 9 p.m. in early December. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.


11/22/2018 – Ephemeris – The little goat star, Capella

November 22, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 22nd. The Sun will rise at 7:49. It’ll be up for 9 hours and 19 minutes, setting at 5:08. The Moon, 1 day before full, will set at 7:59 tomorrow morning.

Capella is the northernmost first magnitude stars. Tonight it shines in the northeastern sky. First magnitude stars are the 21 brightest stars in the night sky. Capella is the 6th brightest. The name Capella means little goat, though I’ve always known it as the little she goat. Her three Kids are represented by a narrow triangle of stars positioned to the right of her in tonight’s evening sky, though they may be overpowered by the bright Moon tonight. Capella is in the topmost corner of the pentagonal constellation of Auriga the Charioteer. Capella is actually a system of four stars only 43 light years away. And never sets for listeners in the Interlochen Public Radio transmission area, though all bets are off if you’re listening over the Internet from somewhere else.

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


Capella with the stars of Auriga and the full Moon
Capella with the stars of Auriga and the full Moon at 8 p.m., November 22, 2018. Created using Stellarium.

11/12/2018 – Ephemeris – Orion is rising

November 12, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Veterans Day Observed, Monday, November 12th. The Sun will rise at 7:35. It’ll be up for 9 hours and 41 minutes, setting at 5:17. The Moon, 3 days before first quarter, will set at 9:25 this evening.

Just after the Moon sets tonight winter’s most dazzling constellation will be rising, Orion the hunter of Greek myth. The stars of his torso are in a rectangle leaning to the left. Orion’s belt of three stars in a straight line in the center of the rectangle is nearly vertical. The Anishinaabe peoples whose region we live in see the constellation of the Wintermaker rather than Orion. It uses Orion’s torso and belt stars, but his arms are spread wide from Aldebaran in the face of Taurus the bull to the west to Procyon in Canis Minor, which won’t rise until 11 p.m. to the east. The Wintermaker’s arms are wide enough to embrace the entire winter sky. Its name in Anishinaabemowin, which is Biboonikeonini, means “North Wind”.

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

Orion or Wintermaker rising
Take your pick: it’s either Orion rising of the Wintermaker rising at 9:30 p.m. November 12th. Created using Stellarium and GIMP, and Western and Ojibwe star lore.

11/08/2018 – Ephemeris – More constellations of autumn: Andromeda, Triangulum and Aries

November 8, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, November 8th. The Sun will rise at 7:30. It’ll be up for 9 hours and 51 minutes, setting at 5:22. The Moon, 1 day past new, will set at 6:26 this evening.

High in the south at 9 p.m. can be seen the Great Square of Pegasus. From the top left star of the square diverge two curved lines of stars that is Andromeda the chained princess. Just below and left of Andromeda is a slender triangle of stars, none particularly bright. It has a name you can easily see in the stars, Triangulum, the triangle. Early Christians saw it as the Mitre of Saint Peter or the Trinity. Another small constellation seen below Triangulum is the much better known constellation Aries the ram, a small hockey stick of a constellation, not that hard to spot. It is the first constellation of the Zodiac, where the Sun is supposed to enter on the first day of spring. Due to the wobble of the Earth’s axis over the millenia, that honor is now given to Pisces.

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


Andromeda, Pegasus, Triangulum and Aries finder animation
Andromeda, Pegasus, Triangulum and Aries finder animation for 8 p.m. November 8, 2018.  Created using Stellarium and GIMP.  Click on the image to enlarge.

11/05/2018 – Ephemeris – Cassiopeia the Queen

November 5, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, November 5th. The Sun will rise at 7:26. It’ll be up for 9 hours and 59 minutes, setting at 5:26. The Moon, 2 days before new, will rise at 6:00 tomorrow morning.

The stars of the autumn skies are replacing the summer stars from the east. Look in the northeastern sky by 7 p.m. and you can find the W shaped constellation of Cassiopeia the queen. Cassiopeia is so far north that it never sets for us in Michigan. It is opposite the pole star Polaris from the Big Dipper. There’s a dim star that appears above the middle star of the W which turns it into a very crooked backed chair, Cassiopeia’s throne. Above and left of Cassiopeia is a dim upside down church steeple shaped constellation of Cepheus the king, her husband. The Milky Way flows through Cassiopeia toward the northeastern horizon and through the constellation of Perseus the hero, which kind of looks, to me anyway, like the cartoon roadrunner.

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


Cassiopeia and friends
Cassiopeia and constellations along the Milky Way in the northeast these autumn evenings. (8 p.m. November 5). Click on image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

10/04/2018 – Ephemeris Extra – Wintermaker rising

November 4, 2018 Comments off

A chill is in the air, The Fisher, Ojiig’s bloody tail has swooped low in the north at midnight to paint the trees with their fall colors, and the leaves have fallen to the ground. Haven’t heard of the Fisher? I mention it from time to time here on my Ephemeris program on Interlochen Public Radio. It’s a constellation of the Anishinaabe peoples indigenous to this area of Michigan, of which the Chippewa, Ottawa, and Ojibwe are a part.

The Fisher occupies the stars which we know as the Big Dipper and the Great Bear, Ursa Major. And unlike the bear, a fisher really does have a long tail. The fisher is a real weasel-like animal whose diet apparently does not include fish. It is found across southern Canada and in the American West. I’ve related the story of the Fisher, and how he brought summer to the Earth, in these pages in the August 2012 issue and on my blog Search for fisher. Like most legends, there are different versions of that story and others about the Fisher.
Fisher or not, summer is gone and the world seems darker and colder. Over in the east these evenings great winter constellation of Orion is rising. It brings to mind the Robert Frost poem Star-Splitter, and our star chart this month from the November 1st post:

“You know Orion always comes up sideways.
Throwing a leg up over our fence of mountains,
And rising on his hands, he looks in on me
Busy outdoors by lantern-light with something
I should have done by daylight, and indeed,
After the ground is frozen, I should have done
Before it froze, and a gust flings a handful
Of waste leaves at my smoky lantern chimney
To make fun of my way of doing things,
Or else fun of Orion's having caught me.
Has a man, I should like to ask, no rights
These forces are obliged to pay respect to?"

The rest of the poem is available on the Poetry Foundation website: The poem is about one Brad McLaughlin and his telescope. While I don’t approve of how he financed his telescope, I do share his enthusiasm.

North Hegman Lake Pictographs
North Hegman Lake Pictographs with the Wintermaker (Orion), Curly Tail (Leo-Hydra), and Moose (Pegasus). Credit: Etphonehome.

The Wintermaker, Biboonikeonini’s, name literally means North Wind. While his torso is the same as Orion’s his arms stretch from Aldebaran in Taurus to Procyon in Canis Minor, just about spanning the entire winter sky. The pictographs, seen above of the Wintermaker, Curly Tail and Moose can only be seen from a canoe in the cliff face on one side of the narrows between North Hegman and Trease lakes, 15 miles north of Ely, Minnesota

Wintermaker rising
The Wintermaker (Orion) rising in the east-southeast. And Hole-In-The-Sky (Pleiades) as seen in Stellarium with Ojibwe Star Lore in Stellarium. From the Ojibwe Sky Star Map Constellation Guide, ISBN 978-0-615-98678-4 by A. Lee, W. Wilson, and C. Gawboy.

In late winter as Ojiig is rising in the northeast signaling the maple sugaring season, the Wintermaker is moving lower in the southwest. Some Ojibwe parents make bows for their children to shoot arrows at the Wintermaker to convince him to flee the skies so spring can begin as a way to teach them the old legends of their culture.

The Pleiades is an important group of stars for the Anishinaabe in several ways. It is the Hole-In-The-Sky, Bagone’giizhig, through which the Sky Woman fell and to give birth to the first humans on the Earth.

The Pleiades also represent the seven poles of the Shaking Tent Ceremony, and the seven sacred stones that are heated for the sweat lodge, which is also seen in the stars in the spring as Corona Borealis.

They are also the Seven Daughters of the Moon and Sun. They loved to dance and play, and when their father, the Moon was low in the sky, would descend to the Earth in a basket to do their thing. On one of their trips to the earth, one of them was captured by a human and she ended up falling in love with him, and married him. When father Moon found out he permanently dimmed her star, so now most people now only can spot 6 of the stars. This last bit seems to parallel the Greek story of the lost Pleiad.

Note:  This is published as an article in the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society’s November 2018 newsletter Stellar Sentinel.

10/29/2018 – Ephemeris – Perseus the hero

October 29, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, October 29th. The Sun will rise at 8:16. It’ll be up for 10 hours and 18 minutes, setting at 6:35. The Moon, 2 days before last quarter, will rise at 10:48 this evening.

bout a third the way from the east northeastern horizon to the zenith at 9 p.m. and below the letter W shaped constellation of Cassiopeia the queen is Perseus the hero. It’s kind of a odd shape for a hero, To me it looks like the cartoon roadrunner. To those who’s imagination doesn’t run to cartoons, its shape is also like the Greek letter pi. It’s two brightest stars are Mirfak and Algol the demon star. Look at the area around Mirfak with binoculars and you will see a large group of stars just below naked eye visibility. It’s called the Alpha Persei association. That because Mirfak is Alpha Persei. The group is about 560 light years away, which means, though close, are farther away than the Pleiades, below and right of them.

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


Perseus and Algol Finder
Perseus, Cassiopeia, Andromeda with Algol finder animation for Autumn evenings. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

Alpha Persei Association
Alpha Persei Association.  Mirphak or Mirfak is Alpha Persei, Created using Stellarium.