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07/27/2021 – Ephemeris – The celestial scorpion crawls over the southern horizon

July 27, 2021 Leave a comment

This is Ephemeris for Tuesday, July 27th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 50 minutes, setting at 9:14, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:24. The Moon, halfway from full to last quarter, will rise at 11:37 this evening.

There’s a large constellation located low in the south around 10:30, 11 o’clock tonight. It’s Scorpius the scorpion. Its brightest star is Antares in its heart, a red giant star, that I used to get calls about from time to time as being a UFO. From Antares to the right is a star, then a vertical arc of three stars that is its head. The Scorpion’s tail is a line of stars running down to the left of Antares, swooping to the horizon before coming back up and ending in a pair of stars that portray his poisonous stinger. Scorpius looks huge lying on the southern horizon. But if you go south, Scorpius will be higher in the sky, and will look smaller. Being close to the horizon from here, Scorpius shares with the rising and setting sun and moon the illusion of increased size.

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

Scorpius animated finder with claw stars

Scorpius animated finder for 10:30 pm July 27th. The Arabs saw a bigger scorpion with Antares in the upper part of its body, the arc of three stars near its head and its claws extending to Zubeneschamali (North Claw) and Zubenelgenubi (South Claw). The latter two stars belong to Libra the scales. Click on the image to enlarge it. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

07/15/2021 – Ephemeris – What the Chinese saw in the face of the Moon

July 15, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Thursday, July 15th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 13 minutes, setting at 9:25, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:12. The Moon, 2 days before first quarter, will set at 12:45 tomorrow morning.

Looking at the Moon tonight with the naked eye or binoculars, the dark patches called seas, which are really lava filled plains, make out the ears, head, and top part of the body of a rabbit that appears upside down. It’s the Chinese Jade Rabbit, Yutu. The seas involved, with their English names are: Serenity, the top of its body; Tranquility, its head; the more prominent ear is Fertility; while the other ear is a combination of the Bay of Roughness and Sea of Nectar. Yutu is the pet rabbit of the Moon goddess Chang’e, who flew to the Moon to escape her pursuers. The Chinese space agency has named all their moon landers Chang’e and their lunar rovers Yutu in their honor.

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

The Moon tonight with the Jade Rabbit

The Moon tonight with the Jade Rabbit delineated in the seas and one bay the dark lava covered plains of the Moon. Created using Stellarium.

The Jade Rabbit seen on a full moon

The Jade Rabbit seen on a full moon rotated close to what tonight’s Moon is. Actually, the ancient Chinese saw the rabbit pounding medicine.

07/12/2021 – Ephemeris – Two cultures look at the star pattern of Cygnus the swan

July 12, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Monday, July 12th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 18 minutes, setting at 9:27, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:09. The Moon, 3 days past new, will set at 11:33 this evening.

Last week I looked at the constellation of Cygnus the swan and the informal constellation or asterism made from most of its stars, the Northern Cross. Cygnus is the official International Astronomical Union constellation name. However, the indigenous Anishinaabe people of our area, and the northern Great Lakes, had another bird in mind when seeing these stars, which are now fairly high in the east in the evening: Ajijaak, (pronounced a-ji-jock) a Sand Hill crane. While the swan is flying, neck outstretched to the south through the Milky Way, the crane is flying northward with its long legs trailing behind. The bright star Deneb is at its head. I see more cranes than swans around here in recent years and hear their creaking-door-like calls, and can see a pair foraging, from time to time, in a field south of where I live.

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

Swan and the Crane constellations

The IAU Cygnus the swan and the Anishinaabe Ajijaak the crane constellations demonstrated via an animated GIF image. Click on the image to enlarge it. Credit Stellarium (both star lore images are embedded in Stellarium). The Anishinaabe image is from Ojibwe Giizhig Anung Masinaaigan – Ojibwe Sky Star Map created by A. Lee, W. Wilson, and C. Gawboy.

07/09/2021 – Ephemeris – Finding the constellation of Aquila the eagle

July 9, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Friday, July 9th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 22 minutes, setting at 9:29, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:07. The Moon is new today, and won’t be visible.

Aquila the eagle is a constellation that lies in the Milky Way. It’s in the southeastern sky as it gets dark. Its brightest star, Altair, is one of the stars of the Summer Triangle, a group of three bright stars dominating the eastern sky in the evening now. Altair, in the head of the eagle, is flanked by two slightly dimmer stars, the shoulders of the eagle. The eagle is flying northeastward through the Milky Way. Its wings are seen in the wing tip stars. A curved group of stars to the lower right of Altair is its tail. Within Aquila, the Milky Way shows many dark clouds as part of the Great Rift that splits it here. The other summer bird is Cygnus the swan above and left of Aquila, flying in the opposite direction. It was said this was the eagle that attended the god Jupiter.

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

Addendum

Aquila finder animation

Animated Cygnus finder chart. Lyra the harp, Cygnus the swan, Delphinus the dolphin and Sagitta the arrow are also in the image. Can you find them? Click on the image to enlarge it. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

07/08/2021 – Ephemeris – How to find the constellation of Cygnus the swan

July 8, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Thursday, July 8th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 23 minutes, setting at 9:29, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:06. The Moon, 1 day before new, will rise at 5:23 tomorrow morning.

Halfway up the sky in the east at 11 pm is the constellation of Cygnus the swan, flying south through the Milky Way. It is also called the Northern Cross. At the left, the tail of the swan or the head of the cross is the bright star Deneb, one of the stars of the Summer Triangle. The next star to the right is Sadr the intersection of the body and the wings of the swan seen in flight, or the intersection of the two pieces of the cross. There are two or three stars farther to the right that delineate the swan’s long neck or upright of the cross, that ends with the star Alberio, a beautiful double star in telescopes, in the beak of the swan or foot of the cross. The crosspiece of the cross extends to the stars on either side of the intersection star Sadr, while the swan’s wings extend for a couple more stars each side.

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

Addendum

Cygnus finder animation

Animated Cygnus finder chart. Included also are, beside Deneb, the other stars of the Summer Triangle: Vega and Altair and their constellations Lyra the harp and Aquila. See if you can find them. Click on the image to enlarge it. Created using Stellarium.

07/06/2021 – Ephemeris – Looking at the constellation of Lyra the harp

July 6, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Tuesday, July 6th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 26 minutes, setting at 9:30, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:05. The Moon, 3 days before new, will rise at 3:56 tomorrow morning.

High in the east at 11 p.m. can be found a bright star just above a small, narrow, but very distinctive parallelogram of stars. They are the stars of the constellation Lyra the harp. The bright star is Vega, the 5th brightest night-time star. To the Romans, the star Vega represented a falling eagle or vulture. Apparently they never made the distinction between the two species. It is a pure white star and serves as a calibration star for color and brightness. In the evening, it is the top-most star of the Summer Triangle. The harp, according to Greek mythology, was invented by the god Hermes. The form of the harp, in the sky, is as he had invented it: by stretching strings across a tortoise shell. Hermes gave it to his half-brother Apollo, who in turn gave it to the legendary musician Orpheus.

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

Addendum

Annimated Lyra finder chart

Animated Lyra finder chart. The lyre image not supplied by Stellarium but is from The World’s Earliest Music by Hermann Smith, Figure 60, A Project Gutenberg E-Book, and captioned “The Chelys or Greek Tortoiseshell Lyre”. Click on the image to enlarge it. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

06/29/2021 – Ephemeris – The Summer Triangle

June 29, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Tuesday, June 29th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 32 minutes, setting at 9:32, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:00. The Moon, 2 days before last quarter, will rise at 1:14 tomorrow morning.

Dominating the eastern sky at 11 pm are three bright stars. These are all first magnitude stars, members of the group of 21 brightest stars in the night sky. Highest, in the east, is Vega, the brightest of the three. It and a small, slim parallelogram of stars below it belong to the constellation of Lyra the harp. Below it to the northeast is Deneb, dimmest of the three at the head of the horizontally appearing Northern Cross, an informal constellation or asterism. Properly, Deneb is in the tail of Cygnus the swan flying south through the Milky Way. The third star of the three is Altair, lower still, but in the east-southeast at the head of Aquila the Eagle. These three stars are in a large asterism called the Summer Triangle, which will be with us through summer and fall.

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

Addendum

Summer Triangle finder animation

The Summer Triangle finder animation showing first the unlabeled sky, Then the Summer Triangle with the stars labeled, then the constellations of those stars. Click on the image to enlarge it. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

06/07/2021 – Ephemeris – The Little Dipper, aka Ursa Minor

June 7, 2021 Comments off

 This is Ephemeris for Monday, June 7th.  Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 28 minutes, setting at 9:26, and it will rise tomorrow at 5:57.  The Moon, 3 days before new, will rise at 4:54 tomorrow morning.

One of the constellations I don’t talk about much, except in passing is Ursa Minor, the Little Bear, better known as the Little Dipper. As a dipper goes, its handle is bent the wrong way. Anyway, this time of year in the evening, it’s standing on the tip of it’s handle the North Star Polaris. Polaris is pointed to by the front two stars of the Big Dipper. As dippers go they pour their contents into each other. The second and third-brightest stars of the Little Dipper are at the front of the bowl, and are Kochab and Pherkad, the Guard Stars, that is Guardians of the Pole. To the Anishinaabe native peoples of our area the Little Dipper is Maang, the Loon.

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

Addendum

Little Dipper finder animation

Little Dipper finder animation with bonus frame with Draco the dragon. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium. Animation and star names added with GIMP.

06/03/2021 – Ephemeris – Arcturus in the Bible.

June 3, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Thursday, June 3rd. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 23 minutes, setting at 9:23, and it will rise tomorrow at 5:58. The Moon, 1 day past last quarter, will rise at 3:30 tomorrow morning.

Arcturus is a bright orangish star that’s high in the south at 11 pm. It’s also found by following the arc of the handle of the Big Dipper, which is the ridiculous tail of Ursa Major the Great Bear. It was considered the “Guardian of the Bear”, It is in the base of the kite shaped constellation of Boötes, the herdsman or the Bear Chaser. The latter story I recounted earlier this year. The name from the Greek has been confused with the bear itself. Thus, in the King James version of the Bible Arcturus, not the Bear, meaning the Great Bear, is mentioned in the 38th chapter of Job. This has been corrected in the newer versions I’ve seen. Arcturus has a rich history in literature, mostly by being confused with the Great Bear.

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

Addendum

Arcturus, Bootes and Ursa Major

Arcturus, Boötes and Ursa Major can be seen by looking overhead while facing the west-southwest at 11 pm in early June. Created using Stellarium. Lines and figures not included.

Biblical translations

King James Version of Job 38:31-32

31 Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, 
   or loose the bands of Orion?

32 Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season?
   or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons?

New International Version of Job 38:31-32

31 
“Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades?
Can you loosen Orion’s belt?
32 
Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons
or lead out the Bear with its cubs?

No one is sure what a Mazzaroth is.

05/31/2021 – Ephemeris – Hercules the constellation

May 31, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Memorial Day, Monday, May 31st. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 19 minutes, setting at 9:20, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:00. The Moon, 2 days before last quarter, will rise at 2:23 tomorrow morning.

Orion, the hard luck mythological Greek hunter gets a splashy constellation in the winter sky, but the greatest hero of all, Hercules, gets a dim group of stars on the border between the spring and summer stars. At 11 p.m. Hercules is fairly high in the east. It is located above and a bit right of the bright star, Vega east-northeast. Hercules’ central feature is a keystone shaped box of stars, called the Keystone laying on its side, which represents the old boy’s shorts. From each left corner stars extend lines of stars that are his legs, from the right stars, the rest of his torso and arms extend. So in one final indignity he’s upside down in our sky. For those with a telescope, Hercules contains the beautiful globular star cluster Messier 13.

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

Addendum

Hercules finder animation

Hercules can be found in the east among the line of constellations at around 11 pm in late May or early June between the bright stars Arcturus and Vega. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

M13 finder

M 13 is found on the western side of the Keystone. In this orientation when Hercules is in the east, it is the top side. Created using Stellarium with an annotation.

M 13

M 13, the Great Globular Star Cluster in Hercules. Credit: Scott Anttila.

M 13 is the brightest and finest globular star cluster in the northern hemisphere of the sky. It’s at a distance of 25 thousand light years. Some amateur astronomers can spot M 13 with the naked eye. It is a fuzzy spot in binoculars. I can barely resolve some of its stars in an 8-inch (200 mm) telescope. It’s a wonderful sight in anything bigger! The slightly dimmer M 92 is also slightly farther away at nearly 27 thousand light years. 

Click on any of the images above to enlarge them.