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02/12/2021 – Ephemeris – Monoceros the unicorn

February 12, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Darwin Day, Friday, February 12th. Today the Sun will be up for 10 hours and 20 minutes, setting at 6:07, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:45. The Moon, 1 day past new, will set at 7:07 this evening.

Among all the constellations in the sky of animals real and mythical, there is also a unicorn. It’s called Monoceros, and inhabits the southeastern sky at 8 p.m. mostly bounded by Orion on the right, Canis Major, the great dog below and Canis Minor, the little dog to the left and above. Unfortunately for observers without a telescope Monoceros, 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 birthplace of stars, including the red rose of the Rosette Nebula, and Hagrid’s Dragon Cluster (NGC 2301). It also contains a beautiful telescopic triple star system, Beta (β) Monocerotis.

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

Addendum

Monoceros finder chart

Monoceros finder chart showing neighboring constellations for about 8 pm in mid-February. Created using Stellarium.

The brighter stars of NGC 2301 (Hagrid’s Dragon Cluster, AKA Great Bird Cluster and Copeland’s Golden Worm). It’s also in two other catalogs: Cr 119 and Mel 54. Created using Stellarium and GIMP. Dragon from “Dragon Flying Cycle” on YouTube by Simon Hussey.

Deep Sky Objects around Monoceros

Deep Sky Objects in and around Monoceros. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium.

Rosette Nebula

Rosette Nebula in the infrared from the Spitzer Space Telescope. The star cluster in the center is visible in a telescope, but the nebula is strictly photographic. Credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech.

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.

02/11/2021 – Ephemeris – The Winter Triangle

February 11, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Thursday, February 11th. Today the Sun will be up for 10 hours and 17 minutes, setting at 6:06, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:47. The Moon is new today, and won’t be visible.

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 almost invisible constellation of Monoceros the unicorn. The Summer Triangle has three bright stars with no other close competition. The Winter Triangle has four other bright stars near it. Any three of these would make a nice triangle. One of these constellations Canis Minor is tiny, with Procyon and one other star. It makes me think of a dachshund, or maybe, if I’m hungry, a hot dog.

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

Addendum

Winter triangle finder animation

Winter Triangle finder animation. It shows the star field, named first magnitude stars, then their constellations, then the Winter Triangle and constellations of the three stars. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

02/08/2021 – Ephemeris – A look at Gemini the twins

February 8, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Monday, February 8th. Today the Sun will be up for 10 hours and 9 minutes, setting at 6:01, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:51. The Moon, 3 days before new, will rise at 6:49 tomorrow morning.

Let’s look at another of the winter constellations, and a member of the Zodiac. The constellation of 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, are nearly overhead and vertically aligned. Castor is on top, while the slightly brighter Pollux is below. From them come two lines of stars that outline the two extending toward Orion. In Greek mythology the lads were half brothers, Castor was fathered by a mere mortal, while Pollux was fathered by Zeus, 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 Zeus 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 animation

Gemini finder animation for early February at 9 pm (about 3 hours after sunset). Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

02/04/2021 – Ephemeris – Finding Orion’s larger hunting dog

February 4, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Thursday, February 4th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 58 minutes, setting at 5:56, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:56. The Moon, at last quarter today, will rise at 2:19 tomorrow morning.

The great winter constellation or star group Orion the hunter, is located in the southern sky at 9 p.m. His elongated rectangle of a torso is vertical. In the center of the rectangle are three stars in a line that make his belt. As a hunter, especially one of old, he has two hunting dogs. The larger, Canis Major can be found by following the three belt stars of Orion down and to the left. They point to Sirius, the brightest night-time star, also known as the Dog Star. It’s in the heart of a stick figure dog low in the southeast facing Orion that appears to be begging. There’s a fine star cluster, called Messier, or M 41, at the 5 o’clock position from Sirius. It’s easily visible in binoculars or a small telescope.

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

Addendum

Orion and his hunting dogs

Orion and his hunting dogs with pointers as seen February. I didn’t have time in the program to mention Canis Minor, the little dog. I expect to cover it in the future, or you can search for Canis Minor in the search box above. Created using Stellarium.

I did not have time to talk about Canis Minor in this program due to the inclusion of M 41. I plan to cover Canis Minor soon. I have in the past. Search for Canis Minor in the search box above.

Star cluster M 41 finder Chart

Star cluster M 41 finder chart. Created using Stellarium.

M 41 up close

M 41 up close. Image courtesy of Tim Hunter and James McGaha, Grasslands Observatory at http://www.3towers.com

 

01/18/2021 – Ephemeris – The Drinking Gourd

January 18, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, January 18th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 18 minutes, setting at 5:32, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:13. The Moon, 2 days before first quarter, will set at 11:34 this evening.

This day is set aside to honor the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who gave his life for the struggle for equality for blacks and other minorities and to end segregation. A struggle that continues to this day. In the decades before the Civil War runaway slaves would travel, often at night, northward from the slave states of the south to the northern free states and Canada over the metaphorical Underground Railroad following the Drinking Gourd, the Big Dipper as their compass. Over the last several millennia the Great Bear, Ursa Major has been that northward pointer. For much of that time the North Pole of the sky had been passing near the handle of the Big Dipper or bear’s tail.

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

Addendum

An animation showing the Big Dipper, also known as the Drinking Gourd pointing to Polaris, the North Star which is just about due north. This is for 9 pm January 18th, about 3 1/2 hours after sunset. Created using Stellarium with additional annotations.

01/15/2021 – Ephemeris – The constellation Lepus the hare

January 15, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Friday, January 15th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 12 minutes, setting at 5:28, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:15. The Moon, 2 days past new, will set at 8:17 this evening.

Orion, the central winter constellation is seen in the southern sky this evening. He is a hunter, as artists depict him, he is preoccupied with the charge of Taurus the bull from the upper right. At Orion’s feet, and unnoticed by him is the small constellation of Lepus the hare. It’s very hard to see a rabbit in its eight dim stars: however, I can see a rabbit’s head ears and shoulders. A misshapen box is the head and face of this critter facing to the left. His ears extend upwards from the upper right star of the box, and the bend forward a bit. Two stars to the right of the box and a bit farther apart hint at the front part of the body. In Lepus telescopes can find M79, a distant globular star cluster, one of the few visible 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

My view of Lepus the hare.

My view of Lepus the hare. Star field from Cartes du Ciel. Desert Cottontail drawing from Arizona-Senora Desert Museum website. Superimposed with GIMP.

Lepus

An animation showing the stars, constellations and artwork of Lepus, Orion and Taurus from Stellarium. The constellation lines suggest a rabbit ears TV antenna. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

01/14/2021 – Ephemeris – The constellation of Auriga the charioteer

January 14, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Thursday, January 14th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 10 minutes, setting at 5:27, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:16. The Moon, 1 day past new, will set at 7:06 this evening.

The constellation Auriga the charioteer is nearly overhead at 9 p.m. It is a pentagon of stars, with the brilliant star Capella at one of its corners. Capella represents a she-goat he’s carrying. A narrow triangle of stars nearby Capella are her kids. The Kids is an informal constellation or asterism. Within and near that pentagon, binoculars and telescopes will 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. One called M38 is near the center of the pentagon. Another, M36 is to the east of it. Still another star cluster, M37, is farther east, just outside the pentagon. The M designations come from Charles Messier who 250 years ago ran into them while looking for comets.

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

Addendum

Auriga finder animation

Auriga finder animation showing the Kids, nearby stars including Aldebaran and the sideways V shape of the Hyades (unlabeled) of Taurus the bull and the Pleiades AKA M 45. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

01/12/2021 – Ephemeris – The celestial river Eridanus

January 12, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Tuesday, January 12th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 7 minutes, setting at 5:25, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:17. The Moon, 1 day before new, will rise at 8:58 tomorrow morning.

One of the more obscure constellations around is Eridanus, which depicts a river. The river starts near the lower right corner of Orion, near the bright star Rigel and flows to the right then down near the southwestern horizon, then it meanders along the horizon to the south before turning below the horizon. One has to travel to the far south to see the southern terminus of the river, the bright star Achernar. Writers over the ages have seen here the Nile and the Earth circling river Ocean of the flat earth days. Achernar is actually two stars, the brightest was discovered to be the flattest star known, due to its rapid spin. The dimensions of Achernar A has been determined to be twice as wide across its equator than from pole to pole. It’s 139 light years away.

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

Addendum

Eridanus

An animation of the constellation Eridanus which is a river that flows from Rigel in Orion to the star Achernar below our southern horizon at latitude 45 degrees north. Create using Stellarium and GIMP.

01/11/2021 – Ephemeris – Procyon, the before the Dog Star

January 11, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Monday, January 11th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 5 minutes, setting at 5:23 pm, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:17 am. The Moon, 2 days before new, will rise at 8:05 tomorrow morning.

Visible low in the east at 8 p.m. appears the star Procyon. To its right and below is Sirius the brightest night-time star. Procyon is the bright star in the constellation Canis Minor, or lesser dog. I can find only one other star in Canis Minor. Perhaps it’s a hot dog. If Sirius, in Canis major is the Dog Star then Procyon should be the Little Dog Star. However, Procyon is an interesting name. It means “Before the dog”, which is an allusion to the fact that Procyon, though east of Sirius actually rises before it. This is due to Procyon’s more northerly position. This effect doesn’t work south of the equator, however. Sirius will rise at about 7:30 tonight. Procyon is a star much like Sirius but is 32% farther away. It’s 11.4 to Sirius’ 8.6 light years away.

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

Addendum

Orion and his hunting dogs in early winter

Orion and his hunting dogs in early winter (8 pm, January 11, 2021) showing that Procyon does rise before Sirius.

01/07/2021 – Ephemeris – The constellations Orion and Taurus interact

January 7, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Thursday, January 7th. Today the Sun will be up for 8 hours and 59 minutes, setting at 5:19, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:19. The Moon, 1 day past last quarter, will rise at 3:13 tomorrow morning.

There are several instances in the Greek heavens where constellations appear to interact with one another. This is true with Orion the hunter and Taurus the bull. Taurus, whose face is the letter V of stars with orangish Aldebaran as his angry bloodshot eye is charging down on Orion, who has raised a lion skin shield on one arm and an upraised club in the other, ready to strike. They have been frozen in this pose for millennia. Stars below and right of the letter V of the Bull’s face suggest the front part of his body and his front legs charging at Orion. Orion also has two hunting dogs, Canis Major and Canis Minor. Canis Major with its dazzling star Sirius will rise around 7:30 on a line extended down from Orion’s belt.

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

Addendum

The Orion-Taurus Tableau. Seen around 8 pm, January 7, 2021. Created using Stellarium.

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