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03/24/2017 – Ephemeris – Finding Leo

March 24, 2017 Leave a comment

Ephemeris for Friday, March 24th.  The Sun will rise at 7:37.  It’ll be up for 12 hours and 22 minutes, setting at 8:00.  The Moon, 3 days before new, will rise at 6:24 tomorrow morning.

At 10 p.m. the spring constellation of Leo the lion will be high in the east-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 sparser than those in the winter sky.

Times are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.
Add info on Mercury in the evening sky.

Addendum

Leaky Dipper drips on Leo.

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

Ursa Major and Leo

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

03/23/2017 – Ephemeris – a single headed Hydra

March 23, 2017 Leave a comment

Ephemeris for Thursday, March 23rd.  The Sun will rise at 7:39.  It’ll be up for 12 hours and 19 minutes, setting at 7:59.  The Moon, 3 days past last quarter, will rise at 5:48 tomorrow morning.

In the southern evening sky can be found the constellation of Hydra the water snake.  Unlike the mythical monster Hercules fought of the same name this Hydra has but one head, which is its most distinctive part.  At 9 p.m. look to the south.  The head of Hydra is located directly to the left of Procyon the bright star in Orion’s little dog Canis Minor, and to the right of the star Regulus in Leo.  Hydra’s head is a small distinctive group of 6 stars that make a loop and the snake’s slightly drooping head.  At that time the sinuous body of Hydra sinks below the horizon in the southeast.  As it gets later in the evening the rest of Hydra’s body will slither to just above the southeastern horizon below the planet Jupiter this year and the bright star Spica in the constellation of Virgo.

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

Addendum

Hydra

Finding Hydra animation for 9 p.m. March 23rd 2017. Created using Stellarium.  Click on image to enlarge.

03/21/2017 – Ephemeris – Let’s find Cancer the crab

March 21, 2017 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, March 21st.  The Sun will rise at 7:43.  It’ll be up for 12 hours and 13 minutes, setting at 7:56.  The Moon, 1 day past last quarter, will rise at 4:26 tomorrow morning.

At 10 this evening, the faint constellation, and member of the Zodiac, Cancer the crab is located in the south half way between the bright stars Castor and Pollux of the constellation Gemini, high in the south and the bright star Regulus in Leo the lion in the southeast.  Cancer is very dim, looking like an upside-down Y if it’s stars can be made out.  In the center of Cancer is a fuzzy spot to the unaided eye.  In binoculars or a low power telescope this fuzzy spot becomes a cluster of stars.  It is the Beehive cluster.  At 577 light years away, according to the latest measurements, it is one of the closest star clusters, but more distant than the Pleiades and Hyades the face of Taurus the bull off in the west.

Times 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. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

The Beehive

The Beehive star cluster, M44. Its ancient name was the Praesepe or manger when glimpsed by the naked eye. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Skycharts)

03/16/2017 – Ephemeris – Curly Tail, The Great Underwater Panther

March 16, 2017 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, March 16th.  The Sun will rise at 7:52.  It’ll be up for 11 hours and 57 minutes, setting at 7:50.  The Moon, half way from full to last quarter, will rise at 12:03 tomorrow morning.

The Anishinabek people of the Great Lakes Region, which includes the Ottawa, Chippewa and Ojibwe Indians have two constellations of winter that I know of.  The first is The Winter Maker which uses many of Orion’s stars plus Procyon the Little Dog Star.  It rises in the eastern skies in the evening as winter is beginning.  The second is the Curly Tail, the Great Underwater Panther.  Which uses the stars of Leo the lion’s backward question mark as its tail and the small knot of stars that are the head of Hydra the water snake below Cancer as its head.  I imagine this constellation was a warning to youngsters to keep off the thinning ice of spring, lest they fall in and be snatched by the great underwater panther that lives beneath the ice.

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

Addendum

Ojibwe constellations

An animated GIF rotating between an unannotated star field facing south at 10 p.m. March 16th.; Western constellation names and lines for Orion, Hydra, and Leo; Western constellation art, Ojibwe constellation names and lines; and Ojibwe constellation art. Created using Stellarium. The Ojibwe constellation art is supplied as part of the latest version of Stellarium.  Click on the image to enlarge.

The source for the Ojibwe constellation art is from Ojibwe Sky Star Map Constellation Guide (An introduction to Ojibwe Star Knowledge) by Annette S. Lee, William Wilson, Jeffrey Tibbetts, and Carl Gawboy, ISBN 978-0-615-98678-4.  The illustrations are by Annette S. Lee and William Wilson.  There is also a poster sized star map available.  It should be available in book stores locally, or at Amazon.  I found my copy at Enerdyne in Suttons Bay.

Also shown is the Pleiades, which to the Ojibwe is Hole in the Sky, which has to do with the Shaking Tent Ceremony.  The Pleiades is also known as the Sweating Stones, the heated stones used in the Sweat Lodge Ceremony.  In the later spring sky the Sweat Lodge itself is seen in the stars of the Western Corona Borealis.

Note:  As far as tribe names go:  Ottawa = Odawa, and Chippewa = Ojibwe.

02/20/2017 – Ephemeris – The spring constellations are rising

February 20, 2017 Comments off

Ephemeris for President’s Day, Monday, February 20th.  The Sun will rise at 7:34.  It’ll be up for 10 hours and 44 minutes, setting at 6:18.  The Moon, 2 days past last quarter, will rise at 3:59 tomorrow morning.

With spring only a month away, lets turn our eyes eastward in the evening to the rising spring stars.  In contrast to the brilliant stars of the winter skies still holding forth in the south, and running along the Milky Way overhead and to the northwest, the stars to the east are rather sparse and dull.  The only exception is the Big Dipper to the northeast.  The one bright star in the east is Regulus, whose rank as a first magnitude star is dead last in brightness.  It is in the heart of the constellation of Leo the lion, and as such has gained a great amount of fame.  Regulus is at the base of a backward question mark of stars that is informally known a the Sickle.  It is also the characteristic head and mane of a male lion.  A triangle of stars to the lower left are his back end ending with Leo’s second brightest star Denebola, literally “Lion’s Tail”.

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

Addendum

 

Comparison of winter stars vs. spring stars.

Comparison of winter stars vs. spring stars. Created using Stellarium.

The constellation Leo animation

The constellation Leo animation. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

02/17/2017 – Ephemeris – The stars of the Belt of Orion

February 17, 2017 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, February 17th.  The Sun will rise at 7:39.  It’ll be up for 10 hours and 35 minutes, setting at 6:14.  The Moon, 1 day before last quarter, will rise at 1:15 tomorrow morning.

Let’s take a closer look at the central constellation of the winter sky, the giant hunter Orion.  His most remarkable feature in his Belt of three stars in a straight line.  It’s the brightest, straightest and most equidistant line of stars I know of.  It points down and left to the brightest star Sirius the dog star and up to the right of Aldebaran the angry bloodshot eye in Taurus the bull.  The star names as taught to me by Grand Rapids Public Museum curator Evelyn Grebel in my youth in the 1950s was from left to right Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka.  All the names reference a belt or girdle.   Alnitak lights up a faint cloud that can sometimes be glimpsed with binoculars called the Flame Nebula,  Just below it and invisible except in photographs is the Horsehead Nebula.

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

Addendum

Orion's named stars

Orion’s named stars including the belt stars. Created using Stellarium.

Orion's Belt

Orion’s belt stars showing the nebulae illuminated by Alnitak. The Flame Nebula above left of it and the Horsehead Nebula below.  At this scale the horse’s head figure appears as a dark  bump into the left edge of the red glow.

The Horsehead Nebula

The Horsehead Nebula: On the left in visible light from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, while the image on the right is from the Hubble Space Telescope’s near infrared camera. Infrared light penetrated dust and gas better than visible light. This image is rotated about 90 degrees counterclockwise from the above image.

02/16/2017 – Ephemeris – The Winter Circle

February 16, 2017 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, February 16th.  The Sun will rise at 7:40.  It’ll be up for 10 hours and 32 minutes, setting at 6:12.  The Moon, 2 days before last quarter, will rise at 12:17 tomorrow morning.

The winter skies are blessed with more first magnitude stars than any other season.  These are the twenty-one brightest stars in the sky.  Six of these stars lie in a large circle centered on the seventh.  This circle is up all evening now that we are in the heart of winter.  Starting high overhead is Capella in Auriga the charioteer.  Moving clockwise, we come to Aldebaran in the face of Taurus the Bull.  Then down to Orion’s knee we find Rigel.  Down and left is the brightest star of all Sirius the Dog Star in Canis Major Orion’s large hunting dog, lowest of these stars in the south.  Moving up and left there is Procyon in Canis Minor, Then above it is Pollux in Gemini the twins.  All are centered on Betelgeuse in Orion.

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

Addendum

The Winter Circle of 1st magnitude stars

The Winter Circle of 1st magnitude stars. Created using my LookingUp program.