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07/10/2020 – Ephemeris – The constellation Cygnus the swan

July 10, 2020 Leave a comment

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Friday, July 10th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 20 minutes, setting at 9:28, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:08. The Moon, 2 days before last quarter, will rise at 12:52 tomorrow morning.

Fairly high in the east at 11 p.m. 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 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 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 to a couple more stars each.

The event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. 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.

07/09/2020 – Ephemeris – The constellation of Lyra the harp

July 9, 2020 Leave a comment

Jul 9. This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Thursday, 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, 3 days before last quarter, will rise at 12:30 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. It is a pure white star and serves as a calibration star for color and brightness. 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 event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Lyra

Lyra as a tortoise shell harp. Created using Stellarium and free clip art.

06/25/2020 – Ephemeris – The bright star Spica

June 25, 2020 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Thursday, June 25th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 33 minutes, setting at 9:32, and it will rise tomorrow at 5:58. The Moon, 3 days before first quarter, will set at 12:59 tomorrow morning.

Low in the southwest at 11 p.m. is the bright star Spica which can be found from all the way back overhead to the Big Dipper. Follow the arc of the handle of the Big Dipper to the bright star Arcturus high in the southwest. Then straighten the curve of the arc to a straight spike which points to Spica. Arcturus is much brighter than Spica and has an orange tint to Spica’s bluish hue. In fact Spica is the bluest of the 21 first magnitude stars. That means that it is hot. Actually Spica is really two blue stars orbiting each other in 4 days. Spica is 250 light years away, which is reasonably close. Spica was an important star to the ancient Greeks. One temple was built, and aligned to its setting point.

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

Addendum

Spica finder chart

Spica finder chart using my LookingUp program fo 11 p.m. tonight June 25.

06/18/2020 – Ephemeris – Finding the constellation Hercules

June 18, 2020 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Thursday, June 18th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 34 minutes, setting at 9:31, and it will rise tomorrow at 5:56. The Moon, 3 days before new, will rise at 4:48 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 very high in the east-southeast. It is located above and right of the bright star, Vega in the east. Hercules’ central feature is a box shaped of star wider at the top than the bottom, called the Keystone, which represents the old boy’s shorts. From each top corner extend lines of stars that are his legs, from the bottom stars, the rest of his torso and arms extend. So in one final indignity he’s upside down in our sky. Some see him crouched down, club upraised holding the Hydra about to throttle it. For those with a telescope it contains the beautiful globular star cluster M13.

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

Addendum

Hercules finder

Hercules animation showing neighboring stars at 11 p.m. for mid June, Click on image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium.

M13

M13, the Great Globular Star Cluster in Hercules. Credit: Scott Anttila

Stars and M13 visuble in Binoculars in the Keystone of Hercules

Stars and M13 (Great Star Cluster in Hercules) visible in binoculars in the Keystone of Hercules. Click in the image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium.

06/16/2020 – Ephemeris – One circlet of stars, two constellations: old world and new world

June 16, 2020 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Tuesday, June 16th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 34 minutes, setting at 9:30, and it will rise tomorrow at 5:56. The Moon, 3 days past last quarter, will rise at 3:52 tomorrow morning.

High in the south-southeast at 11 this evening can be seen a small nearly circular constellation of Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown. It is just below Boötes, the kite shaped constellation off the handle of the Big Dipper. According to Greek myth the crown was given by the gods to the princess Ariadne, daughter of King Minos of Crete. The crown is more like a tiara with the bright star Alphecca at the front. To the Anishinaabe people, who are natives of our region it is the Sweat Lodge. Part of what we call Hercules next to it is the Exhausted Bather, who is lying on the ground after the ceremony. The seven stones that are heated for the Sweat Lodge are the Pleiades, now too close to the Sun to be seen.

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

Addendum

Corona Borealis and Sweat Lodge

Animated Corona Borealis/Sweat Lodge Finder Chart looking to the south-southeast at 11 p.m. June 16th. Click on the image to enlarge Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

06/12/2020 – Ephemeris – The Summer Triangle proclaims that summer is almost here

June 12, 2020 1 comment

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Friday, June 12th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 32 minutes, setting at 9:29, and it will rise tomorrow at 5:56. The Moon, 1 day before last quarter, will rise at 2:27 tomorrow morning.

Summer skies are coming. It’s only 8 days until summer officially arrives. It is a calendar day early this year because of the extra day added in February for the leap year. Looking to the eastern sky at 11 pm are three bright stars in a large triangle. The top star Vega is about half way up the sky to the zenith, and the brightest of the three. It’s in the small constellation of Lyra the harp. Lowest of the stars and just about due east is Altair in Aquila the eagle. Completing the triangle is Deneb in the northeast in the tail of Cygnus the swan or the head of the horizontal Northern Cross. These three stars make up the Summer Triangle. Be that as it may, the Summer Triangle will be in our evening sky moving slowly westward until December.

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

Addendum

Finder animation for the Summer Triangle, seen in red for 11 pm, June 12th. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

06/09/2020 – Ephemeris – The constellation of the crow and a star often mistaken for a UFO

June 9, 2020 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Tuesday, June 9th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 30 minutes, setting at 9:27, and it will rise tomorrow at 5:56. The Moon, half way from full to last quarter, will rise at 1:06 tomorrow morning.

I don’t want spring to get away from us without pointing out a small but distinctive constellation now low in the southwest at 11 pm called Corvus the crow that to me looks like an odd shaped box. Wider at the bottom than the top and left side taller than the right. It’s supposed to be a crow in flight diagonally to the upper right. I find it easy to find by that odd shaped box. Also at 11 pm, the summer constellation of Scorpius the scorpion is rising with its bright red star Antares twinkling madly. This red giant star stays low in the southern sky, so we always, here in Michigan, see it through lots of atmosphere whose turbulence accentuates its twinkling. I call it my UFO star. It’s a riot in binoculars or a telescope.

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

Addendum

Corvus and Antares

Corvus the crow and Antares the star in Scorpius at 11 pm tonight, June 9, 2020. Created using Stellarium and its embedded art. This is not how I see either constellation. Everyone gets to use their own imagination. Mine doesn’t agree with either image, but I’m not artistic enough to show how I imagine them. Though for Corvus I just see the distinctive box. Click on the image to enlarge it.

05/21/2020 – Ephemeris – A star cluster in a most unusual spot

May 21, 2020 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Thursday, May 21st. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 3 minutes, setting at 9:11, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:07. The Moon, 1 day before new, will rise at 6:16 tomorrow morning.

High in the south at 10:30 p.m. or so is a tiny and faint constellation of Coma Berenices, or Berenice’s hair. In it are lots of faint stars arrayed to look like several strands of hair. The whole group will fit in the field of a pair of binoculars, which will also show many more stars. The hank of hair supposed belonged to Berenice II, Queen of Egypt, in the 3rd century BCE. Coma Berenices is the second closest star cluster to us at only 250 light years away, after the Hyades, the face of Taurus the bull a winter constellation. It’s in an odd spot for a galactic star cluster, which are supposed to lie in the plane of the Milky Way. It’s actually seen at the galactic pole, as far as possible away from the milky band. It’s a matter of perspective because it’s so close to us. It’s still really in the plane of the Milky Way.

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

Addendum

Coma Berenices and the galactic pole

Coma Berenices and galactic coordinated showing how close to the galactic pole it is. The bright star Arcturus at the left edge.  Leo’s hind end is at the lower right. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

Coma Berenices

Approximate 7 power binocular field of view of the Coma Berenices Star Cluster. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

Note: There is another cluster in the constellation.  It’s called the Coma Cluster.  It’s a cluster of over a thousand galaxies a bit over 300 million light years away.

05/15/2020 – Ephemeris – Virgo and its cluster of galaxies

May 15, 2020 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Friday, May 15th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 50 minutes, setting at 9:04, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:12. The Moon, 1 day past last quarter, will rise at 4:01 tomorrow morning.

One of the large constellations we see in the south at 11 p.m. can be found using the Big Dipper overhead, follow the arc of the handle to the bright star Arcturus, the straighten the arc to a spike to reach Spica, a bright blue-white star in the south. Spica is the brightest star in the constellation Virgo the virgin. She represents the goddess of the harvest, Virgo is holding a sheaf of wheat in depictions of her, and Spica is placed at the head of the sheaf. In the space between Spica and Leo the lion to her upper right is, a great cluster of thousands of galaxies just below naked eye visibility. The Virgo Cluster. Inside that cluster is galaxy M87 in whose center lies a black hole with the mass of 6.5 billion suns that was imaged last year. The center of the cluster is at about 54 million light years away.

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

Addendum

Finding Spica

Spica finder animation . Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

Virgo Cluster

Some of the brighter members of the Virgo Cluster (of galaxies) as red ovals. The galaxies marked with an ‘M’ number are part of Charles Messier’s catalog. It took a telescope of 8 inch diameter for me to spot them. Someone with better vision, like Messier himself can spot them with a smaller telescope. M53 and the object next to it are globular star clusters in the outer reaches of our galaxy. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

Markarian Chain of galaxies

Markarian Chain of galaxies within the Virgo Cluster by Scott Anttila.

Black hole in M87

The first image of the black hole in M87. Credit Event Horizon Telescope.

 

 

05/14/2020 – Ephemeris – Finding the zodiacal constellation of Virgo

May 14, 2020 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Thursday, May 14th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 48 minutes, setting at 9:03, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:14. The Moon, at last quarter today, will rise at 3:36 tomorrow morning.

Tonight at 11 p.m. in the south is the constellation and member of the of the zodiac: Virgo the virgin. Virgo is a large constellation of a reclining woman holding a stalk of wheat. Spica, is the head of that spike of wheat; and as such it ruled over the harvest in two of Virgo’s guises as the goddesses Persephone and Ceres. Virgo is also identified as Astraea the goddess of justice. The constellation of Libra, the scales, which she is associated with, is found just east of her low in the southeast. Early Christians who sought to de-paganize the heavens saw Virgo as the Virgin Mary. Virgo is the host to a great cluster of galaxies seen far beyond its stars. Tomorrow morning Mars will appear just above the Moon for very early risers.

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

Addendum

Virgo finder animation

Virgo finder animation with Leo added as an aid for 11 p.m. tonight May 14th. Click on image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

Virgo

Virgo as depicted in Urania’s Mirror, a set of constellation cards published in London c.1825. From the Library of Congress. Hat tip Wikipedia.