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04/24/2017 – Ephemeris – A story of the Great Bear, Ursa Major

April 24, 2017 Leave a comment

Ephemeris for Monday, April 24th.  The Sun rises at 6:42.  It’ll be up for 13 hours and 55 minutes, setting at 8:38.  The Moon, 2 days before new, will rise at 6:32 tomorrow morning.

Appearing in the eastern sky at 10 p.m. tonight is the kite shaped constellation of Boötes the herdsman.  The bright star Arcturus is at the bottom of the kite to the right, pointed to by the arc of the handle of the Big Dipper, higher in the east.  In one story Boötes represents a young hunter named Arcas, son of Callisto, a beautiful young lady who had the misfortune of being loved by Zeus the chief of the Greek gods.  Zeus’ wife Hera, found out about the affair, and since she couldn’t punish Zeus, turned the poor woman into an ugly bear.  Arcas, many years later, unaware of the events surrounding his mother’s disappearance was about to kill the bear when Zeus intervened and placed them both in the sky to save her, as he continues to chase her across the sky nightly.

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

Addendum

Arcas and Callisto

Bootes and Ursa Major aka Arcas chasing Callisto around the pole of the sky. Created using Stellarium.

Arcas and Callisto woodcut

Arcas about to slay the bear by the 17th century artist Baur. Source: University of Virginia Electronic Text Center

04/18/2017 – Ephemeris – How Queen Berenice lost her hair

April 18, 2017 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, April 18th.  The Sun rises at 6:52.  It’ll be up for 13 hours and 38 minutes, setting at 8:31.  The Moon, 1 day before last quarter, will rise at 3:04 tomorrow morning.

High in the east-southeast at 10 p.m. is the tiny and faint constellation of Coma Berenices, or Berenice’s Hair.  In it are lots of faint stars that 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 star cluster is 280 light years away, nearly twice as far as the Hyades, the face of Taurus the Bull setting in the west.  The story behind it was that Berenice was the Queen of Egypt, whose husband was away at war.  She offered her golden tresses to the gods for the king’s safe return.  The hair, was placed in a temple.  However the offering disappeared when the king returned.  Ever since the constellation of Coma Berenices has been seen to commemorate the queen’s sacrifice.

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

Coma Berenices finder chart

Coma Berenices finder chart for 10 p.m. April 18, 2017. Created using Stellarium.

Coma Berenices

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

Addendum

04/17/2017 – Ephemeris – How to find the stars Arcturus and Spica from the Big Dipper

April 17, 2017 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, April 17th.  The Sun rises at 6:54.  It’ll be up for 13 hours and 35 minutes, setting at 8:30.  The Moon, 2 days before last quarter, will rise at 2:21 tomorrow morning.

The Big Dipper, now nearing the zenith at 10 p.m. points to several stars and constellations.  It’s handle points to two bright stars.  First we follow the arc of the handle to the bright orange star Arcturus, the 4th brightest night-time star.  The reason I say night-time is that the sun is a star also but by definition is not out at night.  The arc to Arcturus is a how to find Arcturus and a clue to its name.  Arcturus, midway up the sky in the east, lies at the base point of the kite shaped constellation of Boötes the herdsman.  From Arcturus, straighten out the arc to a spike and one soon arrives at Spica a blue-white star in Virgo the virgin, now low in the southeast.  It is below Jupiter this year.  Spica is also sometimes pronounced ‘Speeka’.

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

Addendum

Finding Arcturus and Spica

How to find the stars Arcturus and Spica from the Big Dipper in April 2017. Created using my LookingUp program.

03/24/2017 – Ephemeris – Finding Leo

March 24, 2017 Comments off

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 Comments off

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.