Archive

Archive for the ‘Constellations’ Category

05/11/2021 – Ephemeris – The Big Dipper as seen by many peoples

May 11, 2021 Leave a comment

This is Ephemeris for Tuesday, May 11th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 41 minutes, setting at 9 pm, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:17 am. The Moon is new today, and won’t be visible.

The Big Dipper is overhead, actually north of overhead this evening when it gets dark for us in Michigan, it’s seven stars shining brightly. The Big Dipper is not an actual constellation, recognized internationally. It’s part, the hind part, of Ursa Major, the great bear. The Big Dipper is an asterism or informal constellation. It is a distinctly North American constellation. For fugitive slaves, fleeing the southern states in the days before the Civil War, the Drinking Gourd, as they called it, showed the direction north to freedom. In England the dipper stars become the Plough (plow), or Charles’ Wain (Charlemagne’s Wagon). In France, known for culinary delights it was the saucepan, or the cleaver. Many cultures saw what was familiar to them in these seven bright stars.

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

Addendum

Big Dipper as seen by different cultures
Cultural views of the Big Dipper as an Animation: Big Dipper/Sauce Pan, Plough (plow), Charle’s Wain (Charlemagne’s wagon), and Cleaver.

05/10/2021 – Ephemeris – The story of the constellations Boötes and Ursa Major

May 10, 2021 Leave a comment

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Monday, May 10th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 38 minutes, setting at 8:58, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:18. The Moon, 1 day before new, will rise at 6:25 tomorrow morning.

Seen in the east 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. It is pointed to by the arc of the handle of the Big Dipper, higher in the east. 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 it, and since she couldn’t punish Zeus, turned the poor woman into a 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 Arcas still pursues her across the sky nightly.

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

Addendum

Arcas and Callisto as Boötes and Ursa Major
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

05/06/2021 – Ephemeris – Corvus, Crater, Hydra and Apollo

May 6, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Thursday, May 6th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 28 minutes, setting at 8:54, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:24. The Moon, 3 days past last quarter, will rise at 5:04 tomorrow morning.

The small constellation of Corvus the crow is located low in the south at 10:30 this evening. It’s made of 5 dim stars, but the pattern is a distinctive but distorted box with two stars at the upper left marking that corner. To the right is a fainter constellation of a thick stemmed goblet called Crater. Both appear above the long constellation of Hydra the water snake who is slithering just above the southern horizon. In Greek mythology Corvus, then white, was the god Apollo’s pet. Apollo once bid Corvus to take a cup and fetch him some water. Corvus however dallied and waited for a green fig to ripen. He grabbed a snake and returned with a story as to how the snake had delayed him. The angry Apollo turned the crow and all crows to this day black.

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

Addendum

Corvus-Crater-Hydra finder animation
Corvus-Crater-Hydra finder animation for 10:30 pm May 6. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

05/03/2021 – Ephemeris – The constellation of Virgo

May 3, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Monday, May 3rd. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 21 minutes, setting at 8:50, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:28. The Moon, at last quarter today, will rise at 3:52 tomorrow morning.

Tonight in the sky: to the southeast is the bright star Spica. Another way to find the star is to find the Big Dipper high overhead and follow the arc of the handle to the bright star Arcturus, and straighten the arc to a spike to meet Spica. It is in the constellation and member of the zodiac: Virgo the virgin. Virgo is a large constellation of a reclining woman holding a stalk of wheat. The bright star in the center of the constellation, 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. Ceres is now a dwarf planet and the root of the word cereal. Virgo is also identified as Astraea the goddess of justice. The constellation of Libra, the scales of justice, lies at her feet.

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

Addendum

Finding Virgo
Star hop from the Big Dipper through Arcturus to Spica and Virgo. Orientation for 10:30 pm. Created using Stellarium.

04/29/2021 – Ephemeris – A star cluster that seems out of place

April 29, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Thursday, April 29th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 10 minutes, setting at 8:45, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:33. The Moon, 3 days past full, will rise at 12:25 tomorrow morning.

Looking to the southeast these nights one can find the dim constellation of Coma Berenices, or Berenice’s hair. It’s located near the bottom of a triangle between Leo, Boötes the Big Dipper. It’s best seen on a moonless night as a sprinkling of faint stars that look like strands of hair. It is a star cluster some 271 light years away, the second-closest star cluster to the Earth, after the Hyades that marks the face of Taurus the bull, at about 160 light years. Coma Berenices is located at an odd spot for an open or galactic star cluster. It’s as far from the milky band as you can get. Most galactic star clusters are close or in that band. However, due to its closeness Coma Berenices is north of the solar system, as we both orbit the center of the Milky Way.

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

Addendum

Coma Berenices finder chart
Coma Berenices finder chart. Created using Stellarium.

Coma Berenices and the galactic pole
Coma Berenices and galactic coordinated showing how close to the galactic pole it is. Created using Cartes du Ciel

04/13/2021 – Ephemeris – Hydra slithers across the southern sky

April 13, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Tuesday, April 13th. Today the Sun will be up for 13 hours and 24 minutes, setting at 8:25, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:59. The Moon, 2 days past new, will set at 10:08 this evening.

In the southern evening sky can be found the constellation of Hydra the water snake. Unlike the monster of the same name this Hydra has but one head, which is its most distinctive part. At 10 p.m. look midway up the sky in the south-southwest. The head of Hydra is located below a line from the constellation Leo the Lion in the south and Gemini high in the west-southwest. Its head is directly below Cancer the crab in the southwest. Hydra’s head is a small but distinctive group of 6 stars that make a loop and the snake’s slightly drooping head. The rest of Hydra wends its way to the southeastern horizon, and eventually ends near the late spring constellation of Libra the scales. Over the next few hours Hydra will be seen slithering across the southern sky.

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

Addendum

Hydra the water snake finder animation at 10 pm tonight April 13, 2021. Cancer is mentioned in the text, but the upside down Y figure is not shown, though its stars are. Note that the stars of Hydra extend below the southeastern horizon beyond the Hydra drawing. Click on the image to enlarge it. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

04/08/2021 – Ephemeris – Ursa Major, the Great Bear

April 8, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Thursday, April 8th. Today the Sun will be up for 13 hours and 9 minutes, setting at 8:19, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:08. The Moon, 3 days before new, will rise at 6:37 tomorrow morning. | The constellation of Ursa Major, or great bear was well-known to the ancient Greeks and Native Americans. Today, however, many of us can recognize only part of it as the Big Dipper. The whole bear can be easily seen only in a dark sky. At 10 pm it’s high in the northeast with feet to the south. The stars in front of the bowl are the front part of his body and head. The bowl of the Big Dipper is his rump, and the handle his long tail. The Native Americans, saw those three stars as three hunters following the bear. The Anishinaabe tribes of the Great Lakes region saw it as the Fisher or Ojiig, who brought summer to the Earth. These stars here do make a convincing bear, except for the tail, when seen on a dark night. However, the weasel-like Fisher fits the stars completely.

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

Addendum

Ursa Major andOjiig animation
An animation to visualize the Great Bear, Ursa Major and the Fisher, Ojiig, from the stars of and around the Big Dipper. Created using Stellarium.

04/06/2021 – Ephemeris – The spring constellation of Leo

April 6, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Tuesday, April 6th. Today the Sun will be up for 13 hours and 3 minutes, setting at 8:17, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:12. The Moon, 2 days past last quarter, will rise at 5:48 tomorrow morning.

Tomorrow morning early risers will see the Moon near the planets Saturn and Jupiter. Specifically Jupiter, left of Saturn will be right above the waning crescent Moon.

Tonight however, will be a good time to check out Leo the celestial lion high in the southeast. His distinctive pattern of stars is a backward question mark, with the bright star Regulus as the dot on the bottom of it. It delineates the male lion’s head and mane. That pattern is also called the Sickle. While Leo is one of the official 88 constellations, the Sickle is an asterism, or informal constellation. Completing Leo is a triangle of stars below left of Regulus, his rump ending with the star Denebola, at the root of Leo’s tail. Leo is rich in mythology.

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

Addenda

Jupiter and the Moon tomorrow morning

Jupiter above the Moon, with Saturn to the upper right at 6:30 tomorrow morning, about 45 minutes before sunrise, April 7, 2021. Created using Stellarium.

Leo tonight

Find Leo the lion high in the southeast from the Big Dipper (in the upper left) at 10 pm by imagining a hole in the bottom of the dipper that lets the water drip out. It will fall on the back of Leo. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

03/11/2021 – Ephemeris – The Guardian of the Bear is rising

March 11, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Thursday, March 11th. Today the Sun will be up for 11 hours and 42 minutes, setting at 6:44, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:00. The Moon, 2 days before new, will rise at 7:09 tomorrow morning.

The brightest star of spring is Arcturus which will be visible by 9 pm low in the east-northeast. Arcturus can most famously be found by following the arc of the handle of the Big Dipper, which resides fairly high in the northeastern sky to it. “Follow the arc of the handle to Arcturus.” It’s the fourth or fifth brightest star in the sky, depending on the list. It was regarded as the “Guardian of the Bear”, meaning the Great Bear, Ursa Major, of which the Big Dipper is its hind end. Apparently it’s guarding its rear. Arcturus will stay in our evening sky until the end of summer and has a fascinating story of its own aside from its ancient mythology, which I’ll talk about when it’s higher in the sky. It’s located at the base of a kite shaped constellation called Boötes, which is now horizontal and too close to the horizon to be appreciated.

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

Addendum

Arcturus rising finder animation

Arcturus rising finder animation for 9 pm tonight, March 11, 2021. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

03/09/2021 – Ephemeris – A celestial warning to keep off thin ice

March 9, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Tuesday, March 9th. Today the Sun will be up for 11 hours and 35 minutes, setting at 6:41, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:03. The Moon, halfway from last quarter to new, will rise at 6:12 tomorrow morning.

The native Anishinaabe peoples of the Great Lakes Region, which includes the tribes of our area, have one constellation of winter I know of. It is The Wintermaker which uses many of Orion’s stars and whose arms stretch from Aldebaran in Taurus the bull to Procyon the Little Dog Star, embracing the whole of the winter sky. Now that spring is nearly here he is sinking into the west, losing to the heat of the Sun. The first constellation of spring is Curly Tail, or the Great Underwater Panther. It uses the stars of Leo the lion’s backward question mark as its curly tail and the small knot of stars that are the head of Hydra the water snake below Cancer the crab as its head. His warning: Keep off the thinning ice or break through and be snatched by the great panther that lives below.

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

Addendum

Great Underwater Panther finder animation

The Great Underwater Panther finder animation. Three frame animation of Unannotated sky, International Astronomical Union constellations, and Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) constellations of Curly Tail and Wintermaker. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium and GIMP. Additional credits below.

The time is set for the above image is 10 pm on March 9th.

The constellation art is part of the latest versions of Stellarium. Ojibwe (Anishinaabe) constellation art by Annette S Lee and William Wilson from Ojibwe Sky Star Map Constellation Guide, ISBN 978-0-615-98678-4. There is also an Ojibwe Sky Star Map poster suitable for framing.