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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.

06/18/2020 – 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.

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.

05/14/2020 – 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.

04/13/2020 – Ephemeris – The story of Callisto and Arcas or Ursa Major and Boötes

April 13, 2020 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Monday, April 13th. Today the Sun will be up for 13 hours and 25 minutes, setting at 8:26, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:59. The Moon, 1 day before last quarter, will rise at 3:09 tomorrow morning.

Appearing mid way up the sky in the east at 10 p.m. is the kite shaped constellation of Boötes the herdsman. The bright star Arcturus is at the bottom-right of the kite, pointed to by the arc of the handle of the Big Dipper, above it. In one Greek myth 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, unaware of the events surrounding his mother’s disappearance in his youth was about to kill the bear when Zeus intervened and placed them both in the sky to save her. To this day Boötes continues to chase the Great Bear, Ursa Major, around the pole of the sky each night.

The event 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

03/12/2020 – Ephemeris – The mythology behind the constellation of Gemini

March 12, 2020 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, March 12th. Today the Sun will be up for 11 hours and 46 minutes, setting at 7:45, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:57. The Moon, 3 days past full, will rise at 11:45 this evening.

Lets look at the next to last of the winter constellations, and member of the Zodiac. The constellation 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, nearly vertically aligned. Castor is above, Pollux below. From them can be traced two lines of stars extending toward Orion that outline the two. In Greek mythology the lads were half brothers, Castor was fathered by a mere mortal, while Pollux was fathered by Zeus in the famous Leda and the swan affair and immortal, 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 he 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

Gemini finder looking south-southeast around 9 p.m. March 10th, 2020. Created using Stellarium.

Castor and Pollux namesakes of Gemini

Castor and Pollux namesakes of the twins of Gemini in its position around 9 p.m. EDT March 12th. Created using Stellarium.

12/16/2019 – Ephemeris – Taurus Treasures

December 16, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, December 16th. Today the Sun will be up for 8 hours and 49 minutes, setting at 5:03, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:14. The Moon, 3 days before last quarter, will rise at 9:59 this evening.

Rising in the east-southeast now is the bright star Aldebaran an orange star that’s at one end of the sideways letter V of stars that is the head of Taurus the bull. Above it is the jewel-like Pleiades or Seven Sisters star cluster. There’s more to Taurus, like it’s freakishly long horns and front part of its body. But you can say you’ve seem Taurus, if you can spot his face. That V of stars is actually a star cluster called the Hyades, the closest to the Earth, and in Greek Myth were the half-sisters of the Pleiades, also fathered by the god Atlas. Both the Hyades and Pleiades are being pursued by Orion, which is below it. He isn’t the only one following the Pleiades, the name Aldebaran means “The Follower”.

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

Addendum

the Hyades, Taurus, Orion and the Pleiades

An animation showing the Hyades, Taurus, Orion and the Pleiades. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

Hyades and Pleiades

The Pleiades (right) and the Hyades (left) in this photograph I took January 4, 2016.

 

11/26/2019 – Ephemeris – The Pleiades in mythology

November 26, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, November 26th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 12 minutes, setting at 5:06, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:54. The Moon is new today, and won’t be visible.

Let’s look at how some other cultures saw the Pleiades, the star cluster that is seen in the eastern sky these evenings. To the Anishinaabe native peoples around here the Pleiades is the “Hole in the Sky” or the seven stones that are heated for the sweat lodge ceremony. To the Kiowa these were sister stars that had been whisked into the sky from the top of Devils Tower in Wyoming where they were threatened by a huge bear. In Norse mythology these were the goddess Freya’s hens. The name we know them by has rather misty origins. Some think the Greek name is from the mother of the seven sisters, Pleione. The Greek word for sail is similar to Pleiades, and some suggested that the appearance of the Pleiades in the morning sky signaled the best sailing weather in the Mediterranean region. (12/16/2016 – Ephemeris – The Pleiades in the mythology of many cultures)

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

Addendum

The Pleiades, about what you'd see in binoculars.

The Pleiades, about what you’d see in binoculars.

Greek Pleiades

The Greek Pleiades a painting by Elihu Vedder in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. Public Domain.

Devil's Tower

Seven maidens being attacked by a giant bear, having fled to the top of Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. Painting by Herbert Collins, http://www.nps.gov/deto

Categories: Ephemeris Program, Mythology Tags:

10/29/2019 – Ephemeris – Finding the Pleiades or Seven Sisters

October 29, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, October 29th. Today the Sun will be up for 10 hours and 19 minutes, setting at 6:36, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:17. The Moon, 2 days past new, will set at 7:57 this evening.

A marvelous member of the autumn skies can be found low in the east northeast after 9 in the evening. It is the famous star cluster called the Pleiades or the Seven Sisters. I might also add the ‘Tiny Dipper’. Many people can spot a tiny dipper shape in its six or seven stars, and mistake it for the Little Dipper. When I was nearsighted, though corrected, I never had been able to see more than a few stars and a bit of fuzz. However with binoculars, even I can see over a hundred stars appear along with the dipper shape of the brightest. The fuzz I saw was unresolved stars, but in photographs the Pleiades actually contain wisps of the gas they are passing through currently. In Greek mythology the sisters were daughters of the god Atlas.

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

Addendum

Pleiades finder animation

Finding the Pleiades animation for 9 p.m. October 29, 2019. The Pleiades is surrounded by constellations I’ve described earlier this year and one yet to be described, Taurus the bull of which the cluster is a part.  The V of stars near the horizon is Taurus’ head and is another star cluster, the Hyades, the half sisters to the Pleiades. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

The Pleiades, about what you'd see in binoculars.

The Pleiades, about what you’d see in binoculars, though not as brilliant.  One of my old photographs.  With my 11 inch f/4.5 Dobsonian using a 40mm eyepiece that gives a field of view that encompasses the Pleiades, all I can say is Wow!

Greek Pleiades

The Greek Pleiades a painting by Elihu Vedder in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. Public Domain.