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10/04/2017 – Ephemeris – Where are the bright planets tonight?

October 4, 2017 1 comment

Ephemeris for Wednesday, October 4th. The Sun will rise at 7:44. It’ll be up for 11 hours and 32 minutes, setting at 7:17. The Moon, 1 day before full, will set at 7:21 tomorrow morning.

Let’s take our weekly look at the bright planets. Jupiter, for all intents and purposes is gone from the evening sky. It will cross into the morning sky later this month. Saturn too is sinking lower in the southwestern sky in the evening. Saturn’s rings are still spectacular in telescopes, but since Saturn is so low in the sky the turbulence of the thick atmosphere makes Saturn fuzzy and seemingly to go in and out of focus. Saturn will set at 10:43 p.m.

In the morning sky, brilliant Venus will rise at 5:11 a.m. in the east with much dimmer Mars below and right of it by half the width of the Moon. Mars is less than 100th the brightness of Venus, and will probably require binoculars to locate. (need a few words more)

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

Addendum

Saturn and the Moon in the evening

Saturn and the Moon in the evening at 8 p.m. October 4, 2017. Created using Stellarium.

Saturn and moons

Saturn and its brightest moons overnight October 4/5, 2017. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

Binocular Moon

The Moon as it might be seen in binoculars, 8 p.m. October 4, 2017. Created using Stellarium.

Members of the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society and I are invited to the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival being held for the Chinese exchange students in the Traverse City school system.  Its held on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar, the full moon, which works out to be October 4th this year.  They will be having Chinese food and viewing the Moon afterward.

One of the legends celebrated then will be the Jade Rabbit pounding medicine.  Jade Rabbit (Yutu) is the name of the Chinese rover that’s on the Moon.  And the Jade Rabbit can actually be seen on the Moon:

Jade Rabbit on the Moon

Jade Rabbit and Mortar on the Moon. Credit: Zeimusu, Creative Commons.

I hope they have Moon Cakes.  They sound yummy.

A closeup of Venus and Mars

A closeup of Venus and Mars at 6:30 a.m. October 5, 2017. Created using Stellarium.

Planets and the Moon on a single night

Planets at sunset and sunrise of a single night starting with sunset on the right on October 4, 2017. The night ends on the left with sunrise on the 5th. The full Moon has fallen in the cracks between the sunset and sunrise charts due to its position south of the ecliptic. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using my LookingUp program.

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09/18/2017 – Ephemeris – The constellation of the shield

September 18, 2017 1 comment

Ephemeris for Monday, September 18th. The Sun will rise at 7:25. It’ll be up for 12 hours and 21 minutes, setting at 7:46. The Moon, 2 days before new, will rise at 6:35 tomorrow morning.

In the evening sky, in the south after it gets dark can be seen part of the Milky Way. There is actually a constellation here located between Sagittarius the archer, which really looks like a teapot, below and Aquila the eagle above. It’s Scutum the shield of John Sobieski the Polish king who stopped the advance of the Turks at Kalenberg in 1683. Scutum is the only official constellation I know of which is related to a real person. The Polish half of me is very proud. However the stars here are so dim and embedded in the glow of the Milky Way as to be nearly impossible to discern. Scutum lies in one of the richest portions of the Milky Way, wonderful to scan with binoculars and telescopes for star clusters and nebulae or clouds of dust and gas.

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

Addendum

Scutum Finder Chart

Scutum Finder Chart animation. For 9 p.m. September 18, 2017. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.  Click on image to enlarge.

DSOs in Scutum

Deep sky objects in Scutum and surrounding area. September 2017. Created using Stellarium.  Click on image to enlarge.

09/11/2017 – Ephemeris – The celestial dolphin and an arrow

September 11, 2017 1 comment

Ephemeris for Monday, September 11th. The Sun will rise at 7:16. It’ll be up for 12 hours and 43 minutes, setting at 8:00. The Moon, 2 days before last quarter, will rise at 11:27 this evening.

Located below the eastern edge of the Summer Triangle of three of the brightest stars in the sky, which is high in the east to overhead in our sky at 9 p.m., is the tiny constellation of Delphinus the dolphin. Delphinus’ 6 stars in a small parallelogram with a tail, really does look like a dolphin leaping out of the water. The parallelogram itself has the name Job’s Coffin. The origin of this asterism or informal constellation is unknown. Of the dolphin itself: the ancient Greeks appreciated this aquatic mammal as we do, and told stories of dolphins rescuing shipwrecked sailors. There’s another tiny constellation to the right of Delphinus, Sagitta the arrow a small thin group of 5 stars, which represents Cupid’s dart.

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

Addendum

Delphinus and Sagitta finder animation

Delphinus and Sagitta finder animation. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.  Click on image to enlarge.

07/24/2017 – Ephemeris – The celestial scorpion

July 24, 2017 1 comment

Ephemeris for Monday, July 24th. The Sun rises at 6:20. It’ll be up for 14 hours and 56 minutes, setting at 9:16. The Moon, 1 day past new, will set at 10:12 this evening.

Crawling just above the southern horizon at 11 p.m. is the zodiacal constellation of Scorpius the scorpion. His heart is the red giant star Antares. Its facing the west or right with a short arc of three stars as its head. His body and tail drop to the left and scrape the horizon before curving up to the critter’s poisonous stinger of two stars. It really makes a great scorpion. One story of the scorpion concerns Orion the hunter the great winter constellation. In that story Orion was killed by the sting of a scorpion. Therefore Orion and Scorpius are never seen in the sky at the same time. That is certainly true around here and for the Greeks, whose legend it is. However if one travels far enough south that is no longer true.

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

Addendum

Scorpius

Scorpius finder chart for 10:30 p.m., July 24, 2017. Created using Stellarium, which has a bug in the newest version and is also showing Ophiuchus.

07/18/2017 – Ephemeris – The constellation of Ophiuchus the serpent bearer

July 18, 2017 1 comment

Ephemeris for Tuesday, July 18th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 7 minutes, setting at 9:22, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:15. The Moon, 2 days past last quarter, will rise at 2:47 tomorrow morning.

Saturn and the red star Antares shine in the south at 11 p.m. In the area of sky above them lies a large constellation of faint stars called Ophiuchus, the serpent bearer. Ophiuchus represent the legendary physician Aesculapius. The constellation shape is like a large bell, which reminds me of the head, shoulders and arms of a fellow that’s holding the snake like a weight lifter struggling to pull up a heavy barbell. Serpens, the constellation of the serpent is in the sky in two sections. The front end lies to the right as Serpens Caput, and wends its way up the right side of Ophiuchus. Serpens Cauda, the tail rises to the left of Ophiuchus. It’s a rewarding sight, and not that hard to spot.

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

Addendum

Animated Ophiuchus finder

Animated Ophiuchus finder chart. Unfortunately the program doesn’t isolate Ophiuchus and Serpens, but also displays Scorpius and Lupus the wolf peeking over the horizon. Created using Stellarium.  Click on the image to enlarge.

07/14/2017 – Ephemeris – Constellations of the Summer Triangle II: Cygnus the swan

July 14, 2017 1 comment

Ephemeris for Friday, July 14th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 14 minutes, setting at 9:25, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:11. The Moon, 2 days before last quarter, will rise at 12:32 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 times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

The Summer Triangle July 5, 2012 at 11 p.m. Created using Stellaruim and The Gimp.

The Summer Triangle. Created using Stellarium and The Gimp.

Cygnus finder animation

Animated Cygnus finder chart. Created using Stellarium.

In mythology Cygnus was the form Zeus took in the Leda and the swan affair.  Out of that union was born Pollux of Gemini fame.  His half-brother and twin Castor was fathered by a mere mortal.  Go here for their story.

Alberio is the star that shows in Cygnus’ eye.  In telescopes of even low power Alberio shows as a binary star whose components are distinctly and beautiful blue and gold.  Binoculars are not quite powerful enough to split these two.

07/13/2017 – Ephemeris – Constellations of the Summer Triangle I: Lyra the harp

July 13, 2017 1 comment

Ephemeris for Thursday, July 13th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 16 minutes, setting at 9:26, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:10. The Moon, 3 days before last quarter, will rise at 12:02 tomorrow morning.

Very high up in the eastern sky 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, member of the Summer Triangle and one of the twenty one brightest first magnitude stars. Vega is actually the 5th brightest night-time star. The harp, according to Greek mythology, was invented by the Greek 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 great musician Orpheus. The Sun’s motion with respect to most stars around it is towards the vicinity of Lyra.

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

Addendum

The Summer Triangle July 5, 2012 at 11 p.m. Created using Stellaruim and The Gimp.

The Summer Triangle. Created using Stellarium.

Annimated Lyra finder chart

Animated Lyra finder chart. The lyre image not supplied by Stellarium but is from The World’s Earliest Music by Hermann Smith, a Project Gutenberg E book, figure 60, captioned “The Chelys or Greek Tortoiseshell Lyre”. Image created using Stellarium and GIMP.