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10/19/2018 – Ephemeris – Last 2018 outings for the GTAS this weekend

October 19, 2018 Leave a comment

Ephemeris for Friday, October 19th. The Sun will rise at 8:03. It’ll be up for 10 hours and 47 minutes, setting at 6:51. The Moon, 3 days past first quarter, will set at 3:32 tomorrow morning.

Clouds willing, the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society will host two events this weekend. The first is Saturday night on the sidewalk on the 200 block of Front Street in Traverse City. It’s the International Observe the Moon Night, celebrated around the world. The event will begin at 8 p.m. Again the sky has to be at least partially clear for this event to happen.

Sunday night, again skies willing, members of the society will be at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Dune Climb for the final star party of the year celebrating the 48th anniversary of the establishment of the park. On tap will be the Moon, Mars and Saturn plus some of the brighter wonders of the heavens including colorful binary stars and star clusters.

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

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10/18/2018 – Ephemeris – Halley’s Comet returns as the Orionids

October 18, 2018 Leave a comment

Ephemeris for Thursday, October 18th. The Sun will rise at 8:02. It’ll be up for 10 hours and 50 minutes, setting at 6:53. The Moon, 2 days past first quarter, will set at 2:32 tomorrow morning.

Halley’s Comet is back! (Pronounced Hall-ee’s) Well sorta. In the form of the Orionid meteor shower. Bits of Halley’s Comet from previous passes by the Earth’s orbit make their twice-yearly show in our skies as these bits collide with the Earth’s atmosphere. Halley’s orbit passes close to the earth’s orbit at points where the Earth is around May 6th and again near October 21st. Light dust and ionized gas get blown back into the tail of the comet. Heavier particles, still affected by the pressure of sunlight and the gravitational pull of the Sun and planets end up roughly following the comet’s orbit. In the morning after the Moon sets should be the best time to see them. They will seem to come from a spot above Orion and below Gemini.

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

Addendum

Halley's meteor shower
We get two meteor showers from Halley’s Comet. The Orionids, when Halley is approaching the inner solar system, and the Eta Aquariids when it’s leaving. Credit my LookingUp program.

Orionid radiant
The Orionid Radiant is high in the south at 5 a.m. this weekend. Created using Stellarium.

10/17/2018 – Ephemeris – Where are the bright planets tonight?

October 17, 2018 Leave a comment

Ephemeris for Wednesday, October 17th. The Sun will rise at 8:00. It’ll be up for 10 hours and 53 minutes, setting at 6:54. The Moon, 1 day past first quarter, will set at 1:33 tomorrow morning.

Let’s look at the bright planets for tonight. Three of them are visible in the evening sky. Venus though still officially an evening planet sets before the Sun because it is south of the Sun’s path. Jupiter will be very low in the west-southwest as skies darken. It will set at 8:16 p.m. Saturn, the ringed planet, will start the evening low in the southwestern sky and will set at 10:39 p.m. Mars will be low in the south as the skies darken tonight. and is now 64.6 million miles (104.0 million km) away. Mars will be due south at 9:04 p.m., and it will set at 2:03 a.m. Tonight Mars will be east or left of the waxing gibbous Moon. Mars is picking up speed moving eastward, crossing the constellation of Capricornus this month.

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

Addendum

Evening Planets
The evening planets and the Moon at 7:45 p.m. October 17, 2018. Click on image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium.
Binocular Moon
The waxing gibbous Moon as it should appear tonight in binoculars. Created using Stellarium.
Telescopic Planets
Saturn and Mars with the same magnification at 7:45 p.m. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).
Planets and the Moon on a single night
Planets and the Moon at sunset and sunrise of a single night starting with sunset on the right on October 17, 2018. The night ends on the left with sunrise on the 18th. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using my LookingUp program.

10/16/2018 – Ephemeris – Soyuz failure makes for problems for the ISS

October 16, 2018 Leave a comment

Ephemeris for Tuesday, October 16th. The Sun will rise at 7:59. It’ll be up for 10 hours and 56 minutes, setting at 6:56. The Moon, at first quarter today, will set at 12:36 tomorrow morning.

Last Thursday the 11th a cosmonaut, Alexy Ovchinin and an astronaut, Nick Hague were launched toward the International Space Station by a Russian Soyuz rocket. At about the time the four first stage boosters separated from the second stage, something happened, and the capsule containing the men was weightless instead of being boosted by the second stage of the rocket. The Soyuz has an escape system, so the descent capsule separated from the protective shroud and the orbital module on top of it and the service module below it. To make a landing downrange. The men are safe, but the three persons in the ISS must return by mid-December, whether or not they are relieved as their Soyuz capsule cannot be safely flown after that.

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

Addendum

The above with the exception of the last line is what goes out on the 59 second length of my radio program.  What follows is a more complete explanation of the problems in store for the International Space Station as the Russians attempt to determine the cause of the failure, fix the problem and begin flying again.

Cosmonauts and astronauts visiting the International Space Station generally use the same Soyuz that brought them up and docked to the station to return to the Earth.  It happens that the reaction control thrusters used to orient the spacecraft use hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) as a monopropellant.  It decomposes into oxygen and steam when in contact with a catalyst to provide thrust.  However, hydrogen peroxide is unstable if left to itself, slowly decomposing.  This gives the Soyuz a useful lifetime of about 200 days on orbit.   The current crew of Sergey Prokopyev, Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor, and Alexander Gerst was launched from Baikonur, Kazakhstan on June 8, 2018.  The 200 days runs out in late December.  Their original scheduled return date was December 13th.

Scott Manley on YouTube has more information:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpqq0i4w_fM

10/15/2018 – Ephemeris – The Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa2 is exploring the asteroid Ryugu.

October 15, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, October 15th. The Sun will rise at 7:58. It’ll be up for 11 hours even, setting at 6:58. The Moon, 1 day before first quarter, will set at 11:43 this evening.

The Japanese asteroid sample return mission Hayabusa2 is in the midst of operations at the near-earth asteroid Ryugu. It dropped three rovers that hopped across its surface and later this month will take the first of three samples. Hayabusa means peregrine falcon in Japanese. It will stay at the asteroid until late next year, it then will make a year-long trip back to the Earth, landing in the Outback of Australia. NASA’s own OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission is currently approaching the near-earth asteroid Bennu. It will orbit the asteroid for over a year and can make up to three attempts to take a sample of the asteroid for return to Earth. It is to land at the Utah Test and Training Range in September of 2023.

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

Addendum

Hayabusa2 dropping a rover onto Ryugu
An artist’s rendering of Hayabusa2 dropping a rover onto Ryugu. Credit: JAXA/Akihiro Ikeshita.
Ryugu surface
A Hayabusa2 rover captured the surface of Ryugu mid-hop. Credit: JAXA.
OSIRIS-REx at Bennu
Artist’s view of OSIRIS-REx attempting to get a sample from Bennu. Credit: NASA.

10/12/2018 – Ephemeris – The Moon’s phases

October 12, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, October 12th. The Sun will rise at 7:54. It’ll be up for 11 hours and 8 minutes, setting at 7:03. The Moon, halfway from new to first quarter, will set at 9:31 this evening.

The Moon’s changing appearance over the month may seem to be mysterious at first glance. Maybe because one may think that the objects in the sky are somehow different from the familiar objects we see around us on the Earth. In ancient times, especially the Greeks thought that everything in the heavens halfway perfect and spotless. They explained the definite markings we see as the man-in-the-moon as a reflection of the Earth by a spotless Moon. The Moon’s phases are simply light and shadow on a ball in the sunlight. Sometimes, when the Moon appears in the daytime, take a small ball, like a golf ball and hold it up to the Moon, while the ball is also in sunlight, and the small ball will exhibit the same phase as the Moon.

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

Addendum

Moon phases
One of the best explanation diagrams of the Moon’s phases as it relates to the Earth and Sun. Click on the image to enlarge. Credit Wikimedia user Orion 8.
Moon ball
Demonstration of the Moon’s crescent phase with the Styrofoam moon ball we use for Project Astro held up to a light off of the frame to the right. The night side of the ball is illuminated a bit by the translucency of the ball, and the reflection off of my hand. Note the roughness of the ball is visible only at the terminator.
Moonball
Demonstration of the Moon’s gibbous phase with the Styrofoam moon ball we use for Project Astro held up to a light off of the frame to the right. The night side of the ball is illuminated a bit by the translucency of the ball, and the reflection off of my hand. Note the roughness of the ball is visible only at the terminator.

10/11/2018 – Ephemeris – Pegasus the aerobatic horse

October 11, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for International Day of the Girl, Thursday, October 11th. The Sun will rise at 7:53. It’ll be up for 11 hours and 11 minutes, setting at 7:05. The Moon, 3 days past new, will set at 8:56 this evening.

Rising ever higher in the east at as it gets dark around 9 p.m. can be found one of the great autumn constellations: Pegasus the flying horse of Greek myth. Its most visible feature is a large square of four stars, now standing on one corner. This feature, called the Great Square of Pegasus, represents the front part of the horse’s body. The horse is quite aerobatic because it is seen flying upside down. Remembering that fact, the neck and head is a bent line of stars extending from the right corner star of the square. Its front legs can be seen in a gallop extending to the upper right from the top star of the square. From the left star extend, not hind legs but the constellation of Andromeda, an important constellation in its own right.  The Anishinaabek peoples native to this region saw ab upright Moose (Mooz) here.

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

Addendum

Pegasus and the Moose
Pegasus-Moose animation. The Anishinaabek constellation moose’s antlers in this imagining use the stars of the Western constellation of Lacerta the lizard. Created using Stellarium and the GIMP.

The constellation art is part of the latest versions of Stellarium. Ojibwe (Anishinaabek) constellation art by Annette S Lee and William Wilson from Ojibwe Sky Star Map Constellation Guide, ISBN 978-0-615-98678-4.