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12/05/2016 – Ephemeris – The planet’s name is Dagon

December 5, 2016 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, December 5th.  The Sun will rise at 8:04.  It’ll be up for 8 hours and 57 minutes, setting at 5:02.  The Moon, 2 days before first quarter, will set at 11:02 this evening.

The lonely bright star low in the south-southwest at 8 p.m. these evenings is Fomalhaut the harbinger of autumn in my book, and about to leave as winter approaches.  Fomalhaut means fishes mouth and is located at the head of Piscis Austrinus, a very dim constellation.  Fomalhaut is a young white star only about 400 million years old with a disk of dust surrounding it.  Near an outer dust ring, 14 years ago the Hubble Space Telescope discovered a spot.  Four years later astronomers discovered that the spot moved along the dust lane and announced the first direct discovery of an exoplanet.  In 2010 and 2012 the planet now dubbed Fomalhaut b or Dagon was observed again and it really does orbit Fomalhaut in a very eccentric orbit.

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

Addendum

Fomalhaut b

The track of observations of Fomalhaut b or Dagon in 2004, 2006, 2010 and 2012. Credit: NASA and ESA.

10/05/2015 – Ephemeris – The loneliest star

October 5, 2015 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, October 5th.  The Sun will rise at 7:45.  It’ll be up for 11 hours and 31 minutes, setting at 7:16.   The Moon, 1 day past last quarter, will rise at 1:38 tomorrow morning.

There’s a bright and lonely star that appears low in the south for only seven and a half hours a night on autumn evenings.  It’s appearance is a sign as sure as the falling leaves that autumn is here  At 10 p.m. tonight it’s low in the south-southeast.  The star’s name is Fomalhaut, which means fish’s mouth.  This is appropriate because it’s in the constellation of Piscis Austrinus, the southern fish.  At our latitude it’s the fish that got away, because Fomalhaut appears to be quite alone.  The dimness of the constellation’s other stars and location close to the horizon make the fainter stars hard to spot.  The earth’s thick atmosphere near the horizon reduces the stars brightness by a factor of two or more, so Fomalhaut appears to keep a lonely vigil in the south.

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

Addendum

Fomalhaut

Fomalhaut appears quite alone in the south-southeast at about 10 p.m. Created using Stellarium.

Actually Fomalhaut isn’t all that alone,  It apparently has a companion planet.

Fomalhaut b

Fomalhaut b and it’s path around its star. Credit: NASA, ESA, and P. Kalas (University of California, Berkeley and SETI Institute)