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10/07/2022 – Ephemeris – Learn about the Sun tonight and view the Moon on Saturday

October 7, 2022 Leave a comment

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Friday, October 7th. Today the Sun will be up for 11 hours and 24 minutes, setting at 7:12, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:49. The Moon, 2 days before full, will set at 6:08 tomorrow morning.

Tonight at 8 pm, the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society will have an in-person meeting at Northwestern Michigan College’s Rogers Observatory. The meeting will also be available via Zoom. The program will be presented by Mary Gribbin who has been observing the sun through her special solar telescope. She’ll describe the features visible with a solar telescope. If it’s clear, there will be a star party following the meeting. The observatory is located south of Traverse City off Birmley Road, between Garfield and Keystone roads. A Zoom link is available at gtastro.org. There will be a Moon and star party at the Sleeping Bear Dunes, Dune Climb tomorrow starting at 8 pm. That may be our last of the year out there. 2023 promises to have a full slate of star parties out there.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EDT, UT – 4 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Excerpt from the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore calendar posting:

“These events will be cancelled if the sky is not visible due to weather conditions. The decision to cancel is usually made either three hours in advance or by 4:30 p.m. the day prior to the event. Please call park rangers at 231-326-4700, ext. 5005, for a voicemail message with the decision. For the early morning and late evening astronomy events, bring a flashlight for the walk to and from the event. Park rangers and GTAS staff will wear red glow bracelets at the events. For more information about the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society, go to http://www.gtastro.org/.“

 

09/30/2022 – Ephemeris – View the Sun and Moon tomorrow in the Grand Traverse Area!

September 30, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Friday, September 30th. Today the Sun will be up for 11 hours and 45 minutes, setting at 7:25, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:40. The Moon, 2 days before first quarter, will set at 9:57 this evening.

There are two observing sessions tomorrow in the Traverse City area with the assistance of the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society. First at the Dennos Museum Center grounds, from 2 to 4 pm, there will be telescopes to safely view the Sun. The Sun’s eleven-year sunspot cycle is getting active again. There will be telescopes to see those sunspots, and special solar hydrogen alpha telescopes to view the Sun’s chromosphere and any prominences above the Sun that day. From 8 to 10 pm, Northwestern Michigan College’s Rogers Observatory will be open for International Observe The Moon Night. There will also be a telescope on the 200 Block of East Front Street to observe the Moon during this time. Of course, all this is contingent on clear or mostly clear skies.

Update: It’s supposed to be nice this weekend, after a week of cold and rain.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EDT, UT – 4 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Later today I’ll add a Moon Map for tomorrow evening and what the Sun looks like today, which should give a clue to what’s happening on the Sun now.

Sun in white light (How we normally see it with a solar filter)

Sun in white light

The Sun in white light, by the Solar Dynamics Observatory on September 30, 2022. What is seen is the photosphere, the visible “surface” of the Sun, where the energy transport from the interior changes from convection to radiation. The apparent roughness of the surface are the tops of the convection cells, called granules, which are usually about 600 miles wide that bubble up and recede. The numbers label active areas. The dark spots are sunspots, areas of intense magnetic activity. Brighter wispy or splotchy areas are faculae and are associated with sunspots or precursors of a new group forming.  The rotation of the Sun will move the surface features from left to right in this image with north up. Telescopes may show the image upside down or mirror reversed. Click on the image to enlarge it. Credit NASA/SDO.

Sun in the light of the Hydrogen Alpha wavelength. Light absorbed and emitted by the hydrogen atom.

The Sun in Hydrogen-Alpha light

The Sun in Hydrogen-Alpha light, taken at 10:19 EDT today, September 30, 2022. It is in the same orientation as the SDO image above, but may have been taken at a different time of the day. This image was taken from the web page https://gong2.nso.edu/products/tableView/table.php?configFile=configs/hAlpha.cfg I colorized the image to show how it would look in a Hydrogen-Alpha telescope, of which we may have several, both the society’s and personal. The images may be dim since they select one narrow frequency of light from the broad spectrum of white light coming up from the photosphere. Its temperature is 10,000 degrees F. The thin dark markings are called filaments. These are the same thing as the bright prominences seen off the edge or limb of the Sun. Brighter areas of the chromosphere are called plages and are associated with active regions. The Chromosphere is a thin layer of the Sun’s atmosphere lying above the photosphere only 3,000 miles thick, and slightly hotter than the photosphere, its appearance is rougher than the granules of the photosphere. It reminds me of uneven, red grass that hasn’t been mown in a few weeks. They grow and recede in minutes. Sometimes a bright spot will appear in a sunspot group. These are solar flares and are caused by magnetic disruptions in sunspot groups. They last only a relatively few minutes but emit x-rays, electrons and protons as the most energetic explosions in the solar system. The x-rays arrive at Earth in 8 and a half minutes at the speed of light, the particles a day or two later will affect the Earth’s magnetic field if aimed in our direction, causing the aurora (northern and southern lights), and possibly disrupt communications and the power grid. On Earth, it’s called a geomagnetic storm.

The Moon for Saturday evening during the International Observe the Moon Night

The Moon as it should appear at 9 pm EDT, October 1st, 2022

The Moon as it should appear at 9 pm EDT, October 1st, 2022. The telescopic image would be sharper than this. Created using Virtual Moon Atlas.

Download page of maps from the Official 2022 International Observe the Moon Night website.

Images in astronomical telescopes produce images of various orientations. They may be right side up or upside down, mirror reversed or both. Telescopes with an odd number of mirrors produce mirror images. Astronomers are used to it, though they have a preferred orientation… The one their favorable telescope produces.

Come on out!

09/23/2022 – Ephemeris – Weather prospects look dim for a star party tomorrow night, but we won’t know for sure until we get closer

September 23, 2022 Comments off

Update: The Star Party has been Canceled

Here’s a deep dark secret:  Ephemeris programs are recorded the Sunday night for the week beginning Tuesday through the following Monday. However, the posting of the scripts here is generally done the night before the air date. From this vantage point, with the weather forecast not changing for the past week, it looks like we’ll be greeted with not only clouds but rain. The operative words in the post below are “weather permitting”, Which explains the headline.

This is Ephemeris for Friday, September 23rd. Today the Sun will be up for 12 hours and 7 minutes, setting at 7:38, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:32. The Moon, 2 days before new, will rise at 5:54 tomorrow morning.

Weather permitting, a star party will be held tomorrow night, Saturday, September 24th at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore at the Dune Climb starting at 8 pm. The star party will be hosted by the Park Rangers and members of the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society (GTAS), who will bring their telescopes to view the heavens, including the planets Jupiter and Saturn plus the wonders of the summer Milky Way. The telescopes will be set up in the parking area closest to the dune. Saturn will be available immediately, while we wait for Jupiter to rise higher. As it gets darker, more and more wonders of the Milky Way will be seen. They include star clusters and nebulae, clouds of gas and dust from which stars form, and which are expelled in the process of star death.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EDT, UT – 4 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

If you are not sure if it will be clear enough to hold the star party, please call the park rangers at 231-326-4700, ext. 5005, for a voicemail message with the decision. Alternately, gtastro.org, the GTAS website, will also display the status of the star party, and if it is canceled by 5 pm on Saturday the 24th.

Dune Climb Setup

This in the beginning of setup for the October 21, 2017 star party at the dune climb. Taken early, looking to the south-southwest, while there was enough light. The dune blocks up to 12 degrees from the southwest to northwest, but the rest of the horizon is quite low. Note the lone trees on the hill right of the top of the ladder. They are my targets to align my telescope’s finder. Once, while performing the alignment, a fog bank tumbled over that ridge and wiped it out for a time. It was eventually a good night.

We’ve had more than our share of iffy weather at or travelling to the site. A good share of GTAS members live in the Traverse City area, some 30 miles east of the park. More than a few of us, over the years, have driven through rain showers, on our way to the park, for a successful star party. Here’s a link to another night with iffy weather, this time with a lunar eclipse.

09/09/2022 – Ephemeris – Observe the Harvest Moon at the Sleeping Bear Dunes Saturday night (weather permitting)

September 9, 2022 Comments off

Update 9/10/2022, 6 pm: The weather does not permit it! We’ll have another, again weather permitting, on September 24th. This time with dark skies and a look at the summer Milky Way, two days after the end of summer. (It still counts).

This is Ephemeris for Friday, September 9th. Today the Sun will be up for 12 hours and 49 minutes, setting at 8:04, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:15. The Moon, 1 day before full, will set at 7:14 tomorrow morning.

Tomorrow night, September 10th, there will be, weather permitting, a star party at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, this will take place at the Dune Climb. Actually, it will be mostly a Moon and planet party. The event will be made possible by the rangers of the park and the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society. The society’s and member’s telescopes will take over the parking lot closest to the Dunes. The event starts at 8 p.m., near sunset, while it’s still light out and the location can be found. The Moon will join the party, rising at 8:41 pm. Oh, and it’s a supermoon. There will be a short talk about Harvest Moon lore and why it was important. See if you can find the Man in the Moon and the Chinese rabbit pounding medicine.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EDT, UT – 4 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

The Harvest Moon with Jupiter and Saturn

The Harvest Moon with Jupiter and Saturn at 9 pm, September 10, 2022. Created using Stellarium.

09/02/2022 – Ephemeris – Learn about our galactic neighbors and a star party tonight!

September 2, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Friday, September 2nd. Today the Sun will be up for 13 hours and 11 minutes, setting at 8:17, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:07. The Moon, 1 day before first quarter, will set at 11:18 this evening

Tonight at 9 pm, the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society will have an in-person meeting at Northwestern Michigan College’s Rogers Observatory. The meeting will also be available via Zoom. The program will be presented by Don Flegel, our Vice President, who is also working to get our large 25-inch telescope tracking again. The brains of the telescope are now in Australia being worked on, so hopefully it will be ready for next year. Anyway, his talk will be about our galactic neighbors. If it’s clear, there will be a star party following the meeting. The observatory is located south of Traverse City off Birmley Road, between Garfield and Keystone roads. A Zoom link will be available at gtastro.org before the meeting.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EDT, UT – 4 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

For the star party, the Moon, Jupiter and Saturn will be visible. Some of the brighter deep sky objects should also be available. Deep sky objects are what astronomers call telescopic objects beyond the solar system such as star clusters, nebulae (clouds of gas and dust from which stars form, or created by the death of stars). And most distant of all, galaxies, other Milky Ways. One such galaxy is the Great Andromeda Galaxy, visible tonight. Visually, in a telescope, only the core is bright enough to be seen. Photography will reveal it to be as wide as 6 full moons. Two of its satellite galaxies can also be spotted.

08/22/2022 – Ephemeris – Sleeping Bear Dunes Star Party tonight!

August 22, 2022 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Monday, August 22nd. Today the Sun will be up for 13 hours and 43 minutes, setting at 8:36, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:54. The Moon, 3 days past last quarter, will rise at 2:43 tomorrow morning.

Weather permitting, a star party will be held tonight at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore at the Dune Climb starting at 8 pm. The star party will be hosted by the park rangers and the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society, who will bring their telescopes to view the heavens, including the planet Saturn and the wonders of the summer Milky Way. The telescopes will be setup in the parking area closest to the dune. While as twilight fades Saturn will be about the only object to view, as it gets darker more and more wonders of the Milky Way will be seen. They include star clusters of both kinds: young open clusters of a few hundred stars sparkling like diamonds and great, ancient globular clusters of hundreds of thousands of stars. Jupiter will rise later in the evening, around 10 pm.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EDT, UT – 4 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Preparing to start the star party

Preparing to start the May star party, 6 years ago at the Dune Climb. A few of the telescopes are visible, including the GTAS 25 inch “Emmettron” telescope at the far right. Credit: Eileen Carlisle.

08/05/2022 – Ephemeris – Star Party tonight at the Joseph H. Rogers Observatory

August 5, 2022 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Friday, August 5th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 29 minutes, setting at 9:03, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:34. The Moon, at first quarter today, will set at 12:45 tomorrow morning.

Tonight, the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society will host a star party at Northwestern Michigan College’s Rogers Observatory from 10 pm to midnight, if it’s clear. The first quarter Moon, and the planet Saturn, will be seen. Toward the end of the evening, Jupiter will make an appearance. Saturn is always magnificent with its rings, and Jupiter with its moons and cloud bands. Also, visible will be some brighter wonders beyond the solar system. Nebulae, which are clouds of gas, and great clusters of stars. Views from one of the observatory telescopes will be available via Zoom, link at gtastro.org. Some society members will also bring their telescopes for displaying the sky for attending visitors. The observatory is located south of Traverse City on Birmley Road. The approach to the observatory from Keystone Road from the south may be blocked by the construction of a roundabout at the Keystone-Cass Rd intersection.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EDT, UT – 4 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Star party at the NMC Observatory

Telescopes set up by members of the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society at the back of Northwestern Michigan College’s Joseph H. Rogers Observatory on August 3, 2018. Credit mine.

This may be the first time since 2019 that members will set their telescopes out behind the observatory for a star party. The telescope in the small dome is the one used for Zoom views of the Moon and possibly Saturn. Saturn will be blocked by trees for most of the evening, except from the observatory dome which is high enough, so Saturn will clear the trees sooner.

The sky is forecast to be partly cloudy, whatever that means. The Clear Sky Chart for the observatory shows that it will be clear. There is also a possibility of haze from the forest fires out west, dimming the sky and making observation of deep sky objects more difficult.

Events of the evening:

The first quarter Moon will already be up and will set at 12:45 am
9:03 pm – sunset
9:24 pm – Saturn rises*
10:20 pm – Nautical twilight ends
11:02 pm – Jupiter rises*
11:07 pm – Astronomical twilight ends

* It may be at least a half hour after rising before the image of these planets become half way sharp, due to the great amount of atmosphere we are looking through to see them. The higher in the sky they are, the better they will appear.

07/22/2022 – Ephemeris – Saturday, weather permitting, there will be a star party at Sleeping Bear Dunes

July 22, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Pi Day number 2, Friday, July 22nd. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 1 minute, setting at 9:19, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:19. The Moon, 2 days past last quarter, will rise at 2:01 tomorrow morning.

What’s Pi Day number 2? In the European way to write the date: 22 July or 22/7, the improper fraction that approximates pi, the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.

On to astronomical matters: Tomorrow night July 23rd there will be, weather permitting, a star party at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, this will take place at the Dune Climb. The star party is made possible by the rangers of the park and the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society. The society’s and member’s telescopes will take over the parking lot closest to the Dunes The event starts at 9 p.m., while it’s still light out and the location can be found. The park rangers will leave at 11, while the society members will stay longer.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EDT, UT – 4 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Excerpt from the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore calendar posting for August 23:

“These events will be cancelled if the sky is not visible due to weather conditions. The decision to cancel is usually made either three hours in advance or by 4:30 p.m. the day prior to the event. Please call park rangers at 231-326-4700, ext. 5005, for a voicemail message with the decision. For the early morning and late evening astronomy events, bring a flashlight for the walk to and from the event. Park rangers and GTAS staff will wear red glow bracelets at the events. For more information about the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society, go to http://www.gtastro.org/. “

Preparing to start the star party

Preparing to start a star party at the Dune Climb in a year before COVID. A few of the telescopes are visible, including the GTAS 25 inch “Emmettron” telescope at the far right. Credit: Eileen Carlisle.

Celestial events that night at the Dune Climb:

9:17 pm – Sunset (Sun will set behind the dune by around 8 pm)
9:57 pm – ISS* pass: highest 24° altitude in the north, moving from WNW to ENE.
10:00 pm – Brighter stars are visible. Telescopes can start to show the brighter binary stars.
10:20 pm – Saturn rises in the east-southeast. The sharpness of its image will improve as it rises higher in the sky.
10:33 pm – Nautical twilight ends. The brighter deep sky objects (DSOs**) become visible in telescopes. The Milky Way begins to show.
11:31 pm – ISS pass: highest 43° north-northeast, moving from NW to ENE
11:33 pm – Astronomical twilight ends. The sky is now completely dark.

* ISS – International Space Station. Start to look for it 2-3 minutes before this time. It will be at its brightest at its highest altitude.

** Deep Sky Objects – Telescopic objects beyond the solar system. They include star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies. Though that night, the only galaxy visible will be the Milky Way.

Click here for the definitions of the types of twilight.

07/01/2022 – Ephemeris – GTAS meeting and star party tonight

July 1, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Friday, July 1st. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 30 minutes, setting at 9:32, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:01. The Moon, 3 days past new, will set at 11:44 this evening.

Tonight at 9 pm, the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society will have an in-person meeting at Northwestern Michigan College’s Rogers Observatory. The meeting will also be available via Zoom. Becky Shaw returns with a program Famous international and national observatories. I’m not sure which observatories she’s selected, but there are many, not just optical, but radio, infrared, and in space: Hubble, and the soon to become operational James Webb Space Telescope. If it’s clear, there will be a star party following the meeting. The observatory is located south of Traverse City off Birmley Road, between Garfield and Keystone roads. A Zoom link will be available at gtastro.org before the meeting.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EDT, UT – 4 hours). They may be different for your location.

06/03/2022 – Ephemeris – GTAS Astronomy meeting tonight explores women of science

June 3, 2022 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Friday, June 3rd. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 23 minutes, setting at 9:23, and it will rise tomorrow at 5:58. The Moon, halfway from new to first quarter, will set at 1:11 tomorrow morning.

Tonight at 9 pm, the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society will have an in-person meeting at Northwestern Michigan College’s Rogers Observatory. The meeting will also be available via Zoom. The program will be presented by Becky Shaw. Her presentation will be An Encore to the Women of Science. Becky’s programs have always feature historic women of science, from Hypatia of ancient Alexandria to Cecilia Payne’s historic discovery of the elemental makeup of stars 100 years ago. If it’s clear, there will be a star party following the meeting. The observatory is located south of Traverse City off Birmley Road, between Garfield and Keystone roads. A Zoom link will be available at gtastro.org before the meeting.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EDT, UT – 4 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

This meeting will mark the 40th anniversary of the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society. I hear someone might be bringing 40 cupcakes to celebrate.

Three of the female astronomers and planetary scientists I follow on Twitter are:

Alessondra Springmann @sondy, Planetary scientist
Dr. Katie Mack, @AstroKatie, Theoretical astrophysicist, Author of The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking)
Dr Carolyn Porco, @carolynporco, Planetary scientist

There are lots more in all the science disciplines.