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01/06/2023 – Ephemeris – Telescope Clinic tonight at the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society Meeting tonight

January 6, 2023 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Friday, January 6th. Today the Sun will be up for 8 hours and 57 minutes, setting at 5:17, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:19. The Moon, at full today, will rise at 4:47 this evening.

The Grand Traverse Astronomical Society will hold their monthly meeting tonight with their annual Telescope Clinic, at 8 pm at Northwestern Michigan College’s Rogers Observatory. This is a chance to bring in that new Christmas telescope or even that old telescope gathering dust in the attic to learn how to use it. The society telescope experts will help in instruction and, if need be, adjustments to make the telescope work properly. In the past few years, the society has donated telescopes to public libraries in the region for patrons to check out and use. This is another way in which to learn to use a telescope and enjoy the sky at night. The observatory is located south of Traverse City on Birmley Road, south of Hammond, and between Garfield and Keystone roads. There will, if it’s clear after the meeting, be a star party or observing period using the observatory telescopes.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EST, UT –5 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

A Library Telescope

This is the type of telescope that the GTAS is donating to local libraries to lend out. The telescope can be set up on a table. The device on top is a red-dot finder. Looking through it will place a red dot on the object it’s pointed to. It has no magnification of its own. The telescope has a 4.5 inch diameter mirror, which produces a brighter image than the skinny refractor telescopes sold in most stores. The telescope eyepiece is a zoom type, so there is no need to remove it or change eyepieces to change magnification. The magnification range is from approximately 20 to 60 times (power). This is plenty for most objects in the sky, including the Moon, Jupiter and Saturn. Mars is a challenge for even the largest of amateur astronomer’s telescopes. Even then it’s best seen for a few months every 26 months.

The GTAS has a library telescope program where they donate small telescopes to local libraries to lend out. These are small tabletop telescopes with a 4.5 inch aperture. The telescope type is that invented by Sir Isaac Newton. In a telescope, magnification is secondary and usually variable. The real power of a telescope is light gathering power, the ability to gather in light to see objects too dim to be seen with the naked eye. Also, a telescope’s ability to see fine detail is tied to the telescope’s aperture or diameter of its primary mirror or lens. That’s not magnification, but the ability to use higher power to produce crisp images, rather than fuzzy ones.

12/02/2022 – Ephemeris – Astronomical events tonight and tomorrow in Traverse City

December 2, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Friday, December 2nd. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 2 minutes, setting at 5:03, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:02. The Moon, 2 days past first quarter, will set at 3:07 tomorrow morning.

We have a big astronomy and space weekend starting tonight at 8 pm I’ll be giving a talk about the Star of Bethlehem at Northwestern Michigan College’s Rogers Observatory located south of Traverse City on Birmley Road, with observing at 9 pm, clouds permitting. This is part of the December meeting of the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society. Tomorrow is NASA Family Day at the Dennos Museum Center. There are fun activities at 1 pm, making comets and exploring the phases of the Moon. At 2 pm, Dr. Jerry Dobek from NMC and the GTAS will be giving a talk at the Milliken Auditorium. Museum admission is waived for the event, which is to celebrate the Museum’s having a NASA Kiosk through the end of the month.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EST, UT –5 hours). They may be different for your location.

11/12/2022 – Ephemeris Extra – Family Night at the Rogers Observatory is Canceled

November 12, 2022 Comments off

We’re getting lake effect snow, which means clouds, too. So there is no hope for observing tonight.

Our next events will be

December 2: Grand Traverse Astronomical Society monthly meeting at 8 pm – the presentation Searching for the Star of Bethlehem by yours truly. There will be observing after the meeting if it is clear. This will be at Northwestern Michigan College’s Rogers Observatory.

December 3: Family Day at the Dennos Museum Center on the Northwestern Michigan College campus starting at 1 pm with hands-on activities and a presentation at 2 pm. This is in celebration of the NASA Kiosk at the Museum through December. The Museum admission fee is waived for Family Day.

11/11/2022 – Ephemeris – Family Night at the Rogers Observatory tomorrow night

November 11, 2022 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Veterans Day, Friday, November 11th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 44 minutes, setting at 5:18, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:35. The Moon, 3 days past full, will rise at 7:15 this evening.

Tomorrow evening the 12th, the Northwestern Michigan College’s Rogers Observatory will hold a Family Night starting at 8 pm, but only if it’s clear or mostly clear. Visible in telescopes will be the waning gibbous Moon, and the planets Jupiter, its cloud bands and four of its moons, and Saturn with its rings and its large moon Titan. The observatory is on Birmley road, south of Traverse City. It can be reached from either Garfield or Keystone roads. This is in celebration of the NASA Kiosk that’s at the Dennos Museum Center through December. There will also be a special Family Day with activities at the Museum Center on December 3rd.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EST, UT – 5 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

One of the problems of scheduling an observing event is the inability to guarantee clear skies. And looking at the family night, 48 hours away from when I’m writing this, the weather forecast is for snow, and temperatures near freezing for Saturday, and Saturday and for the next few days. It looks like we’re getting our first real taste of winter. I will post the status of the event on the gtastro.org website several hours before the event on Saturday, and also on this blog as an Ephemeris Extra post.

11/04/2022 – Ephemeris – The GTAS meeting topic tonight is the history of the constellations

November 4, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Friday, November 4th. The Sun will rise at 8:24. It’ll be up for 10 hours and 2 minutes, setting at 6:27. The Moon, 3 days past first quarter, will set at 5:06 tomorrow morning.

Tonight at 8 pm, the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society (GTAS) will have their monthly 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 The History of the Constellations. From time immemorial, people have looked at the night sky and tried to give meaning to the random scattering of stars on the dome of the sky. The official constellations of the International Astronomical Union in most cases date back to the Babylonians, and Greeks. 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. All are welcome.

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

Summer Constellations showing stars, lines, boundaries, and figures in succession. Click on the image to enlarge it and be able to read the labels. This image shows the stars and planets three years ago in 2019, when Jupiter and Saturn were seen against the summer constellations. Slow poke Saturn has moved into eastern Capricornus. Jupiter is just off the left of the image in Pisces. The head of one of the fish is seen there. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

Autumn Star Story Constellations

The constellations of the great star story of autumn. Looking southeast on October 31 at 10 p.m. Not all the constellations in this area are shown. Created using Stellarium.

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

October 7, 2022 Comments off

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.