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12/24/2019 – Ephemeris – Was this the star of Bethlehem?

December 24, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Christmas Eve, Tuesday, December 24th. Today the Sun will be up for 8 hours and 48 minutes, setting at 5:06, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:18. The Moon, 2 days before new, will rise at 7:41 tomorrow morning.

Many writers of the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD place Jesus’ birth around 2 BC, which had to be before Herod the Great’s death, which I suggest was in 1 BC marked by to a total lunar eclipse. So the Star of Bethlehem could appear several years later than the triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in 7 BC that’s been popular. In 3 and again in 2 BC there were star-like conjunctions or apparent joinings of the planets Jupiter and Venus against the backdrop of constellation of Leo the Lion. A lion is related to Judah, son of Jacob by a blessing the latter gave his 12 sons in Genesis. The first conjunction occurred in August of 3 BC in the morning sky. In June the next year the two planets got together again, this time in the evening sky, a month or more after Jesus would have been born in the lambing season of spring.

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

Addendum

August 12, 3 BC conjunction

Here is an animation created using Stellarium of Jupiter and Venus, the brighter of the two seeming to coalesce on August 12, 3 BC in the early morning twilight. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

The second appearance of the "Star"

On June 16th 2 BC, this time in the evening, Venus and Jupiter seem to coalesce as one, at least to the naked eye.  The first few frames contain the Sickle asterism of Leo the lion’s head and mane. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

I have much more information on this topic in my December 2, 2016 posting: https://bobmoler.wordpress.com/2016/12/02/12022016-ephemeris-my-talk-about-the-star-of-bethlehem-is-tonight/

06/17/2019 – Ephemeris – President Kennedy wanted to get us to the Moon… But how?

June 17, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, June 17th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 34 minutes, setting at 9:30, and it will rise tomorrow at 5:56. The Moon, at full today, will rise at 9:56 this evening.

President Kennedy’s Challenge to land “a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth” came only 20 days after Alan Shepard’s sub-orbital flight and 45 days after Yuri Gagarin’s orbital flight. To the NASA designers the question was how! Three scenarios were studied. The Moon direct approach where the spacecraft would be sent intact to the Moon and back which would take a really gigantic rocket. The Earth rendezvous where the spacecraft would be assembled in Earth orbit and then sent to the Moon. And the lunar orbit rendezvous where only part of the craft would be sent down to the lunar surface, while the main craft stayed in orbit of the Moon. After a lot of study the third option was accepted. It was up to project Gemini to develop the skills necessary to rendezvous and dock two spacecraft in orbit.

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

Addendum

How will we get to the Moon

Three flight techniques to land on the Moon. John Houbolt, who came up with the Lunar Orbit Rendezvous went through a lot of grief before his method was accepted in 1962. Credit: NASA.

Categories: Ephemeris Program, History, NASA Tags:

06/13/2019 – Ephemeris – Project Mercury

June 13, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, June 13th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 32 minutes, setting at 9:29, and it will rise tomorrow at 5:56. The Moon, 3 days past first quarter, will set at 4:23 tomorrow morning.

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon we’ll look at the first human space mission program, Mercury. It was taken over from the Air Force by the newly organized NASA space agency in 1958. It’s mission to launch a man in orbit, having him survive for at least a day and return him to the Earth. Alan Shepard crewed the first Mercury launch on a suborbital hop on May 5th, 1961, 25 days after the Soviet Union launched Yuri Gagarin on a single orbit of the Earth. On the third Mercury Launch John Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth in his Friendship 7 capsule. In all there were 6 flights in the Mercury program. Of the seven Mercury astronauts, only Deke Slayton never flew on Mercury for medical reasons buy flew in the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975.

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

Addendum

The 7 Mercury Astronauts

The seven Mercury astronauts were (from left) Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, Deke Slayton, Gus Grissom, John Glenn, Gordon Cooper and Scott Carpenter. Credits: NASA

The Mercury Capsule

The Mercury Capsule diagram. Not shown is the Retropack on the back of the heat shield held on by straps.  The Retropack contained solid rockets to slow the capsule so it can descend from orbit. Credit: NASA.

10/09/2018 – Ephemeris – Ada Lovelace Day

October 9, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Ada Lovelace Day, Tuesday, October 9th. The Sun will rise at 7:50. It’ll be up for 11 hours and 17 minutes, setting at 7:08. The Moon, 1 day past new, will set at 7:53 this evening.

Ada Lovelace Day is dedicated to Lord Byron’s daughter as the first computer programmer more than a century before the computer as we know it was invented. She worked with Charles Babbage as he designed his Analytical Engine, which would have been the world’s first truly general purpose computer, mechanical though it was.  The day is also dedicated to women in the STEM fields: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Two days from now, the 11th will be the International Day of the Girl, promoting the education and possibilities of 52% of the population that aren’t male. Some of the female astronomers I follow on Twitter are astrophysicist Dr. Katherine Mack as @AstroKatie, planetary radar astronomer Alessondra Springmann as @sondy, planetary scientist Carolyn Porco, @carolynporco. These are a few, and in my field of computer programming, I celebrate the late Admiral Grace Hopper.

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

Addendum

Ada Lovelace
Ada, Countess of Lovelace (1815-1852) considered the first computer programmer, even though the machine she wrote code for was never completed. Credit: Science & Society Picture Library
AnalyticalMachine
Trial model of a part of the Analytical Engine, built by Charles Babbage, as displayed at the Science Museum (London). By Bruno Barral (ByB), CC BY-SA 2.5.

The analytic Engine was designed to be programed with punch cards.

12/04/2015 – Ephemeris – Yours truly will survey ancient and pre-scientific cosmologies tonight

December 4, 2015 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, December 4th.  The Sun will rise at 8:02.  It’ll be up for 8 hours and 59 minutes, setting at 5:02.   The Moon, 1 day past last quarter, will rise at 2:09 tomorrow morning.

This evening’s meeting of the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society starting at 8 p.m. at Northwestern Michigan College’s Rogers Observatory will be a traditional December program.  This program alternates with a program on the Star of Bethlehem which will be revamped for next year.  This year I’m presenting Ancient Cosmologies, a look at the cosmologies or world views of many mostly pre-scientific cultures, including how the Biblical world view was influenced by one of them.  Then we’ll see the beginnings of Greek scientific thought that codified by Ptolemy in the second century AD, held sway for 1,500 years.   Also I’ll look at Monday’s occultation of Venus and Comet Catalina.  At 9 p.m. there will be a star party at the observatory with another program.  All are welcome.
I’ll post more on the Occultation of Venus on the blog tomorrow and Monday

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

12/05/2014 – Ephemeris – Search for the Star of Bethlehem will be presented tonight

December 5, 2014 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, December 5th.  The sun will rise at 8:03.  It’ll be up for 8 hours and 59 minutes, setting at 5:02.   The moon, 1 day before full, will set at 7:51 tomorrow morning.

The program In Search for the Star of Bethlehem, will be presented by yours truly at this evening’s meeting of the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society at Northwestern Michigan College’s Rogers Observatory starting at 8 p.m.  This is a scientific rather than a religious quest, however the only clues to the star’s existence are found in Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  400 years ago Johannes Kepler’s discovery of a special conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn that would have occurred about that time started the search.  Ancient Chinese records and ancient writers all contribute to the evidence.  The program will be followed at 9 p.m. by the last star party of the year.  The observatory’s located south of Traverse City on Birmley Road.

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

11/27/2014 – Ephemeris – The voyage of the Mayflower

November 27, 2014 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 27th.  The sun will rise at 7:54.  It’ll be up for 9 hours and 10 minutes, setting at 5:05.   The moon, 2 days before first quarter, will set at 10:51 this evening.

We are regaled with stories of the first Thanksgiving dinner between the Native Americans and the Pilgrims.  The Mayflower was headed for the Virginia Colony but were diverted by a storm.  Their first landfall in the New World was Newfoundland, where they picked up supplies.  Fulling intending to head south to Virginia, the passage became too hazardous, so they put into Cape Cod and there they stayed.  Back in those days the ship’s position was determined rather crudely.  Latitude was measured by the height of the north star and the sun at noon.  Distance and speed were measured with a log thrown overboard with a rope with knots in it.  The knots counted over a period of time gave the ship’s speed.

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

Addendum

Mayflower

Credit: Scholastic