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12/22/2022 – Ephemeris – Hunting for the Star of Bethlehem: When did Herod the Great Die – Part 2

December 22, 2022 1 comment

This is Ephemeris for Thursday, December 22nd. Today the Sun will be up for 8 hours and 48 minutes, setting at 5:05, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:17. The Moon, 1 day before new, will rise at 8:56 tomorrow morning.

According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus was born in the last years of the reign of Herod the Great, and the Jewish historian Josephus puts Herod’s death shortly after an eclipse of the Moon. There may have been an error in the Josephus history that has been propagated since the middle of the 16th century, that when corrected shifts the eclipse in question forward three years to 1 BCE. The conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn of 7 BCE would be four years too early. Under this scenario, Jesus would have been born in the spring of 2 BCE, the time of year when shepherds would indeed be out at night with their flocks, because this was lambing season. What the Magi would have seen was, on two occasions, the planets Venus and Jupiter appear to merge into a single star.

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

Timeline of events surrounding the Nativity

This is a timeline I developed of the events surrounding the Birth of Jesus. On the top line in yellow are the two eclipses of the Moon that occurred in the time period we’re interested in: 4 BCE and 1 BCE. One of then was the eclipse Josephus mentions that occurred shortly before the death of Herod the Great, who was alive to greet the Magi, who came to Jerusalem seeking the newborn King of the Jews. The second line highlights 3 and 2 BCE that the early Christian writers Irenaeus, Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria based Jesus’ birth year to Roman events which can be pegged to the Roman Calendar which has a direct relationship to our own calendar. The next line contains hits based on the Crucifixion of Jesus at age 33, where the Last Supper was a Seder on the first day of Passover. The next line with C and P are two censuses of Augustus in our time period. The next to the last line shows the relation of the triple conjunction in 7 BCE with Jesus’ birth and Herod’s death. The bottom line related the two Venus-Jupiter conjunctions with Jesus’ birth and Herod’s death.

Where the lunar eclipse of March 13 of 4 BCE was a slight partial eclipse. The lunar eclipse of January 10 of 1 BCE was total, which occurred three or four months before Passover. Herod’s death and the chaos that ensued, according to Josephus, before Passover also means the March 13, 4 BCE eclipse, occurring 1 month before Passover does not provide the length of time for all these events to transpire:

  • Josephus mentions an eclipse of the moon.
  • Herod went beyond the river Jordan to the warm baths at Callirrhoe by the Dead Sea.
  • He knew he was near death as the treatments failed, so he returned to Jericho.
  • Before he did, he had his soldiers paid a bonus.
  • He ordered all the principal men of the Jews to meet with him under penalty of death. Those who did come, were imprisoned at the Hippodrome to be killed upon his death.
  • Herod then attempted suicide.
  • Herod’s son Antipater attempted to take the throne, and was executed.
  • Five days later, Herod died.
  • Herod had bequeathed the kingdom to another son, Archlaus, who then organized the funeral for Herod.
  • The funeral procession could have taken up to 25 days.
  • Then there were 7 days of mourning after that.
  • Archlaus sent his generals to Caesar on his behalf to have him declared King.
  • The people were beginning to demand lighter taxes and the release of those whom Herod had imprisoned.
  • At that point, Josephus mentioned that Passover was approaching.
  • Finally, it was Passover.

Obviously, all these events could not be squeezed into one 29 to 30 lunar month in 4 BCE. Defenders of the 4 BCE death of Herod would say that the Passover mentioned was the next year’s Passover, giving 12 or 13 months for the events to occur. In that case, why mention Passover at all?

Missing from the timeline above is Luke’s mention of Quirinius being Governor of Syria. However, there is a problem. Luke states the at the time of Jesus’ birth that Quirinius was Governor of Syria. The problem is that he wasn’t Governor of Syria until 6 and 7 CE, at least 8 years after the events of the Nativity. And the question of who was Governor of Syria wouldn’t have mattered until 6 CE, when Judea actually became part of the Province of Syria. In the period we’re looking at, Quintilius Varus was Syria’s governor. Could the two names be switched due to a copyist error? Anyway, this was before Judea became part of Syria, so it wouldn’t have mattered who was governor of Syria when Jesus was born. Luke’s account is not much help in dating the year of Jesus’ birth.

Tomorrow, I’ll finish up with the two conjunctions of Jupiter and Venus against the stars of Leo, which was the celestial sign of Judah and the land of Judea.

11/08/2022 – Ephemeris – Solar Eclipses in our future

November 8, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Election Day, Tuesday, November 8th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 51 minutes, setting at 5:22, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:31. The Moon, at full today, will rise at 5:28 this evening.

If you are listening to me early this morning, and it’s clear there is a lunar eclipse in progress. The eclipse will be total before 6:41 am, and partial until the Moon sets at 7:40 am. We will have to wait until March 2025 to see the next total lunar eclipse from our area.

However, we will be able to see two partial solar eclipses in the next year and a half. The first is October 14th, 2023. Nearly half of the Sun will be blocked by the Moon for us. The next one is the big one! April 8th, 2024 is a total eclipse less than a day’s drive away. The path of totality runs from Texas to Maine, just clipping the southeast corner of Michigan. Here in Northern Michigan, nearly 90% of the Sun will be covered by the Moon, so it will get noticeably dark at the peak of the eclipse.

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

Addendum

Areas on the Earth where the solar eclipse of October 14, 2023 can be seen via animation

Areas on the Earth where the solar eclipse of October 14, 2023 can be seen via animation. The gray area is where the partial eclipse is visible. The dot is the place where the ring of the annular eclipse can be seen. Credit: NASA, A. T. Sinclair.

Areas on the Earth where the solar eclipse of April 8, 2024 can be seen via animation

Areas on the Earth where the solar eclipse of April 8, 2024 can be seen via animation. The gray area is where the partial eclipse is visible. The dot is the place where the totally eclipsed Sun can be seen. Credit: NASA, A. T. Sinclair.

For more information on solar and lunar eclipses past and present, go here, NASA’s Eclipse Website.

11/07/2022 – Ephemeris – There will be a total eclipse of the Moon in the hours before sunrise tomorrow morning

November 7, 2022 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Monday, November 7th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 54 minutes, setting at 5:23, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:30. The Moon, 1 day before full, will set at 7:40 tomorrow morning.

There will be a total eclipse of the Moon tomorrow morning. We in Michigan are near the eastern edge of the part of the Earth that can see the eclipse. The partial phase will begin at 4:09 am. More and more of the Moon will enter the Earth’s inner shadow, until 5:16 am, when the Moon will be completely eclipsed. We expect the Moon to have a reddish hue from sunlight leaking and bent through Earth’s atmosphere into the shadow. This total phase will last until 6:41 am, when the Moon will begin to emerge into sunlight to start the ending partial phase of the eclipse. By this time, the Moon will be getting low in the west. The Moon will set around 7:40 am, just before the end of the eclipse and a few minutes after sunrise.

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

Addendum

Credit: NASA/GSFC, Fred Espenak. Click on the image for the full size PDF file from the NASA eclipse site.

The contact times again for Eastern Standard Time

Contact                     Time EST
U1 Partial eclipse starts...4:09 am
U2 Totality starts..........5:16 am
   Mid-eclipse..............6:00 am
U3 Totality ends............6:41 am
U4 Partial eclipse ends.....7:49 am

P1 and P4 are not noticeable, so are not listed. The penumbral shadow will be noticeable, generally for a half hour or so before U1 and again for a half hour or so after U4, if you are located far enough west of here to see the complete eclipse.

Lunar eclipse diagram

This is a not-to-scale diagram of the motion of the moon through the Earth’s shadow during a lunar eclipse. Assume we are looking down from the north, the motion of the Moon will be counterclockwise. The Moon will enter the shadow from the west or right, so the first “bite” of the shadow will be on the left side of the Moon. The penumbra is a gradually increasing shadow from the outer edge to the umbra, where the Sun is partially blocked by the Earth.

The Moon’s appearance in totality

The Moon will normally appear to have a dull reddish hue during totality, though the edge of the umbra will normally appear gray. When there is a spectacular volcanic eruption, the volcanic dust in the atmosphere can produce an especially dark eclipse. The normal red color is due to all the sunrises and sunsets occurring on the Earth during the eclipse. The atmosphere scatters out the blue component of the sunlight, giving us red sunrises and sunsets. Also, the atmosphere refracts or bends the sunlight into the Earth’s inner shadow, the umbra, at the Moon’s distance, so the totally eclipsed Moon isn’t completely dark.

10/25/2022 – Ephemeris – This eclipse season starts with a partial solar eclipse, but not for us

October 25, 2022 Comments off

“But not for us” means not for Michigan in the United States. This is a script, as always, for a local radio program. Which also mentions the midterm election day, two weeks from now, which coincides with the total lunar eclipse that morning. I’ll have an Ephemeris Extra post before the lunar eclipse, which looks into the next few lunar and solar eclipses visible in Michigan and the United States.

This is Ephemeris for Tuesday, October 25th. Today the Sun will be up for 10 hours and 30 minutes, setting at 6:41, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:12. The Moon is new today, and won’t be visible.

The Moon will be visible in a negative way for some folks at this time. There is a partial solar eclipse in progress now for parts of Europe, Asia and Africa. So that thing blocking the northern part of the Sun for them will be the Moon. Being a partial eclipse means that an eclipse season has started, and we should have a lunar eclipse in about two weeks, when the Moon is full. There sure is, and it’s visible from here. In exactly two weeks, there will be. In the early morning hours of November 8th, Election Day, a total eclipse of the Moon. And if you’re standing outside the polling place waiting for the polls to open at 7 am, and it’s clear, and you have a view to the west, the partially eclipsed Moon will still be visible. That will be the ending partial phase of the eclipse.

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

October 25 2022 solar eclipse map

Map for the area on the Earth where the partial solar eclipse of October 25, 2022, will be visible. Credit: NASA/GSFC, Fred Espenak.

05/13/2022 – Ephemeris – Remember, there is going to be an eclipse of the Moon late Sunday night!

May 13, 2022 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Friday, May 13th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 45 minutes, setting at 9:02, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:15. The Moon, 3 days before full, will set at 5:28 tomorrow morning.

There is going to be an eclipse of the Moon running from late Sunday night into the early Monday morning hours. That’s the night of May 15/16. By 10:30 pm, there will appear a noticeable “bite” out of the lower left edge of the Moon as it enters the Earth’s inner shadow, called the umbra. The shadow will creep across the Moon for the next hour. And by 11:30 the Moon is completely immersed in the Earth’s inner shadow. By now, one will notice that the shadow is not completely black. The Moon usually has a dim reddish hue caused by all the simultaneous sunrises and sunsets around the Earth. This is the total phase of the eclipse, which will last until almost 1 am. The Moon will slowly exit the inner shadow by 2 am.

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

05-16-22 Lunar eclipse diagram2

The eclipse occurs on the 16th for Universal Time, because the eclipse events take place after 8 pm EDT on the 15th. The Moon travels through the Earth’s shadow from right to left. What are seen are points of contact with the shadow and mid-eclipse. From Five Millennium Canon of Lunar Eclipses (Espenak & Meeus) NASA, with additions.

Contact times are labeled P1, U1, U2, U3, U4, and P4. P2 and P3 are omitted because they are synonymous with U1 and U4, respectively. Times are EDT unless noted:

  • P1 – 9:32:07 pm (1:32:07 UT) Enter the penumbra (unseen). By about 10 pm, the duskiness on the left edge of the moon will start to be noticeable. Wearing sunglasses to dim the bright Moon will help show the effect.
  • U1 – 10:27:53 pm (2:27:53 UT) Enter the umbra (partial eclipse begins).
  • U2 – 11:29:03 pm (3:29:03 UT) Totality begins.
  • Mid-eclipse 12:11:28.8 am (4:11:28.8 UT)
  • U3 – 12:53:56 am (4:53:56 UT) Totality ends, the egress partial phase begins.
  • U4 – 1:55:07 am (5:55:07 UT) Partial phase ends. The Moon’s upper right edge should appear dusky for the next half hour or so.
  • P4 – 2:50:48 am (6:50:48 UT) Penumbral phase ends (unseen).
Surveyor3 solar eclipse

Solar eclipse by the Earth as photographed by Surveyor 3, which had landed on the Moon, April 24, 1967. The Earth was seeing a lunar eclipse at the time. Light seeps into the Earth’s shadow at the Moon’s distance due to atmospheric refraction. The amount of light depends on the atmospheric conditions at the time. Great volcanic eruptions can cause a very dark, nearly invisible, eclipsed Moon. Credit: NASA.

Update 7:30 pm, May 15th

In note for P1 time: Expected actual visibility of penumbral shadow is changed to 10 pm (2 hr UT).

05/12/2022 – Ephemeris – There will be a total eclipse of the Moon this Sunday night/Monday morning

May 12, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Thursday, May 12th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 43 minutes, setting at 9:01, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:16. The Moon, halfway from first quarter to full, will set at 5:06 tomorrow morning.

Late Sunday night through early Monday morning May 15/16 there will be a total eclipse of the Moon which will run from 10:28 pm Sunday night to 1:55 Monday morning. I’ll be more specific tomorrow. Also known as lunar eclipses, these only occur at full moon when the Moon crosses the earth’s shadow. Usually, the Moon passes too far north or south to run into earth’s shadow. In only in one in six full moons does this happen. To see it, one has to be on the night side of the Earth. And it has to be clear at your location, a big problem around here. Our last lunar eclipse in November was clouded out from my location, which is usually my luck with lunar eclipses. However, May is a better month. Here’s hoping.

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

Lunar Eclipse Geometry

How lunar eclipses occur. Credit NASA/Fred Espenak.

05-16-22 Lunar eclipse diagram2

The eclipse occurs on the 16th for Universal Time, because the eclipse events take place after 8 pm EDT on the 15th. The Moon travels through the Earth’s shadow from right to left. What are seen are points of contact with the shadow and mid-eclipse. On the world map, locations in the white or light part of the map can see all or part of the eclipse. From Five Millennium Canon of Lunar Eclipses (Espenak & Meeus) NASA, with additions by me.

Contact times are labeled P1, U1, U2, U3, U4, and P4. P2 and P3 are omitted because they are synonymous with U1 and U4, respectively. Times are EDT unless noted:

  • P1 – 9:32:07 pm (1:32:07 UT) Enter the penumbra (unseen). By about 9 pm, the duskiness on the left edge of the moon will start to be noticeable. Wearing sunglasses to dim the bright Moon will help show the effect.
  • U1 – 10:27:53 pm (2:27:53 UT) Enter the umbra (partial eclipse begins).
  • U2 – 11:29:03 pm (3:29:03 UT) Totality begins.
  • Mid-eclipse 12:11:28.8 am (4:11:28.8 UT)
  • U3 – 12:53:56 am (4:53:56 UT) Totality ends, the egress partial phase begins.
  • U4 – 1:55:07 am (5:55:07 UT) Partial phase ends. The Moon’s upper right edge should appear dusky for the next half hour or so.
  • P4 – 2:50:48 am (6:50:48 UT) Penumbral phase ends (unseen).

11/18/2021 – Ephemeris – An almost total eclipse of the Moon will be visible early tomorrow morning

November 18, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Thursday, November 18th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 27 minutes, setting at 5:11, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:45. The Moon, 1 day before full, will set at 7:58 tomorrow morning.

Should our normal November clouds depart in the early morning hours tomorrow, we will be treated with a very deep partial eclipse of the Moon. At 4:03 am, the Moon will be 97% immersed into the Earth’s inner shadow, with lower left edge peeking out into sunlight. I haven’t heard of any massive volcanic eruptions in our Southern Hemisphere, so the light leaking and bent though the Earth’s atmosphere from all the simultaneous sunrises and sunsets during the eclipse won’t be too diminished and give us a coppery hue in the shadow. The shadow will touch the Moon at its top edge at 2:19 am. The maximum will occur at 4:03 am, and the last bit of the shadow will depart at the lower right edge of the Moon at 5:47 am.

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

Partial Lunar Eclipse 11/19/21 4:05 EST maximum

November 19, 2021, partial lunar eclipse maximum at 4:05 am EST. Orientation of the Moon and shadow could be different if not viewing from Northern Michigan. Created using Stellarium.

Lunar Eclipse Diagram

Lunar Eclipse Diagram for November 19, 2021. Effects of the eclipse on the Moon at P1 and P4 are not visible. U1 is the Moon at the beginning of the partial eclipse. U4 is the Moon at the end of the partial eclipse. A duskiness on the Moon’s face on the side closest to the umbral shadow will be visible just before and after the partial eclipse. Note that this diagram is not at the same orientation that an observer might experience. Created from a NASA PDF document on the NASA Eclipse Website. https://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse.html.

05/27/2021 – Ephemeris – Miss yesterday’s eclipse? There’s 2 more in the next 12 months.

May 27, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Thursday, May 27th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 13 minutes, setting at 9:17, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:02. The Moon, 1 day past full, will rise at 11:14 this evening.

While yesterday morning’s lunar eclipse may have been disappointing by setting just as it got going. That won’t happen with the next one. The next lunar eclipse visible from Northern Michigan will occur this November 19th, a Friday. It’s another morning eclipse, but doesn’t compete with sunrise or morning twilight. It’s not quite total, but nearly 97.5% of the Moon’s diameter will be covered by the Earth’s inner umbral shadow. The partial eclipse will start at 2:18 am and end at 5:47 am, which in November is nowhere near sunrise. We seem to be coming into a fortuitous period of eclipses in the next few years. Our next lunar eclipse after November will be next May 15th’s lunar eclipse, and it will be total and will conveniently happen in the evening.

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

05/25/2021 – Ephemeris – Viewing the lunar eclipse tomorrow morning

May 25, 2021 1 comment

This post is for the appearance of the May 26th lunar eclipse in Michigan.

This is Ephemeris for Tuesday, May 25th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 10 minutes, setting at 9:15, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:04. The Moon, 1 day before full, will set at 6:09 tomorrow morning.

If we are really lucky tomorrow morning, and it is clear all the way down to the southwestern horizon at dawn we will witness the start of an eclipse of the Moon near sunrise and moonset. The eclipse starts at 4:48 am, but nothing unusual will be visible as the Moon starts to enter Earth’s outer, penumbral shadow. Perhaps by 5:15 the left edge of the Moon might appear dimmer than the right side. The Moon will be getting deeper in that shadow for the next half hour until at 5:45 it begins to enter the Earth’s inner shadow, the umbra. The only light in the umbra is that bent into it by the simultaneous sunrises and sunsets around the Earth. For the next 20 to 25 minutes the shadow will increase until the Sun rises and shortly after that the Moon sets around 6:09.

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

Addendum

Moon deep in the penumbra

Simulated image of the Moon deep in the penumbra of the lunar eclipse of May 26, 2021 at 5:40 am. Notice that the left side of the Moon is darker than the right side. I find that the effect is more noticeable when wearing sunglasses to cut down the Moon’s bright glare. Created using Stellarium.

The partially eclipsed moon at moonset

Simulated view of the partially eclipsed Moon of May 26, 2021 setting on a flat horizon. Created using Stellarium and touched up by using GIMP.

Time Event
4:47 am Nautical twilight starts
4:48 am The Moon enters penumbra (Nothing to see, the dimming on the left side is imperceptible)
5:15 am The penumbral shadow should become visible at the left edge of the Moon by this time
5:45 am The Moon enters the umbra (The partial part of the eclipse begins)
6:04 am Sunrise for Traverse City
6:09 am Moon sets for Traverse City

The sunrise and moon set times may vary by more than a few minutes depending on your location.

05/24/2021 – Ephemeris – Get ready for Wednesday morning’s lunar eclipse

May 24, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Monday, May 24th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 8 minutes, setting at 9:14, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:04. The Moon, 2 days before full, will set at 5:33 tomorrow morning.

If we are really lucky Wednesday morning, and it is clear all the way down to the southwestern horizon at dawn, we will witness the start of an eclipse of the Moon as the Sun rises and the Moon sets. The first inkling that something strange is happening to the Moon will come around 5:15 am or so. The Moon will be deep in the Earth’s outer, partial, shadow called the penumbra and the left side of the Moon should appear darker than the rest of it. The brightening of the twilight should enhance the effect. The partial phase of the eclipse will start at 5:45, where the left edge of the Moon will actually begin to disappear into the Earth’s inner shadow, the umbra. Within 20 to 25minutes later the Sun will rise and shortly after the Moon will set.

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

Addendum

Moon deep in the penumbra

Simulated image of the Moon deep in the penumbra of the lunar eclipse of May 26, 2021 at 5:40 am. Notice that the left side of the Moon is darker than the right side. I find that the effect is more noticeable when wearing sunglasses to cut down the Moon’s bright glare. Created using Stellarium.

Created with GIMP by Bob Moler

Simulated view of the partially eclipsed Moon of May 26, 2021 setting on a flat horizon. Created using Stellarium and touched up by using GIMP.

Time Event
4:47 am Nautical twilight starts
4:48 am The Moon enters penumbra (Nothing to see, the dimming on the left side is imperceptible)
5:15 am The penumbral shadow should become visible at the left edge of the Moon by this time
5:45 am The Moon enters the umbra (The partial part of the eclipse begins)
6:04 am Sunrise for Traverse City
6:09 am Moon sets for Traverse City

The sunrise and moon set times may vary by more than a few minutes depending on your location.