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10/07/2021 – Ephemeris – The loneliest star in the sky

October 7, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Thursday, October 7th. Today the Sun will be up for 11 hours and 23 minutes, setting at 7:11, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:49. The Moon, 1 day past new, will set at 8:06 this evening.

There’s a bright star that appears for only seven and a half hours on autumn nights. It’s appearance, low in the south-southeast at 9 p.m., is a clear indication of the autumn season. The star’s name is Fomalhaut, which means fish’s mouth. That’s fitting because it’s in the constellation of Piscis Austrinus, the southern fish. At our latitude it’s kind of the fish that got away, because Fomalhaut appears to be quite alone low in the sky. The dimness of the constellation’s other stars and location close to the horizon make the other stars hard to spot. The Earth’s thick atmosphere near the horizon reduces their brightness by a factor of two or more, so Fomalhaut, one of the brightest stars in the sky, keeps a lonely vigil in the south.

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

Fomalhaut in October 2021

Fomalhaut at 9 pm, October 7, 2021. This year it has two bright planets relatively nearby, By they’re just passing through, albeit slowly. Normally the closest first magnitude star to Fomalhaut is Altair, the southernmost of the Summer Triangle stars. Created using Stellarium.

10/06/2021 – Ephemeris – Let’s search for the naked-eye planets for this week

October 6, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Wednesday, October 6th. Today the Sun will be up for 11 hours and 26 minutes, setting at 7:13, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:48. The Moon is new today, and won’t be visible.

Let’s search for the naked-eye planets for this week. Venus should be visible in the southwestern evening twilight by 7:45 tonight. It will set at 8:52 pm. By 8 pm, Jupiter will be spotted in the south-southeastern sky. The Jupiter should be easy to spot at that hour. Saturn will be dimmer, but a bit higher and to its right. They will be visible into the morning hours, with Saturn setting first at 1:58 am, and Jupiter following at 3:20. Saturn’s rings can be seen in a spotting scope of about 20 power magnification. Though at that power the rings won’t appear separated from the planet, so Saturn will look like an elliptical disk. Jupiter’s 4 brightest moons are spread out, three on one side, and one on the other. They might all be visible in binoculars tonight.

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

Venus in evening twilight

Venus in evening twilight at 7:45 pm, about a half hour after sunset. Created using Stellarium.

Jupiter and Saturn at 8 pm

Jupiter and Saturn at 8 pm, about 45 minutes after sunset tonight, October 6, 2021. Created using Stellarium.

Telescopic views of the naked-eye planets

Telescopic views of the bright planets (north up) as they would be seen in a small telescope, with the same magnification, this evening at 8 pm, October 6, 2021. Apparent diameters: Venus, 19.81″, 59.8% illuminated; Saturn 17.48″, its rings 40.73″; Jupiter, 45.55″. The ” symbol means seconds of arc (1/3600th of a degree.) Click on the image to enlarge it. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

Planets and the Moon overnight tonight

The naked-eye planets and the Moon at sunset and sunrise on a single night, starting with sunset on the right on October 6, 2021. The night ends on the left with sunrise on the 7th. Click on the image to enlarge it. Created using my LookingUp program.

09/29/2021 – Ephemeris – Let’s search for the naked-eye planets for this week

September 29, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Wednesday, September 29th. Today the Sun will be up for 11 hours and 47 minutes, setting at 7:26, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:39. The Moon, 1 day past last quarter, will rise at 12:40 tomorrow morning.

Let’s search for the naked-eye planets for this week. Venus should be visible in the southwestern evening twilight by 7:45 tonight. It will set at 8:59 pm. By 8 pm, Jupiter will be spotted in the southeastern sky. The Jupiter should be easy to spot at that hour. Saturn will be dimmer, but a bit higher and to its right. They will be visible into the morning hours, with Saturn setting first at 2:26 am, with Jupiter following at 3:49. Saturn’s rings can be seen in a spotting scope of about 20 power magnification. Though at that power the rings won’t appear separated from the planet, so Saturn will look like an elliptical disk. Jupiter’s four brightest moons are spread out, two on each side. They all might be visible in binoculars tonight.

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

Venus in evening twilight

Venus in evening twilight at 7:45 pm, about a half hour after sunset tonight, September 29, 2021. Created using Stellarium.

Jupiter and Saturn in evening twilight

Jupiter and Saturn in the southeast at 8 pm. Created using Stellarium.

Waning crescent Moon

Low magnification view of the waxing crescent Moon as it would appear at 6:30 am tomorrow, September 30, 2021. Created using Stellarium.

Telescopic views of the naked-eye planets

Telescopic views of the bright planets (north up) as they would be seen in a small telescope, with the same magnification, this evening at 8 pm, September 29, 2021. Apparent diameters: Venus, 18.65″, 62.6% illuminated; Saturn 17.68″, its rings 41.18″; Jupiter, 46.41″. The ” symbol means seconds of arc (1/3600th of a degree.) Click on the image to enlarge it. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

Planets and the Moon overnight tonight

The naked-eye planets and the Moon at sunset and sunrise on a single night, starting with sunset on the right on September 29, 2021. The night ends on the left with sunrise on the 30th. Click on the image to enlarge it. Created using my LookingUp program.

09/28/2021 – Ephemeris – Andromeda, a damsel in distress

September 28, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Tuesday, September 28th. Today the Sun will be up for 11 hours and 50 minutes, setting at 7:28, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:38. The Moon, at last quarter today, will rise at 11:46 this evening.

In the east at 9 this evening can be found a large square of stars, the Great Square of Pegasus the flying horse. The square is standing on one corner. What looks like its hind legs stretching to the left from the left corner star is another constellation, Andromeda the chained princess. She is seen in the sky as two diverging curved strings of stars that curve upward. She was doomed due to her mother, Queen Cassiopeia’s boasting, which angered the god Poseidon. She was rescued by the hero Perseus, a nearby constellation, riding his steed Pegasus. Andromeda’s claim to astronomical fame is the large galaxy seen with the naked-eye just above the upper line of stars. The Great Andromeda Galaxy is two and a half million light years away.

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

Andromeda finder animation

Andromeda finder animation surrounded by the other constellations in her story, except the monster, which will rise later. Click on the image to enlarge it. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

Andromeda Galaxy finder chart

Great Andromeda Galaxy finder chart. This image shows the galaxy almost to its fullest extent. In the finder animation above, the galaxy looks pretty much as it would to the naked eye. Click on the image to enlarge it. Created using Stellarium.

Astronomers often refer to this galaxy as M 31 for short. It was the 31st entry in Charles Messier’s catalog of objects that could be confused as being comets by comet hunters like himself. It was added in 1764. He didn’t care what these fuzzy objects were, just that they didn’t move against the background stars. Actually, M 31 is in the background. The stars are in the foreground, in our Milky Way Galaxy.

 

09/27/2021 – Ephemeris – The native peoples constellations of the Crane and the Moose

September 27, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Monday, September 27th. Today the Sun will be up for 11 hours and 53 minutes, setting at 7:30, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:37. The Moon, 1 day before last quarter, will rise at 11:00 this evening.

The evening sky hosts two more of the constellations of the Anishinaabe native peoples of our area. Overhead, where the official constellation Cygnus the Swan is, or the Northern Cross is Ajijaak, the Sand Hill Crane flying northward through the Milky Way, wings outstretched, with its long legs trailing behind. In the eastern sky where the official constellation of Pegasus the flying horse is climbing the sky upside down is. His body is the Great Square, an informal constellation. To the Anishinaabe, it is the Mooz (Moose), who is upright. His magnificent antlers take up the dim official constellation of Lacerta the lizard between Pegasus and Cygnus. Also in the sky is Ojiig the Fisher, our Big Dipper, whose bloody tail will soon swoop down and paint the trees with their fall colors. (You can search for “Fisher” above right for his story, and his relevant appearances in autumn and late winter.)

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

Anishinaabe constallation of the Crane an Moose

The Anishinaabe constellations of Ajijaak, the Crane and Mooz (Moose) compared to the official International Astronomical Union (IAU) constellations. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

The Ojibwe constellation art is part of the latest versions of Stellarium. Ojibwe (Anishinaabe) constellation art by Annette S Lee and William Wilson from Ojibwe Sky Star Map Constellation Guide, ISBN 978-0-615-98678-4.

09/20/2021 – Ephemeris – The Harvest Moon rises tonight

September 20, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Monday, September 20th. Today the Sun will be up for 12 hours and 15 minutes, setting at 7:43, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:29. The Moon, at full today, will rise at 8:03 this evening.

Tonight’s full moon is the Harvest Moon. It is the most famous of the named full moons, and was very useful in the days before electric lights. The reason is that the Moon, around the time it is full now, doesn’t advance its rising time very much from night to night, effectively extending the light of twilight to allow more time to gather in crops. This is because the Moon is moving north as well as eastward. The farther north it is, the longer it stays up and retards the advance in rise times. On average, the Moon rises 50 minutes later each night. This week, the interval is down near 20 minutes advance in moonrise times per day, extending twilight and the time each day to harvest the crops for a few more days.

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

Addendum

Autumn vs spring sunset ecliptic

The autumn vs spring sunset ecliptic. I’m using the autumnal equinox 2021, with the tip of the spout of the Sagittarius Teapot at due south, and vernal equinox 2022, with the red star Betelgeuse in Orion at due south as examples. Click on the image to enlarge it. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

The ecliptic for the autumnal equinox runs low in the south, a preview of the Sun’s apparent travel for the next six months of fall and winter. Besides the planets, the Moon at sticks close to that line, as do the planets. The full moon rising in the east as the Sun sets does so at a shallow angle, so for a week or so around the full moon, its advance in rise times can be as little as 20 minutes per night. In spring, it can be much longer than an hour.

09/15/2021 – Ephemeris – Let’s search for the naked-eye planets for this week

September 15, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Wednesday, September 15th. Today the Sun will be up for 12 hours and 30 minutes, setting at 7:52, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:23. The Moon, 2 days past first quarter, will set at 1:59 tomorrow morning.

Let’s search for the naked-eye planets for this week. Venus should be visible in the western evening twilight before 8:15 tonight. It will set at 9:19 pm. By 8:30 pm, Jupiter and Saturn will be seen low in the southeastern sky. The brighter Jupiter will be easy to spot at that hour. Saturn will be dimmer, but a bit higher and to its right. Both these planets will be to the left of the bright gibbous Moon. They will be visible for most of the night, with Saturn setting first at 3:24 am, with Jupiter setting at 4:50 tomorrow morning. Saturn’s rings can be seen in a spotting scope of about 20 power magnification. Though at that power, the rings won’t appear separated from the planet, so Saturn will look like an elliptical spot. Most of Jupiter’s 4 brightest moons can even be spotted in binoculars.

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

Addendum

Venus in evening twilight

Venus in evening twilight at 8:15 tonight, about 20 minutes after sunset, September 15, 2021. Created using Stellarium.


Jupiter Saturn and the Moon at 8:30 tonight

Jupiter Saturn and the Moon at 8:30 tonight, about 40 minutes after sunset, September 15, 2021. Created using Stellarium.


Low magnification view of the Moon

Low magnification view of the Moon tonight. The large crater Clavius is seen at the south (bottom) of the Moon. The crater Copernicus is seen near the left edge of the Moon, the sunrise terminator. Created using Stellarium.

The naked-eye planets as seen in small telescopes

Telescopic view of the bright planets (north up) as they would be seen in a small telescope, with the same magnification, this evening. Venus at 8:30 pm, September 15, 2021. Apparent diameters: Venus, 16.70″ 68% illuminated; Saturn 18.03″, its rings 42.00″; Jupiter, 47.88″. The ” symbol means seconds of arc (1/3600th of a degree.) Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).


Planets and the Moon overnight tonight

Planets and the Moon at sunset and sunrise of a single night, starting with sunset on the right on September 15, 2021. The night ends on the left with sunrise on the 16th. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using my LookingUp program.

09/09/2021 – Ephemeris – The constellation of Cassiopeia the Queen

September 9, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Thursday, September 9th. Today the Sun will be up for 12 hours and 49 minutes, setting at 8:04, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:16. The Moon, 3 days past new, will set at 9:40 this evening.

Tonight, check out the crescent Moon, with Venus below left of it. Cassiopeia is a constellation shaped like the letter W seen in the northeast these evenings. In Greek mythology, she was the queen of Ethiopia. She was very beautiful and very boastful of that fact. She even compared her beauty with that of the sea nymphs, daughters of the sea god Poseidon. Papa was not amused. So Cassiopeia’s daughter, the Princess Andromeda, was made to suffer for it. Poseidon sent a sea monster, Cetus, to ravage the coastal cities of the country. The only way to stop it was to sacrifice Andromeda to the monster. Andromeda and Cetus are constellations we’ll meet in the coming weeks. We’ve already met Pegasus, the flying horse, rising in the east. And we are yet to meet the hero, Perseus.

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

Addendum

Venus and te Moon in evening twilight

Venus and the Moon in evening twilight, about a half hour after sunset tonight, September 9, 2021. Created using Stellarium.

Cassiopeia finder animation

Cassiopeia finder animation looking northeast in mid-September, an hour and a half after sunset. Created using Stellarium.

 

09/02/2021 – Ephemeris – Finding the Little Dipper

September 2, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Thursday, September 2nd. Today the Sun will be up for 13 hours and 10 minutes, setting at 8:17, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:07. The Moon, 3 days past last quarter, will rise at 2:55 tomorrow morning.

10 p.m. is the best time now to spot the Little Dipper. It is difficult to spot, being much smaller and dimmer than the Big Dipper. However, it is the Big Dipper that points to it, by the two stars at the front of the bowl which point to the North Star, Polaris, the star that doesn’t appear to move. That star is the tip of the handle of the Little Dipper. The handle is seen as a curve of stars upward and to the left to a small box of stars that is its bowl. The two brighter stars at the front of the bowl are called the Guard Stars because in the past they were thought to be guardians of the pole. The Little Dipper is not an official constellation, but is Ursa Minor the lesser bear. To the Anishinaabe native peoples of this area, it represents Maang the loon.

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

Addendum

Little Dipper finder animation

Little Dipper finder animation. The Little Dipper is also Ursa Major and the Loon. Polaris is the Pole Star and North Star. The Guard Stars are Kochab and Pherkad. Except for the named stars, the Little Dipper stars are quite faint and require moonless skies away from the city to spot. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

08/30/2021 – Ephemeris – “W”

August 30, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Monday, August 30th. Today the Sun will be up for 13 hours and 19 minutes, setting at 8:22, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:04. The Moon, at last quarter today, will rise at 12:26 tomorrow morning.

Rising higher each evening in the northeastern sky is a group of stars that make the pattern of the letter W. It is the constellation of Cassiopeia the queen. It is one of the more recognizable star patterns. From our latitude here in Northern Michigan, it is circumpolar, meaning that it never sets. Though, the best time to see it is in the autumn and winter, when it’s highest in the sky. It is opposite the Big Dipper from Polaris, the north star. In fact, a line drawn from any of the handle stars of the Big Dipper through Polaris will reach Cassiopeia. So as the Big Dipper descends in the northwestern sky now, Cassiopeia ascends in the northeast. They change places in winter and spring as the Big Dipper ascends in the northeast.

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

Addendum

Big Dipper-Cassiopeia animation

Animation showing the juxtaposition of Cassiopeia and the Big Dipper from Polaris, the North Star. Click on the image to enlarge it. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.