Archive

Archive for the ‘Observing’ Category

11/11/2019 – Ephemeris – Mercury is passing across the face of the Sun today

November 11, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Veteran’s Day, Monday, November 11th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 45 minutes, setting at 5:19, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:35. The Moon, 1 day before full, will set at 7:24 tomorrow morning.

Today we are bring treated by a rare event. The planet Mercury is crossing the face of the Sun. It’s called the transit of Mercury. The last one visible from around here was 3 ½ years ago, and the next one will be visible here in 2049. The transit starts at sunrise when Mercury starts to cross the Sun from the lower left from sunrise and will cross the Sun until 1:04 p.m. where it will leave the Sun at the upper right. The best way to see it will be to project the Sun’s image on a white card using binoculars or a telescope. Do not look through them at the Sun. Solar eclipse glasses will not work because Mercury is too small. Do not use eclipse glasses with binoculars. The Sun’s heat will melt the filters and cause blindness.

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

Addendum

One or more members of the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society mayl be out in the parking lot of Mari Vineyards 8175 Center Road on Old Mission Peninsula, but only if it’s clear. Be advised that there is a winter storm warning for the Grand Traverse Area from 1 a.m. to 6 p.m. today.  That means that chances are slim that we’ll have a big enough clear spot to observe through.  But I’ll be on the look out., and am a half an hour away.

I found a source for streaming video fo the transit from Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYZKNhTJmOI.

Being on the west coast they will miss part of the transit.  They’ll go live at 9:15 a.m. our time.  Sunrise over there is at 9:22 our time.  There’s more information on: http://www.griffithobservatory.org/events/Transit_of_Mercury_2019.html.

More information about viewing the transit is on: https://spaceweather.com/

Path of Mercury across the Sun

Path of Mercury across the Sun. The planet will move from lower left to upper right. The passage will be from lower left to upper right. Credit: Occult 4.

Binocular projection

I’m demonstrating using binoculars to project the Sun. Photo by Bea Farrell (granddaughter).

Mercury Inferior Conj.  (Transit) 
Transit of Mercury on 2019 Nov 11 (TT)
     Geocentric Event      UTC          EST          P.A.
                           h  m  s                      o 
[1]  Exterior Ingress      12 35 27    7:35.27 a.m.  110.0
[2]  Minimum Separation    15 19 48   10:19:48 a.m.
[3]  Exterior Egress       18  4 14    1:04:14 a.m.  298.6

Minimum sepn 75.9";  Radii - Sun 969.3", Mercury 5.0"
delta T =  70.2 secs,  Ephemeris = DE0
Transit Map

The Sun facing side of the Earth at the start and end of the transit. If you can see your location on either of these maps the transit or part of it will be visible from your location. Credit Occult 4.

11/08/2019 – Ephemeris – On Monday tiny Mercury will cross the face of the Sun

November 8, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, November 8th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 52 minutes, setting at 5:22, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:31. The Moon, half way from first quarter to full, will set at 4:14 tomorrow morning.

Monday we will be treated by a rare event. The planet Mercury will cross the face of the Sun. It’s called the transit of Mercury. The last one visible from around here was 3 ½ years ago, and the next one will be in 2049. Mercury will start across the Sun from the lower left from sunrise at 7:35 and will cross the Sun until 1:04 p.m. where it will leave the Sun at the upper right. The best way to see it will be to project the Sun’s image on a white card using binoculars or a telescope. Do not look through them at the Sun. Solar eclipse glasses will not work because Mercury is too small. Do not use eclipse glasses with binoculars. The heat will melt the glasses and cause blindness. I’ll have more information Monday.

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

Addendum

Path of Mercury across the Sun

Path of Mercury across the Sun. The planet will move from lower left to upper right. The passage will be from lower left to upper right. Credit: Occult 4.

Binocular projection

I’m demonstrating using binoculars to project the Sun. Photo by Bea Farrell (granddaughter).

Mercury Inferior Conj.  (Transit) 
Transit of Mercury on 2019 Nov 11 (TT)
     Geocentric Event      UTC          EST          P.A.
                           h  m  s                      o 
[1]  Exterior Ingress      12 35 27    7:35.27 a.m.  110.0
[2]  Minimum Separation    15 19 48   10:19:48 a.m.
[3]  Exterior Egress       18  4 14    1:04:14 a.m.  298.6

Minimum sepn 75.9";  Radii - Sun 969.3", Mercury 5.0"
delta T =  70.2 secs,  Ephemeris = DE0

10/03/2019 -Ephemeris – The Moon tonight

October 3, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, October 3rd. Today the Sun will be up for 11 hours and 37 minutes, setting at 7:20, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:44. The Moon, 2 days before first quarter, will set at 10:46 this evening.

The planet Jupiter will appear below and right of the crescent Moon tonight. This evening one of the striking lunar craters will be seen at the sunrise line or terminator on the Moon. The crater might just be glimpsed in steadily held or tripod mounted binoculars, and definitely in a small telescope. The crater is Theophilus, some 61 miles (101 km) in diameter located south of the Sea of Tranquility. At lunar sunrise the central peak of the crater catches the Sun of the lunar sunrise way before the floor is illuminated showing a point of light within the circular crater rim against the black floor of the crater. That should happen before the Moon sets at quarter to 11 p.m. The central peak extends 650 feet (200 m) above the crater walls.

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

Addendum

The Moon

The Crater Theophilus on the Moon’s terminator at10 p.m. October 3, 2019, Created using Virtual Moon Atlas.

08/06/2019 – Ephemeris – More about viewing the Perseid meteor shower: Meteor trains

August 6, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, August 6th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 27 minutes, setting at 9:02, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:35. The Moon, 1 day before first quarter, will set at 12:29 tomorrow morning.

The Perseid meteor shower has to compete this years with the bright waxing Moon, so only the brightest meteors will be visible, However even though this cuts down on the meteors visible, it happens that some of the brightest of meteors leave smokey trains, which can be seen in binoculars. Unlike aircraft contrails which are created the same altitude, meteor trains descend through the atmosphere where the winds at the different altitudes slowly bend and twist the train, tearing it up. The same occurs with any really bright meteor, Perseid or not. So remember to add binoculars to your meteor viewing kit along with a blanket, warm coat, mosquito spray and hot coffee or other beverage.

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

Addendum

These are screen caps from a time lapse video by Australian Phil Hart of a meteor train being torn apart by upper level winds. Credit Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy/Phil Hart.  This was not a Perseid meteor.

The actual video and much more about meteor trains are located here:  https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/catching-meteor-train.

08/05/2019 – Ephemeris – Previewing the Perseid meteor shower

August 5, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, August 5th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 30 minutes, setting at 9:03, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:34. The Moon, 2 days before first quarter, will set at 12:01 tomorrow morning.

After the Moon sets in the morning hours for the next week and a half the numbers of meteors visible will increase each night. These are members of the Perseid meteor shower of August. The peak this year is expected to be during the morning of the 13th. However by then the Moon will be nearly full. These meteors are the result of debris left along the orbit of Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle shed by innumerable visits to the inner solar system. Every year at this time the Earth passes through this trail of debris which intersects its orbit giving rise to the meteor shower. We call them the Perseids, because they appear to come from the direction of the constellation Perseus the hero, which is first seen in the early evening low in the northeast.

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

Addendum

Perseid Radiant

The Perseid radiant is located off the highest star in Perseus as it ascends the sky at about 10:30 p.m. The Perseid radiant is circumpolar for observers in northern Michigan. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium.

Swift-Tuttle 1992 plot

The passage of Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle through the inner solar system November 1, 1992 to January 30, 1993. The meteoroids shed by the comet on its numerous trips close to the Sun lie close to that orbit. Note that its orbit intersects with the Earth’s orbit. That’s where the Earth will be around August 12-13 every year. Created using my LookingUp program.

 

08/02/2019 – Ephemeris – The Milky Way

August 2, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, August 2nd. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 37 minutes, setting at 9:07, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:31. The Moon, 2 days past new, will set at 10:31 this evening.

We’ll get darkness tonight, but that will erode night by night as the Moon waxes in our evening sky. At mid month this month and September will be the start of about two weeks of the best evening sky viewing of the year. This is the period the summer Milky Way is displayed to its fullest to the southern horizon. City folk come to our area and are sometimes fooled by the brightness and expanse of the Milky Way and think it’s clouding up. Yes those are indeed clouds, but they are star clouds. Binoculars will begin to show them to be millions of stars, each too faint to be seen by themselves to the naked eye, but whose combined glow give the impression of a luminous cloud. Binoculars are the ideal tool to begin to explore the Milky Way. Objects still too fuzzy can be checked out with a telescope to reveal their true nature.

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

Addendum

Great Rift in the Summer Triangle

The Milky Way in the Summer Triangle, also showing the constellations of Cygnus the swan and the the northern part of Aquila the Eagle. This image a stack of 5 30 second exposures taken the morning of the Perseid meteor shower the is year in a vain attempt to capture some meteors.  I was hampered by a smoky haze blown in all the way from the West Coast from forest files out there.

 

06/25/2019 – Ephemeris – Weird clouds of the twilight zone

June 25, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, June 25th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 34 minutes, setting at 9:32, and it will rise tomorrow at 5:58. The Moon, at last quarter today, will rise at 2:23 tomorrow morning.

This time of year one can see, on rare occasions, some ghostly clouds called noctilucent clouds. Noctilucent means night shining. These are silvery clouds that can be seen near the end of twilight. We’re a bit south of the prime latitudes to see them from 50 to 70 degrees both north and south of the equator. I’ve seen them a few times. They move rather rapidly, even though they’re at an altitude of around 50 miles. The clouds appear to be made of ice crystals that possibly form around meteoric dust. Their appearance cannot be predicted, but show up near the end of twilight and they are white, and are not the usual reddish clouds of twilight. These clouds mostly appear in July and August. But I’ve seen many recent reports of them from Europe.

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

Addendum

Noctilucent Clouds

Noctilucent clouds, Kuresoo bog, Soomaa National Park, Estonia. July 26, 2009 by Martin Koitmäe. From Wikimedia Commons.

Spaceweather.com is a great place to learn more and hosts a gallery of recent noctilucent cloud photos.