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12/07/2018 – Ephemeris – The Star of Bethlehem: natural event, miracle, or myth? I’ll be following the clues tonight

December 7, 2018 2 comments

Ephemeris for Friday, December 7th. The Sun will rise at 8:06. It’ll be up for 8 hours and 55 minutes, setting at 5:02. The Moon is new today, and won’t be visible.

Tonight at 8 p.m. I will be giving a talk investigating what the Star of Bethlehem may have been. This will be at Northwestern Michigan College’s Rogers Observatory located south of Traverse City on Birmley Road. The talk is a scientific treatment of the matter, rather than a religious one. We’ll look at the usual suspects for what the star was. We’ll see what the Gospel writers may have gotten right and possibly wrong. We’ll look at historical writings and recorded Chinese observations of the heavens around that time. I will be augment this by computer simulations of what might be important celestial events visible around that time. There is no admission charge. There will be viewing of the skies afterward if it’s clear.

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

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12/06/2018 – Ephemeris – Tomorrow I’m going to present a talk about the Star of Bethlehem

December 6, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, December 6th. The Sun will rise at 8:05. It’ll be up for 8 hours and 57 minutes, setting at 5:02. The Moon, 1 day before new, will rise at 8:10 tomorrow morning.

Tomorrow evening at 8 p.m. I will be giving a talk investigating the origin of the Star of Bethlehem. This will be at Northwestern Michigan College’s Rogers Observatory located south of Traverse City on Birmley Road. The talk is a scientific treatment of the subject, rather than a religious one. We’ll look at the usual suspects for the star. We’ll see what the Gospel writers may have gotten right and possibly wrong. We’ll look at historical writings and oriental observations of the heavens around that time. This will be augmented by computer simulations of what might be important celestial events visible around that time. There is no admission charge. There will be viewing of the skies afterward if it’s clear.

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

12/17/2012 – Ephemeris – The Star of Bethlehem: Who were the Magi?

December 17, 2012 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, December 17th.  The sun will rise at 8:14.  It’ll be up for 8 hours and 49 minutes, setting at 5:03.   The moon, 3 days before first quarter, will set at 10:36 this evening.

The Star of Bethlehem is one of the great mysteries of Christmas.  The Chinese of that time were the only ones that recorded the happenings in the heavens.  There were no bright stars that appeared near the time of Christ’s birth.  That leads us to the Magi themselves, if that’s who they were.  Magi were astrologer priests of the Zoroastrian religion in Persia.  They saw signs in the positions of the planets that would go unnoticed to the Jews to which astrology was forbidden.  Conjunctions where two or more planets gathered together were the most powerful of these configurations.  There was a triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in seven BC that’s the most famous, but I have another set of conjunctions in mind to tell you about tomorrow.

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

11/06/2012 – Ephemeris – Pluto: an example of what happens when you don’t vote

November 6, 2012 1 comment

Ephemeris for Election Day, Tuesday, November 6th.  The sun will rise at 7:27.  It’ll be up for 9 hours and 56 minutes, setting at 5:24.   The moon, at last quarter today, will rise at 12:06 tomorrow morning.

Be sure and vote today.  I have a tale of what happens when a low turn out leads for many to the wrong result.  I’m referring to the vote at the International Astronomical Union meeting in 2006 that demoted Pluto to dwarf planet.  It was the last day of the conference and many delegates had already left when the when the matter of defining what a planet was.  A hastily formed proposal won the day.  I haven’t the time to go into the definition, but Pluto didn’t fit it.  Pluto, Eris the Kuiper belt object that caused the furor in the first place and the asteroid Ceres were given the titles dwarf planet because they are round.  To add insult to injury Pluto was given an asteroid number 13430.  That Pluto has 5 moons doesn’t change anything.

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

Addendum

Here’s the IAU definition of a planet:

(1) A “planet” is a celestial body that: (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (c) has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.

(2) A “dwarf planet” is a celestial body that: (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape2, (c) has not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit, and (d) is not a satellite.

(3) All other objects, except satellites, orbiting the Sun shall be referred to collectively as “Small Solar System Bodies”.

Note the mention of the sun in all three points.  Thus this does not apply to exoplanets, those orbiting other stars.  We are a long way from seeing and assessing all the bodies orbiting other stars, so it may be that every stellar system will have its own rules.

Oh by the way, I have come to agree with the IAU definition.  Sorry, there are only 8 planets in our solar system.

 

 

10/14/11 – Ephemeris – The Neutrino problem

October 14, 2011 Comments off

Friday, October 14th.  The sun will rise at 7:56.  It’ll be up for 11 hours and 4 minutes, setting at 7:00.   The moon, 3 days past full, will rise at 8:04 this evening.

The news came out a couple of weeks ago that some nuclear physicists apparently measured that neutrinos traveled faster than the speed of light.  This needs to be corroborated before it is accepted by the physics world.  We do have one good example of neutrinos traveling close to but not faster than the speed of light.  That is a supernova in 1987 which was about 168 thousand light years away.  The neutrinos arrived 3 hours before the light of the supernova arrived.  The reason for the slightly earlier arrival time is that the neutrinos sailed from the core of the star like it wasn’t there.  The light, however couldn’t escape until the explosion could push its way to the surface of the star.  Neutrinos are wonderful and strange sub atomic particles.  Check them out in Wikipedia.

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

05/27/11 – Ephemeris – Spica, some thoughts about its future

May 27, 2011 Comments off

Friday, May 27th.  Today the sun will be up for 15 hours and 12 minutes, setting at 9:15.   The moon, 3 days past last quarter, will rise at 3:27 tomorrow morning.  Tomorrow the sun will rise at 6:03.

Yesterday I talked about Spica the bright star to the lower left of Saturn in the evening now.  Spica is actually two very massive and hot stars orbiting each other in 4 days.  One is 10 times the sun’s mass while the other is 7 times the sun’s mass.  The more massive one will run out of hydrogen in its core first and begin to bloat in size.  As it does so it will begin to transfer mass to the other star and speed up its evolution.  The resulting show should be spectacular when seen at a safe distance.  I’m not sure the stars 260 light year distance is safe enough.  But we have many millions of years to wait before things get interesting, and that’s fine with me.  What seems to be a silent, seemingly changeless sky can hide dramatic happenings.

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

Addendum

Being only an amateur astronomer the above is rank speculation with no proof that the proposed events will happen.  But it’s fun to think about.

Follow the Spike to Spica, 5/26/2011

Follow the Spike to Spica, 5/26/2011

12/24/10 – Ephemeris – Musings on the Star of Bethlehem

December 24, 2010 Comments off

Friday, December 24th.  The sun will rise at 8:17.  It’ll be up for 8 hours and 49 minutes, setting at 5:06.   The moon, half way from full to last quarter, will rise at 9:21 this evening.

Before the moon rises tonight the planet Jupiter will shine brightly as our Christmas star.  The actual Star of Bethlehem, if it was a natural phenomenon, was not the bright star that we imagine.  The Chinese, who were excellent observers and catalogers of novae and comets recorded nothing unusual in the time period of the Nativity.  The Magi, if that’s the correct translation of the visitors, were astrologers who saw significance in the mundane movement and patterns of the planets.  They were the only ones who did.  The Chinese had a whole other system of astrology.  The Jews themselves had Biblical prohibitions against astrology.  So the Star remains a mystery.  Have a merry Christmas.

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