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01/11/2021 – Ephemeris – Procyon, the before the Dog Star

January 11, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Monday, January 11th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 5 minutes, setting at 5:23 pm, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:17 am. The Moon, 2 days before new, will rise at 8:05 tomorrow morning.

Visible low in the east at 8 p.m. appears the star Procyon. To its right and below is Sirius the brightest night-time star. Procyon is the bright star in the constellation Canis Minor, or lesser dog. I can find only one other star in Canis Minor. Perhaps it’s a hot dog. If Sirius, in Canis major is the Dog Star then Procyon should be the Little Dog Star. However, Procyon is an interesting name. It means “Before the dog”, which is an allusion to the fact that Procyon, though east of Sirius actually rises before it. This is due to Procyon’s more northerly position. This effect doesn’t work south of the equator, however. Sirius will rise at about 7:30 tonight. Procyon is a star much like Sirius but is 32% farther away. It’s 11.4 to Sirius’ 8.6 light years away.

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

Addendum

Orion and his hunting dogs in early winter

Orion and his hunting dogs in early winter (8 pm, January 11, 2021) showing that Procyon does rise before Sirius.

01/05/2021 – Ephemeris – Orion’s named stars and their meanings

January 5, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Tuesday, January 5th. Today the Sun will be up for 8 hours and 57 minutes, setting at 5:17, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:19. The Moon, 1 day before last quarter, will rise at 12:42 tomorrow morning.

The constellation of Orion the hunter is visible in the southeast at 8 p.m. The names of the stars of Orion are interesting in themselves. Starting at the top left of the seven bright stars of Orion’s torso is Betelgeuse the bright red star, whose name means something like “Armpit of the Giant”. The star in Orion’s other shoulder is Bellatrix the “Amazon Star”. Below are the three stars of Orion’s belt, from left to right; Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka. Their names mean “Girdle”, “Belt of Pearls”, and “Belt” respectively. Down to Orion’s knees we look on the left to the star Saiph pronounced “Safe”* which means “Sword”, though it is a star in his knee. Finally, there’s the bright blue-white star Rigel whose name means “Left Leg of the Giant” in Orion’s other knee. These are the important stars that make up the figure of Orion in the sky. [BTW. most star names are Arabic, and what survives of them is just a part of the original Arabic phrases.]

* In the radio program I pronounced the word then spelled it out.

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

Addendum

Orion with star names.

The named stars of Orion. Created using Stellarium.

Categories: Constellations, Star Names Tags:

04/20/2020 – Ephemeris – The Little King Star

April 20, 2020 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Monday, April 20th. Today the Sun will be up for 13 hours and 45 minutes, setting at 8:34, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:47. The Moon, 2 days before new, will rise at 6:37 tomorrow morning.

The brightest star in the constellation Leo, which is high in the south these evenings is Regulus, whose name means “Little King”. It is appropriate due to its position in the heart of the king of beasts Leo the lion. Regulus is dead last in brightness of the 21 first magnitude stars, the brightest night-time stars. Even so, it is much brighter than the Sun. It is 79 light years away. The Sun would require a telescope to be spotted at that distance. Regulus appears to be a quadruple star system. The bright star itself is really two stars with a bright star orbited by a much dimmer star every 40 days. There are two dimmer stars much further out that share Regulus’ motion through space. There are an infinite variety of star system arrangements in the galaxy and beyond.

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

Addendum

Regulus in Leo the Lion

The naked eye stars of Leo, including Regulus at 9:30 p.m. April 20, 2020. Note that Algieba is a binary star that can be seen in small telescopes. The yellow line that passes Regulus is the ecliptic the apparent path of the Sun. The Moon and planets also hang out near that line. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

03/13/2020 – Ephemeris – Looking for Cancer the crab

March 13, 2020 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, March 13th. Today the Sun will be up for 11 hours and 49 minutes, setting at 7:47, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:56. The Moon, 3 days before last quarter, will rise at 1:01 tomorrow morning.

Between the stars Castor and Pollux in Gemini high in the southeast and the star Regulus in Leo the Lion in the east-southeast lies the dimmest constellation of the zodiac, Cancer the crab. To me its 5 brightest stars make an upside down Y. There’s the stars in the center of the constellation Asellus Borealis and Asellus Australis, the north and south donkeys. There’s a fuzzy spot between and just west of them called Praesepe, the manger from which they are supposedly eating. In binoculars it resolves into a cluster of stars called the Beehive cluster. We amateur astronomers also know it as M44, the 44th object on 18th century comet hunter Charles Messier’s list of fuzzy objects that might be mistaken for comets.

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

Addendum

Cancer the Crab

Cancer the crab finder chart. Note the beehive cluster, also known to amateur astronomers as M44, along with other catalog names. Prior to the invention of the telescope this cluster was known as Praesepe which means “Manger”. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

The constellation Cancer with star names and Praesepe. Asellus Borealis, the Northern Donkey; and Asellus Australis, the Southern Donkey are next to Praesepe the manger. Created using Stellarium.

We only hear about a manger at Christmas time.  It is simply a trough that horses, donkeys, and cattle eat from.

12/23/2019 – Ephemeris – Orion, rising even higher now

December 23, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, December 23rd. Today the Sun will be up for 8 hours and 48 minutes, setting at 5:05, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:18. The Moon, 3 days before new, will rise at 6:34 tomorrow morning.

The large and bright constellation of Orion the hunter is in the southeast at 9 p.m., with the bright star Sirius below it near the horizon. The equally spaced line of three stars of Orion’s belt are nearly vertical and point down to Sirius, also known as the Dog Star in Canis Major, Orion’s greater dog. Those three belt stars are in the center of an elongated rectangle of stars that tilt to the left. At the top left of Orion’s shoulder stars is the red giant star Betelgeuse. The right shoulder star is Bellatrix. Both Bellatrix and Sirius along with the names of other stars and constellations should be familiar to fans of the Harry Potter novels and movies, as members of the house of Black. The knee stars at the bottom of the rectangle are, from left to right Saiph and the brilliant blue giant star Rigel. Between his belt and knees are stars of his sword.

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

Addendum

Bright named stars of Orion

The named bright stars of Orion and Canis Major, the dog rising below Orion with Sirius. Beside the stars mentioned in the program are the stars of Orion’s belt that have their own program later on in winter. Created using Stellarium.

In this season of Biblical stories it’s nice to note that Orion is mentioned four times in the Old Testament.  In Isaiah, Amos and twice in Job.  In Hebrew his name is “Kesîl”, meaning Fool.

12/19/2019 – Ephemeris – What does the bright star Procyon’s name mean?

December 19, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, December 19th. Today the Sun will be up for 8 hours and 48 minutes, setting at 5:04, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:16. The Moon, at last quarter today, will rise at 1:42 tomorrow morning.

Visible low in the east at 8:30 p.m. will appear the star Procyon, sometimes called the little Dog Star. It’s in the constellation of Canis Minor, the little dog. It will rise at 8:05 p.m. for the Traverse City Interlochen area. Yet to rise at that time is the Dog Star itself, Sirius, the brightest night-time star. It won’t rise until 8:40 p.m., 35 minutes later even though Sirius is west of Procyon. I bring this up because the name Procyon means Before the Dog. At our latitude Procyon rises before any part of Canis Major, the big dog, Canis Major, that Sirius is in the heart of. This is sensitive to one’s latitude. At the equator, say in Ecuador. Sirius would rise first due to its westerly position by 54 minutes. You see Procyon is also north of Sirius and that makes all the difference.

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

Addendum

Procyon rising before Sirius

Stars and constellations in the east at 9 p.m., about 4 hours after sunset, on December 19th. This only works for locations above 30 degrees north latitude. Created using Stellarium.

Procyon and Sirius will for observers located at 30º 30′ north latitude.  South of that latitude Sirius will rise first.

02/07/2019 – Ephemeris – Siriusly, folks.

February 7, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, February 8th. Today the Sun will be up for 10 hours and 7 minutes, setting at 6:01, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:52. The Moon, half way from new to first quarter, will set at 9:48 this evening.

At 9 in the evening the great constellation of Orion the hunter can be seen in the south. Its large rectangle of bright stars is now upright, while in the center is a row of three stars, his belt. These stars tilt downward to the left to a very bright star merrily twinkling in the south-southeast. This star is called Sirius, also known as the Dog Star because it’s in the heart of Orion’s larger hunting dog, Canis Major. It is an arc light white star as seen in binoculars or telescope. It’s a neighboring star, just twice the distance of the closest star to the sun at 8.6 light years. It’s name, Sirius, has nothing to do with a dog, but is from the Greek meaning scorching for its brightness or sparkling, due to its intense twinkling.

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

Addendum

Orion's Belt points to Sirius

Orion’s Belt points to Sirius. Created using Stellarium.

12/10/2018 – Ephemeris – How the star Procyon got its name

December 10, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, December 10th. The Sun will rise at 8:09. It’ll be up for 8 hours and 53 minutes, setting at 5:02. The Moon, 3 days past new, will set at 8:09 this evening.

Visible low in the east at 9 p.m. or a little after will appear the star Procyon, sometimes called the little Dog Star. It’s in the constellation of Canis Minor, the little dog. It will rise at 8:40 p.m. for the Traverse City Interlochen area. Yet to rise at that time is the Dog Star itself, Sirius, the brightest night-time star. It won’t rise until 9:15 p.m., 35 minutes later even though Sirius is west of Procyon. I bring this up because the name Procyon means Before the Dog. At our latitude Procyon rises before any part of Canis Major, the big dog that Sirius is in the heart of. This is sensitive to one’s latitude. At the equator, say in Ecuador. Sirius would rise first due to its westerly position by 54 minutes. You see Procyon is also north of Sirius and that makes all the difference.

Note at 31 degrees north latitude they will rise together. Explain that, flat-earthers!

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

Addendum

Procyon rising before Sirius

Stars and constellations in the east at 9:30 p.m., about 4 hours after sunset, on December 10th. This only works for locations above 30 degrees north latitude. Created using Stellarium.

Categories: Ephemeris Program, Star Names Tags:

02/08/2018 – Ephemeris – The wonderfully named stars of Orion

February 8, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, February 8th. The Sun will rise at 7:53. It’ll be up for 10 hours and 8 minutes, setting at 6:01. The Moon, 1 day past last quarter, will rise at 3:09 tomorrow morning.

The constellation of Orion the hunter is visible in the south at 9 p.m. The stars of Orion are interesting in themselves. Starting at the top left of the seven bright stars of Orion’s torso is Betelgeuse the bright red star, whose name means something like “Armpit of the Giant”. The star in Orion’s other shoulder is Bellatrix the “Amazon Star”. Below are the three stars of Orion’s belt, from left to right; Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka. Their names mean “Girdle”, “Belt of Pearls”, and “Belt” respectively. Down to Orion’s knees we look on the left to the star Saiph pronounced ‘safe’ which means “Sword”, though it is some ways from the stars of Orion’s sword. Finally there’s the bright blue-white star Rigel whose name means “Left Leg of the Giant”.

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

Addendum

Orion with star names.

The named stars of Orion. Created using Stellarium.

Betelgeuse, pronounced Beetlejuice is the name of a 1988 movie, where Betelgeuse (spelled properly) is a particularly mischievous demon.  Don’t say his name three times, or he’ll come and ‘help’ you.  Oops, I did.  It is a red giant star near the end of its life.

Bellatrix, is now known to most of us now as the first name as the first name of Bellatrix Lestrange from J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter book and movie series.  Other members of the Black family have astronomical names, such as Regulus (Leo) Black, and Sirius (Canis Major) Black.

The names of the belt stars were taught to me by Evelyn Grebel of the Grand Rapids Public Museum in the late 1950s.  She was one of the founders of the Grand Rapids Amateur Astronomical Association.  The names Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka have stuck with me ever since.  It was through her that I was able to worm my way into working at the museum’s new then unnamed planetarium.  I also remember being in her office with her, listening to the radio as Alan Shepard made his historic suborbital flight on May 5th, 1961.

Rigel is a hot blue-white star, and will probably become a red giant star like Betelgeuse.  There is another bright star named Rigel, but most don’t know it.  It’s Rigel Kentaurus, the leg of the centaur of Centaurus.  It’s better known as Alpha Centauri, a catalog designation, and the nearest star to the solar system.

12/04/2017 – Ephemeris – Orion rising in the moonlight

December 4, 2017 1 comment

Ephemeris for Monday, December 4th. The Sun will rise at 8:02. It’ll be up for exactly 9 hours, setting at 5:02. The Moon, 1 day past full, will rise at 6:32 this evening.

Now that the Moon is quite bright and making the fainter stars in the constellations harder to find, let’s look at one of the bright stars of Winter. Tonight at 8 p.m. the bright reddish star Betelgeuse is low in the east, but will be rising higher and moving slightly southward, as the rest of the bright stars in its constellation of Orion the hunter also clear the horizon. To its right are a nearly vertical line of three equally spaced stars, Orion’s belt. Betelgeuse is in Orion’s shoulder. The name Betelgeuse is a corruption of the Arabic phrase “Armpit of the Central One”, although there’s some debate about that translation. Betelgeuse is maybe only 7 million years old, but due to its great mass of up to 20 times that of the Sun, is already dying.

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

Addendum

Orion rising

Orion rising in the light of a super moo at 8 p.m.,, about 3 hours after sunset, December 4, 2017. Created using Stellarium.