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01/02/2020 – Ephemeris – Orion’s great red star Betelgeuse is dimming

January 2, 2020 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, January 2nd. The Sun will rise at 8:20. It’ll be up for 8 hours and 53 minutes, setting at 5:13. The Moon, at first quarter today, will set at 12:48 tomorrow morning.

The bright red giant star in the constellation Orion’s shoulder is in the news. It is dimming, and it is dimmer now than it has been for a very long time. A chart by the American Association of Variable Star Observers shows that this is the dimmest it’s been going back to 1970 and maybe a long time before that. Betelgeuse was first noticed to vary in brightness in 1838. It is the left star at the top of Orion’s upright rectangle of stars. Bellatrix is the right corner star. Betelgeuse is now only a little brighter than it, and much dimmer than Rigel the lower right corner star. A couple of years ago it was brighter than it had been since 1970. Astronomers are watching and waiting. They expect Betelgeuse to explode as a supernova sometime in the next million years.

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

Addendum

Orion's brightest stars

Orion’s brightest stars with their names for 9 p.m. January 7. Click on the image to make Orion a giant hunter. Created using Stellarium, which shows Betelgeuse at its average magnitude of 0.45.

Orion and Betelgeuse

Orion and Betelgeuse on Christmas night 2019 by David Dickinson. Photo from a smart phone from Virginia Beach. Note that Betelgeuse is not much brighter than Bellatrix and much dimmer than Rigel.

Magnitude estimates of Betelgeuse

Magnitude estimates of Betelgeuse since 1970. Credit AAVSO.

Note on the magnitude scale:  The lower the magnitude the brighter the star.  Stars with magnitudes less than 1.5 are first magnitude stars.  Second magnitude stars are between 1.5 and 2.5, and so on.

For more information check out Universe Today: https://www.universetoday.com/144465/waiting-for-betelgeuse-whats-up-with-the-tempestuous-star/

And Dr. Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy: https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/dont-panic-betelgeuse-is-almost-certainly-not-about-to-explode

Categories: Ephemeris Program, stars Tags:

11/19/2019 – Ephemeris – Spying Capella low in the northeast

November 19, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, November 19th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 26 minutes, setting at 5:11, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:46. The Moon, at last quarter today, will rise at 12:09 tomorrow morning.

As I was driving northward in the country at 6:15 Saturday night under partly cloudy skies I spied a bright star low in the north-northeast. It was Capella, the northernmost of the 21 first magnitude stars, and the 4th brightest star visible from our earthly location near 45 degrees north latitude. It’s in the pentagon shaped constellation of Auriga the Charioteer, which I couldn’t make out due to the clouds and the fact I was driving. Capella has the same color as the Sun, but there the similarity ends. Capella is made up of two massive stars that are so close that they appear as one. Capella is 43 light years away. At that distance a star the brightness of the Sun would barely be visible to the naked eye.

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

Addendum

Low northern stars about an hour after sunset

Low northern stars about an hour after sunset on November 19, 2019. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium.

10/31/2019 – Ephemeris – The perfect Halloween star

October 31, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Halloween, Thursday, October 31st. Today the Sun will be up for 10 hours and 14 minutes, setting at 6:33, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:20. The Moon, half way from new to first quarter, will set at 9:22 this evening.

Not all the ghosts and goblins out tonight will be children. One is out every night, because it’s a star. Its name is Algol, from the Arabic for Ghoul Star or Demon Star. It’s the second brightest star in the constellation Perseus the hero, rising in the northeast this evening. The star is located where artists have drawn the severed head of Medusa, whom he had slain. Medusa was so ugly that she turned all who gazed upon her to stone. Algol is her still glittering eye. Astronomers finally found out what was wrong with Algol. It does a slow 6 hour wink every 2 days 21 hours because it is two very close stars that eclipse each other in that period. It’s next nighttime minimum will be 1:46 a.m. on November 12th.

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

Addendum

Algol Finder

Perseus, Cassiopeia, Andromeda with Algol finder animation for Autumn evenings. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

Eclipsing Binary Star

Animation of an eclipsing binary star like Algol. Credit: Wikimedia Commons h/t Earth and Sky

Here is a web sit where you can calculate the minima of Algol and other eclipsing stars:  http://www.astropical.space/algol.php

10/18/2019 – Ephemeris – Capella rising

October 18, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, October 18th. Today the Sun will be up for 10 hours and 51 minutes, setting at 6:53, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:03. The Moon, 3 days before last quarter, will rise at 9:59 this evening.

For those with the advantage of a low northeastern horizon, will see a bright star slowly rising, much slower than the stars in the east, or notice its change in position from night to night, moving in the northeast. The star is Capella, northernmost of the bright winter stars. It never quite sets for locations north of the latitude of Ludington (44° N), meaning it’s circumpolar like the Big Dipper. It’s slow motion, due to its position close to the north pole of the sky sometimes makes it seem odd. I’ve gotten several calls about it over the years. Capella is the brightest star in the constellation Auriga the charioteer, a constellation I see as a pentagon, with a small triangle of three stars on one side.

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

Addendum

Capella rising animation

Capella rising animation at half hour intervals from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. October 18th. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

10/17/2019 – Ephemeris – Fomalhaut, the loneliest star in the sky

October 17, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, October 17th. Today the Sun will be up for 10 hours and 54 minutes, setting at 6:55, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:01. The Moon, half way from full to last quarter, will rise at 9:18 this evening.

There’s a bright star that appears for only seven and a half hours on autumn evenings. 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 faint 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 times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Fomalhaut

Fomalhaut, Saturn and the southern evening stars at 9 p.m. tonight, October 17, 2019. Click on image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium.

Categories: Ephemeris Program, stars Tags:

08/19/2019 – Ephemeris – The dimmest looking star of the Summer Triangle is by far the brightest

August 19, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, August 19th. Today the Sun will be up for 13 hours and 52 minutes, setting at 8:42, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:50. The Moon, half way from full to last quarter, will rise at 10:53 this evening.

This evening when it gets dark the bright star Deneb in Cygnus the swan will be very high in the east. Deneb is the dimmest star of the summer triangle. Of the other stars of the triangle, Vega is higher nearly overhead, while Altair is lower in the southeast. While Deneb’s apparent magnitude, or brightness as seen from Earth, makes it the dimmest of the three bright stars, Deneb’s vast distance of possibly 2,600 light years* makes it over 90 times the distance of Vega. If brought as close as Vega, Deneb would be as bright at least as the quarter moon. It is possibly as bright as 196 thousand suns; and a huge star, possibly as large in diameter as the orbit of the Earth. For all this it is only 20 to 25 times the mass of the Sun.

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 Great Rift finder animation as seen 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 last year in a vain attempt to capture some meteors.

07/08/2019 – Ephemeris – The bright star Vega

July 8, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, July 8th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 24 minutes, setting at 9:29, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:06. The Moon, 1 day before first quarter, will set at 1:31 tomorrow morning.

The bright star high in the east is Vega, one of the stars of the Summer Triangle an informal constellation called an asterism. Vega belongs to the official constellation Lyra the harp, which includes a narrow parallelogram of stars to its south. Vega is regarded by astronomers as a standard calibration star. Though a first magnitude star, its actual magnitude is 0.03. It is a type A0 a pure white star, and is 25 light years away. Astronomers however got a shock in 1983 when calibrating the Infrared Astronomy Satellite (IRAS) on it: Vega showed an excess of Infrared radiation which means the star is orbited by a disk of dust, perhaps a Kuiper belt of its own. Due to the slow wobble of the earth’s axis Vega will become our pole star in about 14 thousand years.

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

Addendum

The Summer Triangle July 5, 2012 at 11 p.m. Created using Stellaruim and The Gimp.

The Summer Triangle. Created using Stellarium.

Vega - Alpha Lyrae

Vega: Comparison to the Sun and its dust ring. Credit Orange County Astronomers.