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03/23/2020 – Ephemeris – See zodiacal light in the evening

March 23, 2020 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, March 23rd. Today the Sun will be up for 12 hours and 20 minutes, setting at 7:59, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:37. The Moon, 1 day before new, will rise at 8:11 tomorrow morning.

With the bright moon out of the sky for a few more nights it’s time to look for the zodiacal light in the evening. It’s is a faint but towering glow that can be seen after the end of astronomical twilight on moonless nights. It is seen in the west in the evening in late winter and early spring and in the east in the morning in late summer and early autumn. The axis of the glow is the ecliptic, the apparent annual path of the Sun in the sky, along which lie the constellations of the zodiac. Right now the end of astronomical twilight is about 9:41 p.m. and advancing at a rate of a minute or two each night. Go to a spot with a dark western sky, no big cities or towns out that way. Zodiacal light is caused by dust spread out around the Sun.

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

Addendum

Zodiacal Light

Much enhanced Zodiacal Light from the my back yard at 9:31 p.m. March 16, 2018, 5 minutes after the official end of astronomical twilight. Canon EOS Rebel T5 18mm f.l., f/3.5, 6 sec. ISO 12,800 . The clouds on the left appear to be illuminated by the lights of the towns of Beulah and Frankfort 20+ miles away.

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.

10/25/2019 – Ephemeris – Finding Pisces the fish

October 25, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, October 25th. Today the Sun will be up for 10 hours and 31 minutes, setting at 6:42, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:12. The Moon, 2 days before new, will rise at 6:00 tomorrow morning.

High in the southeast at 9 p.m. are the four bright stars of the Great Square of Pegasus, the upside down flying horse. Lying along the left and bottom sides of the great square is the constellation of Pisces the fish, one of the 12 constellations of the Zodiac that lie along the path of the sun, moon and planets. Even though the constellation is called the fish, the fish themselves are not well represented in the stars. What can be traced in the stars is the rope, that’s tied to their tails, anchored at the extreme southeastern part of the constellation that is seen in the stars. The right or western end of Pisces is the asterism, or informal constellation, of the Circlet. It’s the loop of 5 stars, the rope around the tail of one of the two fish.

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

Addendum

Pisces finder animation

Pisces finder animation for 9 p.m. tonight October 25, 2019. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

10-22-2019 – Ephemeris – Capricornus, one weird goat

October 22, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, October 22nd. Today the Sun will be up for 10 hours and 39 minutes, setting at 6:46, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:08. The Moon, 1 day past last quarter, will rise at 2:08 tomorrow morning.

Nearly 2000 years ago the southernmost of the constellations of the zodiac was Capricornus the water goat. That’s why the latitude on the Earth where the sun is overhead on the winter solstice is called the Tropic of Capricorn. Not any more, Sagittarius, one constellation west and between Jupiter and Saturn this year, has that honor today. Actually Capricornus does need the press. It’s large, but made up of dim stars. To me it looks like a 45 degree isosceles triangle, long side up, but which all the sides are sagging. The constellation is found low in the south at 9 p.m. The image that is supposed to be represented by the stars is that of a goat whose hind quarters are replaced by a fish’s tail, not a mermaid but a mer-goat.

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

Addendum

Capricornus finder animation for tonight at 8 p.m. October 22, 2019. click on the image to enlarge. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

03/04/2019 – Ephemeris – Zodiacal light is especially visible this time of year

March 4, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, March 4th. Today the Sun will be up for 11 hours and 18 minutes, setting at 6:34, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:13. The Moon, 2 days before new, will rise at 7:07 tomorrow morning.

Zodiacal light is a faint but towering glow that can be seen after the end of astronomical twilight on moonless nights. It is seen in the west in the evening in late winter and early spring and in the east in the morning in late summer and early autumn. The axis of the glow is the ecliptic, the apparent annual path of the Sun in the sky, along which lie the constellations of the zodiac. Right now the end of twilight is about 8 p.m. and advancing at a rate of a minute or two each night. The cause of zodiacal light is dust, micron sized dust from comets and asteroids. Most of these lie in the plane of the solar system, centered on the ecliptic and the constellations of the zodiac and increases in brightness and width toward the Sun.

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

Addendum

Zodiacal Light

Much enhanced Zodiacal Light from the my back yard at 9:31 p.m. March 16, 2018, 5 minutes after the official end of astronomical twilight. Canon EOS Rebel T5 18mm f.l., f/3.5, 6 sec. ISO 12,800 . The clouds on the left appear to be illuminated by the lights of the towns of Beulah and Frankfort 20+ miles away.

Zodiacal Light and Comet Hale-Bopp April 1997. Enhanced contrast.

This is my previous best photo of zodiacal light. Zodiacal Light and Comet Hale-Bopp April 1997. Enhanced contrast.

The latest versions of Stellarium also show zodiacal light, but to see it the atmosphere needs to be turned off.  That’s keyboard shortcut A.

03/03/2016 – Ephemeris – How to spot Zodiacal Light

March 3, 2016 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, March 3rd.  The Sun will rise at 7:15.  It’ll be up for 11 hours and 17 minutes, setting at 6:33.   The Moon, 2 days past last quarter, will rise at 4:00 tomorrow morning.

There is a faint glow in the west that lingers after the end of twilight. It is visible to the careful observer.  It’s Zodiacal Light, the reflected glow from countless bits of dust in the plane of the solar system.  Its glow can be seen after twilight officially ends at 8:11 p.m.  You’ll need to go to a spot with no towns or cities immediately to the west of you.  The glow will appear as a thin pyramidal glow tilted to the left.  It’s very difficult to find the first time, but once seen you’ll easily find it again.  Zodiacal Light is easiest seen on spring evenings and autumn mornings when the ecliptic, the path of the planets and zodiac are nearest to vertical.  The farther south one goes the easier it is to see.  I first saw it when I was stationed in the Air Force in Louisiana.

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

Addendum

Zodiacal Light and Comet Hale-Bopp April 1997

Zodiacal Light and Comet Hale-Bopp April 1997. My image.

Zodiacal Light and Comet Hale-Bopp April 1997. Enhanced contrast.

Zodiacal Light and Comet Hale-Bopp April 1997. Enhanced contrast.

I find I have better luck photographing Zodiacal Light if I take  picture in its general direction of something else.

 

09/14/2015 – Ephemeris – Another odd creature of the Zodiac, a sea-goat

September 14, 2015 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, September 14th.  The Sun will rise at 7:20.  It’ll be up for 12 hours and 35 minutes, setting at 7:55.   The Moon, 1 day past new, will set at 8:35 this evening.

As the Teapot of the constellation Sagittarius tilts and pours celestial tea on the southwestern horizon, it is followed in the south-southeast by the faint constellation of Capricornus the sea-goat.  I’m not sure you’ll see a half goat with a fish’s tail here unless you’ve started Oktoberfest a bit early.  To me, it looks like a big sagging triangle with the point down.  Capricornus is a constellation of the zodiac, and its claim to fame is a latitude line on the globe at 23 and a half degrees south, called the Tropic of Capricorn.  Back a couple of thousand years ago the sun entered Capricornus on the first day of winter, the winter solstice.  Thus the latitude where the sun was overhead at that instant was called the Tropic of Capricorn.  Due to the wobble of the earth’s axis, the line should now be called the Tropic of Sagittarius.

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

Addendum

Capricornus represented in Cartes du Ciel

Capricornus represented in Cartes du Ciel

Artist's conception

An artist’s rendering of Capricornus. A part of Stellarium’s functionality.  The constellation lines are drawn differently than Cartes du Ciel

11/11/14 – Ephemeris – Something fishy in the stars

November 11, 2014 Comments off

Ephemeris for Veteran’s Day, Tuesday, November 11th.  The sun will rise at 7:33.  It’ll be up for 9 hours and 45 minutes, setting at 5:18.   The moon, 3 days before last quarter, will rise at 9:41 this evening.

High in the south at 9 p.m. are the four bright stars of the Great Square of Pegasus, the upside down flying horse.  Lying along the left and bottom sides of the great square is the constellation of Pisces the fish, one of the 12 constellations of the Zodiac that lie along the path of the sun, moon and planets.  Even though Pisces is called the fish, the fish themselves are not seen in the stars.  What can be traced in the stars is the rope, that’s tied to their tails, anchored at the extreme southeastern part of the constellation far below and left of the lower left corner of the Great Square.  The right end of Pisces is the asterism, or informal constellation, of the Circlet.  It’s the loop of 5 stars, the rope around the tail of one of the two fish.

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

Addendum

Pisces

Pisces below the Great Square of Pegasus in the south at 9 p.m.

11/10/2014 – Ephemeris – Where is the constellation of Aquarius the water bearer

November 10, 2014 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, November 10th.  The sun will rise at 7:32.  It’ll be up for 9 hours and 47 minutes, setting at 5:19.   The moon, half way from full to last quarter, will rise at 8:45 this evening.

One of the constellations of the zodiac is in the southern sky at 8 in the evening.  It’s the constellation of Aquarius the water bearer.  The image that is supposed to be depicted in the stars is that of a hapless fellow spilling a stone jar of water across the sky.  Aquarius is fairly hard to spot because it is made of faint stars.  One part of Aquarius is easy to spot, the Water Jar, an asterism or informal constellation.  It’s a distinctive small nearly equilateral triangle of stars with another star in the center.  Stars extending to the right from the water jar are that stream of water in some depictions.  The body of Aquarius is below, a misshapen balloon of stars that is seen above the bright star Fomalhaut, low in the south.

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

Addendum

Aquarius

Aquarius highlighting the Water Jar. Created using Stellarium.