12/05/2018 – Ephemeris – The bright planets and a comet tonight

December 5, 2018 Comments off

Wednesday, December 5th. The Sun will rise at 8:04. It’ll be up for 8 hours and 58 minutes, setting at 5:02. The Moon, 2 days before new, will rise at 7:08 tomorrow morning.

Let’s look at the bright planets for tonight. In the evening sky we have Mars, but are about to lose Saturn. Saturn will be briefly visible very low in the southwestern sky from about 5:45 p.m. until it sets at 6:46 p.m. Mars will be in the south as the skies darken tonight. Mars will be due south at 6:41 p.m., and it will set at 12:13 a.m. Mars is moving eastward, crossing the constellation of Aquarius until the 21st, then it enters Pisces. Comet Wirtanen is moving northward, below and right of the V of stars that’s the head of Taurus the bull, and should be an excellent binocular object. Venus, our brilliant morning star, will rise at 4:24 a.m. in the east-southeast. The blue-white star Spica is still off to the right and a bit above it.  Mercury will rise at 6:31 a.m. and might be spotted after that.  Jupiter is near the Moon tomorrow morning, rising at 7:24 only 40 minutes before the Sun.

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

Addenda

The planets

Evening planets

Mars, and Saturn seen at 5:45 p.m. tonight December 5, 2018. Created using Stellarium.

Morning planets

Morning planets Venus and Mercury. Jupiter is about to rise at 7:15 a.m. December 6, 2018. Created using Stellarium.

Telescopic Venus

Telescopic view of Venus tomorrow morning December 6, 2018. Created using Stellarium.

Planets and the Moon on a single night

Planets, one comet and the Moon at sunset and sunrise of a single night starting with sunset on the right on December 5, 2018. The night ends on the left with sunrise on the 6th. Click on the image to enlarge. Comet Wirtanen is very close to opposition and to the south, so it rises after sunset and sets before sunrise. Created using my LookingUp program.

Bright comets

Comet C/2018 V1

Comet C/2018 V1 (Machholz-Fijikawa-Iwamoto) in twilight starting tonight November 28, 2018. The comet won’t climb that dramatically at 6 p.m. on the rest of the nights because the stars in the field will set 4 minutes earlier each successive evening. The latest magnitude estimate of the comet on December 8 is 5.9, two magnitudes brighter than shown here. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

Comet Wirtanen

Comet 46P/Wirtanen positions for the next week. Positions are marked with month-date and magnitude. The latest magnitude prediction for December 1st is 3.7, 5.4 magnitudes brighter than shown here. The comet may make magnitude 3 by mid-December. Star field position is for 9 p.m. on the 28th. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

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12/04/2018 – Ephemeris – Auriga the Charioteer

December 4, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, December 4th. The Sun will rise at 8:03. It’ll be up for 8 hours and 59 minutes, setting at 5:02. The Moon, 3 days before new, will rise at 6:03 tomorrow morning.

The constellation Auriga the charioteer is half way up the sky in the east northeast at 9 p.m. It is a pentagon of stars, with the brilliant star Capella at the upper left of its corners. Capella represents a mama goat he’s carrying. A narrow triangle of stars just right of Capella are her kids, that is her baby goats. The Kids is an informal constellation or asterism. The Milky Way runs through Auriga, but it’s not very bright here. We are looking away from the center of the Milky Way to the more sparse outer parts. Within and near that pentagon, one can sweep with binoculars and low power telescopes to find several star clusters, groups of hundreds of stars born in the clump we still see them in. These star clusters will appear as fuzzy spots in binoculars.

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

Addendum

Auriga

Auriga and neighboring constellations for 9 p.m. in early December. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

12/03/2018 – Ephemeris – Comet Wirtanen should be bright enough for the naked eye or binoculars this month

December 3, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, December 3rd. The Sun will rise at 8:02. It’ll be up for 9 hours and 1 minute, setting at 5:03. The Moon, half way from last quarter to new, will rise at 4:56 tomorrow morning.

Beside Comet Machholz-Fujikawa-Iwamoto which I talked about last Thursday and should be at peak brightness about now in the western twilit sky, we have another comet, this one Comet 46P/Wirtanen is brightening in the east in the evening. Wirtanen is a member of the Jupiter family of comets, whose 5.44 year orbit of the Sun takes it from just outside the Earth’s orbit to just inside Jupiter’s orbit. This time around it will come as close as 7.1 million miles of the Earth. As of Thanksgiving the comet was 100 times brighter than its nominal expected brightness. I don’t know if it will stay that way. It has a history of outbursts. If it keeps it up Wirtanen could be as bright as the Pleiades stars when it passes them on the 16th.

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

Addendum

Comet 46P/Wirtanen in December 2018

The path of Comet 46P/Wirtanen from November 21, 2018, to January 1, 2019. The labels are month, date, and expected magnitude. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

Check back every Wednesday at least where Comet Wirtanen will be past of the planet report.  I’ll be covering the comet on other days throughout the month.  Also check  Seiichi Yoshida’s Weekly Information about Bright Comets: http://www.aerith.net/comet/weekly/current.html

11/30/2018 – Ephemeris – Previewing December skies

November 30, 2018 Comments off

Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Friday, November 30th. The Sun will rise at 7:58. It’ll be up for 9 hours and 5 minutes, setting at 5:04. The Moon, 1 day past last quarter, will rise at 1:29 tomorrow morning.

Let’s preview December’s skies. Winter will officially arrive on the 21st at 5:22 p.m., the winter solstice. The noontime sun will dip from 23 ½ degrees to a bit less than 22 degrees above the southern horizon on that day. There will be little movement in the sunset times: In the Traverse City/Interlochen area this will be from 5:03 tomorrow, down to 5:02 and then advancing to 5:11 at the end of the month. The sunrise times will advance from 7:58 tomorrow to 8:20 on the 31st. The big event in December will be the Geminid meteor shower whose maximum is on the morning of the 14th. An old comet will make a close pass of the Earth and may be quite bright by mid-month. Watch for Comet Wirtanen.

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

Addenda

December Evening Star Chart

Star Chart for December 2018 (9 p.m. EST December 15, 2018). Created using my LookingUp program. Click on image to enlarge.

The planets and stars are plotted for the 15th at 9 p.m. EST in the evening and 6 a.m. for the morning chart. These are the chart times. Note that Traverse City is located approximately 45 minutes behind our time meridian. (An hour 45 minutes behind our daylight saving time meridian during EDT). To duplicate the star positions on a planisphere you may have to set it to 1 hour 45 minutes earlier than the current time.

Note the chart times of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. are for the 15th. For each week before the 15th add ½ hour (28 minutes if you’re picky). For each week after the 15th subtract ½ hour. The planet positions are updated each Wednesday on this blog. For planet positions on dates other than the 15th, check the Wednesday planet posts on this blog.

December Morning Star Chart

Star Chart for December mornings 2018 (6 a.m. EST December 15, 2018). Created using my LookingUp program. Click on image to enlarge. The original morning chart uploaded December 1st was outdated.

For a list of constellation names to go with the abbreviations click here.

  • Pointer stars at the front of the bowl of the Big Dipper point to Polaris the North Star.
  • Follow the arc of the handle of the Big Dipper to the star Arcturus, and
  • Extend like a spike to Spica,
  • The Summer Triangle is in red.
  • GemR on the evening and morning star charts is the radiant of the Geminid meteor shower which peaks on the morning of the 14th,

Twilight

      Time zone=EDT      
  Morning twilight Evening twilight Dark night Moon
Date Astronomical Nautical Nautical Astronomical Start End Illum.
2018-12-01 6h20m 6h55m 18h16m 18h51m 18h51m 1h29m 0.33
2018-12-02 6h21m 6h56m 18h15m 18h50m 18h50m 2h39m 0.23
2018-12-03 6h22m 6h57m 18h15m 18h50m 18h50m 3h48m 0.14
2018-12-04 6h23m 6h58m 18h15m 18h50m 18h50m 4h56m 0.07
2018-12-05 6h24m 6h59m 18h15m 18h50m 18h50m 6h03m 0.03
2018-12-06 6h25m 7h00m 18h15m 18h50m 18h50m 6h25m 0.00
2018-12-07 6h26m 7h01m 18h15m 18h50m 18h50m 6h26m 0.00
2018-12-08 6h26m 7h02m 18h15m 18h50m 18h50m 6h26m 0.02
2018-12-09 6h27m 7h03m 18h15m 18h50m 19h15m 6h27m 0.06
2018-12-10 6h28m 7h04m 18h15m 18h50m 20h09m 6h28m 0.12
2018-12-11 6h29m 7h04m 18h15m 18h50m 21h06m 6h29m 0.19
2018-12-12 6h30m 7h05m 18h15m 18h51m 22h05m 6h30m 0.27
2018-12-13 6h30m 7h06m 18h15m 18h51m 23h05m 6h30m 0.36
2018-12-14 6h31m 7h07m 18h16m 18h51m 6h31m 0.45
2018-12-15 6h32m 7h07m 18h16m 18h51m 0h06m 6h32m 0.55
2018-12-16 6h32m 7h08m 18h16m 18h52m 1h07m 6h32m 0.65
2018-12-17 6h33m 7h09m 18h16m 18h52m 2h11m 6h33m 0.75
2018-12-18 6h30m 7h05m 18h13m 18h48m 3h16m 6h30m 0.84
2018-12-19 6h30m 7h06m 18h13m 18h49m 4h24m 6h30m 0.91
2018-12-20 6h31m 7h06m 18h14m 18h49m 5h34m 6h31m 0.97
2018-12-21 6h31m 7h07m 18h14m 18h50m 0.97
2018-12-22 6h32m 7h07m 18h15m 18h50m 1.00
2018-12-23 6h32m 7h08m 18h15m 18h51m 1.00
2018-12-24 6h33m 7h08m 18h16m 18h51m 18h51m 19h35m 0.97
2018-12-25 6h33m 7h09m 18h16m 18h52m 18h52m 20h49m 0.91
2018-12-26 6h34m 7h09m 18h17m 18h53m 18h53m 22h05m 0.82
2018-12-27 6h34m 7h09m 18h18m 18h53m 18h53m 23h19m 0.72
2018-12-28 6h34m 7h10m 18h18m 18h54m 18h54m 0.61
2018-12-29 6h34m 7h10m 18h19m 18h55m 18h55m 0h30m 0.49
2018-12-30 6h35m 7h10m 18h20m 18h55m 18h55m 1h40m 0.38
2018-12-31 6h35m 7h10m 18h21m 18h56m 18h56m 2h48m 0.28

Twilight calendar was generated using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

See my blog post: Twilight Zone for the definitions of the different periods of twilight here: https://bobmoler.wordpress.com/2018/09/27/

NASA Calendar of Planetary Events

Date Local Event
      Time  
Dec 1 Sa   Venus: 39.9° W
  3 Mo 01:42:00 PM Moon-Venus: 3.8° S
  7 Fr 02:20:00 AM New Moon
  9 Su 12:30:00 AM Moon-Saturn: 1.2° S
  9 Su 06:12:00 AM Moon South Dec.: 21.5° S
  10 Mo 12:57:00 PM Moon Descending Node
  12 We 07:25:00 AM Moon Apogee: 405200 km
  14 Fr 07:16:00 AM Geminid Shower: ZHR = 120
  14 Fr 06:21:00 PM Moon-Mars: 3.9° N
  15 Sa 05:59:00 AM Mercury Elongation: 21.3° W
  15 Sa 06:49:00 AM First Quarter
  21 Fr 02:31:00 AM Moon-Aldebaran: 1.7° S
  21 Fr 02:49:00 PM Mercury-Jupiter: 0.8° N
  21 Fr 05:22:00 PM Winter Solstice
  22 Sa 03:03:00 AM Mercury-Antares: 6° N
  22 Sa 10:08:00 AM Jupiter-Antares: 5.2° N
  22 Sa 12:49:00 PM Full Moon
  22 Sa 04:00:00 PM Ursid Shower: ZHR = 10
  23 Su 06:48:00 AM Moon North Dec.: 21.6° N
  24 Mo 04:52:00 AM Moon Perigee: 361100 km
  24 Mo 06:54:00 AM Moon Ascending Node
  24 Mo 11:52:00 PM Moon-Beehive: 0.6° N
  26 We 11:06:00 AM Moon-Regulus: 2.5° S
  29 Sa 04:34:00 AM Last Quarter
         
         

All event times are given for UTC-5:00: Eastern Standard or Daylight Time

Sky Events Calendar by Fred Espenak and Sumit Dutta (NASA’s GSFC),
http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SKYCAL/SKYCAL.html

If you go to the above site you can print out a list like the above for the entire year or calendar pages for your time zone.

Sun and Moon Rising and Setting Events

Ephemeris of Sky Events for NMC Observatory
December, 2018 – Local time zone: EST
Date Sun   Twilight* Moon Illum
    Rise Set Hours End Start Phase R/S** Time Fractn
Sat 1 07:59a 05:03p 09:04 06:12p 06:49a   Rise 02:38a 29.00%
                     
Sun 2 08:00a 05:03p 09:03 06:12p 06:50a   Rise 03:47a 19.00%
Mon 3 08:01a 05:03p 09:01 06:12p 06:51a   Rise 04:55a 12.00%
Tue 4 08:02a 05:02p 09:00 06:12p 06:52a   Rise 06:02a 6.00%
Wed 5 08:03a 05:02p 08:59 06:12p 06:53a   Rise 07:07a 2.00%
Thu 6 08:04a 05:02p 08:57 06:12p 06:54a   Rise 08:10a 0.00%
Fri 7 08:05a 05:02p 08:56 06:12p 06:55a New Set 05:40p 1.00%
Sat 8 08:06a 05:02p 08:55 06:12p 06:56a   Set 06:25p 3.00%
                     
Sun 9 08:07a 05:02p 08:54 06:12p 06:57a   Set 07:15p 7.00%
Mon 10 08:08a 05:02p 08:53 06:12p 06:58a   Set 08:09p 12.00%
Tue 11 08:09a 05:02p 08:52 06:12p 06:59a   Set 09:06p 19.00%
Wed 12 08:10a 05:02p 08:52 06:12p 06:59a   Set 10:05p 27.00%
Thu 13 08:10a 05:02p 08:51 06:12p 07:00a   Set 11:05p 36.00%
Fri 14 08:11a 05:02p 08:50 06:13p 07:01a   Set 12:05a 45.00%
Sat 15 08:12a 05:02p 08:50 06:13p 07:02a F Qtr Set 01:07a 55.00%
                     
Sun 16 08:13a 05:03p 08:49 06:13p 07:02a   Set 02:10a 65.00%
Mon 17 08:13a 05:03p 08:49 06:13p 07:03a   Set 03:15a 74.00%
Tue 18 08:14a 05:03p 08:49 06:14p 07:03a   Set 04:23a 83.00%
Wed 19 08:15a 05:04p 08:49 06:14p 07:04a   Set 05:33a 90.00%
Thu 20 08:15a 05:04p 08:48 06:15p 07:05a   Set 06:45a 96.00%
Fri 21 08:16a 05:05p 08:48 06:15p 07:05a   Set 07:56a 99.00%
Sat 22 08:16a 05:05p 08:48 06:16p 07:06a Full Rise 05:22p 100.00%
                     
Sun 23 08:17a 05:06p 08:49 06:16p 07:06a   Rise 06:25p 98.00%
Mon 24 08:17a 05:06p 08:49 06:17p 07:07a   Rise 07:35p 93.00%
Tue 25 08:17a 05:07p 08:49 06:17p 07:07a   Rise 08:49p 85.00%
Wed 26 08:18a 05:08p 08:49 06:18p 07:07a   Rise 10:05p 76.00%
Thu 27 08:18a 05:08p 08:50 06:19p 07:08a   Rise 11:18p 66.00%
Fri 28 08:18a 05:09p 08:50 06:19p 07:08a   Rise 12:30a 54.00%
Sat 29 08:19a 05:10p 08:51 06:20p 07:08a L Qtr Rise 01:39a 43.00%
                     
Sun 30 08:19a 05:11p 08:51 06:21p 07:08a   Rise 02:47a 33.00%
Mon 31 08:19a 05:12p 08:52 06:22p 07:09a   Rise 03:53a 24.00%

* Nautical Twilight
** Moonrise or moonset, whichever occurs between sunset and sunrise

 

11/29/2018 – Ephemeris – A potentially bright comet was discovered earlier this month

November 29, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, November 29th. The Sun will rise at 7:57. It’ll be up for 9 hours and 6 minutes, setting at 5:04. The Moon, at last quarter today, will rise at 12:17 tomorrow morning.

Three amateur astronomers Don Machholz of the US and by Shigehisa Fujikawa and Masayuki Iwamoto of Japan independently discovered a comet November 7th that bears their names. Now through next week or so ,it will be visible in the western sky in evening twilight. The comet has been rapidly brightening, much more rapidly than expected. It could theoretically be bright enough to spot with the naked eye by Sunday or Monday, but it must compete with evening twilight low in the western to southwestern sky. Comets are unpredictable in their brightness and appearance. As David Levy of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 fame once said: “Cats and comets have tails and do exactly what they want”. Check here for updates.

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

Addendum

Comet C/2018 V1
Comet C/2018 V1 (Machholz-Fijikawa-Iwamoto) in twilight starting last night November 28, 2018. The comet won’t climb that dramatically at 6 p.m. on the rest of the nights because the stars in the field will set 4 minutes earlier each successive evening. The latest magnitude estimate of the comet on December 1 is 5.2, two magnitudes brighter than shown here. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

11/28/2018 – Ephemeris – Bright planets and comets tonight

November 28, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Wednesday, November 28th. The Sun will rise at 7:56. It’ll be up for 9 hours and 8 minutes, setting at 5:04. The Moon, 1 day before last quarter, will rise at 11:05 this evening.

Let’s look at the bright planets for tonight. Two of them are visible in the evening sky. Saturn will be briefly visible very low in the southwestern sky and from about 6 p.m. and will set at 7:10 p.m. Mars will be in the south as the skies darken tonight. Mars will be due south at 6:52 p.m., and it will set at 12:17 a.m. Mars is moving eastward, crossing the constellation of Aquarius this month. It’s currently about midway through Aquarius, moving eastward and northward, so its setting time won’t change much over this month. Venus, our brilliant morning star, will rise at 4:33 a.m. in the east southeast. The blue-white star Spica is still to the right and a bit above it. There are two comets entering our sky. More on that tomorrow.

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

Addenda

Planets and the Moon

Evening planets
Mars, and Saturn seen at 6 p.m. tonight November 28, 2018. Created using Stellarium.
Venus and the Moon in the morning
Venus and the Moon in the morning sky at 7 a.m. November 29, 2018. Note the bluish star Spica to the right of it. Created using Stellarium.
Binocular Moon
The waning gibbous Moon as it should appear tomorrow morning in binoculars. Created using Stellarium.
Telescopic Venus
Telescopic view of Venus tomorrow morning November 29, 2018. Created using Stellarium.
Planets and the Moon on a single night
Planets, two comets and the Moon at sunset and sunrise of a single night starting with sunset on the right on November 28, 2018. The night ends on the left with sunrise on the 29th. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using my LookingUp program.

Bright comets

Comet C/2018 V1
Comet C/2018 V1 (Machholz-Fijikawa-Iwamoto) in twilight starting tonight November 28, 2018. The comet won’t climb that deramatically at 6 p.m. on the rest of the nights because the stars in the field will set 4 minutes earlier each successive evening. The latest magnitude estimate of the comet on December 1 is 5.2, two magnitudes brighter than shown here. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).
Comet 46P/Wirtanen
Comet 46P/Wirtanen positions for the next week. Positions are marked with month-date and magnitude. The latest magnitude prediction for December 1st is 4.6, 5.1 magnitudes brighter than shown here. The comet may make magnitude 3 by mid-December. Star field position is for 9 p.m. on the 28th. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

11/27/2018 – Ephemeris – The beautiful Pleiades or Seven Sisters

November 27, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, November 27th. The Sun will rise at 7:55. It’ll be up for 9 hours and 10 minutes, setting at 5:05. The Moon, 2 days before last quarter, will rise at 9:52 this evening.

While I’ve mentioned the Pleiades with regard to its neighboring constellations several times this autumn I haven’t looked at this beautiful star cluster itself. The Pleiades appears as a group of six or seven stars visible to the naked eye, out of over a hundred stars, and is also known as the Seven Sisters. Some also mistake it for the Little Dipper, due to the little bowl shape in the center of the cluster. I call it the “tiny dipper”. The real Little Dipper is now hanging off Polaris in the north. There are a lot of stories about the Pleiades from many different cultures. From the Greek and Roman cultures we get our best known stories of them, that the seven sisters were the daughters of the god Atlas and Pleione. The 9 brightest stars bear the names of the sisters and their parents.

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

Addendum

Named Pleiads
The named stars of the Pleiades. This is also showing more stars than can be seen with the naked eye. This is the number of stars that can be seen in binoculars, which is the best way to observe them. Most telescopes are too offer too much magnification to fit all the stars in. A thirty power wide angle eyepiece can just fit all the stars in. Created using Stellarium.
The eastern sky at 9 p.m.
How to find the Pleiades in the eastern sky tonight.  Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).