05/15/2017 – Ephemeris – A look at the constellation of Virgo the virgin

May 15, 2017 1 comment

Ephemeris for Monday, May 15th.  Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 49 minutes, setting at 9:03, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:13.  The Moon, 3 days before last quarter, will rise at 1:03 tomorrow morning.

Tonight at 10 p.m. in the south-southeast, is the constellation and member of the of the zodiac: Virgo the virgin.  Now Jupiter is seen against the constellation appearing above and right of its brightest star, Spica.  Virgo is a large constellation of a reclining woman holding a stalk of wheat.  Spica, is the head of that spike of wheat; and as such it ruled over the harvest in two of Virgo’s guises as the goddesses Persephone and Ceres.  Virgo is also identified as Astraea the goddess of justice.  The constellation of Libra, the scales, which she is associated with, is found just east of her low in the east-southeast.  Early Christians who sought to de-paganize the heavens saw Virgo as the Virgin Mary.  Virgo is the host to a grand cluster of galaxies.

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

Addendum

Virgo finder chart

Animated Virgo finder chart for 11 p.m., May 15, 2017. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

Ephemeris Extra – Amateur astronomers produce a “Journey to Jupiter” video from 1,000 images

May 14, 2017 Comments off

This is impressive!  This is on YouTube, but read the explanation from Peter Rosén’s Planetary Society post which also has the video.

NASA requests the assistance of amateur astronomers to observe and record Mars, Jupiter and Saturn to help in observing these planets.  Usually satellites are too close to see the planetary big picture.  And besides amateur astronomers outnumber planetary scientists about a gazillion to one.  They’re the ones to discover storms on these worlds and communicate heads up to either view them from satellites or hunker down as in the case of the solar-powered Opportunity rover.

Thanks to the Planetary Society for the heads up.

Frame from A Journey to Jupiter

A frame from A Journey to Jupiter showing a time-lapse of Jupiter’s rotation and how the belts and zones move at different rates. Credit: The 91 amateur astronomers provided the over 1,000 images to make this video.

05/12/2017 – Ephemeris – There will be a star party at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Saturday night the 13th

May 12, 2017 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, May 12th.  Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 42 minutes, setting at 9:00, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:16.  The Moon, 2 days past full, will rise at 10:37 this evening.

Tomorrow night May 13th there will be, weather permitting a star party at  Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, this time the venue is Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive at Stop number 3, the Dunes Overlook.  The event starts at 9 p.m., while it’s still light out and the location can be found.  Park at Picnic Mountain, which is after Stop 2, and right before stop 3, and walk over.  The planet Jupiter and all four of its bright moons and cloud bands will be featured.  Sharp eyed observers will also be able to see the Great Red Spot.  As the sky darkens there will be a twilight talk about the wonders of the spring sky.  Near the last half hour it will be dark enough to spot some of the galaxies and globular star clusters of spring.  The star party is made possible by the rangers of the park and the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society.

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

Addendum

Telescopic Jupiter

Jupiter, its cloud bands, Great Red Spot and moons as it might be seen around 10 p.m. at the star party. The actual orientation will depend on the telescope used to view them. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

 

05/11/2017 – Ephemeris – Cassini is surviving its death-defying dives under the rings of Saturn

May 11, 2017 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, May 11th.  Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 40 minutes, setting at 8:59, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:17.  The Moon, 1 day past full, will rise at 9:42 this evening.

The Cassini spacecraft has been redirected by passing Titan on a special trajectory that sent it into a fatal set of orbits that take it a few thousand miles above Saturn’s cloud tops and under the innermost rings.  So far after two passes Cassini survives.  One discovery of the first pass was a storm, perhaps a hurricane, whose clear eye is at Saturn’s north pole.  Cassini has yet to turn its cameras to the rings on these passes inside the rings, but it will before its final orbit.  Currently it is flying communication dish first to protect its delicate instruments from ring particles.  So far the gap between the rings and the planet are more free of particles than expected.  Which is a good omen for the last 20 passes between the rings and planet.

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

Addendum

Cassini's grand finale

In its planned last 22 orbits of Saturn, the Cassini spacecraft will pass between the innermost ring and the planet itself. Credit NASA, JPL.

Saturn's North Pole

The clearing (blue sky) in the clouds at Saturn’s north pole spotted by Cassini on its first pass under the rings. Credit: NASA/JPL-Cal Tech/S Si/Sophia Nasr

 

05/10/2017 – Ephemeris – Our weekly look at the bright planets

May 10, 2017 Comments off

Wednesday, May 10th.  The Sun rises at 6:20.  It’ll be up for 14 hours and 38 minutes, setting at 8:58.  The Moon, at full today, will rise at 8:44 this evening.

Let’s take our weekly look at the bright planets.  Mars is still in the west after sunset and fading.  It appears above the brighter star Aldebaran in Taurus now.  It will set at 10:58 p.m.  Not quite dominating the evening sky now due to the Moon is Jupiter in the south-southeast.  The bright blue-white star Spica is seen below and left of it.   In even the smallest telescopes Jupiter’s four largest moons can be seen.  They shift positions night from to night and even as you watch.  Jupiter will set at 5:11 a.m.  At 6 a.m. both Saturn and Venus will be in the morning twilight.  Saturn will appear to be a bit to the west of south compass point.  It will rise in the east-southeast at 11:44 p.m.  Venus will be low in the east at 6 a.m.  tomorrow morning after rising at 4:41.

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

Addendum

Mars, Jupiter and the full Moon

Mars, Jupiter and the full Moon with the brighter stars at 10 p.m., May 10, 2017. Created using Stellarium.   Click on the image to enlarge.

Telescvopic Jupiter

Jupiter and its four Galilean moons as they might be seen in a telescope at 10 p.,. May 10, 2017. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

Full Moon

The Full Moon at 10 p.m., May 10, 2017. Created using Stellarium.

Venus, Saturn and the Moon

Venus, Saturn and the Moon at 5:30 a.m. May 11, 2017. Created using Stellarium. Click on the image to expand.

Saturn and moons

Saturn and its brightest 4 moons at 5:30 a.m. May 11, 2017. This is displayed at the same scale/magnification as the Jupiter image above. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).

Telescopic Venus

Venus as seen through a telescope at 5:30 a.m. May 11, 2017. This is displayed at a larger scale/magnification than the Jupiter and Saturn images above. Created using Stellarium.

Planets and the Moon on a single night

Planets and the Moon at sunset and sunrise of a single night starting with sunset on the right on May 10, 2017. The night ends on the left with sunrise on May 11. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using my LookingUp program.

 

 

 

 

05/09/2017 – Ephemeris – Looking at Jupiter through a telescope

May 9, 2017 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, May 9th.  The Sun rises at 6:21.  It’ll be up for 14 hours and 35 minutes, setting at 8:57.  The Moon, 1 day before full, will set at 6:36 tomorrow morning.

The first thing one sees by turning a telescope to the planet Jupiter are it’s moons, that change position night to night.  A closer look at the planet itself will reveal that it is not exactly circular, but a bit squashed, making Jupiter fatter in the direction of the line of moons.  Jupiter has only a 3 degree axial tilt, and its four large moons orbit over Jupiter’s equator, so even though they have nearly circular orbits, appear to move back and forth in a straight line.  On the face of the planet itself appear parallel cloud bands of cream and reddish-brown.  The parallel cloud bands and the squashed appearance of the planet have the same cause.  Jupiter, though over a thousand times the Earth’s volume rotates, that is has a day, of a bit less than 10 hours.

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

Addendum

Jupiter with its Great Red Spot

A slightly squished Jupiter with its Great Red Spot November 18, 2012 by Scott Anttila.

Overexposed Jupiter and its moons. My archival image.

Overexposed Jupiter and its moons. Note the moon that looks like a bump on the left edge of the planet.  My archival image.

05/08/2017 – Ephemeris – Europe and the Chinese are talking about a joint Moon village

May 8, 2017 2 comments

Ephemeris for Monday, May 8th.  The Sun rises at 6:22.  It’ll be up for 14 hours and 33 minutes, setting at 8:55.  The Moon, 2 days before full, will set at 6:07 tomorrow morning.

NASA, so far has no plans to return to the Moon to set up a base in preparation to heading out to Mars or an asteroid.  That could change.  The United States has a problem with long-term goals and planning with a change in administration every 4 or 8 years.  The European Space Agency, and the China National Space Administration have no such problem.  And it seems that these two entities are talking about together creating a Moon Village.  The raw resource that they may hope to mine is Helium 3, which can be used in earthly fusion reactors to produce power.  Helium 3 comes via the solar wind from the Sun.  A base could be setup at the south pole of the Moon, which has virtually no axial tilt to receive perpetual sunlight for power and water from eternally shadowed crater bottoms.

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

Addendum

Moon base

Artist visualization of a near polar moon base. Credits: ESA/Foster + Partners via Universe Today

I got this story from Universe Today:  https://www.universetoday.com/135270/europe-china-discuss-moonbase-partnership/