Star Calendar – December 2016

Star Calendar

December 2016

Star Calendar Planets:

Moon begins the month by visiting some planets in heliocentric order, then occults Aldebaran again before making its long-night excursion just after perigee. Solstice evening and Christmas eve will be absent the Moon – hence very dark. Then the last two Classical (visible to naked eye) planets will be visited, again in order.

Mercury is well south of the ecliptic, but the evening line steepens a bit too as solstice approaches and he may be spied if sought for – especially in the second week of this month. After this he suddenly darts out of the evening scene, scoots past the Sun on the 28th and shoots for a morning appearance with Saturn in early January.

Venus shines her brightest for the year this month – commonly mistaken as an airplane approaching with landing lights ablaze, she seems to leap upwards towards Mars – but she will retreat in January and the two shan’t meet ‘til October.

Sun is getting nearer as perihelion approaches in January and crosses the meridian at its average interval of 24 hours (which it does four times each year) on the 24th. On the 21st He rises and sets most-south-of east and west, makes his lowest passage across the southern meridian and spends the least time above the horizon. Due to the oddities arising from mean-time-keeping, earliest sunset occurs before solstice and latest sunrise occurs in January.

Mars continues to appear higher each evening even though the Sun is closing the gap between the two. This is again because the ecliptic is steepening against the horizon as we approach and pass solstice.

Jupiter continues to dominate the morning scene, standing prominently bright in the South above Spica.

Saturn quietly slips past the Sun on the 10th and should come into view some morning in January – still proximate to Antares. Remember that Saturn is lolling around near the winter solstice and is just always low these several years. Next December the Sun and Saturn will cross the solstice line together.

Star Calendar Days:

1 Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 7:03/16:28 (9h25m daylight)

    Young Moon stands above evasive Mercury, SW at 5:PM

3 Moon stands above dazzling Venus, SW in evening

4-5 Moon stands beside Mars, SSW in evening

7 Sun sets earliest for the year, 16:27 in Spring Valley

10 Saturn passes behind Sun

11 Mercury achieves greatest angular distance from Sun (21 degrees)

12-13 Moon perigee tonight

            Moon occults Aldebaran around 11:10PM+ until 12:10AMish

13-14 Full Long Nights Moon at 19:06; rise/set 16:41/7:30 (14h49m moonlight)

18 Moon approaches Regulus in SW before dawn

19 Mercury Stationary, to retrograde motion

21 Winter solstice at 5:44, least daylight; 7:18/16:31 (9h13m)

22 Ursid meteors peak late evening hours, face NNE as “Big Dipper” swings up

22-23 Moon, Jupiter and Spica appear SE in morning twilight

24 Equation of time is zero for Time Zone central meridia

25 Moon is apogee (at far point) for Christmas

26 Moon above evasive Antares in SE before dawn

27 Tired old Moon above (invisible) Saturn before dawn

28 Mercury at inferior conjunction, passes the nearside of the Sun

29 New Moon

31 Sunrise/set in Spring Valley at 7:21/16:38 (9h17m)

Star Calendar – November 2016

Star Calendar

November 2016

Star Calendar Planets:

Moon draws exceptionally near this month (nearest in 30 years) while also Full as it sets on the morning of the 14th.

Mercury peaks into the evening sky as Saturn departs. Around the 23rd will be the first chance to see Mercury – and the last for Saturn for this apparition. Failing that, try again on the 30th when the razor-thin new crescent Moon may serve as a guide. If that fails too, try under the Moon on Dec. 1st.

Venus crosses the Teapot (or Sagittarius) while making her oh-so-slow ascent into evening.

Sun is furthest ahead of Greenwich Time for the year on the 2nd, but is still behind our clocks – until we finally fall back from Daylight-distortion Time on the 6th.

Mars is beyond culmination (its highest altitude for that day, in South) at sunset now, and is being slowly overtaken by the Sun – but Mars will appear higher in the sky on successive nights at a given time because it is progressing beyond the midwinter portion of the ecliptic – and the ecliptic is more steeply inclined to the horizon at sunset. A little counter-intuitive.

Jupiter also appears higher every morning, but simply because the Sun is leaving it behind. The morning ecliptic is still very steep (October mornings are like March evenings in this respect) and will gradually drop through January. Jupiter gets a visit from the Moon on mornings of the 24-25th.

Saturn settles into the sunset, next to appear some morning after midwinter.

Star Calendar Days:

  1      Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 7:28/17:51 (10h23m daylight)

  1, 2   Venus, Saturn & Moon over Antares in SW at 6:45PM

  2      Equation of time maximum for year 16m26s

  3      Moon above Venus in SW at 7:PM

  6      Mornings brighten after U.S. clocks move back to Standard Time

          Moon above Mars South and West in evening

  9      God help us from our dis-aster (bad star) – whichever way it went

11      Martinmas – begins cross-quarter winter

13-14 Super Duper Moon: Full Frost Moon 8:52 AM at extreme perigee

16      Moon rises ENE on the summer colure at 7PM

17      Leonids peak in poor viewing conditions (too much Moon, too nearby)

20-21 Moon passes Regulus without occultation (was one last time)

24      Mercury may just be visible with Saturn at 5:PM with perfect WSW horizon

25      Moon and Jupiter above Spica in SE at 6:AM

28      Solstice on Mars, mid-winter for northern half

30      Mercury to left of Hilal Moon in WSW at 5:PM

          Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 7:01/16:28 (9h27m daylight)

Star Calendar – October 2016

Star Calendar

October 2016

Star Calendar Planets:

Moon is New on the 1st for those in “Greenwich” and zones east – but it is still Sept 30th here. Those who do not mind being up after midnight will have a chance to see an occultation of Aldebaran on the night of 18-19th in the ESE. The bright limb should blot out Aldebaran around 12:45 (I do not have exact times!) and the dark limb should reveal just over an hour later.

Mercury shines with ascending Jupiter on the morning of the 11th, then falls back from his recent morning apparition and moves in direct motion behind the Sun on the 27th.

Venus is just under 15 degrees above the horizon at sunset all month and gradually brightens as she cruises towards Antares and Saturn – arriving between the two on the evening of the 27th.

Sun performs part of its strange semiannual schizo-peregrination on the 30th when much of Europe falls back from Summer Time to Standard Time just before Halloween. In the U.S. the Sun waits to confuse us until just before Election Day.

Mars passes through the steam (Milky Way) of the Teapot (Sagittarius) this month, SSW each evening as darkness settles in.

Jupiter appears next to Mercury (pretty low) on the morning of the 11th and is the brighter of the pair. He will gradually be higher thereafter and will be the brightest object in the eastern morning sky for a while. He is of equal brilliance to Sirius, seen in the south.

Saturn begins the month above Antares and begins direct motion into Ophiucus in earnest. The Moon stands above the pair on the 6th.

Star Calendar Days:

1 Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 6:53/18:37 (11h43m daylight)

2 Sighting of the Moon (WSW, to right of Venus at 6:15PM) begins

    the years 5777 A.M. and 1438 A.H.; Hebrew and Muslim respectively

3 Moon above Venus, WSW around 6:15PM

5 Moon to right of Saturn, SW at 7:PM

6 Mars crosses top of the bow of the Archer, SSW at 7:15PM

8 Moon above Mars, SSW at 7:PM

    Draconid meteors?

11 Mercury (left) and Jupiter shine together 5:15 in East

15-16 Full Hunter’s Moon at midnight (12:23) AND perigee

17 Orionid meteors may peak early – but Moon will frustrate

19 Moon occults Aldebaran after midnight – sometime between 12:30 to 1:30AM

21 Typical peak for Orionids (residue from Halley’s Comet tail

27 Mercury crosses behind Sun (superior conjunction)

      Venus stands between Antares and Saturn low in SW at 5:45PM

28 Moon beside Jupiter in east at 5:AM

29 Mars is nearest to the Sun for its year

30 Europe falls back to Standard Time at 2:AM

      New Moon at 1:38PM

31 Sunrise/set in Spring Valley at 7:27/17:52 EST (11h15m daylight)

      All Saint’s Eve will be DARK this year

Star Calendar – September 2016

Star Calendar

September 2016

Star Calendar Planets:

Moon is New fairly near the Sun’s passing through the middle of eclipse season (near a moon node) but is also near apogee so that it is too distant for its shadow tip to reach earth, making an annular eclipse. Full Moon occurs as the Sun is leaving the realm of the node – making a penumbral lunar eclipse then. Neither event is visible in Spring Valley or our hemisphere. A second New Moon occurs as September closes – but the Sun is then well out of the realm of eclipse-making geometry. The Harvest Moon is a period when the skies never really get dark – making outdoor work possible into the night and/or early morning. This year the Full Moon rises in Civil Twilight and does not set until 2 hours after the following sunrise. The effect is stronger when the Moon is well north of the ecliptic – which it isn’t this year.

Mercury scoots back into the morning sky for a more favorable appearance in the second half of this month. Even though the excursion from the Sun makes a much smaller angle than the last one, the steepness of the ecliptic in morning skies at this time make an overwhelming advantage for us. A crescent Moon aids on the 28th and 29th.

Venus sidles up to Spica during the first half of this month, and overwhelms in the second half. Spica is the signature star of Virgo and may be found by following the curve begun by the handle of the Dipper – through yellow-green Arcturus and about that distance again to whitish Spica. Venus is approaching us, getting larger in angular size, and waning gibbous in phase.

Sun crosses the celestial equator, then rises and sets south of east and west until spring. The alternation of presence in the sky for longer and shorter portions of the day is imitated, in different periods by all of the planets – see Jupiter.

Mars starts making tracks away from the Scorpion and toward the Teapot/Archer this month. When he begins to move out he also fades in brilliance. Remember how bright he was compared to Antares in August? He will diminish to equal brightness by January.

Jupiter crosses the celestial equator near his conjunction with the Sun this month. Jupiter will also fall south of the celestial equator, but, unlike the Sun, will remain there for 5 ½ years. One could call this period an autumn and winter for Jupiter. He will next cross the summer colure in June of 2025.

Saturn begins the month above Antares and begins direct motion into Ophiucus in earnest. The Moon stands above the pair on the 6th.

Star Calendar Days:

  1      Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 6:23/19:28 (13h5m daylight)

          New Moon at 5AM, annular solar eclipse S.Africa, Madagascar, Antarctic

  2      Very young Moon grazes Jupiter low in west, setting around 8:PM

  3      Young Moon above Venus, evening in west

  8      Moon above Saturn, SW at 9:PM

  9      Moon above Mars, SW at 10:PM

13      Mercury crosses near-side of Sun

16      Full Harvest Moon at 15:05, penumbral lunar eclipse for Indian Ocean hemisphere

17-18 Venus passes to above and left of Spica, low-western evening sky

21      Mercury is stationary to stars, visible in low east at 6:AM

          Jupiter crosses to south of celestial equator – remains there until May 26, 2022!

22      Center of Sun crosses celestial equator, autumnal equinox, at 10:21 EDT

          Sunrise/sunset at 6:44/18:53 (12h9m daylight)

25      Sun’s upper limb just tangent to southern edge of celestial equator –

          Sunrise/sunset at 6:47/18:47 (12h0m daylight) equal day and night

26      Jupiter crosses far-side of Sun (conjunct)

28      Mercury at greatest angle from Sun, 18 degrees, for this appearance

          Mercury below waning Moon, low East around 6:AM

29      Mercury just below/right of old Moon, low East around 6:AM

30      Another New Moon for this month, 8:PM

Star Calendar – August 2016

Star Calendar

August 2016

Star Calendar Planets:

Moon passes just out of reach of Earth’s sizable shadow on the 18th as it sets at dawn. It is very close to being, or not being, a technical penumbral encounter – but nothing observable will occur. Some eclipse tables will list this event, others will not. Both are correct! An annular solar eclipse will cross Africa and Madagascar on September 1st when the Moon’s shadow doesn’t quite reach the Earth.

Mercury makes its widest excursion from the Sun this month but does so doubly disadvantaged from our point of view. Firstly the ecliptic is dropping dramatically to the left of the Sun (aka the coming decent into fall) and secondly Mercury is passing rather south of the ecliptic line. At greatest elongation on the 27th, Jupiter and Venus have a lesser elongation but stand higher than Mercury in the evening – as they are north of the ecliptic just now.

Venus sets at 9:PM on the 1st and then about one minute earlier each day thereafter – but the Sun sets even earlier, gaining about a minute and 21 seconds each day – so Venus is a little higher each evening twilight relative to sunset but is lower each evening relative to the clock. During this month she will pass Regulus, Jupiter and Mercury.

Sun stands in the middle of Cancer as the month begins, crosses into astronomical Leo on the 9th and reaches Regulus on the 21st. If you recall where Jupiter stood (beneath the belly of Leo) at the extremity of his last loop (stationary on May 9), the Sun will reach that spot on September 5th.

Mars will make a striking equilateral triangle with Saturn and Antares, in the south on the 11th, but the Moon standing directly above him will make a distracting lozenge – or possibly blot out Antares. So perhaps on any other day it is a good time to contrast Mars with Antares as they approach one another. They are conjunct on the 23rd/24th.

Jupiter is in direct motion, meaning that he appears further leftwards each day against the stars. The Sun and Moon epitomize this motion and the planets execute variations and contrasts to this theme. Venus is moving more quickly than the Sun, Jupiter more slowly – and Venus will catch up on the 27th for a very close and very bright conjunction. That would be a night to find a 10 to 30 power telescope with either not too large an aperture or fitted with some filters, for Venus will be so close that she’ll mingle amongst the Moons of Jupiter. The pair will be low and due West at 8:15 PM at the very beginning of Nautical Twilight conditions. Find a good spot ahead of time.

Saturn is within the meridia of Scorpius, (though astronomically in Ophiucus) and stands above (north of) Antares. Mars will cut between the two on the 23rd/24th.

Perseid meteors statistically peak mid-month, but the gibbous Moon presents a liability then. There have been known to be earlier outbursts however, so gazing Perseus/Cassiopeia-wards earlier in the month may reward. The Aurigids peak in better conditions at the end of the month – but are above the horizon in the pre-dawn hours – raying from above Orion’s shoulder.

Star Calendar Days:

  1      Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 5:52/20:12 (14h20m daylight)

  2      New Moon

  4      Mercury to right of young Moon, 8:45PM in West

          Also, lower to right, Venus

  5      Venus and Regulus conjunct in evening, latter probably washed out by sunset

  6      Moon just beneath Jupiter, setting by 9:30 PM in West

11      Moon, Mars, Antares, Saturn make a lozenge in SSW at 9:PM

12      Perseids peak – by statistics of the past

13      Saturn stationary to direct motion

16      Mercury at largest (but very low) angle from Sun for this appearance, 27 degrees

18      Full Red Moon (5:27 AM) sets in slight penumbral eclipse in early morning

23-25 Mars passes between Saturn and Antares, SSW in evening

27      Venus and Jupiter pass very close in West as Sun sets – should be quite bright

30      Mercury stationary to retrograde

31      Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 6:22/19:30 (13h8m daylight)

Star Calendar – July 2016

Star Calendar

July 2016

Star Calendar Planets:

Moon will show only 1/7 of her fullness on the 7th of the 7th month. 7/7 is the date of the oriental star festival called Tanabata – when two lovers (stars Vega and Altair), separated by a river (the Milky Way), may be allowed to meet if the river vanishes. But that is unlikely this year since the Moon is too small (dim) to vanquish the river. However, terrestrial lights may very well do the job instead; Orihime and Hikoboshi are probably big fans of Light Pollution.

Mercury crosses behind the Sun on the 6th-7th and might just be seen at the end of the month in the evening. On the 30th, with a good view to the west, Venus should shine out by around 8:30 PM. Following her descent, Mercury should appear to her left, and Regulus might just be made out very close beneath Mercury – try binoculars. That will be the nearest planet-to-bright-star conjunction for the year.

Venus should be visible (west) in bright evening twilight after mid-month or so, but she sets by around 9:PM. Mercury will pass close by on the 16th, but the sky will likely be too bright to see him. Again, one might try binoculars.

Sun is at its highest on the 4th – in the sense of distance-from-the-ground or Aphelion. Might the Earth be deemed most independent then? Proximity of the Sun slightly exaggerates the Winter/Summer of the southern hemisphere – but tempers those seasons in the north. Ocean is preponderate in the south – and it tends to subdue the seasons by great thermal mass and circulation – while land masses respond more quickly to the solar input. At present the apsides rather subdue climate change – with a residual net warming; the last ice age is still finishing up – but as the apsides shift (over centuries), a net cooling will again glaciate the north. The effect of apsides is smallish on the earth – but is large on eccentric Mars.

Mars, still brighter than any star, now culminates (is highest, in the south) as dark falls. He shone like a flying cinder during our St. John’s bonfire.

Jupiter is brighter than Mars – but is lower and further west each day when he appears. He entertains the Moon on the 8th and 9th.

Saturn makes a huge triangle with equal-brilliance stars Arcturus and Vega (the latter is slightly brighter). Saturn will gradually be higher and more southerly at first appearance each evening as the month progresses. In August he will appear in a fashion similar (in position) to that of Mars this month.

Star Calendar Days:

  1      Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 5:28/20:32 (15h4m daylight)

  4      Aphelion at noon – Sun is 3% farther than in January

          Sun, Moon, Venus and Mercury between the knees of Gemini

          Equinox on Mars, autumnal for northern part

  7      Mercury at superior conjunction – crosses behind Sun

          Moon beneath Regulus after sundown

          Tanabata – oriental star festival of Orihime (Vega) and Hikoboshi (Altair)

8-9     Moon near Jupiter in West at dusk

11      Moon between Mars and Jupiter, and beside Spica, SW in evening

14      Moon, Mars, Antares and Saturn make an oblong in South at 10:PM

16      Moon, Saturn and Mars make a line over Antares at 10:PM

19      Full Thunder or Hay Moon at 6:57PM

30      Perhaps find Mercury near dimmer Regulus as Venus sets, W around 9:PM

31      Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 5:51/20:13 (14h22m daylight)

Star Calendar – June 2016

Star Calendar

June 2016

Star Calendar Planets:

Moon crosses the seasonal colures (meridians of solstices and equinoxes) every month. This month Sun and Moon cross opposite colures on the same day. Just as the length of daylight changes with the seasons – so does the time of Moon-Up change rapidly through the month. For this month, Moon crosses the colures of Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring respectively on the: 4th at 23:32, 12th at 20:00, 20th at 08:26 and 27th at 00:25. The duration of Moon-Up on those days is: 14h35m, 12h29m, 10h4m and 12h26m. The extreme are somewhat subdued because the inclination of the Moon’s path with respect to the celestial equator is currently less than the Sun’s inclination; in a few years’ time the lunar seasons will be more exaggerated than the Sun’s.

Mercury may come into view mid-month – low in the ENE at around 4:30AM. I was not able to do an elaborate setup to view last month’s transit – but twice thought I might have seen it through welder’s glass. A lot of folks took nice photos though.

Venus crosses the backside of the Sun on the 6th. We may expect to see her next in mid-July.

Sun now occupies the sky for a pretty steady 15 hours a day. Note below the subtle differences between earliest/longest/latest dates and times. This year the solstice occurs on the same day as Full Moon – which means that the Sun is making a long summer crossing while the Moon takes a short wintery walk – rising very south-of-east and culminating very low in the sky.

Mars continues to be in our face this month but his rise-time advances more slowly as he approaches the end of his loop on the 30th. He is receding, first slowly, then rapidly, and will be fading noticeably as July approaches. On the 1st of this month he shines at magnitude -2.1 (brighter than Jupiter) and by July at -1.4 (rather like a red Sirius).

Jupiter still dominates the SW as darkness falls – but Mars holds sway in the SE.

Saturn varies less in brightness and follows Mars across the sky – trailing him by about an hour. Saturn is as bright now as the brightest summer star (Vega), but, appearing much lower, tends to draw less notice perhaps.

Star Calendar Days:

1      Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 5:26/20:23 (14h57m daylight)

3      Saturn in opposition (exactly opposite the Sun in our sky)

4      Jupiter is at eastern quadrature (exactly ¼ of the sky from the Sun)

Moon occults Aldebaran during the day (again in October at night)

5      Mercury at largest angle from Sun in morning sky

6      Venus at superior conjunction (crosses behind Sun)

8      Moon to left of Castor and Pollux (Gemini) at 9:30PM

10      Moon between Regulus and Jupiter tonight

13      Sun, Mars, and Saturn fall on a line in space; Martian opposition of Saturn

14      Sunrise earliest in Spring Valley, at 5:23AM

14-15 Moon above Spica and between Mars and Jupiter

17      Moon, Mars, Antares and Saturn make a lozenge, culminating as darkness falls

20      Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 5:24/20:32 (15h8m daylight)

Full Strawberry Moon 7:02AM

Solstice at 6:34PM EDT

23-24 St. John’s Eve/Day, traditional mid-summer

27      Sunset latest in Spring Valley, at 8:33PM

30      Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 5:27/20:33 (15h6m daylight)

Mars stationary to stars, end of retrograde loop, begins normal motion

Star Calendar – May, 2016

Star Calendar

May, 2016

Star Calendar Planets:

Moon is Full three, or sometimes four, times in a season but the names that various cultures have assigned to characterize the circumstances around various full moons of the year generally number 12 – leaving the occasional unnamed one. Similarly the Hebrew luni-solar calendar has 12 months – but needs to insert an inter-calary month about every three years to maintain its relationship to the solar year. In each case the adjustment occurs 7 times in 19 years – the extra full moon is called Blue and the extra Hebrew month is called second Adar. This month’s full Moon coincides with the opposition of Mars – and the latter will shine in the very spot towards which falls the shadow of the Earth – so on the night of the 21-22nd one can easily see just how far the moon is from being eclipsed.

Mercury promises to be visible in broad daylight on the 9th. Inferior conjunction will cut right across the face of the Sun, beginning somewhat after sunrise, midway around 11 and leaving in mid-afternoon. One can observe this with a camera obscura arrangement that projects and enlarges the disk of the sun onto a screen. I might cover a south or SE-facing window and allow a pinhole of light through a piece of aluminum foil to cast onto a sheet of white cardboard. Such a transit of Mercury last occurred ten years ago – but these are far less rare than transits of Venus – which I will never see again.

Venus is lost in morning limelight as she heads backstage for some future showing in evening attire.

Sun is midway from equinox to solstice on the 1st. Astronomically this marks the beginning of Summer, the solstice being regarded as mid-summer. The days are now getting longer much more slowly – by about one minute a day as the month opens and only 30 seconds a day as the month ends.

Mars makes a large retrograde stroke and rises dramatically earlier over the course of this and next month. He breaks the horizon at about 9 PM on the 1st and already at 6:18 by the 31st.  This opposition is the nearest for Mars since the superlative one of ten years ago. But, due to Mar’s high degree of ellipticity, he will continue to draw nearer for another week after opposition, then being twice as near to us as is the Sun (.5AU).

Jupiter finally diminishes perceptibly from its late brilliance but still dominates the evening sky in the south. Mars will match magnitude during its opposition- but rises later and culminates much lower – achieving only the altitude of the Sun at mid-winter.

Saturn is also in a retrograde loop, one much smaller than Mars’, and rises just under an hour later. Saturn is then seen to be about as bright as Arcturus – but shining with a steady light compared to the latter’s yellow-green scintillation. Saturn will reach opposition on June 3rd.

Star Calendar Days:

  1      Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 5:53/19:54 (14h1m daylight)

          First day of cross-quarter-wise summer, Beltane

  6      New Moon 15 hours after perigee, again large spring tides

  8      Moon to right of Betelgeuse and above Aldebaran, WNW around 9:PM

  9      Mercury crosses face of Sun (transit) begin 7:12-max 11:-ending 2:40

          Jupiter stationary to direct motion, ends it’s loop for this year

13      Moon next to Regulus, SW as dark falls

14      Moon next to Jupiter, SSW as dark falls

18      Moon beside Spica, SE as dark falls

21      Full Blue Moon at 17:14 (This season has 4 Full Moons, the 3rd is “Blue”

          Mars rises (in the exact direction of Earth’s shadow) beside the Moon, ESE 8:30PM

          Mercury stationary to direct (leftwards motion against stars)

22      Mars in opposition 7:AM, 14 hours after Full Moon

          Moon rises to left of Saturn, SE at 10:PM

30      Mars is nearest Earth, half as distant as is the Sun

31      Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 5:26/20:22 (14h56m daylight)

Star Calendar – April 2016

Star Calendar

April 2016

Star Calendar Planets:

Moon is very dynamic and has several motions of similar mode. A Frenchman sewed photographs of sequential Full Moons together into an animated GIF that shows very nicely the net effect of the various librations – the nodding and swaying face and changes in proximity in a kind of slow stroboscopic form. The next-to nearest perigee for this year coincides pretty closely to New Moon this month – the waters will respond. Of note; the center of mass of the Moon is well displaced from its geometrical center. This lopsidedness is probably why we see only one side of the Moon – its center of mass prefers to be toward the earth.

Mercury is an evening star all this month. With a good view to just North of West one might find him to the right of a thin Moon around 8:15 PM on the 8th. Thereafter he will be higher until the 18th, then seen below the Pleiades as late as around 9PM.

Venus is now difficult to view in the morning. With a very good East horizon try to look to the left of the Moon on the 4th at 6:10 AM – Venus will next appear some evening in latter July.

Sun is not a point of light – rather a disk of ½ degree or 1/720th the circumference of the sky. Due only to this the Sun is visible above the horizon to slightly more than ½ of the planet at a time. In addition, the medium of air, increasing in density from empty space, bends the visibility of the Sun a further half-degree or so beyond the geometric-tangent horizon, trebling the effect. At any moment, roughly 50.4% of the Earth is in daylight. This has to do with why day and night are not of equal length on the equinox.

Mars approaches headlong this month and brightens dramatically. He does so near Antares (similar color but much dimmer) and Saturn, to his left. Recall that Mars and Saturn were of equal brilliance in mid-February – now look at the difference! Mars’ opposition is coming May 22nd. They are visible, low and southerly, between about 11PM and 5:30AM.

Jupiter appears much the same as last month, repeating a prominent pairing with the Moon on the night of the 17th.

Saturn makes a nice contrast to Mars and will be in its opposition on June 3rd, only 12 days after Mars’.

Star Calendar Days:

  1      Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 6:39/19:22 EDT (12h43m daylight)

  6      Moon and Venus rise together – only with a perfect view east, at 5-5:10AM

  7      New Moon and very-near perigee only 6 ½ hours apart – spring tides

  8      Moon and Mercury set together – only with a perfect view west, at 8-8:30PM

10      Aldebaran emerges from occultation by Moon as they set; West, 8-11PM

12      Moon passes Alhena (foot of Gemini) WSW in evening

14      Moon makes a line with Pollux and Castor (heads of Gemini) SW in evening

16-17 Moon passes Regulus

17      Mars stationary to retrograde, brightening most rapidly now

17-18 Moon and Jupiter make a bright couple all night (like last month)

18      Mercury at largest angle from evening Sun for this appearance

20      Mars and Saturn nearest (no conjunction), visible SW11:30PM to SSW5:30AM

21      Moon setting with Spica WSW at 5:30AM

21-22 Full Sprouting Moon at 1:24 AM

23      Passover begins, the 15th of Nissan

24      Moon, Mars, Saturn & Antares rising together SE at 11:30PM

26      Mars, the brighter, nearest to Antares – of similar color; culminate S at 3:AM

29      Mercury stationary, to retrograde

30      Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 5:55/19:53 (13h58m daylight)

 

1/3 of 2016 has passed; also midway from Spring equinox to summer solstice

 

 

Star Calendar – March 2016

Star Calendar

March 2016

Star Calendar Planets:

Moon makes a less dramatic swing from standing to lying crescent either side of New Moon this year. Firstly the tilt of the lunar path from the ecliptic is currently one that subtracts its obliquity from the equator, secondly, this month’s syzygies fall near the nodes – there are two eclipses this month (neither visible from the U.S.). Still it is worth noting the more upright old Moon before dawn on the 6th/7th and the contrasting higher, reclining, earthshine-glowing young evening Moon on the 9th/10th. The tilt-drama is increasing from a minimum last year, next peaking in 2025.

Mercury is getting brighter but nearer the Sun – so we must imagine him receding and crossing behind the Sun this month. Next month will afford a better evening showing than this has bee, even though his excursion is of a smaller angle.

Venus is now pretty low just before dawn – but bright enough to see yet; beside the Moon on the 7th especially.

Sun is in the sky about 2 ¾ minutes longer each day this month and is high enough at noon to be beneficial on the skin.

Mars and Saturn are night-long beacons as they approach their oppositions. Saturn is nearly as bright (to the left) but watch Mars increase to equal Jupiter’s brilliance by late May. The increase is due to the dramatic approach he makes. As March opens he is farther away than is the Sun, by the 2nd week, equal distant as the Sun, by month’s end, ¾ the Sun’s distance, and at opposition, only half as distant as the Sun.

Jupiter nearest and brightest now, but varies much less than does Mars! He is King of the Night for this month anyway, up from dusk ‘til dawn, and shining far brighter than any other star or planet.

Saturn, Antares, Mars and Moon make a quartet before dawn on the 1st. Saturn is also increasing in brilliance, but, characteristically, very slowly, hardly discernible to the eye during March anyway.

Equinox is an astronomical event that occurs at the moment the center of Sun’s disk crosses the celestial equator. That instant is on the 20th in all of Asia, Europe and Africa, but would be on the 19th in all of the U.S. were NOT the clocks fiddled with for so-called Daylight Savings (sic). So the equinox is on the 20th for Day-lighters in the Eastern time zone, but on the 19th for Central Time and points West.

Star Calendar Dates:

1      Moon between Mars and Saturn, and above Antares; high in S at 6:AM

          Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 6:30/17:48 EST (11h18m daylight)

2      Moon near Saturn in the AM hours

7      Moon near Venus, ESE around 6:AM

8      Jupiter in opposition, nearest and brightest for year, and mid-loop

9-10   Hilal before Easter, (how œcumenical!) Young Grail Moon, West after sunset

10      Perigee one day after syzygy, large-ish spring tide

13      Much of U.S. pushes clocks forward an hour; also Palm Sunday

14      Since Pi=3.14159…, 3/14/16 is a better approxi-Pi-date than last year’s

15      2059 years since Caesar was rendered unto… the Ides

16      Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 7:05/19:05 EDT (12h daylight, = night)

19      Daylight lengthens most rapidly, nearly 3 minutes/day

20      Equinox at 00:30PM, Sun crosses celestial equator

21-22 Moon with Jupiter all night

23      Full Sugaring Moon at 8:01, sets just before entering penumbra of Earth’s shadow

          Mercury passes the backside of the Sun, superior conjunction

25      Saturn turns retrograde, approaches, begins loop for a June opposition

27      Summer Time begins in Europe

          Easter for Western churches, Eastern falls on May 1 (=April 18 Julian)

28      Moon over Mars midnight to dawn

29      Moon over Saturn midnight to dawn

31      Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 6:40/19:21 (12h41m daylight)