Star Calendar – November 2014

Star Calendar

November 2014

Star Calendar Planets:

Moon ‘s syzygy/perigee is becoming less synchronous now so we will have a respite from tidal inundations for a while. The next large spring tides are expected in late February.

Mercury is at an advantageous position for viewing as the month begins. The not-so-great maximum elongation of 19 degrees on the 1st is to good advantage as the ecliptic is pretty steeply inclined to the eastern horizon in the morning these days.

Venus crosses paths with Jupiter in the obscurity of the Sun this month. Venus, briefly an evening star as 2014 began, was a morning star for most of this year and will reappear in the evening next month – to dominate that position for much of 2015.

Sun is pointing a very large and active sunspot at us as I write. This one should be easily visible to the eye (with the same protection appropriate for eclipse viewing, or with an image projected onto a screen with a lens or pinhole). This spot will rotate away from view on Nov. 1st, but may appear again, mid-month, in some metamorphosed fashion.

Mars will continue to set about three hours after the Sun all of this month and now appears as a “mere” 1st magnitude star, similar to Altair – which stands above him in the evening. Mars can be as bright as -3. and as dim as +1.6, but the range varies greatly from one synodic cycle to another as the maximal and minimal distances change a lot due to its orbital eccentricity and to the highly variable albedo of its ice caps and dust storms. The last opposition was maximally at -1.5, slightly brighter than the brightest star, Sirius. Mars just had a very close encounter with a comet that flew a mere 90,000 miles in front of its path, (perpendicular and south-to-north) – rather like having a bird fly across the windshield as one drives along.

Jupiter slackens pace in its approach to Regulus, coming to a halt in early December. Jupiter will now rise before midnight, but is still to be experienced as a feature of the morning sky.

Saturn crosses the far side of the Sun on the 18th and will become visible in the morning sometime during Advent. Continue reading

Star Calendar Addenda – October 2014

Comet Siding

Comet Siding

Comet Siding Spring approaching Mars – photo from Australia by Damian Peach. Better (bigger) photo at:

http://www.livecometdata.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/cometmars_peach_1080.jpg

Now THAT’S an image with dynamic range!   (NASA’s version is composite.)


The Sun, Oct. 16 – 24, 2014 as sunspot 2192 develops:

Sun Spot 01 Sun Spot 02 Sun Spot 03

Sun Spot 04 Sun Spot 05 Sun Spot 06

Sun Spot 07 Sun Spot 08 Sun Spot 09

Star Calendar – October 2014

Star Calendar

October 2014

Star Calendar Planets:

Moon and Earth play hit-or-miss with their shadows this month. The Moon sets an hour before sunrise on the 8th,just as it is engulfed by the shadow of the earth. Two weeks later, on the 23rd, we just miss a partial Sun eclipse because the Moon’s shadow approaches just as the Sun sets. Those substantially west of here will have an annular solar eclipse. The first sighting of the Moon in Egypt, following this event begins the Islamic year 1436 A.H.

Mercury pulls a rapid switcheroo this month, moving from evening to morning, and will have a decent showing near the end of this month. He is stationary to retrograde on the 4th, crosses the nearside of the Sun on the 16th, and reverts to normal motion on the 25th.

Venus makes a more lugubrious counter-switch and is invisible all month as she crosses the farside of the Sun on the 25th.

Sun gives us another hour and eighteen minutes less daylight over the course of this month. U.S. “Daylight Time” does not end until November 2, but the clocks are turned back in Europe on the 26th of this month – probably because the center of population there is further north.

Mars has passed Antares and relaxes into the wintry realms of Sagittarius while slightly dimming. Mars is above the horizon fewer than 9 hours a day this month – rising after 11:AM, setting around 8:PM. Mars crosses the winter colure on the 26th and will emerge from below the celestial equator next on Feb. 21, 2015.

Jupiter crosses into Leo on the 14th and is seen gradually nearer Regulus, both being higher each morning. He is still well north of the celestial equator and will not cross south of it for another two years.

Saturn eventually succumbs to the overtaking Sun and will not be seen again until some morning in late November. Saturn is in the midst of a long decline into the lower realms of the sky, not crossing the winter colure until Dec. 2017.

Uranus is in opposition and at its brightest this month. It should be visible with binoculars as a slightly greenish spot in Pisces, appearing in the SE about halfway up the sky, and below Alpheratz of the Square of Pegasus around 10 PM. It is necessary to avoid a moonlit sky, so looking after the 14th or so would be best. This is an object at the threshold of perception – theoretically a rare naked-eye object – but somehow missed by the keen observers of antiquity. Most people still never see it in their lifetime. Continue reading

Star Calendar – October 2007

Star Calendar

October 2007

Star Calendar Planets:

Mercury will sneak past the near side of the Sun (inferior conjunction) on Oct 23, then rush to the eastern morning sky in the end of the month. On November 7 it will appear to the left of Spica, just below and to the left of the waning crescent moon.

Venus shines brightly at about the same height at a given time each morning all month. Watch Regulus and Saturn rise higher and higher each day. On October 7th the waning Moon will join them. Venus waxes gibbous by the end of the month, but becomes more distant too.

Mars makes its longest path across our sky on October 1st and is highest at 5:15AM. Look above Betelgeuse of Orion. Mars is now closer to us than is the sun and it brightens as it draws ever closer and slows its movement against the stars. Watch for the Orionid meteors radiating from the vicinity on or about the 21st .

Jupiter remains in Ophiucus and accelerates its direct motion as it begins to fade. By month’s end it will be noticeably lower in the evening sky.

Saturn appears relatively dim in the eastern morning sky and will create an interesting series of triangles with Venus and Regulus all month. Continue reading

Star Calendar — September 2007

Star Calendar

September 2007

Star Calendar Planets:

Mercury will make a poor appearance in the western evening sky in mid-September. It will dash to the eastern morning sky by late October.

Venus will quickly rise into the eastern pre-dawn sky in September and will shine beside Regulus and Saturn by early October. On October 7th the waning Moon will join them.

Mars rises in the middle of the night in the horns of Taurus as September opens. It rises earlier in the evening and brightens as the weeks pass. Mars makes its highest and longest path across our sky on October 1st when it is of Betelgeuse of Orion – best seen in the south at about 6:00 AM.

Jupiter lingers in Ophiucus above Antares and is in the south at sunset as September begins. It slowly accelerates its direct motion and fades eastward toward the setting Sun.

Saturn appears close to Regulus in the eastern morning sky in mid-September. It may be visible under the waning Moon on September 9th and will have a sojourn with Venus a month later.

As seen from the Apollo 15 landing site; central Earth-side of the Moon and about 25° north of the Moon’s equator: Continue reading