Star Calendar – February 2017

Star Calendar

February 2017

Star Calendar Planets:

Moon crosses the ecliptic (Moon node) when near syzygy with the Sun twice this month. Neither eclipse will be noticeable to us though. The Full Moon will rise in the penumbra of Earth’s shadow, will only be slightly less bright – but no hard shadow edge. At New Moon the Moon shadow’s tip will not quite reach the Earth’s surface such that the Sun will appear as a ring of light – for those along a path in the southern hemisphere.

Mercury drops out of morning sky to cross far side of Sun on March 7th.

Venus is a waning crescent that grows taller by the day. She shines to cover the largest portion of our sky on the 17th but is nearer, and brightest, on the following day. Thereafter her wane out-does her drawing nearer – but she remains sensational. Last month I saw my shadow cast by Venus; walking down a snow-covered lane (before the Moonrise) with Venus at my back.

Sun is halfway from winter solstice to vernal equinox and crosses the sky as it does in November. Astronomically winter is half over, climatically – by hysteresis of heat absorption – not so. Oh well.

Mars cruises Pisces this month as he sets out on his super-circum-zodiacal tour before making his next loop in 2018.

Jupiter pauses to begin this year’s loop in Virgo that will culminate with opposition in April.

Saturn enters the region of his next loop, vacillating between Ophiucus and Saggitarius.

Star Calendar Days:

31

Moon Venus & Mars astride the vernal equinox in evening

1

Sunrise/set in Spring Valley at 7:07/17:13 (10h6m)

2

Candlemas/Groundhog Day; midway twixt solstice and equinox

 

Venus nearest Mars for this appearance, WSW in evening

5

Moon with Aldebaran high in SSW in evening

6

Jupiter stationary to retrograde

Jupiter nearest Spica, ESE at 11PM or SW at 5AM

 

10-11

Full Snow Moon at 19:33 rises in penumbral eclipse (not noticeable)

11

Equation of Time at year’s minimum, clocks 14m15s ahead of Sun

Moon below Regulus

 

15

Moon, Jupiter & Spica rise at 11PM

16

Moon, Jupiter & Spica culminate (highest ans South) at 4AM

17

Venus shows maximal sky-area of illumination despite 26.7% crescent phase

18

Venus brightest – because it’s nearer, though 25.9% crescent

20

Moon above Saturn in the steam of the teapot, 5:30AM

Venus nearest to Sun (its perihelion)

 

21

Sun passes Moon’s descending node (where paths of Sun and Moon cross)

23

Jupiter makes second (of three) pass at Spica (conjunct in Right Ascension)

26

New Moon makes annular eclipse for South Pacific/America/Atlantic/Africa

28

Sunrise/set in Spring Valley at 6:32/17:46 (11h14m)

Moon, Venus & Mars again, West around 6:45PM

 

 

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 – 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 – 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 – January 2016

Star Calendar

January 2016

Star Calendar Planets:

Moon rises on the autumnal equinox point and beneath Jupiter as the New Year opens. On the 7th it accompanies Venus and Saturn in morning twilight in the ESE and then begins another week or so of moonless dark nights. On the evening of the 19th watch the Moon, high in the south, approach and then blot out Aldebaran – that expected to occur at 9:43PM.

Mercury stands (against the stars) on both sides of the Sun this month. He is stationary on the 5th, on the evening side of the Sun, in Capricorn; crosses the nearside of the Sun on the 14th, and stands again on the morning side of the Sun on the 25th. This appearance is rather poor – but the dates give a sense of how quickly Mercury can change position.

Venus continues to be the dominant “star of the east”. On Three King’s Day morning will occur a lovely morning group of crescent Moon, Venus and approaching Saturn; and the subsequent days too – until on the 10th she sinks below Saturn and begins in earnest to fall into to the morning glow.

Sun is nearest us for the year at this time. The relationship of the timing of the proximity cycle of the Sun (apsides) to the seasons is a strong component of the cycle of glaciation; is one that changes very slowly too. All of modern humanity’s historical records fall within the current warm cycle. Apsides proceed to the same conditions in about 111,000 years while the seasons are retrograde in 25,770 years. Other long cycles also abound.

Mars is culminating (south and highest) between 6 and 6:30 AM these days. He abandons the virgin on the 17th and recovers his balance in the scales. Mars is at 1st magnitude, slightly brighter than Spica to his right. He approaches 3rd magnitude (much dimmer) Zuben Elgenubi this month and will arrive, escorted by the Moon, on Feb. 1st.

Jupiter begins his loop this month, wandering back under the belly of Leo for an opposition in early March.

Saturn is now a definite morning presence, shining as brightly as Arcturus in the morning sky. As the year opens Saturn will be only half as high as Venus at 6:30 AM, but will ascend each morning as Venus slowly falls. The pair swap ascendency on the 9th and by the 31st Saturn will be prominent in the SSE between Antares and Sabik – though one might have to look a little earlier due to earlier sunrise!

Quadrantids are from the upper part of Bootes and their radiant is circumpolar. They may peak early this year so spending the night of 3rd-4th on a cot with feet facing north may reward.

Star Calendar Days:

1      Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 7:21/16:38 (9h17m daylight)

2      Sun is nearest for the year (perihelion), at .9833 of average distance

3      Martian solstice, summer for northern hemisphere

          Moon above Mars and Spica, SSE at 6-6:30AM

4      Quadrantid meteors early AM, from high East –

          – while looking, find Comet Catalina above Arcturus (with binoculars?)

5      Latest sunrise for the year, at 7:22 in Spring Valley

          Mercury stationary to retrograde

6      Moon above Venus and Saturn in morning twilight

7      Moon below Venus and Saturn, (red Antares to the right)

          Julian December 25, Orthodox Christmas

8      Jupiter is stationary, begins retrograde loop

9      Venus and Saturn very near, morning twilight in east

14      Julian/Roman New Year, begins 2769 AUC

          Mercury at inferior conjunction, crosses nearside of Sun

19      Moon occults Aldebaran, SSW at about 9:43PM

23      Full Wolf Moon at 8:46PM

25      Mercury stationary to direct (normal) motion

          Moon rises beside Regulus, east at 8:PM

28      Moon rises below Jupiter, east at 10:PM

30      Moon above Spica, SSW at 6:AM

31      Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 7:08/17:12 (10h4m daylight)

Star Calendar – October 2015

Star Calendar

October 2015

Star Calendar Planets:

Moon moves through the stars, eastward, at its own diameter every hour, or, 13 degrees per day, or, one season per week — as noted below.

Mercury is pretty bright now and is at greatest elongation mid-month. Those with a clear view to the east might pick him out due east at about 5:00AM

Venus is in her afterglow after her maximum brilliance last month. She is still at a large angle from the Sun and can be seen during the daytime with a little care. Look about 45 degrees (half a right angle) ahead of (right of) the Sun and patiently let the eyes linger, wandering in slowly larger circles around the chosen spot in the sky. Don’t look too hard or dart around too much. Once you see Venus you’ll wonder why it seemed so impossibly invisible to begin with — it just stands there sharp and bright; but if you go out another time it’s just as hard to find again!

Sun no longer gets high enough in our sky to create Vitamin D in our skin. The rule of thumb is that if your shadow is longer than you are tall, you are not getting the rays that stimulate that beneficial nutrient. The native northern-clime peoples make up for this with a very fatty acid (fish oil) diet. Those that shower daily might consider skipping the soap unless it’s actually needed; Vitamin D is an oil kept in your skin and it washes off with soap! UVA lights will give a suntan — but it is UVB or UVC that is needed to make Vitamin D.

Mars should now be visible, east in morning nautical twilight (around 5:00AM). As October opens he will be below Regulus and slightly dimmer. Venus stands higher, very bright, and Jupiter below, quite bright as well. On the 9th the Moon will stand just to the right; on the 18th Jupiter will stand very close by and he will finally have a sojourn with Venus on Nov.2nd.

Jupiter is the brightest object beneath Venus in the morning.

Saturn is low in the SW these evenings. He shuffles into Scorpius on the 16th, accompanied over the threshold by a crescent young Moon that night. They are SW at about 6:00PM

Star Calendar Dates:

1      Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 6:53/18:38 EDT (11h45m daylight)

2      Moon near Aldebaran high in SW at 5:00AM

3      Moonrise most north-of-east for month, at 10:15PM

8      Moon above Venus, beside Regulus in east at 5:00AM

          Mars above Jupiter, a little lower in the east

          Mercury stationary to retrograde

9      Moon beside Mars, above Jupiter in east at 5:00AM

          Draconid meteors (?) from overhead in late evening

11      Moon rises due east, thin and very low, to right of Mercury at around 5:AM

12      Uranus in opposition, up all night in Pisces, (for binoculars)

14      Islamic year 1437 A.H. begins at sundown

15      Mercury at greatest elongation, visible in morning nautical twilight low in east

16      Moon above Saturn in WSW at 6:15 PM, both in Scorpius, near Antares

18      Jupiter to right of much dimmer Mars (both below Venus) in east at 5:AM

          Moonrise most south-of-east for month, at 11:15AM

24-25 Standard Time resumes in Europe

          Moon rises due east at 3:30PM

25      Venus to right of much less bright Jupiter in east at 5:00AM

26      Venus at greatest elongation, largest angle from Sun

27      Full Hunter’s Moon 8:05AM

29      Moon rises below Aldebaran, ENE at 8:00PM

31      Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 7:26/17:53 EDT (10h27m daylight)

          Waning gibbous Moon rises 3 hours after darkness falls on Halloween

          Moon rises most north-of-east again, just before 9:00PM

Star Calendar – September, 2015

Star Calendar

September 2015

Star Calendar Planets:

Moon will be waning as September opens and the ecliptic especially steep to the horizon in the morning. This circumstance will show especially thin and horizontal crescents on the 11/12th. New Moon begins the Hebrew new year (Rosh Hashanah) 5776 Anno Mundi. Moon’s ascending node currently lies where the Sun stands on the 24th, making this month an eclipse season. On the 13th the New Moon will be at an extreme apogee and its shadow will not reach the earth; a partial solar eclipse (for those near South Africa and the proximate part of Antarctica). However the Full and most perigee Moon of the 27–28th may well yield an especially dark lunar eclipse. A dark Moon is hard to see and is much more creepy than a red/yellow one; it looks like a giant stone hanging in the sky.

Mercury makes a large angle from the evening Sun on the 4th — but suffers from a shallow ecliptic. One may catch a peek around then, low in the west at 8PM. Mercury begins retrograde motion on the 17 and crosses the nearside of the Sun on the 30th.

Venus brightens to a maximum magnitude (for the year) of -4.8 on the 20th. She is receding from us and waxing in phase but is brightest while still crescent. The angular area Venus occupies in the sky diminishes as she recedes, that area being maximal on the 21st — when the waxing phase briefly overtakes the diminishing of receding distance.

Sun crosses the celestial equator on the 23rd, its center crossing at 4:21AM. The day of equinox is still 3 minutes longer than night though, a 12-hour-night waits for the 25/26th. Success in balancing eggs on their ends at equinox only indicates a greater patience and diligence in the attempt. There is no special gravity or balance-energy that day. Sorry.

Mars defers to Venus these mornings and passes (slightly dimmer than and) close to Regulus on the 25th, while bracketed by Venus above, Jupiter below.

Jupiter will be noticed emerging from his sunbath some fine morning this month, appearing below and much brighter than Regulus in the east. Weather and horizon permitting, look for it while scouting for old crescent Moons in the east at 6AM on the 11/12th.

Saturn is in the lower SW in the evening, and is the brightest celestial object in the vicinity. The Moon will be nearby on the 18th. Continue reading