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 – 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 – 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)