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 – 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)