Star Calendar – June 2017

Star Calendar

June 2017

Star Planets:

Moon appears at First Quarter as the month opens, stands over Jupiter on the 3rd, and is then Full with Saturn on the 9th. Early risers will be treated to a complementary pairing with Venus on the 20th and 21st, the complement being of crescent/gibbous, wane and wax.

Mercury celebrates our solstice from the far side of the Sun as he makes superior conjunction on the 21st.

Venus shows her First Quarter on the 5th, then waxes as she draws nearer the Sun. Early summer sunrises, made earlier by meddling with the clocks, makes sightings less common.

Sun now reigns above the horizon 15 hours a day (in Spring Valley), varying by only 11 minutes this month. On the Solstice he stands between the stars Betelgeuse and Menkalinon — if you can recall seeing them as winter wound down; Betelgeuse is the brighter armpit of Orion and Menkalinon is that other Aurigan star one sees when looking for yellow Capella along the great Arc of Capella. The former stands right on the meridian of summer solstice.

Mars is unviewable this month. He and Mercury will have a discreet tête à tête as the latter scoots by on the 28th.

Jupiter remains prominent and southerly in the evening. He ceases his retro urge on the 10th and begins his stroll toward Libra — which he will achieve, arm-in-arm with Venus, in mid November.

Saturn is brightest this month, but never gets as bright as Jupiter at his least. Opposition is on the 15th, but, again due to fiddling with clocks, he does not culminate until 1:00AM — and then is only 27 degrees high. Use the Full Moon on the 9th to advantage in taking notice.

Star Days:

   1 Sunrise/set in Spring Valley at 5:26/20:23 (14h57m daylight)
   3 Venus at largest angle from Sun for this appearance, 46 degrees
     Moon above Jupiter in South as dark falls
   4 Moon above Spica in South as dark falls, Jupiter bright and to right
 8-9 Full Strawberry Moon at 9:10AM of the 9th
   9 Moon with Saturn and Antares, rising ESE just before 9:00PM
  10 Jupiter stationary, to normal motion (leftwards against stars)
  14 Sunrise is earliest for the year, at 5:23
  15 Saturn in opposition, brightest, middle of backwards movement
  20 Moon, waning beside waxing Venus, in East at 4:00AM
  21 Solstice at 00:24, rise/set at 5:24/20:32 (15h8m daylight)
     Sun then enters astronomical Gemini (solstice was in Taurus)
     Mercury passes far side of Sun (superior conjunction)
  23 Traditional Mid-summer, St. John’s Eve
     Moon New and Perigee, 16 hours apart (dark, with large tides)
  27 Sunset is latest for the year, at 20:33
  28 Moon nearly grazes Regulus, 9:30PM in West
  30 Sunrise/set in Spring Valley at 5:27/20:33 (15h6m daylight)

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 – 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)