Star Calendar – May 2017

Star Calendar

May 2017

Start Calendar Planets:

Moon and Sun each elongate the fluid earth and exert tidal stress on the viscous and solid earth. This stress and shape distortion moves around the longitudinal earth in the two periods 12.42 and 12 hours respectively but also change latitude (declination) according to each body’s characteristic seasonal movement. Proximity of each body further modulates the effect. We then have a complex combination of rhythms and directions of tidal stress/distortion which serve to enhance and diminish each other. But the world is not covered evenly in fluid – there are instead basins and channels of various size that the generated tidal wave must negotiate. The size, orientation and capacity of this complex serve to also generate resonances and nodes so that local expressions of these stress inputs can appear sensibly aligned or apparently out of phase, greatly enhanced or diminished. The largest noticeable rhythm in most instances is the M2 tide (Moon tide at twice its diurnal frequency), modified by its phase with the lesser S2 tide. Out of phase is called “neap”, in phase is called “spring” and these alternate roughly every week. This is further modulated by apo/perigee, and then by ap/perihelion. The greatest Spring tide would occur if perihelion were to occur at an equinox (not for 5000 years or so) and perigee. These latter factors can be overwhelmed by local weather; atmospheric pressure bulges and winds.

Mercury makes a poor, shallow morning apparition this month. He skulks well below an already low ecliptic for his elongation.

Venus stands farther afield the Sun, and much less south of the morning ecliptic than Mercury. All month she will be easily mistaken as a distant airplane in the east before dawn.

Sun passes over Spring Valley 3 minutes 49 seconds before it reaches the time zone meridian of 75W. A lesser peak of the equation of time (published for the time zone meridian) renders clocks 3 minutes 41 seconds slow on the 13th this month. The two effects will make sundials agree with clocks at the middle of this month – excepting the silly discrepancy of the DST hour.

Mars is dimmer and to the right of Aldebaran, barely discernible as evening darkens in the early part of this month. Aldebaran subsequently drops from view much more quickly than Mars, overtaken by the Sun by Month’s end. Mars is not overtaken (conjunct) until July 27th – but is also un-viewable long before then.

Jupiter is now past opposition but also is more dominant in the evening since he is appearing higher as night falls. On the 1st he is 30 degrees in the SE at Nautical Twilight. On the 31st he is 45 degrees and South (culminating) at Nautical Twilight.

Saturn still rises very late and low – is really only noticeable to very early risers. He is quietly preparing for his opposition in June – but due to the wintry region he occupies, this will mostly be obscured by foliage and other ground clutter.

Star Calendar Days

1      Sunrise/set in Spring Valley at 5:59/19:53 (13h54m daylight)

        May Day (Beltane) celebrates beginning of cross-quarter Summer

        Mars, Sun and Saturn are in syzygy (fall on a line in space)

 2     Mercury is stationary to stars, now moves in normal (leftwards) motion

 3     Moon to right of Regulus, South as evening darkens

 4     Moon to left of Regulus, South as evening darkens

 5     Martian equinox, Spring for northern half.

 7     Moon beside Jupiter and above Spica in SSE as evening darkens

10     Full Milk Moon at 5:42PM, is apogee and in Libra

13     Equation of time makes SV sundials agree with clocks today

17     Mercury at largest (but shallow) angle from Sun for this appearance

22     Moon and Venus a fetching pair for early risers, East at 4:30AM

25     New Moon and Perigee, large amplitude Spring Tide

27      Mars below and to right of Moon shortly after 9PM WNW

30-31 Moon passes Regulus – look West each night around 10PM

31       Sunrise/set in Spring Valley at 5:26/20:22 (14h56m daylight)

Star Calendar – April 2017

Star Calendar

April 2017

Star C alendar Planets:

Moon and Sun balance on either side of the solstice point on the 7th. They rise and set at the same point on the horizon on that day and make the same path across the sky. One might observe the pair at 4:45PM and imagine the height of summer between them.

Mercury begins the month at greatest elongation, bright and decently visible just after 8:PM or so. He is hasty to depart though, and crosses the near-side of the Sun on the 20th.

Venus is already visible in the morning and will be stationary to the stars by the 12th. She is very tall, waxing less slender and will present a maximally brilliant dawn beacon by the end of the month.

Sun rises/sets steadily more north of east/west and adds an hour and a quarter of daylight over the course of this month.

Mars is seen low in the West at about 7:30 as the month begins and lower and later as the month progresses. Mars and Aldebaran (higher and to the left) look very similar these days. On the evening of the 28th the Moon, Aldebaran and Mars will shine together WNW at about 7:45PM.

Jupiter reaches opposition on the 7th. He is now brightest and closest for the year and is in the middle of his period of backward movement near Spica. Look for the Moon in the mix on the 10th.

Saturn is seen culminating in the early morning and stops in the steam (Milky Way) of the Teapot (Sagittarius) on the 6th to begin this year’s loop.

Star Calendar Days:

  1      Sunrise/set in Spring Valley at 6:39/19:21 (12h42m daylight)

          Day number 91; ¼ of the year has passed

          Mercury shining in low West 8:PM, sets at 9:PM

          Moon in horns of Taurus in evening, West

  6      Saturn stationary, begins retrograde loop at spout of Teapot

          Moon passes close to Regulus during this night

  7      Jupiter at opposition, brightest and nearest for the year

  9      Mercury stationary, then retrograde to stars, already retreating Sunwards

10      Moon clusters with bright Jupiter and Spica, ESE in evening

10-11 Full Pink Moon at 2:08AM  (leaf buds are pink)

11      Passover begins

12      Venus stationary, to direct motion

16      Moon with Saturn in south at 5:30AM

          Easter

20      Mercury, so recently visible, at inferior conjunction

22-23 Moon and Venus present the same phase, East at 5:30AM, use binoculars

26      Venus most brilliant for this appearance

28      Moon strikes a pose with Aldebaran and Mars, around 9:PM, West

30      Sunrise/set in Spring Valley at 5:55/19:52 (13h57m daylight)

          More than 2 ½ hours additional daylight since March 1st

          Midway from equinox to solstice, and about 1/3 of year has passed

          Venus covers greatest sky area for this appearance

Star Calendar – March 2017

Star Calendar

March 2017

 

Star Calendar Planets:

Moon cycles determine, or play a role in, some calendars such as the Islamic and Hebrew. The Islamic year is strictly lunar while the Hebrew is a hybrid luni-solar that inserts extra months so that the seasons don’t drift too far. The Hebrew year begins with Nissan. It commemorates the emancipation of the Jewish people from bondage in Egypt (Exodus) and Passover (whilst Rosh Hashanah commemorates the birth of the World). The Crucifixion is recorded in relationship to Passover and Easter is placed in such a way as to respect this correspondence. This year Nissan begins at sundown on the 27th of March, 15 Nissan (beginning of Passover) on the evening of April 11, and Easter on April 12. This year both Western and Eastern traditions correspond to the same day.

Mercury crosses the far side of the Sun and then appears already on the 18th next to Venus in evening.

Venus is now nearer to Earth than to the Sun as she streaks from evening to morning. On the 25th Venus is more than twice as far from the Sun than from the Earth – the ratio being just about 5:2. Venus begins the month stationary to the stars, then rapidly departs and crosses the nearside of the Sun by the 25th. She will be seen in the pre-dawn east already in early April.

Sun is rapidly increasing its presence in the sky by adding almost 3 minutes of daylight to each day. Of course, as we gain an abundance of daylight – the Govt. must naturally order us to start “saving” it.

Mars is seen to the right of the crescent Moon on the evenings of the 1st and again on the 30th.

Jupiter begins March near Spica and we can watch him move, retrograde, back away from Spica as the month proceeds. The pair rises about two hours after sunset and is joined by the Moon on the 14th.

Saturn slows his slow shuffle – that is so slow that he lingers in each seasonal quarter of the sky for over 7 years.

Star Calendar Days:

1 Sunrise/set in Spring Valley at 6:30/17:47 (11h17m daylight)
    Day number 60; about 1/6 of the year has passed
    Moon to left of Mars at dusk in west
    Moon and Venus in same crescent phase (use binoculars) as they set

2 Venus stationary to stars, prepares for dash across near side of Sun (25th)

4 Moon approaches to very near Aldebaran, dusk to midnight

6 Mercury crosses the far side of the Sun; superior conjunction

10 Moon moves away from Regulus this evening

11-12 Absent an Executive Order from the President, American clocks shift forward
      Full Crow, Worm, or Sap Moon at 10:54AM Daylight Shifted Time

14 Day 73 number; about 1/5 of the year has passed – and it’s Pi-day too
      Moon, Jupiter and Spica appear together at 10:PM ESE

16-17 Etymological equinox = equal night; Sun is down 12 hours and zero minutes

18- Mercury appears to left of Venus in gloaming – perfect Western view at 8:PM

20 Astronomical equinox at 6:29 – Sun’s center crosses celestial equator
      Sunrise/set in Spring Valley at 6:59/19:09 (12h10m daylight)
      Moon above Saturn around 6:AM, they culminate at sunrise

25 Venus streaks across near side of Sun; inferior conjunction

27-28 New Moon begins Hebrew month of Nisan – that places Passover and Easter

31 Sunrise/set in Spring Valley at 6:41/19:20 (12h39m daylight)
      Day number 90; nearly ¼ of the year has passed
      Enjoying the additional 1 hour and 22 minutes of daylight?

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 – January 2017

Star Calendar

January 2017

Star Calendar Planets:

Moon waxes from the westward side and wanes on the eastward but Venus (and Mercury) do so in the opposite way.

Mercury is stationary to the stars on the 8th but the Sun’s persistent eastwards motion continues to widen their separation (elongation) until the 19th. On that day astronomical twilight ends at 6:15AM with Mercury just 5 degrees above the horizon, down and to the left of Saturn (12 degrees, SW and less bright) and Antares (15 degrees, slightly S of SW, still less bright). The Moon visits these three in reverse sequence on 23, 24, 25th.

Venus makes her flourish for this appearance during this month as she continues to appear higher each evening, to brighten and to… wane(!) in phase. Venus’ phases appear the opposite way from the Moon’s and, because she gets markedly nearer in the smaller phases, is brightest when less than gibbous. In her cycle, Venus’ apparent diameter expands and contracts 7-fold.

Sun is almost 4% nearer in January than in July; nearest on the 4th of this month.

Mars finally begins to appear slightly lower each evening and is taunted by Venus this month as she sidles up all month to within 5 degrees by month’s end – only to pull away again next month.

Jupiter has been steadily approaching Spica and has the first of a triple conjunction with the star on the 20th; the next being already in Feb as he begins his loop, and the third in September.

Saturn returns with the New Year, now coming into view in the morning for those with a clear ESE view at 6:AM. As the month progresses brightish Saturn can serve as a clue to search for an even brighter, but elusively lower Mercury. The Moon is proximate on the morning of the 24th.

Star Calendar Days:

1 Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 7:22/16:39 (9h17m daylight)
Crescent Moon approaches gibbous Venus in SW as evening dims

2 Moon waxes between Mars and waning Venus, SW in evening

3 Latest sunrise for year (at 7:22 and a few seconds)
Mars now between Moon and Venus

4 Sun nearest Earth (perihelion) for the year

6 Epiphany – when the Magi arrive “where the Star stood”, 12th day of Christmas

7 Julian Calendar December 25th, Orthodox Christmas

8 Mercury stationary (wrt stars) to direct (eastwards) motion

10 Moon rising on the meridian of Summer solstice as Sun sets

11-12 Full Wolf Moon at 6:34AM

12 Venus at greatest angle from Sun for this appearance, 47 degrees

14 Julian Calendar January 1st 2770 AUC
Venus at last quarter phase (watch it subsequently wane, with binoculars)

14-15 Moon passes very near Regulus, seen in east at 9:PM

17 Venus crosses ecliptic northwards

19 Moon with Jupiter and Spica at 6:AM in south
Mercury at greatest elongation. Look SW at 6:15AM, with Saturn and Antares

20 Jupiter conjunct with Spica (subsequently appears east of the star by RA)

23 Moon above and to left of Antares, SE at 6:AM

24 Moon near Saturn, SE at 6:AM

25 Moon above bright Mercury, SE at 6:15 (if you’re lucky)

31 Sunrise/set in Spring Valley at 7:08/17:12 (10h4m daylight)
Venus appears highest at sunset (40 degrees)
     Moon, Venus and Mars together in WSW after 6PM

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 – November 2016

Star Calendar

November 2016

Star Calendar Planets:

Moon draws exceptionally near this month (nearest in 30 years) while also Full as it sets on the morning of the 14th.

Mercury peaks into the evening sky as Saturn departs. Around the 23rd will be the first chance to see Mercury – and the last for Saturn for this apparition. Failing that, try again on the 30th when the razor-thin new crescent Moon may serve as a guide. If that fails too, try under the Moon on Dec. 1st.

Venus crosses the Teapot (or Sagittarius) while making her oh-so-slow ascent into evening.

Sun is furthest ahead of Greenwich Time for the year on the 2nd, but is still behind our clocks – until we finally fall back from Daylight-distortion Time on the 6th.

Mars is beyond culmination (its highest altitude for that day, in South) at sunset now, and is being slowly overtaken by the Sun – but Mars will appear higher in the sky on successive nights at a given time because it is progressing beyond the midwinter portion of the ecliptic – and the ecliptic is more steeply inclined to the horizon at sunset. A little counter-intuitive.

Jupiter also appears higher every morning, but simply because the Sun is leaving it behind. The morning ecliptic is still very steep (October mornings are like March evenings in this respect) and will gradually drop through January. Jupiter gets a visit from the Moon on mornings of the 24-25th.

Saturn settles into the sunset, next to appear some morning after midwinter.

Star Calendar Days:

  1      Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 7:28/17:51 (10h23m daylight)

  1, 2   Venus, Saturn & Moon over Antares in SW at 6:45PM

  2      Equation of time maximum for year 16m26s

  3      Moon above Venus in SW at 7:PM

  6      Mornings brighten after U.S. clocks move back to Standard Time

          Moon above Mars South and West in evening

  9      God help us from our dis-aster (bad star) – whichever way it went

11      Martinmas – begins cross-quarter winter

13-14 Super Duper Moon: Full Frost Moon 8:52 AM at extreme perigee

16      Moon rises ENE on the summer colure at 7PM

17      Leonids peak in poor viewing conditions (too much Moon, too nearby)

20-21 Moon passes Regulus without occultation (was one last time)

24      Mercury may just be visible with Saturn at 5:PM with perfect WSW horizon

25      Moon and Jupiter above Spica in SE at 6:AM

28      Solstice on Mars, mid-winter for northern half

30      Mercury to left of Hilal Moon in WSW at 5:PM

          Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 7:01/16:28 (9h27m daylight)

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 – 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)