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 – December 2015

Star Calendar

December 2015

Star Calendar Planets:

MOON rises as a waning crescent just above Venus at 6:AM on the 7th. Watch the pair through the day using the crescent Moon to find Venus very close by the convex side of the Moon. After having lunch, go watch Venus disappear behind the crescent, SE at about 12:40PM. Just over an hour later find a good view to the WSW and stare at the Moon again to catch Venus wink back from behind the invisible (gibbous dark part) side. Reappearance should occur at 1:50PM – but look early as that might not be precise. Binoculars are helpful, but this occultation should be visible without them. The season of New Moon nearest winter solstice gives us the darkest days of the year – contrasted by the season of the “Long-Night” Full moon – a kind of echo of summer during which it does not get dark for several days, Christmas Midnight will be like a soft Summer Noon.

MERCURY makes a fair evening appearance this month, culminating just after Christmas. Mercury will be the brightest object in the SW in evening twilight (excepting airplanes and such) and will not twinkle (or scintillate) as low stars tend to.

VENUS passes Spica on the 1st and pulls away from pursuing Mars, hides behind the Moon on the 7th (see above) then crosses into the Scales on the 11th. She then serves to draw our attention to the reappearance of Saturn sometime during the mornings approaching Christmas. We can then look forward to a stunning grouping of Venus, Saturn, a crescent Moon and Mars’ nemesis Antares on the morning of Epiphany.

SUN is noticeably a super-minority presence now; it’s down twice as long as it’s up. It stands, astronomically, in the Teapot for solstice – which is fairly near the direction of the center of the Milky Way.

MARS reaches Spica on Christmas – on which morning we will see a lay of planets, from SE to S: Saturn, Venus, Mars/Spica, Jupiter; and beyond in the SW, Regulus. The line of the ecliptic is hence easily seen!

JUPITER is nearly stationary this month and tests the extremity of Leo in barely discernable direct motion. He will go retrograde at Epiphany.

SATURN enters the morning scene near Antares sometime mid-month. With a decent view to the SE the two should be visible Christmas morning, and a definite presence by New Year’s morning; 6:30 is a good time to look.

GEMINIDS are quite reliable meteors and find very good circumstances (no moonlight) this year for a good showing. Lie down in a sleeping bag somewhere with feet toward the SE and look up. It’s a good night for catnapping.

Star Calendar Days:

1 Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 7:02/16:28 (9h26m daylight)
3-4 LQ Moonrise/set in Spring Valley at 23:44/12:29 (12h45m moonup)
7 Moon rises just above Venus, SE at 6AM, Spica and Mars above them
Moon occults Venus shortly after 12:40PM, re-emerges around 1:50PM
8 Sunrise at 7:09; latest for 2015
This week has the most (celestially) dark skies for the year
11 NM Moonrise/set in Spring Valley at 07:01/17:07 (10h 6m moonup)
13-14 Geminid meteors – in propitious circumstances!
18-19 FQ Moonrise/set I Spring Valley at 12:04/00:28 (12h24m moonup)
21 Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 7:18/16:31 (9h13m daylight)
Solstice at 23:48, longest night of the year
22 Mars passes to left of Spica, in SSE at 6AM
Sky is lit by Sun or Moon almost continuously for the following week
23 Moon rises beneath Aldebaran, East at 5:PM
25 Oh, what a beautiful morning! (see MARS above)
FM Moonrise/set in Spring Valley at 17:14/07:04 (13h50m moonup)
28 Mercury highest in evening sky for this appearance
31 Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 7:21/16:37 (9h16m daylight)
Moon rises beneath Jupiter just before the New Year opens, east.

Star Calendar – November 2015

Star Calendar

November 2015

Star Calendar Planets:

Moon sweeps the foot of Gemini on the first evening of November, then wends its waning way with early morning visitations to Regulus, Jupiter, Venus/Mars and Spica during the subsequent week. On the 12th The Moon serves as an aid to our last view of Saturn for a month or so – but only for those with a clear view to the WSW. The 26th provides an opportunity to see an occultation – of Aldebaran – but that will be just hours after Full Moon – so Aldebaran may not compete well. A daytime occultation with a crescent Moon is coming in December…

Mercury spends this month crossing the far side of the Sun.

Venus swaps places with Mars as the pair cross into Virgo on the 2nd. She then scoots for the protection of ascending Spica, reaching her by the end of the month.

Sun has again been very active in unusual ways, and has even produced aurora visible in daylight.

Mars does a turn with Venus and then ascends as Venus descends. Mars will not meet Spica until Christmas.

Jupiter also heads for Virgo but slows to a crawl, stopping just shy of the boundary to Virgo after Christmas to begin his loop in Leo early next year. Jupiter will not step into Virgo until next August.

Saturn will be overtaken by the Sun on the 30th and will visible again some morning in mid-December.

Star Calendar Dates:

1      Daylight Time ends; 2AM=1AM Standard Time

          Moon near foot of Gemini (Alhena) in SW before sunrise

          Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 6:27/16:52 EST (10h25m daylight)

1-2     Moon passes through the feet of Gemini

2-3     Venus falls beneath Mars just as the pair cross into Virgo; predawn ESE

3      Clocks furthest ahead of Sun for the year (Equation of Time maximal)

5      Moon below Regulus, SE predawn

6      Moon beside Jupiter, SE predawn

7      Moon beside Venus/Mars, SE predawn

          Calendrical midpoint between equinox and solstice

9      Moon near Spica, ESE predawn

10      314th day; temporal circumference of circle with diameter of April 10 (day 100:-)

11      Martinmas, traditional cross-quarter day (see the 7th)

12      Moon (beside Saturn; last glimpse ‘til Dec.) 5:15 PM if very good WSW view!

17      Mercury crosses far side of Sun (Superior conjunction)

18      Leonid meteors peak – face east in the early morning

25      Full Beaver Moon 5:44PM

26      Just-Full Moon occults Aldebaran, around 5:45AM in west (use binoculars)

29      Venus passes Spica, predawn in SE

30      Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 7:01/16:29 EST (9h28m 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

Star Calendar – August 2015

Star Calendar

August 2015

Star Calendar Planets:

Moon will now be Full near the ends of the months for a while. This month will have two occasions of perigee occurring within 24 hours of syzygy; look for Spring Tide inundations on the 1st and 30th. New Moon is timed for ideal Perseid meteor viewing this year. I plan to look for them (from Breezy Hill, Springfield, VT) during the 80th “Stellafane” convention. RIP Carl Breuning (I’ll never forget viewing Mars with the 12” Porter Turret; sharp and clear through solid cloud-cover – this surprised us both!).

Mercury slips into the evening sky as Venus departs. On the 6th and 7th, in the glare of evening twilight, there is a close tussle with Jupiter and Regulus but we may hope for a better view on the 16th, to the right of a standing crescent Moon.

Venus takes a bow and swiftly crosses the nearside of the Sun this month. Look for a liaison with Mars, beginning as the Full Moon sets on the morning of the 29th with RA conjunction, but more pleasing to the eye in the first week of September.

Sun is halfway from solstice to equinox on the 1st; “Lammas” (Loaf-Mass) is a cross-quarter harvest festival.

Mars will creep into view for early risers during the middle of this month. Diehards might look to the left of the crescent Moon at 4-4:15 AM on the 13th. Mars will then appear in line with and below Gemini’s Pollux and Castor.

Jupiter takes a passage behind the Sun, conjunct on the 26th.

Saturn finishes a long retrograde period on the 2nd and is at quadrature (90 degrees from Sun) on the 21st. Saturn is now strictly an “evening star” as it sets before midnight and appears in the evening beyond culmination.

Pluto: the latest astronomical centerfold, and an intriguing one it is. The space-camera is traveling at truly meteoric speed. Consider: my 33-yr-old car has traveled about 400,000 miles, or just over 2 light-seconds (“to the Moon” – and nearly back); Pluto (near the Teapot) is about 5½ light-hours away, or 9,900 times that distance. Continue reading