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 – 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 – March 2016

Star Calendar

March 2016

Star Calendar Planets:

Moon makes a less dramatic swing from standing to lying crescent either side of New Moon this year. Firstly the tilt of the lunar path from the ecliptic is currently one that subtracts its obliquity from the equator, secondly, this month’s syzygies fall near the nodes – there are two eclipses this month (neither visible from the U.S.). Still it is worth noting the more upright old Moon before dawn on the 6th/7th and the contrasting higher, reclining, earthshine-glowing young evening Moon on the 9th/10th. The tilt-drama is increasing from a minimum last year, next peaking in 2025.

Mercury is getting brighter but nearer the Sun – so we must imagine him receding and crossing behind the Sun this month. Next month will afford a better evening showing than this has bee, even though his excursion is of a smaller angle.

Venus is now pretty low just before dawn – but bright enough to see yet; beside the Moon on the 7th especially.

Sun is in the sky about 2 ¾ minutes longer each day this month and is high enough at noon to be beneficial on the skin.

Mars and Saturn are night-long beacons as they approach their oppositions. Saturn is nearly as bright (to the left) but watch Mars increase to equal Jupiter’s brilliance by late May. The increase is due to the dramatic approach he makes. As March opens he is farther away than is the Sun, by the 2nd week, equal distant as the Sun, by month’s end, ¾ the Sun’s distance, and at opposition, only half as distant as the Sun.

Jupiter nearest and brightest now, but varies much less than does Mars! He is King of the Night for this month anyway, up from dusk ‘til dawn, and shining far brighter than any other star or planet.

Saturn, Antares, Mars and Moon make a quartet before dawn on the 1st. Saturn is also increasing in brilliance, but, characteristically, very slowly, hardly discernible to the eye during March anyway.

Equinox is an astronomical event that occurs at the moment the center of Sun’s disk crosses the celestial equator. That instant is on the 20th in all of Asia, Europe and Africa, but would be on the 19th in all of the U.S. were NOT the clocks fiddled with for so-called Daylight Savings (sic). So the equinox is on the 20th for Day-lighters in the Eastern time zone, but on the 19th for Central Time and points West.

Star Calendar Dates:

1      Moon between Mars and Saturn, and above Antares; high in S at 6:AM

          Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 6:30/17:48 EST (11h18m daylight)

2      Moon near Saturn in the AM hours

7      Moon near Venus, ESE around 6:AM

8      Jupiter in opposition, nearest and brightest for year, and mid-loop

9-10   Hilal before Easter, (how œcumenical!) Young Grail Moon, West after sunset

10      Perigee one day after syzygy, large-ish spring tide

13      Much of U.S. pushes clocks forward an hour; also Palm Sunday

14      Since Pi=3.14159…, 3/14/16 is a better approxi-Pi-date than last year’s

15      2059 years since Caesar was rendered unto… the Ides

16      Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 7:05/19:05 EDT (12h daylight, = night)

19      Daylight lengthens most rapidly, nearly 3 minutes/day

20      Equinox at 00:30PM, Sun crosses celestial equator

21-22 Moon with Jupiter all night

23      Full Sugaring Moon at 8:01, sets just before entering penumbra of Earth’s shadow

          Mercury passes the backside of the Sun, superior conjunction

25      Saturn turns retrograde, approaches, begins loop for a June opposition

27      Summer Time begins in Europe

          Easter for Western churches, Eastern falls on May 1 (=April 18 Julian)

28      Moon over Mars midnight to dawn

29      Moon over Saturn midnight to dawn

31      Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 6:40/19:21 (12h41m daylight)

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