Category Archives: sky

Cold Moon is full 12/13/16

The Sky This Week, 2016 December 6 – 13

The Moon brightens the evening sky this week, waxing toward the Full phase as she courses through the late autumn and early winter constellations. Full Moon occurs on the 13th at 7:06 pm Eastern Standard Time. December’s Full Moon is known as the Moon Before Yule in the skylore of European Christianity. Other names, such as the Cold Moon, Big Moon, and Long Night Moon, reflect the influence of Celtic and Native American lore. December’s Full Moon occurs near Luna’s most northerly declination for the year, flooding the winter landscape with her pale light. This year she appears a bit brighter than usual thanks to the Full phase occurring near the Moon’s close perigee, which falls on the 12th. On the evening of the 12th you’ll find the nearly-full Moon pass through the heart of the Hyades star cluster which forms the “face” of Tauris, the Bull. Watch Luna creep closer to the bright star Aldebaran as the evening passes. At 11:07 pm EST the star will wink out as the Moon’s limb covers it. You can see it re-appear at 12:21 am.

The Full Moon washes out the annual Geminid meteor shower, which peaks on the night of the 13th. This is normally one of the year’s most reliable showers, and under dark skies it usually produces one or two “shooting stars” per minute. The meteors are generally slower than the August Perseids, and the radiant, in the constellation of Gemini, is well-placed after around 10:00 pm. Bright moonlight will hamper the number of meteors that the average observer will see this year, but a patient observer may be able to spot 20 or so per hour, even from urban locations.

2016 Ends with Three Supermoons – NASA

2016 Ends with Three Supermoons

Since the moon’s orbit is elliptical, one side (perigee) is about 30,000 miles closer to Earth than the other (apogee). The word syzygy, in addition to being useful in word games, is the scientific name for when the Earth, sun, and moon line up as the moon orbits Earth. When perigee-syzygy of the Earth-moon-sun system occurs and the moon is on the opposite side of the Earth from the sun, we get a perigee moon or more commonly, a supermoon!

This coincidence happens three times in 2016. On October 16 and December 14, the moon becomes full on the same day as perigee. On November 14, it becomes full within about two hours of perigee—arguably making it an extra-super moon.

The full moon of November 14 is not only the closest full moon of 2016 but also the closest full moon to date in the 21st century. The full moon won’t come this close to Earth again until November 25, 2034.

The Hunter’s Moon, 10/15-16

The Sky This Week, 2016 October 11 – 18

Full Moon occurs on the 16th at 12:23 am Eastern Daylight Time. October’s Full Moon is popularly known as the Hunter’s Moon. The geometry of the Moon’s path in the sky is similar to last month’s Harvest Moon, so the interval between successive moonrises around the time of Full Moon causes Luna to appear to rise at nearly the same time for a few nights. In September this phenomena was used by farmers to use the light of the rising Moon to help them bring in more crops. This month hunters have a bit of extra light to pursue game across the stubble of the harvested fields.

Distances in space

Great stuff, as usual, from The Sky This Week.

This is a good week to try to make sense of the sheer scale of the cosmos as we have a variety of bright objects that we can look at and think of in terms of distance as well as brightness. The first thing we need to do is find a convenient “measuring stick”, and fortunately the laws of physics provide us one that’s good for measuring vast distances. Light, the essential “messenger” of all celestial objects, travels at a finite speed that amounts to about 300,000 kilometers (186,000 miles) per second, so if we can measure the time it takes light to reach us from an object we can gauge its distance.

When we look at the Moon, we see it as it appeared a just over a second ago. Light from the Sun takes eight minutes to get from there to here. The ruddy glow of Mars is five minutes old by the time it arrives here at earth. Giant Jupiter’s bright glow has taken 50 minutes to cross the gulf of space that separates us. … Our last bright planet is Saturn, and the view you’ll get of his wonderful rings tonight will take 77 minutes to get here. Far-flung Pluto, which marked the edge of the solar system when I was in school, is still relatively close-by, just under 4.5 hours at light speed.

Now let’s jump to the rising stars of the summer Triangle in the eastern part of the sky. Bright Vega, highest and brightest star of the trio, is located at a distance that takes light 27 years to cross! Altair, southernmost of the three stars, is even closer, a mere 16 “light years” away. Looking at the last, northernmost member of the triangle one would naturally assume that Deneb would be a similar distance from Earth, but here is where assumptions break down. Vega and Altair are relatively bright “normal” stars, but Deneb is a “blue supergiant” star that shines with the equivalent light of 100,000 suns! Its distance is some 100 times farther away than Altair, so the light you see from it tonight started its journey toward us when Constantine was Emperor of Rome. And we’ve barely ventured into the vast starfields of the Milky Way.

from The Sky This Week

Full Moon and Summer Solstice on 6/20

From The Sky This Week: The Moon waxes in the evening sky this week, passing through the summer constellations along the southern reaches of the ecliptic. Full Moon occurs on the 20th at 7:02 am Eastern Daylight Time. June’s Full Moon is popularly known as the Strawberry Moon, Rose Moon, Mead Moon, and Honey Moon. Each of these names not only indicates something indicative of the month’s flora, they also refer to the warm tone that the Moon can take on a warm June evening due to her southerly declination. Look for the Moon a few degrees north of the bright star Spica on the evening of the 14th. On the 16th and 17th she accompanies ruddy Mars across the sky, and on the 18th she passes just over two degrees north of yellow-hued Saturn.

The summer solstice falls on the 20th at 6:34 pm EDT. At this time the center of the Sun’s disc stands directly over the Tropic of Cancer north of the Hawai’ian Islands. While astronomers consider this to be the first day of summer, many traditional calendars observe it as “Midsummer’s Day”, commemorating the year’s longest day. Here in Washington Old Sol is above the horizon for 14 hours 54 minutes. Add in the times of morning and evening twilight and the duration of astronomical darkness amounts to a paltry 5 hours 8 minutes. The farther north you go, the less the duration of night becomes. Cities such as Paris and London never experience total darkness at this time of the year, and places north of the Arctic Circle see the Sun above the horizon for a full 24 hours. The Sun appears to hover near the Tropic of Cancer for a week or so around the time of the solstice, and most of us probably won’t notice the changing times of sunrise and sunset until well into July.

http://www.usno.navy.mil/USNO/tours-events/sky-this-week/the-sky-this-week-2016-june-14-21

Goodbye to Night: 80 Percent of Humanity Lives Under Light Polluted Skies – Discover

Goodbye to Night: 80 Percent of Humanity Lives Under Light Polluted Skies By Carl Engelking | June 10, 2016 12:59 pm

The beauty of the night sky is rapidly fading, and an update to the first global light pollution map, created 15 years ago, makes that painfully clear.

The new atlas revealed that more than 80 percent of the world lives under light-polluted skies – that rises to 99 percent of the population in the United States and Europe. One-third of humanity can no longer see the Milky Way. As the new map shows, the night sky is slowly retreating to the glow of artificial light.

The Vernal Equinox 3/20, then the Crow Moon 3/23

In Mountain DST, the vernal equinox is 10:30pm 3/19.

The Sky This Week, 2016 March 15 – 23 — Naval Oceanography Portal

The vernal equinox occurs on the 20th at 12:30 am EDT. This is the moment when the Sun’s ecliptic longitude reaches zero degrees. For many ancient cultures this moment marked the beginning of a new year ….

Full Moon, which occurs on the 23rd at 8:01 am Eastern Daylight Time. The Full Moon of March is popularly known as the Worm Moon, Crow Moon, Sap Moon, or Lenten Moon.

The Sky This Week, 2016 March 15 – 23 — Naval Oceanography Portal

February’s Full Moon is popularly known as the Snow Moon or Hunger Moon

The Sky This Week, 2016 February 16 – 23 — Naval Oceanography Portal

The Moon waxes through her gibbous phases this week, with Full Moon occurring on the 22nd at 1:20 pm Eastern Standard Time. February’s Full Moon is popularly known as the Snow Moon or Hunger Moon, indicative of the harsh weather that often accommodates the year’s shortest month. Look for the Moon near the bright star Regulus on the evenings of the 21st and 22nd. On the 23rd she cozies up to bright Jupiter, with less than two degrees of space between them.

The Sky This Week, 2016 February 16 – 23 — Naval Oceanography Portal

How to View Five Planets Aligning in a Celestial Spectacle – The New York Times

Five planets paraded across the dawn sky early Wednesday in a rare celestial spectacle set to repeat every morning until late next month.

Headlining the planetary performance are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter. It is the first time in more than a decade that the fab five are simultaneously visible to the naked eye, according to Jason Kendall, who is on the board of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York.

Admission to the daily show is free, though stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere should plan to get up about 45 minutes before sunrise to catch it.

How to View Five Planets Aligning in a Celestial Spectacle – The New York Times

For the first time in a decade, you can see 5 planets aligned without a telescope

For the first time in a decade, you can see 5 planets aligned without a telescope

For the first time in more than a decade, Mercury, Mars, Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter — the five planets bright enough to be seen with an unaided eye — will all be visible at once in the sky.

You’ll have to wake up early to catch it. Starting January 20, it will be possible to see all five planets in a row, about 45 minutes before sunrise, Sky and Telescope reports. The planets should be visible in this arrangement until February 20.

(Sky and Telescope notes it might get harder to see Mercury after the first week of February, because of its low position near the horizon).

For the first time in a decade, you can see 5 planets aligned without a telescope