August Moon at Ascending Node – and Oh Yeah, A Total Solar Eclipse!

   Monday August 21st the new Moon will be crossing the plane of the ecliptic moving north relative to the ecliptic. This is known as the ascending node, one of two intersections the Moon’s orbital path has with the ecliptic. The ecliptic is actually the Earth’s orbit and the Moon’s orbit is inclined about 6o from the ecliptic. So there are two node intersections, the ascending and descending nodes.

   On August 21st the new Moon will be crossing the plane of the ecliptic at 10:34 UT (5:34 am CDT) within the constellation Leo the Lion. 8 hours later, at 18:30 UT (1:30 pm CDT), the Moon will reach new phase. This close timing between the new Moon phase and a node crossing means only one thing – eclipse!!

   My eclipse viewing area will be at an Elementary School in the North Kansas City School District. From that location totality will be approximately 80 seconds. This short video showing totality for 80 seconds, was clipped and edited from a video shot during the November 2012 total solar eclipse viewed from Australia.

   Read a bit more about this eclipse from a previous post.

      Does our Moon actually go around the Earth as many graphics show? From our perspective on the Earth the Moon appears to circle around the Earth. However, in reality, the Moon orbits the Sun together with the Earth*

   *Click here to read my 2006 Scope on the Sky column “The Real Shape of the Moon’s Orbit”. (PDF)

   Read this very informative article about the Earth-Moon system and their orbital motions, written by Joe Hanson. “Do We Orbit the Moon?”

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

2017 June Solstice

21june-ecliptic   Northern hemisphere spring comes to an end and its summer begins on Wednesday day June 21st at 4:24 UT (11:24 pm CDT Tuesday June 20th) when the Sun ‘reaches’ the celestial coordinates of 23.5o north declination and 6 hours right ascension. With respect to the Earth’s surface the Sun is described as over the Tropic of Cancer, 23.5o, north latitude of the Earth’s equator. At this same time the Sun is just entering the boundaries of the astrological constellation Cancer the Crab. Interestingly about 11 hours later, June 21st at 15 UT (10 am CDT) the Sun will actually be entering the region of the Gemini Twins as it crosses the boundary between Gemini and Taurus.
Just had to include this!!
   According to the pseudoscience of astrology the Sun, at this date, would be entering the astrological sign of Cancer the Crab.

   We know that it is the Earth’s orbital motion around the Sun that causes the sun’s apparent eastward motion among the stars in the background. This is how the Sun ‘reaches’ a celestial coordinate, how it ‘crosses’ the boundaries between constellations, or how it is ‘in’ a constellation.

   With respect to the southern hemisphere this is the end of their summer and start of their fall season. So thinking globally my preference has been to use the name of the month to designate the season change. Hence the use of the term June Solstice rather than summer solstice.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

February Moon at Descending Node and a Solar Eclipse

26feb-descending-node
   Sunday February 26th the new Moon will be crossing the plane of the ecliptic moving south. This is known as the descending node, one of two intersections the Moon’s orbital path (dark green line) has with the ecliptic. The time for new Moon phase 14:59 UT while the time for the node crossing is 8 hours earlier at 6:40 UT. Given the close times for the two events means that there will be a solar eclipse. However the Moon, because of its elliptical shaped orbit, will be at a further distance from the Earth such that it will appear smaller in diameter than the Sun appears. This means that at mid-eclipse, or totality, the Moon will not completely cover the Sun, instead there will be a ring of sunlight around the Moon. The ring of sunlight is called the annulus and so this is an annular solar eclipse. The eclipse will be visible from parts of southern Argentina and western central Africa.
annular-eclipse-ani   On my birthday in 1994 I was ‘honored’ to not only have an annular solar eclipse on that day but the eclipse path, the path of annularity, crossed right over where I live southeast of Kansas City Missouri. This animation is of the May 10th annular solar eclipse.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to go to bobs-spaces.

Sun Enters Scorpius-2016

   Tuesday November 22nd the Sun, in its apparent eastward motion along the ecliptic, moves out of the constellation Libra the Scales and into the constellation of Scorpius the Scorpion. This is the true or actual position of the Sun as opposed to the pseudoscience of astrology which usually has the astrological Sun one constellation ahead or east from the Astronomical Sun’s position.

   Read a little more about how astrology has the Sun incorrectly placed in a previous blog, and in another blog discussing the effects of precession.
   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

2016 September Equinox

   On Thursday September 22nd at 14:21 UT, (9:21 am CDT) the Sun will have reached the astronomical coordinates of 0 degrees declination and 12 hours of right ascension, or RA. This places the Sun within the boundaries of the constellation Virgo the Maiden, or as some would say, “the Sun is in Virgo.” This is the actual position of the Astronomical Sun as opposed to the pseudoscience of astrology which has the astrological Sun entering the constellation of Libra the Scales.
   Read a little more about how astrology has the Sun incorrectly placed in a previous blog, and in another blog discussing the effects of precession.
   Declination is the astronomical equivalent to latitude measuring from 0 degrees at the equator to 90 degrees at either pole. Right ascension, or RA, is like longitude except that there is only east RA. The globe is divided into 24 sections, and like meridians of longitude, these hour circles are 15 degrees wide at the celestial equator and taper to a ‘point’ at the north and south pole respectively. In RA the ‘hour’ circles are counted from 0 hours to 23 hours. The 0 hour circle is at the intersection of the ecliptic and the celestial equator in the constellation of Pisces the Fishes.
   In a class lesson about seasons today would be one of the two days during the year when the Sun would be described as being over the Earth’s equator. If you were at the Earth’s equator the Sun would have an altitude of 90 degrees, or straight up in your sky at your local time for midday. At that moment there would not be a shadow. However at any other latitude, north or south at midday, the Sun would be at an angle less than 90 degrees and there would be a midday shadow. (Midday is the local time when the Sun is halfway between local rising time and local setting time. At any midday the Sun is at its maximum altitude above the southern horizon in the northern hemisphere, or is at its maximum altitude above the northern horizon in the southern hemisphere.)
   What is often noted about an equinox day is the reminder that equinox means equal night as a reference to there being equal amounts of daylight, and night. Also on an equinox day the Sun would rise due east and set due west for virtually everywhere on the globe. The times for sunrise and sunset would be approximately 12 hours apart, and the rising time would be around 6 am local time, and the setting time would be around 6 pm local time.

Hola Moon doh

Hola ‘Moo’ndo! Think Globally.

   So why “September Equinox” instead of using the more familiar “Fall Equinox”. Primarily because the southern hemisphere is also changing seasons on this day however for the southern hemisphere this is the start of their spring season. Despite the opposite seasons it is somewhat of a northern hemisphere bias that traditionally we would call this day the “Autumnal or Fall Equinox”, and in March we would say the “Spring” or “Vernal Equinox”. I favor the use of the name of the month so that regardless of which hemisphere it is just simply the March equinox or the September equinox, and by extension we would also have the June solstice and the December solstice..
   
   This short video shows students at Colegio Menor San Francisco de Quito, a school in Quito Ecuador, measuring the altitude of the sun hourly on the day of the 2004 September Equinox. They were taking part in Project SunShIP, Sun Shadow Investigation Project. There are also some pictures showing a local midday shadow from other participating schools in the United States and U.K.

   
   
   

Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Seeing is Believing


   So I told my evening class that there was a sunspot so large it could be seen with the naked eye. The Sun was still more than an hour from setting when I set up my camera on the steps behind the Science building. As my students came outside I handed them each a pair of ‘eclipse glasses’, and they were all able to confirm that they were able to see the sunspot.

Some students from my evening Astronomy class

Some students from my evening Astronomy class

   I will repeat this tomorrow morning with my day class students. Stay tuned!

Some of the students in my morning astronomy class.

Some of the students in my morning astronomy class.

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

M is for Monster Sunspot


   Today there is a very large sunspot that has been described as large enough to see with the naked eye at sunset or sunrise. I would not recommend looking at the Sun unless you have proper viewing equipment.
   This picture is one of a couple of quick shots of the Sun from earlier today. The large sunspot is rather distinct. The camera particulars are on the picture. I use a screw-in 58mm solar filter on my DSLR camera, a Canon Rebel T3i. The filter shows the Sun in visible light and comes from Thousand Oaks Optical and is reasonably priced. If you have never imaged the Sun before this is one path in that direction.

   Reminder: On a clear day you can see 92,955,807.26 miles (149,597,870.69 km)

   
   
   
   

Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.