What We Missed over Thanksgiving Weekend

November 25, 2015

Full Moon

Mercury at it’s Aphelion, which is it’s furthest point from the Sun in it’s orbit.

November 26, 2015

C/2013 US10 (The Comet Catalina) reaches its brightest.  It will not be observable from Washington DC.

November 29, 2015

Venus at Periphelion

Venus‘s 225-day orbit around the Sun will carry it to its closest point to the Sun – its perihelion – at a distance of 0.72 AU from the Sun.

In practice, however, Venus’s orbit is very close to circular; its distance from the Sun varies by only about 1.5% between perihelion and aphelion.


Saturn at Solar Conjuntion and Apogee.

From our vantage point on the Earth, Saturn will appear very close to the Sun in the sky as it passes around the far side of the solar system from the Earth.

At closest approach, Saturn and the Sun will appear at a separation of only 1°38′, making Saturn totally unobservable for several weeks while it is lost in the Sun’s glare.

At around the same time, Saturn will also be at its most distant from the Earth – receding to a distance of 10.99 AU – since the two planets will lie on opposite sides of the solar system.  Which means Saturn will be at it’s apogee.


source  https://in-the-sky.org/news.php?id=20151130_13_100, Dominic Ford.



The Constellation Capricorn

Capricornus is the 40th biggest constellation in the sky, occupying an area of 414 square degrees.

It lies in the fourth quadrant of the southern hemisphere (SQ4) and can be seen at latitudes between +60° and -90°.

The neighboring constellations areAquarius, Aquila,Microscopium, Piscis Austrinus, and Sagittarius.

Capricornus has three stars with known planets and also contains a Messier object,M30 (NGC 7099).

The brightest star in the constellation is Deneb Algedi, Delta Capricorni.

There are five meteor showers associated with Capricornus: the Alpha Capricornids, the Chi Capricornids, the Sigma Capricornids, the Tau Capricornids, and the Capricorniden-Sagittarids.

Capricornus belongs to the Zodiac family of constellations, along with Aries, Taurus,Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpius, Sagittarius, Aquarius, and Pisces.



Even though Capricornus is the second faintest constellation in the sky, afterCancer, it is associated with myths and images that go way back to the 21st century BC.

The story of Capricornus originated with the Babyonians and Sumerians. The Sumerians knew it as the goat-fish, or SUHUR-MASH-HA, while the Babylonian star catalogues dating back to 1000 BC mention the constellation as MUL.SUHUR.MAŠ, also meaning “goat fish.” In the early Bronze Age, Capricornus marked the winter solstice and, in modern astrology, Capricorn’s rule still begins on the first day of winter.

The Greeks associated the constellation with the forest deity Pan, who had the legs and horns of a goat. Crotus, his son, is usually identified with another amphibious creature, represented by the neighboring constellation Sagittarius.

Pan was placed in the sky by Zeus in gratitude for his coming to the other gods’ rescue on several occasions. During the gods’ war with the Titans, Pan helped scare the Titans away by blowing his conch shell and, later, he warned the gods that Typhon, a monster sent by Gaia to fight the gods, was approaching. He also suggested that the gods disguise themselves as animals until the danger passed.

In the myth, Pan eluded the monster himself by jumping into the river Nile and turning the lower part of his body into that of a fish. Zeus eventually killed Typhon with his thunderbolts and, in reference to the myth, Capricornus is still often depicted as a goat with the tail of a fish.

In another story, Capricornus is identified as Amalthea, the goat that suckled Zeus when he was an infant, hiding from his father Cronos. Cronos had devoured his other children, all future gods and goddesses, because of a prophecy that he would be overthrown by one of them.


Source:  http://www.constellation-guide.com/constellation-list/capricornus-constellation/

November 16, 2015

It’s probably easiest to understand the moon cycle in this order: new moon and full moon, first quarter and third quarter, and the phases in between.

“As shown in the above diagram, the new moon occurs when the moon is positioned between the earth and sun. The three objects are in approximate alignment (why “approximate” is explained below). The entire illuminated portion of the moon is on the back side of the moon, the half that we cannot see.

At a full moon, the earth, moon, and sun are in approximate alignment, just as the new moon, but the moon is on the opposite side of the earth, so the entire sunlit part of the moon is facing us. The shadowed portion is entirely hidden from view.

The first quarter and third quarter moons (both often called a “half moon“), happen when the moon is at a 90 degree angle with respect to the earth and sun. So we are seeing exactly half of the moon illuminated and half in shadow.

Once you understand those four key moon phases, the phases between should be fairly easy to visualize, as the illuminated portion gradually transitions between them.

An easy way to remember and understand those “between” lunar phase names is by breaking out and defining 4 words: crescent, gibbous, waxing, and waning. The word crescent refers to the phases where the moon is less than half illuminated. The word gibbous refers to phases where the moon is morethan half illuminated. Waxing essentially means “growing” or expanding in illumination, and waningmeans “shrinking” or decreasing in illumination.

Thus you can simply combine the two words to create the phase name, as follows:

After the new moon, the sunlit portion is increasing, but less than half, so it is waxing crescent. After the first quarter, the sunlit portion is still increasing, but now it is more than half, so it is waxing gibbous. After the full moon (maximum illumination), the light continually decreases. So the waning gibbous phase occurs next. Following the third quarter is the waning crescent, which wanes until the light is completely gone — a new moon.”


Source text from http://www.moonconnection.com/moon_phases.phtml


From Washington, D. C., the Moon will be visible in the evening sky. It will become visible at around 17:07 (EST) as the dusk sky fades, 39° above your southern horizon. It will then reach its highest point in the sky at 18:04, 40° above your southern horizon. It will continue to be observable until around 22:48, when it sinks to 8° above your western horizon.

The Moon‘s orbital motion carries it around the Earth once every four weeks, and as a result itsphases cycle from new moon, through first quarter, full moon and last quarter, back to new moon once every 29.5 days.

This motion also means that the Moon travels more than 12° across the sky from one night to the next, causing it to rise and set nearly an hour later each day. Click here for more information about the Moon’s phases.

Over the next few days, the distance between the Moon and Sun will increase each night as the Moon approaches full phase. Rather than rising in the afternoon and appearing high in the sky by sunset, it will rise later and make it less far above your eastern horizon before nightfall. All times are given below in Washington, D. C. local time.

Taken from a a post by Dominic Ford on http://www.in-thesky.org  OUR FAVORITE BLOG ABOUT ASTRONOMY.

The Story of Exodus

One day in the month of Abib which is in early springtime, a family Jews who were scattered throughout the sunny fields were preparing for the Feast of Passover. A boy named Zeke, and his, younger sister, Sarah were helping their Mom gather wheat for the unleavened bread and the herbs that would help flavor the lamb for the Passover Meal which is called Seder. As they worked, the sang Psalms of thanksgiving to their God.

A quiet gust of wind softly wisped through the wonderful field, as Sarah piped up to ask, “Why do we have to eat these bitter herbs anyway? I don’t like them!” She crookedly complained. “Because,” Zeke began as another soft wind blew through the wheat. “The bitter herbs remind us that our people were slaves in Egypt, but God sent Moses to save them and bring them back to our homeland.”

“Mhm,” Their mother nodded, “but soon, the Pharaoh wanted them back.  He sent his army of men to relentlessly chase after them. As the Jews reached the Red Sea, they noticed the Pharaoh’s army was tailing them, and there seemed to be no escape. But, as soon as the last Jew made it onto the land, Moses raised his rod and the sea came crashing down onto the unsuspecting Egyptians. The people were free to live without fear.” Mother finished, looking down upon her children.

“Oh, I see.” Sarah nodded, “We eat the bitter herbs to be reminded of when times were hard, only to be saved by our Lord.”
“Yes, God wanted his people to be back in their homelands, to learn to trust him and be thankful for his doings. And that is what he wants us to learn, too, when we remember the miracle of the Exodus.” Mother explained.
“Now I will eat the lamb reverently with thankfulness to God!” Sarah smiled.