This is for early risers. The image above may look like an amoeba in the sky, but it really represents the visibility of 3 planets in the morning sky this October, starting now. The dots show the position of the planets Mars, Venus, and Jupiter each day at 6:00 AM local time facing east. The dots and lines are color coded: Mars is red, Venus blue, and Jupiter white. October 9, 20 and 30 are marked by bigger dots for the planets.
How do you read this chart? Find October 9. There are three colored lines coming from it. Follow the red line to Mars, the blue to Venus and the white to Jupiter. Those three dots show the position of the three planets the morning of October 9. For that date you can ignore the other dots. Say you want to know where the planets are the morning of October 23. Find the dots for October 20 and go 3 dots toward October 30 for that planets position. During the week of October 20 the planets are at their closest. The waning crescent moon will be near Jupiter November 6 and Venus, November 7th.
In this group Venus is very bright, Jupiter bright but not as much and Mars is faint. If you see any of this, let me know in a comment.
I keep saying that the total solar eclipse (TSE) of 2017 is special. What do I mean by ‘special’? I mean it is located in our own backyard. The center line touches 12 states. An estimated 65 million people live within a day trip distance of the center line. This doesn’t happen very often.
Lets get specific. The two maps below illustrate the rarity of this event. The first, with red numbers, gives the year when the last TSE touched anywhere in each state. So the last one to touch anywhere in Nevada was 1880, over 130 years ago. Poor little Rhode Island is such a small target that you have to go back to 1349 for the last TSE to touch it. Of course, Rhode Island was not a state then, although the land was certainly there. (NOTE: The 2017 eclipse path touches Montana and Iowa, but not the center line.) For the 14 states that the 2017 eclipse touches (OR, ID, MY, WY, NE, IA, KS, MO, IL, KY, TN, NC, GA, and SC), the average number of years since the last TSE touched each of these states is 112 years before the eclipse of 2017. One hundred twelve years between eclipses, on average. I call that rare or special.
The second map, with green numbers, shows the year the next TSE will touch a given state. After 2017, the next eclipse in the USA is 2024, which touches several states. However, Delaware doesn’t see another eclipse until 2144. Any way you slice it, total solar eclipses are unusual in any given location and THAT is one reason why you should go see the one in 2017. It may be a long drive for the northeast and southwest states, but that beats having to fly to Africa.
The tetrad of total lunar eclipses that ended with last evening’s supermoon eclipse has prompted much interest in the sky and I would like to take advantage of that. Astronomy is, after all, a pretty amazing topic.
First of all, why was this one a supermoon. The moon orbits the earth in a slightly elliptical orbit, meaning it’s distance from the earth varies. When it is far away, it appears smaller than when it is close. The words astronomers use for these points in the orbit are apogee (the nearest) and perigee (the farthest). Yesterday’s eclipse occurred only 2 hours after apogee, meaning the fully eclipsed moon was about as close (and, hence, big) as it can be. The image below shows the eclipse of April 15, 2014 next to the one last night, correctly sized, and you can see that the September moon is larger than the other.
Now, about tetrads. Some have made much of tetrads of eclipses and Biblical prophesy siting selective dates and events. The fact is that in the span from the birth of Christ to the year 3000 AD there are 86 such tetrads. They are not common. However, neither are they rare. Linking any prophesy to them is bound to be an exercise in futility.
The next total lunar eclipse visible in North America is January 21, 2019. That means the next eclipse of any kind visible in the USA is the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse. This is the one I have been waiting for. It’s time to start making your plans!
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I have said that I can and will talk to anyone about this eclipse. So here goes the first round. I have a three city speaking tour: Atlanta, Birmingham and St. Louis. There I will be speaking to some private groups but in each place there is one meeting open to the public. Here are the names of the groups, the date, time and location of the meetings that are open to the public. You are invited and encouraged to come hear me. If you don’t live in these cities but know someone who does, please let them know. Everyone needs to know about this eclipse.
The Atlanta Astronomical Society,
Saturday, September 12, 3 PM at the
Fernbank Science Center
156 Heaton Park Dr
Atlanta, GA 30307
The Birmingham Astronomical Society,
Tuesday, September 15, 7 PM at the
St. Louis Astronomical Society
Friday, September 18 at 7:30 PM at
Today, August 24, 2015, the Weather Channel gave its first of, what I hope are many, notices about the total solar eclipse of August 21, 2017. Since the only land that the path of totality of this eclipse falls is in the United States (a very unusual circumstance), some have called this the Great American Eclipse. This is what my book, Go See The Eclipse And Take A Kid With You, is all about. I’m telling you, this will be big.
It is hard to imagine just how big this event will be in America, but believe me when I say, you need to plan ahead for this eclipse. Mark your calendar and start making plans. Astronomy clubs and tour companies are already reserving prime spots along the path.
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It is not that unusual for the International Space Station to cross the face of the sun or moon. It is still remarkable to get a good image of it when it happens. In this image the ISS is a black smudge just to the right of center.