ASTRONOMICAL CALENDAR, HIGH LIGHTS & CHALLENGES

2015 SKIES FOR
TRI-CITIES, WASHINGTON

by Tom Page

No. 27

Printable file available here.

W119° 17’, N46° 17’
(Richland, WA)

Tri Cities Astronomy Club
http://www.tricityastronomyclub.org


JANUARY

 Full (Wolf) Moon Sun 4th 20:53

  Last Quarter Tue 13th 01:47

  New Moon Tue 20th 05:14

  First Quarter Mon 26th 20:48

Mercury

Well placed in the evening sky until the 24th. It reaches greatest elongation E (19º) on the 14th, a favorable view for mid-northern latitudes. Perihelion is on the 21st and inferior conjunction on the 30th.

Venus

Low in the SW evening twilight and recently has reappeared from behind the Sun.

Mars

Low in the SW evening sky and is moving rapidly through Caprincornus into Aquarius.

Jupiter

Rises in the ENE in the early evening, retrograding into Leo and approaching opposition on Feb 6th.

Saturn

In the dawn sky in Libra moving into Scorpius on the 17.th The North side of the rings are visible in 2015. The tilt, relative to Earth remains within +/- 1º of 25º until late this December then opening to 26.1º by year end.

Uranus

In the western evening sky in Pisces and setting in late evening.

Neptune

Low in the western early evening in Aquarius.

 

2 Fri

Leslie Peltier born 1900 in Delphos Ohio. Author of Starlight Nights and discoverer of 12 comets.

4 Sun Earth at perihelion closest to the Sun 147,096,208 KM (91,401,344 miles).

5 Mon

Latest sunrise 07:40 PST in the Tri Cities.

January 5th, the Dark Days of Winter End!

6 Tue

First known use of the term “cross” referring to the Southern Cross, 500 years ago by Corsali.


FEBRUARY

  Full (Lover's) Moon Tue 3rd 15:09

  Last Quarter Wed 11th 19:50

  New Moon Wed 18th 15:47

   First Quarter Wed 25th 09:14

Mercury

Not well placed in the morning sky for northern observers.

Venus

In the WSW evening twilight gradually moving away from the Sun. On the night of Feb 20 and 21 it is in close conjunction with the Moon and Mars. On the 23rd, Mars is less than 0.5º away, the closest of three conjunctions with Venus this year.

Mars

Low in the SW evening moving eastward through Aquarius and into Pisces.

Jupiter

At opposition on Feb 6th in Cancer, mag -2.6, 36 light minutes (4.3 AU) from Earth and 45º in equatorial diameter. Jupiter rises near sunset and is visible all night. Its declination is well N of the equator all year, and is well positioned for northern observers.

Saturn

Well placed in the dawn sky in Scorpius 18º S of the celestial equator.

Uranus

Low in the W evening sky and sets in mid-evening. The angle of the ecliptic favors our location.

Neptune

Vanishes into the evening twilight early this month and will be in conjunction with the Sun the 26th.

 

2 Mon

Candelmas. Celebrates the 40th day of Christmas and the presentation of the child Jesus. Now celebrated as Groundhog Day. First quarter-cross days, half way between the winter solstice and spring equinox. Mid-winter in our calendar, the start of Spring in others.

18 Wed February is a good time to take a few minutes to look at Orion. Betelgeuse, Sirius, and Procyon form an equilateral Winter Triangle. Almost any optical aid will reveal M42 in Orion’s sword.

On this date 85 years ago, Clyde Tombaugh discover dwarf planet Pluto

21 Sat

The Moon, Venus, and Mars will be within the diameter of circle of 1.94º in the evening sky. Can be seen with the naked eye, but binoculars or other optics will enhance your observations.

25 Wed Lunar X near crater Werner 10:00 PM.

26 Thu

Lunar Straight Wall visible this evening.


MARCH

  Full (Worm) Moon Thu 5th 10:05

  Last Quarter Fri 13th 10:48

  New Moon Fri 20th 02:46

  First Quarter Fri 27th 00:43

Mercury

Continues to be visible for southern observers reaching aphelion on the 6th.

Venus

In the western sky on the 4th will pass close by Uranus (6’) providing an excellent opportunity to locate it with binoculars.

Mars

In the low western evening twilight sky moving eastward.

Jupiter

Well positioned in the evening sky following its opposition this month.

Saturn

Rising in Scorpius near midnight.

Uranus

Vanishes into the evening twilight in mid-month.

Neptune

Reappears in the morning sky late in the month for southern observers. Northern observers must wait to mid-April to get a view of it.

 

2 Mon

Moon 6º N of Jupiter. Use binoculars or telescope.

4 Wed

Uranus 15’ below Venus in bright evening twilight.
 

Challenge No 1.
Uranus is the faintest of the planets visible with the naked eye. The challenge is to see Uranus with the naked eye. A clear and transparent sky is needed for a successful naked-eye observation. You can use Venus as guide to help locate it. You may wish to locate first with use binoculars or a telescope, and then search for it without an optical aid.
 

8 Sun

Daylight Savings Time begins, though no time is saved, on the second Sunday in March. Spring your clocks ahead one hour. Officially, no clock hour 2 AM to 3AM.  From now on to the first Sunday in November it is as if you were displaced one time zone to the east.

15 Sun

Ides of March.  The buzzards (turkey vultures) return to Hinckley, OH.  The resulting celebration has been going on for over 50 years.

20 Fri

Spring (Vernal) Equinox.  Spring arrives Spring arrives in Tri Cities at 06:45 PDT when the Sun crosses the equator into the northern hemisphere.  Sun rises due E, sets due W.  Marks mid-spring in some alternative calendars.

Until 2007 the vernal equinox fell on the 20th or 21st Universal Time (7 hours earlier than PDT).  It will now be on the 20th until the year 2044.  After which it may occur on the 19th or 20th.

 

Challenge No 2
See a young crescent Moon 18 hrs new in the W, a difficult challenge after sunset.


APRIL

  Full (Pink) Moon Sat 4th 05:06

  Last Quarter Sat 11th 20:44

  New Moon Sat 18th 11:57

  First Quarter Sat 25th 16:55

Mercury

In superior conjunction with the Sun and hidden most of this month.

Venus

Well placed high in the evening western sky. In second week of April Venus passes between the Hyades and the Pleiades.

Mars

Very low in the western evening twilight. It vanishes in the solar glare at mid-month and does not reappear until late August.

Jupiter

In Cancer, well placed in the mid-evening sky.

Saturn

In Scorpius, rises late in the evening.

Uranus

In conjunction with the Sun on the 6th. It will be mid-May before northern observers see it well.

Neptune

In the eastern Aquarius sky and is not well positioned for us.

 

4 Sat

Total lunar eclipse it the pacific and W of N America. We’ll see a bit, (Umbra 4) of it as the Moon sets for us.

10 Fri

Venus is 3° lower left of Pleiades this evening. On Sat 11th, Venus is 2.6° left of the Pleiades. On 12th Sun, Venus is 3° N of the Pleiades and separating this week. Use binoculars and/or telescope.

22 Wed

Lyrid Meteor shower peaks. The shower is active from Apr 16 to 25, with a narrow peak. ZHR is variable usually around 15 to 20, with outbursts of up to 250/hour at times for a few minutes. The radiant is on the Lyra-Hercules border below and to the right of Vega and is in useful view by 10:00 PM and overhead by 4:00AM. This year, the Moon is favorably dark. Lyrids are medium swift meteors (49 km/s) occasionally bright with about 20-25% leaving persistent trains. Derived from Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, having been seen only in 1861, due to its period of 415 yr. This shower has the longest history with beginning with a Chinese chronicle of 687 BC. (Unassisted eye)

26 Sun

Lunar X near crater Werner visible in N America.

Challenge No 3
See Jupiter visible in daylight 7º upper right of Moon just before sunset.

Lunar Straight Wall is visible this evening.


MAY

  Full (Flower) Moon Sun 3rd 20:42

  Last Quarter Mon 11th  03:36

  New Moon Sun 17th 21:13

  First Quarter Mon 25th 10:19

Mercury

Well placed in the evening twilight from the 1st to the 21st. It reaches greatest elongation E (21º). It is the best appearance of the year for northern observers. In inferior conjunction on May 30th.

Venus

Very high and bright in the western sky after sunset.

Mars

Not visible, approaching conjunction with the Sun.

Jupiter

In the western evening sky moving slowly eastward in Cancer and setting after midnight.

Saturn

Is visible most of the night. At opposition on the 23rd, mag 0.0, 75 light-minutes (8.97 AU) from the Earth. The north side of the ring plane is tilted 24.4º to the Earth with the rings spanning 42” with an equatorial diameter of the planet of 19”.

Uranus

Low in the eastern dawn sky in Pisces. Twilight interferes with northern observers with late in the month.

Neptune

In the eastern morning sky.

 

1 Fri

May Day or Beltane, the 2nd cross-quarter day of the year, half way between the equinox and the solstice.  Start of summer on some alternative calendars, mid-spring in ours. In is celebrated in Spokane by people stripping to their running gear and racing through the streets (Blooms Day).

6 Wed

Eta Aquarid Meteors.   Active Apr 19 to May 28. ZHR is 60 varying between ~40 to 85. Very fast (66 km/s) bright meteors, frequently leaving persistent trains (40%-60%).  This shower is the dust from Comet 1P Halley.  The radiant, the “Y”-shaped water jar asterism of Aquarius, does not rise to a useful altitude in the E until about 03:30 AM, coincident with astronomical twilight. The year the moon is just 6 days beyond a full, compromising observations.

21 Thu

The crescent Moon, Venus, and Jupiter are within 8° this evening. Use unassisted eye or binoculars.


JUNE

  Full (Strawberry) Moon Tue 2nd 09:19

  Last Quarter Tue 9th 08:42

  New Moon Tue 16th 07:05

  First Quarter Wed 24th 04:03

Mercury

Not well placed for northern observers.

Venus

In the evening sky and reaches greatest elongation of E (45º) on the 6th. Throughout June, Venus and Jupiter, with almost identical disk diameters, are closing in the evening western sky reaching a minimum separation of 0.3” on June 30th.

Mars

In conjunction with the Sun on the 14th and not visible.

Jupiter

Low in the western evening sky and sets near midnight.

Saturn

Just past opposition, is visible most of the evening.

Uranus

In the eastern morning and sets late in the evening but favors southern observers.

Neptune

Rises after midnight.

 

14 Sun

Earliest sunrise in the Tri Cities, 05:05 PDT.

21 Sun

Summer Solstice 03:51 PDT.  With 15 hrs 48 m of daylight in Tri Cities this is the longest day of the year.  Summer begins in the Tri·Cities at 09:38 AM, when the Sun reaches its farthest point N of the equator.  Mid summer in some alternative calendars.

Until 1975 the solstice fell on June 21st or 22nd (Universal Time).  Now it will usually fall on June 21st, and sometimes on the 20th.

23 Tue

Lunar X near crater Werner visible 23:30 (telescope)

24 Wed

Lunar straight wall visible this evening. (telescope)

28 Sun

Latest Sunset occurs at 20:53 (8:53 PM PDT)


JULY

  Full (Thunder) Moon Wed 1st 19:20

  Last Quarter Wed 8th 13:24

  New Moon Wed 26th 18:42

  First Quarter Thu 23rd 21:04

Mercury

Not well placed for northern observers.

Venus

At maximum brightness on the July 10th, (mag -4.7). Venus Jupiter have almost identical disk diameters. Venus is in conjunction with Jupiter on the 1st, separated by 0.4º and again on the 31st separated by 6.4º. Venus has a close conjunction with crescent Moon on the 18th. Venus now rapidly closing with the Sun for inferior conjunction on August 15th.

Mars

Not visible, in conjunction last month.

Jupiter

Low in the WNW evening twilight.

Saturn

Well placed in the evening sky.

Uranus

Rises near midnight.

Neptune

Rises in late evening.

 

2 Thu

Mid point of the year occurs at 1:00 PM PDT or at 12:00 pm Pacific Standard Time.

4 Sat

The Deep Impact probe was deliberately crashed in to Comet Temple1’s nucleus 10 yrs ago today.

6 Mon

Earth at aphelion (farthest from the Sun) at 9:44 PDT about 1.01668 AU, 152,097,700 kilometers, or 94,509,100 miles.

Pluto at opposition at mag 14.1 today.


AUGUST

  Last Quarter Thu 6th 19:03

  New Moon Fri 14th 07:54

  First Quarter Sat 22nd 12:31

  Full (Sturgeon) Moon Sat 29th 11:35

Mercury

Forms a tight pair with Jupiter, setting just after the Sun from the 5th through the 8th.

Venus

In inferior conjunction with the Sun on the 15th and is too close to the Sun to be seen.

Mars

Emerges from the solar glare very low in the ENE twilight.

Jupiter

Vanishes into the evening twilight early this month and is in conjunction with the Sun on the 26th.

Saturn

In the western evening sky in Libra setting after midnight.

Uranus

Rises in late evening and is visible the rest of the night.

Neptune

Rises in mid-evening.

 

1 Sat

Lammas, the 3rd quarter cross-day of the year, half way between the Summer Solstice and the Autumnal Equinox.  Beginning of Fall in some alternative calendars, mid-summer in ours. Lammas is the only quarter cross-day that is not celebrated.

10 Mon

On this date, 340 years ago, the foundation was laid for the Royal Greenwich Observatory.

12 Mon

Perseid Meteors.  Good observing this year. The Moon is just one day from a new Moon. Thus there is no problem with the Moon interfering during the night. The radiant, a few degrees NE of double star cluster in Perseus reaches useable elevation after 10:00 PM. The best shower of the year. The Perseids are:

  • Active from July 17 to August 24.

  • Peak variable: ZHR 100.

  • Swift atmospheric velocity 60 km/sec (~37 miles/sec) because the meteors are head on to earth's orbit.

  • Beginning height 110-160 km.

  • Average magnitude 2.27. Brighter meteors often end in flares or bursts.

  • Some are fireballs, about 1/3 leave trains up to 2 degrees wide, lasting to 100 sec.

  • Typically yellow, fewer white, brighter ones are green, orange, or red.

  • Derived from comet Swift-Tuttle, period now receding.

  • Historical record dates from 36 AD in China and 714 AD in Europe.

19 Wed

Middle of the best time to observe our night sky.


SEPTEMBER

  Last Quarter Sat 5th 02:54

  New Moon Sat 12th 23:41

  First Quarter Mon 21st 01:59

  Full (Harvest) Moon Sun 27th 19:50

Mercury

Not well placed for our northern location.

Venus

At its maximum brightness, mag -4.80 on the 21st shinning brightly in the dawn sky.Very low in the E dawn twilight early in the month with sky geometry favoring N latitude observers.

Mars

Low in the eastern twilight. In conjunction with Regulus on the 24th.

Jupiter

Reappears in the morning sky low in the eastern dawn twilight.

Saturn

Low in the SW in mid-evening. Sets in late evening.

Uranus

Nearing opposition rises in mid-evening.

Neptune

Visible all night. At opposition on the 1st in Aquarius with mag +7.8, 4.0 light hours (29.0 AU) from Earth, 2.4” in diameter, and 9º S of the celestial equator.

 

10 Thu

Mars, Crescent Moon, and Venus form a line the morning twilight.

12 Sat

Challenge No 4
See old crescent Moon 17 hr. before new in the W. A difficult challenge just before sunrise.

14 Mon

Furthest Lunar Apogee of the year ~406,465 km (252,565 miles).

21 Mon

Venus shines at its maximum tonight at -4.80 in the dawn sky.

22 Tue

Autumnal Equinox, Fall starts in the Tri-Cities at 01:20 (1:20 AM) PDT when the Sun crosses the equator into the southern hemisphere.  Mid-fall in some alternative calendars.

27 Sun

Closest Lunar Perigee of the year ~356,876 km (221,752 miles).  


OCTOBER

  Last Quarter Wed 4th 14:06

  New Moon Mon 12th 17:06

  First Quarter Tue 20th 13:31

  Full (Hunter's) Moon Tue 27th 04:05

Mercury

Well placed in the morning sky from the 7th and to be well place the rest of the month. It reaches greatest elongation W (18º) on the 16th.

Venus

Shining brightly in the morning sky is at greatest elongation W (46º) on the 26th. Venus passes with in a degree of Jupiter.

Mars

Low in the eastern dawn. It spends the month in Leo and is in conjunction with Jupiter on the 17th.

Jupiter

Still low in the morning sky.  In conjunction with Mars on the 17th and with Venus on the 26th.  For several weeks the three planets will be grouped together.

Saturn

Low in the SW evening twilight sky sets shortly.

Uranus

At opposition on the 12th, mag +5.7, 2.6 light hours (19.0 AU) from the Earth.  Its disk is 3.7” in diameter.

Neptune

Just past opposition and retrograding in Aquarius and visible most of the night.

 

21 Wed

Orionid meteors peak on this date. Shower is active from Oct 2nd to Nov 7th.  ZHR 23 periodically variable ~15-30, can rise to 70. Very fast, 66 km/s. Sometimes bright, 50%+ leave persistent trains. Radiant is in Orion’s club. The Moon is one day after first quarter and will interfere some with the shower.  Associated with Comet 1P/Halley.

31 Sat

Hallowe’en, (eve of All Saints Day) 4th quarter-cross day, half way between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice.  Beginning of Winter in some alternative calendars and mid-Fall in ours.


NOVEMBER

  Last Quarter Tue 3rd 04:24

  New Moon Wed 11th 09:47

  First Quarter Sat 18th 22:27

  Full (Beaver) Moon Wed 25th 14:44

Mercury

Puts in a brief appearance before sunrise for a few days, and then heads for superior conjunction on the 17th.

Venus

Shining brightly in the dawn sky. It reaches its third conjunction with Mars on the 3rd separated by 0.7º.

Mars

Rising in the morning sky near 3 a.m.

Jupiter

Rises in the E well after midnight.

Saturn

At mid-month Saturn vanishes in the evening twilight and is in conjunction with the Sun on the 30th.

Uranus

Well placed in the evening sky.

Neptune

Well placed in the early evening sky and sets near midnight.

 

1 Sun

Daylight Savings ends.  As predicted, no time was saved.  Officially the hour 1 AM to 2 AM is repeated.

7 Sat

Venus, Mars, and the crescent Moon are grouped at dawn.

13 Fri

Leslie Peltier discovers the first of his 12 comets, 90 yrs ago.

17 Tue

Leonid meteors.  Active 6th to 23rd Nov. ZHR 15? Extremely fast meteors, 71 km/s, come at us nearly head on, often bright, 50-70% leave persistent trains. The radiant, in Leo’s head near the sickle, rises about 11 PM. Associated with comet 55P/Temple-Tuttle. The Moon is the day before first quarter. The US is not well positioned for the peak period, which occurs in Europe.

Current
DECEMBER

  Last Quarter Wed 2nd 23:41

  New Moon Fri 11th 02:29

  First Quarter Fri 18th 07:14

  Full (Long Nights) Moon Fri 25th 03:11

Mercury

In the evening sky from the 7th to the 31st and reaches greatest elongation E (20º) on the 29th.

Venus

Still shining brightly before the rising Sun and will be occulted by the Moon on the 7th. This is a daylight occultation at 9AM, but should be readily visible unless of course we have our regular December cloud cover.

Mars

Not well positioned for us at this time.

Jupiter

Rises late in the eastern evening sky.

Saturn

Reappears late in the month low in the dawn.

Uranus

Well placed in the evening sky, setting after midnight.

Neptune

In the western sky late in the evening.

 

3 Thu

Challenge No 5
See Jupiter visible in the daylight 7º left of the Moon. A challenge to see just after sunrise.

5 Sat

Venus, Mars, crescent Moon, and Jupiter form a long line at dawn. Use binoculars.

7 Mon

Earliest sunset at 4:11 PM PST in the Tri Cities.

8 Tue

TheDark Days of Winter Begin.

10 Thu

Challenge No 6
See an old crescent Moon 18 hrs before new in the west just before sunrise.

14 Mon

Geminid Meteors:  The Moon is three days past new.  ZHR 120, slightly variable. This year instead of a sharp peak, they will have a plateau from December 14 to the 23rd during which you may see 40 to 130 meteors per hour. One of the best most reliable showers presently visible from Earth. Bright, medium speed meteors (35 km/sec), with few persistent trains. The radiant, above the head of Castor in Gemini (the twins) is available almost all night, rising in early evening.

22 Tue

Winter solstice brings us the shortest day of the year. Winter arrives in the Tri-Cities at 2:48 PM, the Sun appearing to travel along the ecliptic reaches its farthest point south of the celestial equator.  Tri-Cities get 8 hr and 35 minutes of daylight. Sun rises at 7:37 AM and sets at 4:13 PM PST.


2015 Challenges

Challenge No. 1

Wed Mar 4th

See Uranus with the naked eye. Uranus is the faintest of the planets visible with the naked eye. You will need a clear and transparent sky for a successful naked-eye observation. You can use Venus (which is close by) to help guide you. Or you may need to locate Uranus first with binoculars or a telescope, and then search for it without optical aid.

Challenge No. 2

Fri Mar 20th

See a young crescent Moon 18 hrs. new in the W, a difficult challenge after sunset.

Challenge No. 3

Sun Apr 26th

See Jupiter visible in daylight 7º upper right of Moon just before sunset.

Challenge No. 4

Sat Sep 12th

See an old crescent Moon17 hr. before new in the W. A difficult challenge just before sunrise.

Challenge No. 5

Thu Dec 3rd

See Jupiter visible in the daylight 7º left of the Moon. A challenge to see just after sunrise.

Challenge No. 6

Thu Dec 10th

See old crescent Moon 18 hrs before new in the west just before sunrise.