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By Jupiter!

A blog about the stars, astronomy gifts, and other starry musings by the folks behind Indigo Night.

Angel of the Waters

by Van Wymelenberg
May 14, 2015
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This is the Angels of the Water sculpture on the Bethesda Terrace at Central Park.  I've always wanted to do a series of angel statues for the night sky print… and just might.  Look for them in the Treetops and Backyards folder.  (But you'll find Angels Landing in our Mountain folder… a really beautiful site at Zion National Park.)

Here is part to the Wikipedia entry about this statue:

The pool is centered by a fountain sculpture designed by Emma Stebbins in 1868 and unveiled in 1873.  Stebbins was the first woman to receive a public commission for a major work of art in New York City. The bronze, eight-foot statue depicts a female winged angel touching down upon the top of the fountain, where water spouts and cascades into an upper basin and into the surrounding pool. It was the only statue in the park called for in the original design. Beneath her are four four-foot cherubs representing , Purity, Health and Peace.

 Also called the Angel of the Waters, the statue refers to the Gospel of John, Chapter 5, where there is a description of an angel blessing the Pool of Bethesda, giving it healing powers.  In Central Park the referent is the Croton Aqueduct, opened in 1842, providing the city for the first time with a dependable supply of pure water: thus the angel carries a lily in one hand, representing purity, and with the other hand she blesses the water below.

 

Recent Work — Austin Skyline

by Van Wymelenberg
May 13, 2015
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We've recently completed work on a new Austin, Texas skyline, with winter and summer variations.  This view is a little south of east and was probably taken in the Zilker Park area, somewhere near where Barton Creek joins the Colorado.

May Skies

by Tamara Sykes
April 30, 2015
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Beltane kicks off the astronomical events for May.  For millennia, the Celts recognized the four cross-quarter days – Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasa, and Samhain – as important markers for the beginning of each season.  Celebrated when the Sun reached the mid-way point between equinox and solstice, the date of this solar station may well have occurred closer to the first of each month than they do today.  But since contemporary culture no longer relies on celestial mapping as our calenders, today's incarnations of these ancient customs (Groundhog Day, May Day, Lammas, and Halloween) are now fixed.

Because it's an event that focuses on the Sun's position, the lunar calender doesn't always coincide with these pagan festivals.  This year, however, we'll have a full moon on May 3, just two days after the traditional May Day / Beltane celebration.  Often called the "Flower Moon" or "Planting Moon," the second full moon following the spring equinox will light up the spring night from Libra.  Saturn, lighting in Scorpius, will follow it closely, meeting up with the waning gibbous moon the next evening.

Since the beginning of 2015, our full moons have been occurring early in the month, a phenomenon that will continue through July, when two full moons will switch up this pattern.  The second full moon – a "Blue Moon" – will occur on July 31.

The moon's waning gibbous phase will provide star-gazers a great opportunity to spot elusive Mercury which will reach its greatest distance from the Sun on May 6.  This position is particularly good for sky-watchers in the Northern Hemisphere.  However, while Mercury has outpaced the Sun, the planet still won't be easy to spot unless you have an unobstructed view of the western horizon after nightfall.  However, if all conditions are perfect, try looking for Mercury, who will be hanging close to the horizon some 60 minutes after the Sun has set, lighting close to the Pleiades, the beautiful open star cluster located in Taurus.

Venus's radiant evening apparition continues this month as she moves away from the stars of Taurus into Gemini on May 8.  By mid-month, she's lighting west for almost 2 1/2 hours after twilight fades, giving us a wonderful opportunity to appreciate one of our night sky's brightest luminaries – second only to the moon – as she races past Gemini's stellar brace, Castor and Pollux, and heads toward Jupiter.

Jupiter stands well past its zenith at sunset as May begins.  Traveling all month with the faint stars of the constellation Cancer, Jupiter is dragging its heels, waiting for Venus to catch up with him for a beautiful conjunction at the end of June.  But even by the end of this month, the two will set a dazzling display in the western sky that won't set until near midnight.

The waxing crescent moon makes its first appearance in the west on May 19, far below Venus, swinging closest to the lovely 'Evening Star' on May 21.  Two days later, the moon will light next to Jupiter, moving over to stand by Regulus, the bright heart of constellation Leo, the next evening, May 23.

Not long after twilight fades from the west, Saturn rises east as May begins with the stars of Scorpius.  Although it remains close to Scorpius, by mid-month, the ringed planet has twisted back into the constellation Libra, reaching its annual opposition to planet Earth on May 22.  On the final day of May, as the full moon of June approaches, the waxing gibbous moon and Saturn travel companionably across the late spring's sky.

 

Catch Venus & the Pleiades plus Shooting Stars!

by Tamara Sykes
April 17, 2015
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With the Sun-Moon conjunction tomorrow (Saturday, April 18), moon-free skies in the next few days provide a perfect opportunity to spot Venus in the west next to the beautiful star cluster Pleiades and Aldebaran, the brightest star in the constellation of Taurus.

Our constellations were created millennia ago by Earth-bound observers who grouped together stars that appear as if they were close to each other but in reality, out there in cosmos, are not.  The stars of the Pleiades, on the other hand, are all related to each other, having been formed out of the same molecular cloud. 

Situated prominently along the sky's ecliptic, the Pleiades are high enough in the sky to be visible most of the year and their distinctive grouping makes them immediately recognizable.  As such, this star cluster has been featured prominently not only in myths but has signaled the start of essential cultural activities.  For instance, ancient Mediterranean sailors considered the Pleiades rising in early June as the start of the season for safe navigation.  The native American Blackfoot tribe told an origin story of the Pleiades that featured the themes of orphaned boys, drought, buffalo, and dogs – every day elements in the lives of these Plains hunters.  The tale served to remind future generations that the yearly buffalo hunt, so necessary to the tribe's survival, began when the Pleiades set in the west.

Even our popular culture, most times too distanced from the beauty of the night sky, holds an visual echo of this celestial neighbor.  How many of you have waited for a red light to change to green while idling behind a Subaru and noticed their logo?

The Pleiades as a formation holds over 1000 members, but only a few are visible to the naked eye.  The Greeks named nine of them, but the common name for the formation, the Seven Sisters, suggest that this is the number most star-gazers can expect to see.  Even the name of Taurus's brightest star, Aldebaran, points to the preeminence of the Pleiades.  Translated from Arabic, the name means "The Follower," since this orange giant star perpetually follows the Pleiades across the heavens. 

Radiant Venus with the Pleiades in a recent post on the Astronomy Picture of the Day.  Image by Babak Tafreshi 

Although Venus has passed its closest conjunction with the Pleiades, she still serves as a helpful signpost in locating both the open star cluster and Aldebaran in the next few days.  If you're keen to get a glimpse of elusive Mercury at the end of the month, locating the two most recognizable elements of Taurus will pay dividends.  The planet closest to the Sun isn't easy to spot, but in two weeks, it will be hanging out low in the west right next to the Pleiades.  On April 20th, the waxing crescent moon will give you a good glimpse of them too, as it will be closest to the star cluster that night.  The next evening, April 21st, the moon will have just passed Aldebaran and will be sitting very companionably next to Venus.  Some very lovely sights to see.

Stargazers who arise before the Sun the next morning, Tuesday, April 22nd, will have the best chance to spot the Lyriad meteor shower.  All this weekend and into next week, you could be fortunate to spot one or two of these, especially since there's no chance bright moonlight reducing their visibility.  Conventional wisdom says the best hours for meteor shower viewing begin after midnight, but they could streak across the sky at any time and from any location in the celestial sphere.  Make an wish and see if it comes to fruition as the growing season begins.

A lunar eclipse, the Lyriads, and Mercury: April's celesital attractions

by Tamara Sykes
March 22, 2015
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As April begins, a waxing gibbous moon rises before sunset, finishing its three-day journey through the constellation Leo.  By the 2nd, the moon will have entered Virgo, where it reaches its opposition to the Sun on April 4.

This month's full moon – variously known as the Egg Moon, Pink Moon, Sprouting Grass Moon, Fish Moon, Seed Moon, and Awakening Moon – is also a total lunar eclipse.  While the solar eclipse on March 20 was visible from Northern Europe, the second of the paired eclipses, the lunar eclipse, will be visible in the United States before dawn on Saturday. 

Whether or not you see all of this very short eclipse will depend, as usual, on location and weather.  The full moon begins to move into the Earth's penumbral shadow at 6:16 am in the Eastern time zone, so the moon will have set before the moon is fully eclipsed at 8 am.  Viewers in the western part of the US – from the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, and Texas onward – will have the best chance to see the moon fully eclipsed (in the Central Time Zone at 7 am, 6 am MDT, 5 am PDT).  Residents of East Asia, Australia, and New Zealand can see it after sunset.

 

By the time the moon rises in the east the evening of April 4, the moon will no longer be considered "full," an astronomical term to indicate its exact opposition to the Sun.  But it will look look plenty big as it rises on the first night of Passover with Spica, Virgo's white-blue alpha star.

The waning moon in the first part of the month gives stargazers an opportunity to watch a very bright Venus in the western sky after sunset.  On April 7th, she moves away from the faint constellation Aries into Taurus, and for the next week closes in on the star cluster Pleiades.  A moon-lit night can make this beautiful clustering of stars difficult to spot, so as the waning moon rises later, use this opportunity to spot the Pleiades, especially as it will come in useful at the beginning of May when the planet closest to the Sun, Mercury, alights next to them.  Venus and the Pleiades are closest on April 11th.

 

The sky at nightfall on the 21st of April.  A slender crescent moon shows low in the west with Venus and the Pleiades

A new moon on April 18 means that a slender crescent moon will show itself low in the west within the following few days.  With a good sight line (and clear skies) on the 19th, you might catch that crescent moon with Mars.  But if you miss that union, the next few evenings will give you a glorious sight of the moon with Venus and the stars of Taurus.  The evening of the 21st promises an especially lovely gathering with the moon, Venus, and Taurus's alpha star Aldebaran.

 

And as the days finally warm, the first meteor showers of the season arrive.  Anytime between April 21 and 23, the Lyriad meteor showers should be streaking across the night sky.  Conventional wisdom is that the best time to view these showers is before dawn, since their radiant – the celestial spot through which their parent comet Thatcher is traveling – is the constellation Lyra.  Lyra isn't high enough in the sky until close to midnight, so meteors could be too low to see until the early morning hours.  Keep in mind, however, that meteors can make their appearance anywhere in the night sky at anytime.  The Lyriads' peak is expected before dawn on April 22nd.  Look for the bright star Vega, the fifth-brightest star and alpha star of Lyra, high in the sky before dawn.

On April 25, the first quarter moon meets up with Jupiter, still traveling with the faint stars of the Crab, but now inching its way toward the constellation of Leo.   On the 27th, the bright star next to the waxing gibbous moon will be Regulus, Leo's alpha star.

Finally, the end of April and the beginning of May provide an opportunity to see a rarely-sighted Mercury.  This planet usually travels too close to the Sun to view without a telescope, but the first two weeks of May, Northern Hemisphere skywatchers have a chance to spot the elusive planet hanging out with the Pleiades in the west for almost 45 minutes following the beginning of nautical twilight.  With Mars now gone from the night sky, Mercury takes his spot, briefly, on the spring's horizon, with Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn all following in procession in the sky before midnight.

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Just Because

The night sky print which arrives for no particular reason, other than to celebrate the gift of love that is your beloved, is cherished like no other.

Birthdays

Each of us has a story that begins in a single moment. Poets and philosophers from Shakespeare to Tennyson, from Moore to Jung, share a common fascination with the night sky at the moment of birth, and the idea that the moon and stars stand in timeless, silent witness to this moment.

Wedding Anniversaries

The night sky print, showing the moon and stars just as they appeared on the night you met, the moment of your first kiss, or your wedding night, is an exceptional anniversary gift. Appropriate for any year, especially so for the 1st anniversary, the year of the ‘paper’ gift.

New Baby

The night sky print, showing the moon and stars just as they appeared on the child’s first starry night, with your words – funny, wise, sweet, hopeful, perhaps a favorite quote from a story or song – makes a beautiful keepsake.

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