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Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Classical Astronomy - Jupiter and Venus in 2015


Praise ye the LORD. Praise ye the LORD from the heavens: praise him
in the heights.  Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him,
all his hosts.  Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him,
all ye stars of light. - Psalm 148:1-3

IN THIS UPDATE:
 
Announcements
  Astronomy Projects
  2015 "Consider Thy Heavens" Astronomy Campouts
  Homeschool Convention
  Moonfinder Storybook
  Planet Palmer Christian Radio 
Dance of the Planets
  Jupiter and Venus in 2015

Dear Friends, 

Happy New Year!  This is the first newsletter since October 28, but I've been working on other astronomy projects, as mentioned in the announcements below.  Hope 2015 is off to a good start for everyone.
 
If you have not done so, please like our Facebook page.  I usually post several items a day to that page, and there's a lot going on there that's completely different than this newsletter.  Please click like on that page, and share with all your FB friends!

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 For more information about topics from Classical Astronomy discussed in this newsletter,
please check out Signs & Seasons, a
homeschool astronomy curriculum
(but popular with adult readers too!)
  

Visit our archive of previous editions of the Classical Astronomy Update newsletters, going back to 2007.

 If you haven't already done so, find us on Facebook and follow @JayRyanAstro on Twitter. 

Visit this page to subscribe to the Classical Astronomy Update and the Northeast Ohio Astronomy (NEOastro) newsletters.   
  
* * * * *

Announcements
  
Astronomy Projects
 
After a long hiatus, I've lately been working again on Measuring the Heavens, the sequel to Signs & Seasons.  MTH will expand on the concepts introduced in S&S, and will show how geometry and other mathematical methods are used in Classical Astronomy. Angles are measured in the sky to find the positions of the Sun, Moon, stars and planets, which enables accurate reckoning of time and navigation, along with just about scientific measurement.
 
 MTH will enable the enthusiastic student of Classical Astronomy to delve deep and acquire a more full understanding of the clockwork of the heavens.  MTH will be an excellent preparatory course for subsequent study in science.  I'll provide some more details on the project as the work progresses.  I'd be grateful for everyone's prayers, as this book has been in progress on and off since 2009, but keeps getting derailed by priorities in a busy life.  This project is part of the master plan that God envisioned me to create in 1990, and it's on my "bucket list" to finish this project. 
 
Chapter 3 of 9 is nearly written.  Hoping to finish at least through Chapter 5 before spring, but it's a lot of work, trying to organize all this information.  Thanks for your prayers! 

Molly Green Magazine
 
I've also lately been contributing an astronomy column to Molly Green magazine, a magazine about homeschooling, homesteading and home life in general.  The column is called SkyCraft, and it's a short survey of practical topics from Classical Astronomy, for explaining the basics of telling time and navigating from the Sun, Moon and stars, the purpose for which God designed these bodies.  Check out SkyCraft for free online, and consider subscribing to Molly Green for the wonderful information covered in this magazine.  Three columns in the SkyCraft series have already been written.

I've lately been trying to reach out to homesteaders, survival/preppers and other outdoors people.  Astronomy remains a misunderstood and unappreciated field of science, since so few understand the practical, useful applications of observing the sky.  For centuries, practical observations of the sky were used for telling time and finding direction, and the American almanack tradition preserves this legacy.

However, it's my opinion that our modern high-tech world cannot not go on indefinitely without some sort of grid failure or other collapse of our fragile infrastructure.  Some prepared individuals are stocking up on food, water and guns for such a day.  But has anyone considered how one will tell time or find direction under such circumstances?  In reestablishing agriculture, how will people know the months without pre-made calendars, to find the times of planting and harvest?  The SkyCraft is intended to help teach people to reacquire those skills, to get our generation to start looking at the sky once again.  


2015 "Consider Thy Heavens" Astronomy Campouts
 
So far, we've only planned one definite astronomy campout event for 2015, to return to Muskallonge Lake State Park, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, along the pristine shores of Lake Superior.  At this time, this event will mostly include people from our church and our pastor's Classical Conversations community.  But many people from last year's event are returning, and this event is open to everyone.  You are invited to join us too!    

It's a nine hour drive for us in Ohio, but some families are coming from even further.  Chicago and Minneapolis are within that same driving distance.  I'd encourage everyone from around the USA to discover the natural beauty of the Great Lakes, at this unspoiled, remote location, far away from the cities. It's a wonderful place and well-kept secret!  Plus, the night skies are pristine!  Inky black and CROWDED with stars!

The dates are August 11-15, but come and stay as long as you'd like!  Campsite registration at Muskallonge Lake State Park for these dates begins on February 15, and we hope to snag our campsites right away.  There is also a Facebook group for this campout.  If you're interested in joining us, please send me an email to be contacted and notified with updates.  

OTHER CAMPOUTS

Last year, I had all kinds of bright ideas of the places that I wanted to branch out this year, like Arkansas, Missouri and Mount Rushmore.  Maybe we could hold events there someday, but folks, I'm just a hard-working homeschool dad, without a lot of time and money, and Classical Astronomy does NOT pay the bills around here!  Given all that, I have to scale back the big vision and stick with some feasible events closer to home.  Here's a couple tentative ideas...

WEST VIRGINIA: We have an open invitation to plan a homeschool astronomy campout at The Mountain Institute on Spruce Knob, one of the darkest patches of sky remaining in the eastern USA.  I'm hoping that some folks from last year's Virginia event would be interested in attending.  I'm thinking that July or September might be good time.  Send me an email if you are interested, indicating your preference of months. 

OHIO: We had a little mini-campout last fall in Ohio as a test run, but the venue for that event will not work out for this year.  I'm thinking that we can plan an event at Salt Fork State Park in Ohio, a good central location for a lot of Ohioans, near the crossroads of I-77 and I-70.  The sky is pretty dark in that area, as good as can expected in the Buckeye State.   If this event goes down, we'll be promoting it through CHEO, our state homeschool group.  Drop an email if you are interested, indicating your preference of months, either July or September. 


S&S at Homeschool Conventions

 
Just wanted everyone to know that our Signs & Seasons curriculum will be carried by the Homeschool Adventure Company at the Teach  Them Diligently conventions this year in Nashville, TN and Sandusky, OH.  If you attend either of those conventions this year, drop by the booth and check them out!  Like their page on Facebook!
  

Moonfinder Storybook

I'd like to ask everyone again to consider ordering our Moonfinder storybook for your young astronomer!  This is a story about a dad and his little boy who learn about the phases of the Moon, over the passing days of the lunar month.  The next New Moon is Feb. 18, and these times are the best to start reading this story with your little ones.  This story is guaranteed to help your kids (and their parents!) understand the monthly cycle of the Moon's phases!  If you don't have little ones of your own, Moonfinder makes a great gift!  Order from Christianbook.com and save!


Friends, on a personal note, we really need to unload inventory of Moonfinder.  I spent four years creating individual paintings for each page, which was a significant personal investment.  But even though everyone who has read Moonfinder has loved it and called it a wonderful book, it has been a financial disaster for our home business. 

It's heartbreaking to see Moonfinder languish, after pouring so much of my life into it.  So I'd be very grateful to those who could help us out by taking a copy of Moonfinder off our hands.  Thanks for your kind support!


Planet Palmer Christian Radio

Hey Mom and Dad, remember those days before you were Christian homeschool parents? Remember that great Contemporary Christian Music we all loved, "back in the day"? You can listen to all that great Christian music once again at Planet Palmer, an online radio channel. My good friend John Palmer, a 30 radio veteran, was and is THE CCM deejay for Northeast Ohio. Planet Palmer has 800 songs pre-loaded and the list is growing all the time.  Everything from Larry Norman to DeGarmo and Key, from Petra to DC Talk, from Bryan Duncan to Leslie Phillips to Mylon LeFevre, spanning the spectrum of CCM and "old school" Christian rock.

Tune in to Planet Palmer and check it out!  Also, like his page on Facebook!

Dance of the Planets
  
Jupiter and Venus in 2015 

The dazzling bright planets Jupiter and Venus are up in the sky every night of our lives, and are the brightest "stars" that can be seen, both of which being much brighter than Sirius, the actual brightest star in the sky.  In fact, Venus and Jupiter are the brightest objects visible in the sky after the Sun and Moon. 

People are always fascinated when I point out Jupiter and Venus, disbelieving that these really are the same planets we all know about from NASA photos in books and websites.  No doubt you have all seen these planets repeatedly throughout your lives, but thought they were airplanes or something other than a planet. 

I don't understand why, but for some strange reason, the true identity of these dazzlingly bright planets is unknown in our generation.  This is more puzzling since these objects were well known in centuries past, and they are commonly referred to in poetry and literature, from the 19th century, all the way back to the ancient Greeks and Romans.

When I first discovered the planets back in the 80s, it was an epiphany.  I've never stopped being fascinated with these celestial bodies, and wish for you all to also discover these wonderful creations of our LORD for yourselves.  All you need to do is GO OUTSIDE AND LOOK!  It's as easy as that!  And make it your regular practice, for yourself and your children, to go outside in the evenings to observe the LORD's handiwork that He has hung over our heads!


In 2015, Venus has returned once again as the "Evening Star," and is currently glittering in the western skies after sunset.  If you have clear skies and an unobstructed western horizon, you really can't miss Venus.  You just need to be confident that, yes indeed, that is our neighboring planet hanging in the twilight sky!  It's NOT an airplane or a UFO! 


If you're still not convinced that that blazing object is really Venus, circle this date on your calendar... the evening of February 20, 2015.  On that night, Venus and the planet Mars will line up in the sky in a conjunction.  If that's not exciting enough, this pair of planets will be joined by the waxing crescent Moon, in a tight little cluster of heavenly bodies!   Imagine how much fun that would be, being in your first month of reading Moonfinder with your little kids, and then to be able to observe a rare trio of bodies, with the Moon aligning together with these two planets in the evening sky! 


Here in the wintertime of 2015, Jupiter is on the opposite side of the sky from Venus.  After you're done looking at Venus in the western twilight, turn around to see Jupiter coming up in the east.  Jupiter is currently passing through the faint constellation Cancer, in between the brighter stars of the constellations Gemini and Leo.  You really can't miss Jupiter, it's a blazingly bright blowtorch of a "star," coming up after sunset and quite high in the sky by 9:00 PM.  If you can find the famous constellation Orion, you can't miss Jupiter, the brightest object across the sky to the east of Orion.

(It never fails!  I always write about Venus and Jupiter in this newsletter, telling people where to look and what to see, and then, during the next week, I will invariably receive one or more emails asking," What's that really bright star near the sunset, or in the east"!!!  Maybe you'll be one of those writing to me this week!)

Anyway, keep a very close eye on both Jupiter and Venus during the winter and spring of 2015.  Jupiter will be drawing across the sky in the early evenings, heading into the western sky over a period of months, as the constellations follow along in their seasonal passages.  (For an explanation of the seasonal passage of the stars, read Chapter 6 of Signs & Seasons.


By the beginning of June, Jupiter will have moved far toward the west in the evening sky, and will begin drawing close to Venus, which will be keeping it's place as the Evening Star, near the sunset.  Throughout June, these two planets will draw closer and closer together!  On the evening of June 20, just as summer is about to begin, the waxing crescent Moon will pass by this pair.  I promise, this will be a very exciting sight to follow from night to night!  But that's not even the most exciting part! 


The scene will become even more amazing in July!  At the beginning of the month, dazzling Jupiter and Venus will come together in a close conjunction!  These brilliant twin "stars" will be separated by only 0.4 degrees, less than a single lunar diameter!!!!  But as cool as this is, the really amazing part is that Jupiter and Venus will stay together throughout the month of July!

Jupiter will be following its cycle, preparing to slip behind the Sun as its 2015 apparition draws to an end.  Meanwhile, Venus will have passed its maximum elongation, and will be preparing to overtake the Earth in its orbit, and pass in front of the Sun.  The result is that both Venus and Jupiter will remain along the same line of sight throughout July, 2015, and will appear to drop down into the sunset together!  

This is a new one on me, friends!  I've been following astronomy for over 25 years and have never seen Jupiter and Venus "hold hands" as they dive toward the Sun.  The waxing crescent Moon will again join this pair on July 18, just before Jupiter and Venus vanish into the glow of dusk twilight.   (For an explanation of the cycles of Jupiter and Venus, see Chapter 7 of Signs & Seasons.

The reason I'm telling you all this now, is because it's a lot of fun to watch this extended conjunction come together, over the span of months.  Start watching Jupiter and Venus NOW, in the winter, while they are still far apart.  Notice how Jupiter moves west across the sky as the months pass, and how this planet lines up to its other solar system neighbor in late spring.  If you do this, you'll enjoy a rare chance to observe the planets move around in the evening sky.

I'm also amazed at how modern science can predict the clockwork of the heavens.  Celestial mechanics is almost like a type of scientific "Calvinism," since the motions of the planets are regular and mathematical, enabling such pairings to be "predestined," and predictable years (even centuries) in advance.  This is an interesting opportunity to observe real world science in action, and to marvel that the LORD has allowed the minds of men to grasp His design for the creation.

I intend to mention this pairing Jupiter and Venus again in this newsletter before June and July, and will also write at least one other newsletter by early April, prior to the next "Blood Moon" lunar eclipse.  But again, do not waste the opportunity to start NOW to watch the amazing conjunction of Jupiter and Venus unfold in 2015.    
Til next time, God bless and clear skies,
- jay

The Ryan Family
Cleveland, Ohio, USA


When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and
the stars, which thou hast ordained, what is man that thou art
mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
- Psalm 8:3-4, a Psalm of David