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Skygazing : Apparent motion of the stars

Earth revolves around the Sun and rotates on its own axis. Moon revolves around the Earth. Since Earth rotates on its axis from West to East, the sky appears to move from East to West. This can be seen easily with the movement of Sun and Moon across the sky during the span of hours. Similarly at night, stars move across the sky. Even though stars are very far away from us and they are not in moving around us, but due to the motion of Earth on its axis it seems that stars are moving around us.

Sky moves gradually over the night. If you are into sky gazing and enjoy looking at the stars, planets and Moon, you will notice slight movement of these objects with passing of hour. Often by using camera locked onto to a particular star, beautiful star trails are captured which so how the apparent movement of stars is a beautiful phenomenon.

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Some move right while others move left. Now that we understand that stars move in the sky from East to West, you will find that when you are facing towards the North, the sky seems to move from your right hand side towards your left hand side. When you are facing the South, the sky seems to move from your left hand side towards your right hand side. This apparent movement becomes a great experience when you observe the stars from a vantage point high enough to get a good glimpse of horizon in all sides. You will feel as if there is a line passing through from the sky to your location and all stars North of it move in a certain direction and all stars South of it move in opposite direction.

South sky is light up in Surat. If you observe Scorpius constellation rise in the sky tonight from Western India, it will be coming up in the South-East sky and slowly move towards the West not rising high enough to reach overhead. While Virgo would be higher than Scorpius and too far ahead will be Leo. All this while you are facing the South. You will see many stars directly towards the South shining in groups. Hadar, Rigel and Regor are particular in this sky. Canopus is not visible in summer.

North star helps to determine the direction at night. Then if you look in the opposite direction towards the North, you will see Vega star coming up in the sky late into the night and the Ursa Major and Ursa Minor are going round about the Pole star. Venus is on the left hand side of you towards the west and it will go down the horizon.

More you look more you see. As you keep looking at the sky and your eyes get adjusted to darkness you will see more and more stars coming up like little bulbs of light


Skygazing : Stars visible on 9th May 2020 in Surat

Best view of Virgo constellation.

Let your eyes adjust to darkness for best experience. It will take 30-45 mins.

09:00 PM Surat

Stars in Virgo constellation

Moon is yet to rise tonight. In another 30 minutes moon will shine bright in the sky, but until then I enjoyed the view of Virgo constellation and the stars in it. As often the bright stars Spica and Porrima are easily identified. They are nearly overhead slightly towards the East. Following in near Spica towards the left, Syrma and 109 Vir are visible. Towards the top, Porrima is forming a V shape with other stars like Zaniah, Zavijava on oneside and Mineleva and Vindemiatrix on the other side.

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As the stars are above head, it is getting a bit difficult to constantly stare at them, but once you position yourself well, you can enjoy the complete picture forming an imagination of a Virgo constellation in your mind with the stars in the sky.

Another group of 4 stars forming a nearly perfect quadrilateral image in the sky near by Spica towards the South. Those are Minka, Gieneh Gurab, Algorab & Kraz. They can be mistaken for Libra constellation.

Just rising up in sky from the east is Scorpius constellation. Four stars are visible – Antares, Acrab, Dschubba and π Sco.

Towards the south now familiar Hadar, Becrux and Gacrux are visible. Some more stars of less magnitude are shining in the south sky. Menkent is visible clearly enough. Rigilkent has not come up

10:00 PM

Moonrise shining beautifully.

After adjusting for darkness I was able to see Libra constellation above Scorpius.


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Skygazing : Stars visible on 8th May 2020 in Surat

Let your eyes adjust to darkness for best experience. It will take 30-45 mins.

08 May 2020 09:30 PM Surat

Antares is visible. Antares is the brightest star in Scorpius constellation. The three stars in this constellation which form a line and signify claw of the scorpion image are in close proximity to the Moon. One star on the left is very near to the Moon (conjunction) in the night sky as seen from Earth, though in space all objects are too far and nothing is behind one another.

Antares is going to be in conjunction with Moon at 4 am.

08 May 2020 08:30 PM Surat

Moonrise with a yellowish taint. Shining bright in the night sky. Yellowish glow around the moon is seen. Slowly the sky is getting bright.

Regor goes down in the South-West sky. It is visible fairly bright in the South sky. Other stars are dimly visible around it.

Stars in Libra constellation

Due to close proximity to Moon in the sky tonight, it is difficult to make out any stars in the Libra constellation at this time. As the sky moves towards the west with hours passing by, they may be visible.

08 May 2020 08:00 PM Surat

Stars in Orion constellation

Orion is in the west sky and visible after sunset.

Stars in Leo constellation

After sunset Leo is rising high in the sky at zenith. Between 7-9pm it is best visible today since the Moon has not risen yet. At 8pm Leo is right above the head. Regulus, Algieba, Denebola and Chort are visible.

Stars in Virgo constellation

Distinctly visible stars in the Virgo constellation are Spica and Porrima. Even after the Moonrises, they shine bright enough to be visible. Yesterday during full moon the sky was shining bright as it was super moon. It was bright enough that light from the moon was casting shadow and it was glazing the windows, balconies and streets.

FULLMOON SKY WITH CLOUDS ON 7th May in SURAT

Another group of 4 stars forming a nearly perfect quadrilateral image in the sky near by Spica towards the South. Those are Minka, Gieneh Gurab, Algorab & Kraz. They can be mistaken for Libra constellation.


SKYGAZING : Location of Planets in Summer Sky as seen from Surat, India

WHERE
In Surat, India
Co-ordinates are 21.1 ° N latitude 72.8° E longitude

WHEN
May 2020

WHAT YOU CAN SEE
Planets –
Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn

WHAT YOU NEED
Sense of Direction, Observation Skills & Patience a lot of it.


MERCURY

Mercury is an interior planet with respect to the Earth. It is the closest planet to the Sun. So you will see it either right before Sunrise or after Sunset. It is very small planet so spotting Mercury in the sky is quite some challenge. It might take some time to get a hang around it as well as your local conditions must be good enough to be able to see it as it will often be seen only around the horizon where maximum obstacles are seen or pollution interferes.

A planet is said to be inferior or interior with respect to another planet if its orbit lies inside the other planet’s orbit around the Sun.

In Surat which is an urban city with dense population and vehicular movement, sky at the horizon is usually obstruct by buildings or covered in dark clouds caused by pollution. You may either take a vantage point at a building’s terrace or find an open field near Tapi river where you can see horizon.

In the month of May, Mercury is close to Sun in the sky, so it is not possible to see it. So you may enjoy looking at Venus during this time. Mercury revolves the Sun in 88 days, so it goes around in the sky from East to West with in that duration.

Position of Mercury as seen from Earth in May 2020

VENUS


Venus is the brightest object in the night sky after Moon. It shines bright enough to be seen in the presence of Sun at Sunset or Sunrise. You may get it confused with Sirius star which looks almost similar but you just need to find if it’s twinkling or not to be able to identify Venus. Yes, planets don’t twinkling in sky due to their proximity to Solar system as well as they don’t have their own light. Planets reflect the light of Sun, just like the Moon.

Venus is interior planet like Mercury. It is seen either before Sunrise or after Sunset as per it’s position in the orbit around Sun. In May it is seen the west after Sunset.

And yes, planets undergo phases just like the Moon, however it is not possible to see the phasing details with naked eye. However using a sufficiently strong telescope, phases of Venus can be seen just like how Galileo did.

Venus is shining bright in the west sky right after the Sunset. It shines bright enough to be confused with a light bulb. Follow the Sun in the evening and enjoy the Sunset. Right after sunset, you will see a bright star shining in the sky in the same direction, that is Venus. Venus is visible until 9 PM or so in Surat. The altitude of Venus will be around 30 degree from horizon when you will be able to see it the best.

Sunset is at 7:05 PM today.


MARS


Mars can be seen from 2 am onwards in Surat towards the South-East sky. All planets follow the elliptical. Once you get a hang of it, you would know where the planets may be located. Currently all the 3 exterior planets visible to naked eye are in sequence in the night sky.

Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are superior planets visible to naked eye. Since they have orbits larger than Earth, they follow the movement of sky as seen from Earth. You can see these planets rising and setting down. Currently the rising hours are near midnight so they can be seen for around 3-5 hours depending upon the Sunrise.

A planet is said to be superior with respect to another planet if its orbit lies outside the other planet’s orbit around the Sun.

POSITION OF MARS, JUPITER & SATURN AS SEEN FROM EARTH IN MAY 2020

JUPITER


Jupiter is visible first in the east sky at night in the sequence of the three exterior planets visible with naked eye. It can be seen clearly from 12:30 am onwards.

Jupiter is very bright and easily spotted in the sky. Once identified, it can be taken as a reference to spot Saturn, which is very dim and Mars which is fairly bright in itself.


SATURN


Saturn is following Jupiter in the sky as seen from Surat. As Jupiter rises high in sky sometime after that, Saturn will start to shine very dim. As it rises up in the sky and night starts to fall in, it gains some sharpness.


SOLAR SYSTEM 101

SOLAR SYSTEM 101 BY NGC

Looking for stars and constellations in the night sky, check out here.


To know more about Night Sky, Naked Astronomy, Solar System, Planets, Stars and Cosmos check out our series about SKYGAZING.

Sky gazing in Surat – May 2020

WHERE
In Surat, India
Co-ordinates are 21.1 ° N latitude 72.8° E longitude

WHEN
03-05-2020 8 PM onwards

WHAT YOU CAN SEE
Moon
Scorpius & Libra Constellation
Stars – Antares, Shaula, Rigil, Hadar, Spica, Regulus, Algieba

FOR BEGINNERS

Sky at night keeps moving every hour due to the rotation of Earth. So the stars move across the sky over the night. Stars also appear 4 minutes earlier every night. So with change in month, as you keep observing every night, you will find stars have shifted their position compared to previous night. And if you look for long enough like 6 months, you will find the entire sky has changed over that duration, since the Earth has rotated across the other point in it’s orbit around the Sun.

Stars appear 4 minutes earlier every night.

SCORPIUS CONSTELLATION

It is mid of summer here in Surat as we move into the month of May,. Surat was under lockdown from 25 March 2020 due to the on-going corona virus caused COVID-19 global pandemic. So there was not much activity carried out in terms of sky-gazing during the month of April 2020. However we start with new enthusiasm in May 2020.

Dark sky is clear. The best location to start look at is in the East for it is where the sky rises and it helps to keep track of the timing, position and movement. Little after sunset, if you look towards the South-East sky you will be able to spot a bright star – ANTARES. This will be a good starting point to explore the south sky.

Let your eyes get adjusted to the darkness. It will take around 30 minutes for a good enough experience.

Once you identify Antares, which is the brightest star in Scorpius constellation as well as one of the brightest star in the night sky. It will appear slightly reddish if you observe carefully. Following the Antares, you can go up and track the 3 stars of the constellation which look like the claws of the scorpion image. Two of them will be distinctly visible, the other one will take some time for you to adjust and identify.

Then it’s time to track SHAULA, which is bright enough to be spotted easily. Once you have the overlying area of the constellation. Keep looking for other smaller stars. It will depend on light pollution in your surrounding, air pollution, your eye sight, clouds in sky and other parameters. But if you keep looking, you will develop an habit of finding out details of the constellation and be able to find other dim stars. Hence completing your observation and tracking of Scorpius constellation.

Use star tracker apps like Sky-View or SkySafari to identify and spot the stars easily with the help of view finder.

It may take around an hour to be able to completely get the imprinting of a scorpion image on whose comparison in ancient world drew the pictures in their minds about the sky. At around 10 PM, the constellation would be high enough to be completely in view. If you are surrounded by buildings, then wait for the constellation to rise higher. You will be able to see it in the zenith, highest point in sky at around 12 AM or so. That would be the best time to view. If you are a night owl, then it is the best experience.

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LIBRA, VIRGO AND LEO

As you go higher in sky above Scorpius, you will be able to see 4 stars forming a quadrilateral. These stars are part of Libra constellation. 3 of those stars will be visible easily. Use app to see dimmer stars. Surrounding the sky in that area, other 4 to 5 stars are fairly visible and shine brighter, captivating your attention.

Facing exactly towards the south, you will see two stars shining bright like a light bulb in some buildings. Those two stars RIGIL and HADAR will stay close to the horizon. Other stars facing south which shine bright during the entire winter season in Surat are CANOPUS & REGOR.

Sky appears different based on your latitude. You will never be able to see some stars from your location. You will have to go either North or South.

If you look up the night sky over your head after 10 PM, you will see a bright star twinkling, that is SPICA. It is part of VIRGO constellation. Other stars are not so visible, especially due to the close proximity to bright Moon.

Moon was shining bright in LEO constellation for the last 2 nights. The bright star shining towards the west of moon was REGULUS. You can also see ALGIEBA. Leo will be going down in the west sky as night falls.

No access to North facing sky tonight. Some updates coming soon.

Some stars don’t seem to be twinkling, they are planets.


Migratory Birds Seagulls visit Surat every winter

Seagulls visit Tapi River banks in Surat every year during winter in large numbers. They come in thousands and stay here for 3-4 months from November to February. This year as well they have come to taste Surti food for which they have become adapted and habituated for. It seems they keep coming to taste these tasty snacks of Surat such as gathiya, namkeen, dhokla and others. However it is not sure if this is causing them any kind of serious damage. Healthcare and Bird experts feel that they should be fed only boiled food or their natural diet to keep them safe.

However Surtis in large number are seen feeding gathiya and other snacks during early morning and evenings. Seagulls have developed a discipline to come in position to sit near the railing at the bridge and wait for someone to place the snacks. They come in turns and are seen savoring the delight. You can see seagulls getting upclose to humans, seems like they have been domesticated. Across the world, Seagulls are seen to have similar behaviour at beaches and urban establishment where often they are seen to steal food from the visitors. Seagulls eat fishes and insects as their natural diet.

They are seen taken ride in Tapi river to fulfill their taste buds. Seagulls are seen in large number near Makkai Pool, where it has become their usual breakfast and evening snacks spot. They are also seen resting in the muddy islands in Tapi River. On the other side of the city, where Tapi River looks like a lake near Singanpore, wier-cum-causeway carries a new avatar of Tapi. Here large flocks of birds are seen swimming in the water and flying at certain intervals. Below video is captured at one such instance.

Seagulls flying above Tapi River near Wier-cum-Causeway in Surat

Best time to see Seagulls near Tapi river is early mornings when the Sun is rising behind the urban infrastructure. Large number of Surtis are seen going on walks, jogging and running. They feed these birds as well. Also during evening before Sunset, you can enjoy the Sun going down near Tapi River and see the birds making large sounds as they feed on the food. You will find the darkness creating a silhoutte of the city infrastructure, in the background sunsetting into the river and in the foreground you will see these birds flying with wide open wings. A perfect time to carry your camera and click some pictures of this birds upclose as well as landscapes.

Seagulls at Makkai Pool Bridge railing waiting for food from ongoing commuters in Surat
Seagulls at Makkai Pool Bridge railing waiting for food from ongoing commuters in Surat

Try to care for these birds as they have come from far off lands possibly from the freezing cold Europe or Russia. There is not sure trace of these birds, however it is seen that every year they return to the very spot and stay for few months, before they make return to their home lands. As visitors, they bring about a beauty to our city and repeated return makes our city their favorite place. So we need to continue keeping our city clean and treat our foreign visitors with care and love as always.

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