This is the Classical Astronomy Update, an email newsletter especially
for Christian homeschool
families (though everyone is welcome!)
Please feel free to share this with any interested friends.
Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars' hill, and said, Ye men of Athens,
I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. - Acts 17:22
IN THIS UPDATE
Mars Rules the Evening Sky - Spring, 2021
Hope all of you are doing well and staying healthy. We have had some pleasant spring days here along the normally-ice-encrusted shores of the Great Lakes. The Sun is shining brightly and it's a cheerful sign, a happy reminder that the LORD is in control.
I just want to thank everyone again for your continued support of Classical Astronomy. It's been my pleasure to share the sights of the LORD's glorious sky with you all these years. I hope your family has learned a few interesting things about the sky above.
A lot has changed in the USA since the last newsletter in November, 2020. This newsletter is not for politics, but suffice to say, there has been a trampling of American freedom by Big Tech in 2021, with the promise of more to come. For this reason, I have deleted the Classical Astronomy Twitter account and have abandoned the Classical Astronomy Facebook page.
This was a hard decision since I did a LOT of work over the last 11 years growing that page to nearly 12,000 followers using organic methods instead of paid boosts. However, I cannot abide with open, outright censorship. So many people have been "cancelled" by our tech overlords, including the President of the United States. These developments have been chilling (or should be) for all freedom-loving American
patriots regardless of political persuasion.
I started a new Classical Astronomy group at MeWe, going from 12K at Zuckbook to only 370 members. This site is so much more relaxing since it's not powered by hypnotic algorithms designed to read your mind and lure you back 20 times a day. On the other hand, there's not a lot of content since this site does not have 2/3 of the American
population and 1/6 of all humanity, as does that "other" site. No funny cat videos. But you can rest assured that MeWe is not datamining your mouse clicks and reading your mind electronically.
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In other news, HomeschoolBlogger is back! 15 years ago, before social media swallowed the internet, a lot of homeschool moms, dads and kids had their own blogs at this site. The site is still under development and beta testing. But in the meantime, I've revived my old blog fromcleveland and hope to post astronomy info and rambling thoughts as time permits. Hope you'll start a blog yourself.
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I'm happy to report that progress has been made over the winter on Measuring the Heavens, the sequel to our Signs & Seasons homeschool curriculum. Three chapters are completed, the first of which was very complicated and produced a mental logjam that hindered progress for a
long time. Grateful to have passed that hurdle. I'm hopeful to complete two more chapters before summer. No idea when this book might be available. Thanks to everyone who prayed and your ongoing prayers would be appreciated.
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I have an opportunity to host some Classical Astronomy webinars in the near future. One topic could be a survey of the spring constellations. I also have a couple slideshows I'd like to present. This will be experimental on my part and I'd like to determine if there is any interest before committing to the effort. These webinars would be done in the evenings, either a weeknight or weekend. Please
send an email using our online contact form at the website if you are interested. Please indicate which evening(s) are good and if there are any special topics you'd like to see presented.
For more information about topics from Classical Astronomy
discussed in this newsletter, please check out
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.
Mars Rules the Evening Sky - Spring, 2021
Normally I don't follow Mars too closely. The Red Planet gets interesting every two years around opposition when it brightens dramatically, rivialling and even surpassing Jupiter in brightness. But the rest of the time it's a rather faint and inconspicuous object. And since the speed of Mars in its orbit is only a bit slower than Earth, it tends to move around a lot through the zodiac constellations, unlike
Jupiter and Saturn which tend to remain in the same constellation during a single apparition. So I tend to lose track of Mars' current location in the months following opposition.
After opposition, Mars mostly keeps pace with the apparent motion of the Sun, residing in the evening sky for an extended period of time and only slowly slipping toward the sunset as its apparition draws to a close. In 2021, we have an excellent opportunity to observe Mars being overtaken by the Sun. Mars is currently passing through the familiar constellations in the Orion neighborhood. We can follow Mars as
it accompanies these winter constellations as they vanish into the spring.
Orion is everyone's favorite constellation, distinguished by his Belt of three closely-spaced stars. It is a sure sign of spring when mighty Orion is visible in the evening sky shortly after sunset. If you can find Orion and the neighboring constellations here in the month of March, you can also find Mars -- the distinctly reddish-colored "star" near the red star Aldebaran in the constellation
The stars near Orion are among the brightest in the night sky and the patterns of these constellations are very distinct. But if you're still having trouble picking out Mars from the other stars, this should be easier when the waxing crescent Moon aligns with Mars on the evening of Friday, March 19, 2021 in a beautiful lunar-planetary conjunction. Look for this pair in the evening sky after sunset on that
night, just before the vernal equinox and the start of spring the next day. And that night you can follow the Moon and Mars throughout the evening as they set toward the west.
Mars will continue in its eastward motion through the zodiac over the spring months and into the summer. For an explanation of the motions of the planets across the sky, please check out our our Signs & Seasons homeschool curriculum. Into the month of
April, Mars has moved mostly through Taurus and is "above" Orion in the sky. These constellations are being overtaken by the Sun's apparent motion and are inclining into the west, toward the sunset as the spring months progress. The waxing crescent Moon passes Mars on the evenings of April 16 and 17.
By the month of May, the season of Orion is well spent. The starry hunter hangs above the place of the setting Sun in May and becomes lost in the sunset glare before month's end. But by May 15, Mars has moved into the constellation Gemini where it aligns again with the waxing crescent Moon. The brightest planet Venus passes behind the Sun on March 26, its superior conjunction.
After that, this blazing body reappears after sunset as the Evening Star. By May, Venus has moved far enough above the sunset to share the sky with the Moon and Mars.
As spring draws to an end, Venus moves still further away from the Sun and higher above the horizon. Meanwhile, Mars is being overtaken by the Sun and is dropping lower toward the sunset. Venus and Mars are thus drawing closer to each other as summer begins. The planets will "meet in the middle" on July 12, a beautiful planetary conjunction. But they will be joined by a skinny crescent Moon the
night before, July 11. Since these planets will be very low in the sky, this alignment with the Moon might be the best chance to spot them.
Mars will continue to sink slowly toward the sunset over the following months thereafter, and will disappear into the dusk glow sometime in the summer. Mars will finally line up behind the Sun on October 8, but it will not be visible for many months before and after.
We intend to cover Mars over the span of spring and post reminders of these events on our MeWe group. Looking
forward to seeing you over there!
We also hope to have another newsletter very soon discussing the vernal equinox.
Til next time, God bless and clear skies,
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