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Monday, September 9, 2013

The New Moon with Venus, Spica and Saturn

I captured the close conjunction of the new moon of Tishrei with Venus last night, adding as a bonus the bright star Spica with Saturn entering the picture at the upper left towards the end.

Spica, the brightest star in Virgo appears just to the lower right of the moon with Venus above left. Towards the end of the animation Saturn enters the field at the top left.
New moon of September 8, 2013 with Venus to the upper left and Saturn to the far upper left. Around 8:00 PM above the hills of Mitzpe Ramon, Israel.

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Don't Miss Venus and the New Moon in the Evening Sky Tonight

Tonight, Sunday September 8, the new moon of Tishrei, just 3 days old, will make a beautiful pairing with Venus in the evening sky at sunset. Venus and the moon will be the two brightest objects in the sky, with Saturn visible above and to the left of Venus. If you have a completely clear western horizon and a pair of binoculars you should also be able to glimpse the elusive planet Mercury due west, above and to the left of the setting sun. But it will be very low in the sky and will set shortly after the sun. The other two planets and the moon will be visible well into darkness. On Monday night the moon will be above and left of Venus, not nearly as close, but still a pretty sight.

Give it a try and let us know what you see. Venus, Saturn and the moon are bright enough to be visible from even light polluted skies in Israel.

Venus will be visible just above and left of the moon, impossible to miss in the darkening sunset sky. Saturn should also be easy to see above and left of Venus, with Mercury a difficult binocular object above and just left of the setting sun. This view of the sky is for 7:00PM Local Israel Time on September 8, 2013. 

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Hebrew Calendar - Shanah Tovah to All!

This post courtesy of my friend Ron Wilkins:


Okay, here’s a question for all you trivia buffs out there. When was the last time Rosh Hashanah began as early as September 5th? Give up? Try 1899! That was the year that Queens and Staten Island became part of New York City, the Great Blizzard of 1899 pounded South Florida with snow, and fighting in Afghanistan continued to rage (then it was the British but sadly some things never change). This was also the year when the paperclip and Bayer aspirin were patented, and voting machines were okay’d for federal elections.(Hmm, chads, hanging or not)

Yep, the last time Rosh Hashanah fell on September 5th was the year the Bronx Zoo opened in New York, and when all is said and done, it will be another 76 years (2089) until this Rosh Hashanah comes this early again. So as you can imagine rabbis everywhere are scrambling to finish sermons and Jews everywhere are asking, “has the Jewish calendar gone crazy!?” Well, not exactly. In reality the Jewish calendar works on a 19 year cycle adding a 13th month (Adar 2) in years 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17 and 19. This is year 17 of that cycle and represents the longest possible year in the Jewish calendar of 385 days.

The Jewish calendar which is based primarily on the lunar cycle, makes these adjustments in order to keep the holidays in sync with solar seasons. This keeps Passover in the spring and Sukkot in the fall. While it is not uncommon for the calendar to add a month during these leap years or for the holidays to be “early” or “late”, what is different this year is the extreme “earliness” in relation to the secular calendar.

The next time Rosh Hashanah will fall on September 5th will as mentioned above be in 2089 or in the Jewish counting 5850 which is why this year is so special.

But wait that’s not all. This year the first night of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving are on the same day! According to Steve Morse, this is the first time that’s happened since President Lincoln originally established Thanksgiving in 1863 and it is also the last time it'll happen until the year 79,811. I'll say that again: after this year, Hanukkah and Thanksgiving Day won't overlap for another 77,798 years! The reason is because the Jewish calendar is very slowly getting out of sync with the solar calendar, at a rate of 4 days per 1000 years (not bad for a many centuries old calendar!) This means that while presently Hanukkah can be as early as 11/28, over the years the calendar will drift forward, such that the earliest Hanukkah can be is 11/29.

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