Forum: Research Questions

Discussing: Stargazing in Fourth Age Minas Tirith

Stargazing in Fourth Age Minas Tirith

Help! I have a scene where two characters are looking up at the stars from the Citadel in the spring of the year 16 of the Fourth Age. It's late at night, probably a bit before midnight. Will Earendil be visible? I'm assuming the Mariner is ALWAYS visible, all night long, but am not sure. Also, does anyone know if, back in Valinor, Earendil gets to spend time with wife and family between the morning and evening shifts? And which stars would be closest to Earendil, visible from Minas Tirith at that time? Sorry to be such a pest. I can't figure out constellations and star rotations, where or when the stars are in RL. I can't even tell which part of the night sky is north, not to mention south, east, west. Sad. I would make a terrible Ranger. I can occasionally find the Big Dipper. I know that Altariel did a couple of lovely stories about Faramir and Boromir learning stars from their grandfather, but don't know if stars seen in Dol Amroth in summer would also be seen in Minas Tirith in April. RAKSHA THE DEMON, from a city where the stars are often veiled

 

 

Re: Stargazing in Fourth Age Minas Tirith

Well, Earendil is Venus, so if you search you ought to be able to find a site that explains where Venus is in the sky at any given time. I don't think it would ever appear as late as midnight, however. When Venus is the evening star, it is in the sky at sunset and follows the sun down into the west. But even when it is farthest from the sun, I think it sets within a couple hours after the sun. It's never the evening and morning star at the same time. For a few months it will show in the evening, gradually getting further from the sun and thus setting later and later, then gradually getting nearer to the sun again. Eventually it will get so near the sun it's lost in the sun's glare, then as it moves away it will appear in the morning sky, rising before the sun, and climbing a ways into the sky before the day gets bright enough that you can't see it anymore. Then it moves toward the sun again, and the cycle repeats. Ooh, Nuzgul. Remember the recent transit of Venus, where it passed between the earth and the sun and could be seen as a tiny black dot traveling across the face of the sun? Wonder what the inhabitants of ME would make of that? Elana

 

 

Re: Stargazing in Fourth Age Minas Tirith

Oh, heck and damnation. Earendil sets a couple of hours after the sun? Okay, I'll just go with Italy in April, and try to find out what time the sun sets there/then; since I doubt that even the Internet has sites on figuring out when Venus rose in the evening in April over Minas Tirith. If I can't find it, I'll just invoke poetic license in the author's note. It HAS to be Earendil that they see... "Ooh, Nuzgul. Remember the recent transit of Venus, where it passed between the earth and the sun and could be seen as a tiny black dot traveling across the face of the sun? Wonder what the inhabitants of ME would make of that?" Um, they'd think Earendil was getting a very bad sunburn? Or having a hot affair with whassername, Arien (the Sun)? RAKSHA

 

 

Re: Stargazing in Fourth Age Minas Tirith

actually if you give me a couple of days, i'll get you a pretty close estimate. Tolkien based his astronomical data in LOTR on 1946-47 almanac data so one can go froward from there. I have an astronomy program that will do it. I've got a busy weekend, but I'll get it to you the first of the week if you can wait. Let me know. If not, go to http://skyandtelescope.com/ and use the Interactive sky chart, you can set the location date and time. it will show you what is visible. Have fun, Ithildin *(

 

 

Re: Stargazing in Fourth Age Minas Tirith

Thanx, Ithildin. Take your time. So far, I've got my characters looking up at the night sky at an unspecified time (but it has to be between about 11 pm and 3 a.m., around April 20, year 16 Fourth Age Minas Tirith) and speaking of Earendil but not specifying that they see him. Which is how the scene could remain; but it would be better if they could actually see him. One of the characters is Arwen, so I wonder if she could see the star when it wasn't quite visible to normal eyes... I tried the interactive sky chart, but it came up blank. RAKSHA THE COMPUTER-CHALLENGED DEMON

 

 

Re: Stargazing in Fourth Age Minas Tirith

Hello, Raksha! Venus will not be visible between the hours of 11 PM and 3 AM in late April, sorry. Not even to Elven eyes - the planet is below the horizon then. And the Fourth Age sky, judging from LOTR and The Hobbit, isn't significantly different from today's, so unless you want to gamble that your readers won't pick up the astronomy fudging, you're pretty much stuck with that. Does the story HAVE to take place in April? If you move the story to late May or early June, closer to the sumer solstice, you can plausibly have Venus rising just over the horizon at 3 AM. (It's barely visible clearing the horizon at 3 AM on July 20, 2004 in Rome, Italy - that's about a month after the solstice, so any date from about one month before the solstice (which falls on June 21) would also work ). Ithilwen

 

 

Re: Stargazing in Fourth Age Minas Tirith

I've got to have one of my characters looking for Earendil, even if she doesn't specify that she sees him or does not. And she would know when he appears. What about earlier than 11 pm - i.e. 9-10 pm, or 4 a.m.? I postulated Italy as a locale-equivalent for Minas Tirith because I read somewhere that there was a climate similarity, or that Italy was supposed to be where Minas Tirith would have been.... It's almost certain that the chapter occurs in April. I think the month has been mentioned in earlier, posted (at fanfiction.net, not here) chapters. My co-writer is the one who's posting, and I doubt she'd be that keen on altering all references to the season in posted chapters just for one scene. Naturally, this little stargazing scene did not occur to me when we set the date for the story to begin in April. Drat. RAKSHA

 

 

Re: Stargazing in Fourth Age Minas Tirith

Hi, Well I finally got around to checking all this out. To the best of my knowledge, here’s what you can/can’t see from Minas Tirith in April 16 IV and why. As to the latitudes, here is what I recently found with Letter #294: ***** If Hobbiton and Rivendell are taken (as intended) to be about the latitude of Oxford, then Minas Tirith, 600 miles south, is at about the latitude of Florence. The Mouths of Anduin and the ancient city of Perlargir are at about the latitude of ancient Troy. ***** Tolkien used the almanac data of 1946-47 for 3018-19 III, so Fourth Age 16 would be equivalent to 1965, if I figured things right, with 3021 the last year of the Third Age. Venus is in conjunction with the sun (that is, in line with the sun in our sky) in April of that year and so would not be visible at ay time of day or night around April 20th. Sorry, but that’s astronomy. From Minas Tirith looking west, you are looking back along the Ered Nimrais, a pretty lofty range that runs almost east-west near MT. You wouldn’t likely see anything low in the sky in that direction. If you could change it to April 20 of 15 IV (1964) Venus/Eärendil would be visible from shortly after sunset (beginning to be visible shortly after 7 pm) until it drops below the horizon at about 10:45 pm. It would be about half-way between the horizon and the overhead point at sunset and would get lower as the night progresses. It would be visible above the western horizon, and might be visible over the nearest spurs of the mountains to the west-southwest for a short while after sunset. Now a morning sighting would also be limited by mountains, the Ephel Duath, though they are further away, still it likely would not be visible until near sunrise – which would occur about 5:30 am for that date and location. As Ithilwen noted, from the mid-nothern latitudes we don’t see Venus in the middle of the night – but due to Venus’ distance from the sun, its orbit is almost large enough to make it possible. Just experimenting with my program, set for Minas Tirith (Florence), the latest set times I saw were around 10:45 pm and the earliest rise times around 2:00 am, but the mountains near MT would prevent anyone there from seeing it unless it was well up in the sky. You could use literary license and just MAKE it visible around 7:15 - 8 :30 pm – or – around maybe as early as 4:00 – 5:30 am and only the folks who read this thread would know that the visibility wouldn’t work according to Tolkien’s timeframe. ;) I don’t think you could stretch the times much more than that due to the mountains. Hope that helps, Ithildin *(

 

 

Re: Stargazing in Fourth Age Minas Tirith

I can't change the year; but what about early May, i.e. the first week of May, year 16 Fourth Age? I hope no one is wearing themselves out over this question. This is not a crucial plot element; just a nice element of a scene I that I rather like. Worse comes to worse, since the story is AU anyway, I can just fudge it and use poetic license. I want as much of the story aas possible to be credible, but I don't want to drive anyone nuts over the problem. Earendil has to at least be visible sometime during the night, preferably between 10 pm and midnight. Thanx to all for being so very helpful! RAKSHA

 

 

Re: Stargazing in Fourth Age Minas Tirith

In April/May of 16 VI (=1965) Venus is moving out from behind the sun and is beginning its climb into the evening sky. However, as speedy as the veiled planet is, in early May it still follows the sun down before the sky grows dark enough to see it. From what my program shows, it looks like Venus’ evening apparition that year was not a good one anyway, and due to the seasonal tilt of the earth’s axis and such, Venus never got very high above the horizon even into November. It would probably be impossible to see over the Ered Nimrais even right after sunset. Ironically, 4/20/1964 (=15 IV) is perfect as Venus was at its highest point in the evening sky at that time and much better situated for viewing. Since I’m not sure just how high the southern spurs of the mountains are or how much sky they would obscure, I’m not sure Venus would be visible at all, but using literary license, I’ll assume it is and say that from MT your characters might be able to see Venus/Eärendil about one hour after sunset before the mountains hid it from view. So from about 7:15 (early twilight) to about 8 :30 at the latest is my guess. So, I think literary license is the way to go, maybe using the 1964 apparition data - but keep in mind that given the location and the interference of the White Mountains, your characters simply wouldn’t be able to see Venus/Eärendil as late as 10 pm. True, Venus sometimes sets that late, but they wouldn’t see it anywhere close to that late from MT because of the mountains to the west. Most readers wouldn’t bat an eye if you did have Venus riding high at 10 pm, but it would not be realistic – so the choice is yours. ;) Using the 4/20/1964 data, the moon would be high in the south, a waxing gibbous only a couple of days past first quarter. The moon would still be visible late into the night probably disappearing behind the mountains around midnight. Or you could use the moon’s appearance on the 15th - it was a very slim crescent in the west right beside Venus - a picturesque pairing about 7:30 - 8 pm just over the mountain peaks. NOTE: I am NOT at this point trying to make corrections for the slight differences in the calendars due to number of days in months and odd methods of correcting for leap years, etc. I don’t think it would make that much difference for what we are doing here. I hope you can use some of this. For an A/U story I wouldn’t worry at all about following the almanac strictly and how closely you adhere to astronomical plausibility is up to you. Enjoy, Ithildin *(

 

 

Re: Stargazing in Fourth Age Minas Tirith

Drat. I'm gonna have to fudge it and claim literary license. I can have Arwen waiting for Earendil to rise again, having seen the Mariner earlier. Or mention Earendil without specifying that he's up there at the moment. Technically, we know that Florence in the 1960's is NOT Fourth Age Minas Tirith anyway, so there isn't an exact right/wrong. But I'd wanted a consonance with Tolkien's own stargazing methods, and it's not going to work. Thanx, Elana, Ithilwen, and Ithildin. RAKSHA, wondering why the heck Faramir had to run into Arwen stargazing anyway, but the characters just had their own ideas and it fit so well into the chapter...

 

 

In Forums

Discussion Info

Intended for: General Audience

This forum is open to all HASA members. It is read-only for the general public.

Membership on HASA is free and it takes only a few minutes to join. If you would like to participate, please click here.

If you are already a member, please log in to participate.

« Back to Research Questions

Stories linked to the forum