August Perigee Moon

aug2-perigee-moon   The Moon reaches perigee, (minimum distance from Earth), this month on Sunday August 2nd at 10:08 UT (5:08 am CDT). At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 28.39 Earth diameters (362,139 km or 225,027 miles) from the Earth.
   Does our Moon actually go around the Earth as this graphic shows? From our perspective on the Earth the Moon appears to circle around the Earth. However, in reality, the Moon orbits the Sun together with the Earth*
*Click here to read my 2006 Scope on the Sky column “The Real Shape of the Moon’s Orbit”. (PDF)

   The 18-day old waning gibbous Moon rises around 11 pm local time and is over the southern horizon at sunrise. As this graphic shows the Moon is more or less where it was at this time and Moon phase last month below the right side of the asterism “the Square of Pegasus” and nearly in line with that side.

   
   
   

Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

A Martian Urban Legend

   It’s back!
   A friend asked about this picture and from the text on the graphic I am assuming that this is the Internet Urban Legend that comes back around this time of the year. This is the suggestion that Mars will be so close to the Earth that it will appear as large as the full Moon. Nothing of the sort will happen. This idea probably got its start from August 2003 when Mars was at opposition very close to the time it was at perihelion, closest to the Sun, while the Earth was at aphelion, its most distant from the Sun. This combination brought the Earth and Mars to about as close as they ever could be.

   For the record the Moon on August 27th is in the waxing gibbous phase, 2 days before full Moon, and it rises about 2 hours before sunset. Mars, on the other hand, rises about 2 hours before sunrise with the much brighter Venus nearby.

    I posted a blog about this previously, as well as wrote one of my Scope on the Sky columns about this suggestion.

   
   
   
   

Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Goat Gives the Moon a Head Butt!

   Thursday evening July 30th the full Moon rises at approximately local time for sunset. For my location that is at 8:30 pm CDT. The Moon is located at the horns of the Sea Goat Capricornus as if the Moon were getting a head butt.
   Since this is the second full Moon of the month this full Moon qualifies as a ‘Blue Moon’. The Moon does not really turn blue so the term Blue Moon is thought to perhaps mean something that rarely happens – once in a blue moon.

   
   
   
   

Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Moon – Pluto Conjunction

click on graphic to see it full size   Wednesday July 29th the waxing gibbous Moon will be within a few degrees from the Dwarf Planet Pluto.
   Where is Pluto and is Pluto visible to the naked eye? Pluto currently is above the teapot-shaped asterism for Sagittarius the Archer. It is located near a 3rd magnitude star, Xi2 Sagittarii, however Pluto has an apparent magnitude of 14.0 making it too dim to be seen in other than a large telescope or with a sequence of pictures of the same part of sky over a period of several days or weeks. From that sequence of pictures the motion of Pluto against the stars in the background becomes noticeable.

Click here to learn more about the New Horizons mission and take part in the mission with some of the interactives created by NASA.

   
   
   
   

Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Moon ‘Hearts’ the Scorpion

   Sunday and Monday evenings, July 26th and 27th the waxing gibbous Moon will pass the heart of Scorpius the Scorpion, the reddish star Antares. This animated graphic shows the evening sky at 10:30 pm CDT on the 26th and 27th.

   
   
   
   

Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Planets – Big and Small

   Saturday July 25th the waxing Gibbous Moon, just past first quarter phase, will be within a few degrees from the planet Saturn. During this conjunction the two will rise at around local time, and be visible throughout the length of the night. Down to the left from the Moon and Saturn look for a reddish star. This is Antares, the heart of Scorpius the Scorpion.
   Closer to the Earth the dwarf planet Ceres moves into an orbital position known as opposition. Only Sun orbiting objects beyond the Earth’s orbital distance may be at opposition, with an arrangement of the Sun-Earth-outer orbiting object.
   Ceres rises before midnight local time and would be visible throughout the length of the night. Currently NASA’s Dawn Mission spacecraft is now in orbit around Ceres.

   
   
   
   

Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Mercury at Superior Conjunction

mercury at superior conjunction   Thursday July23rd at 19 UT (2 pm CDT) the innermost planet Mercury reaches superior conjunction – on the opposite side of the Sun from the Earth.
   Mercury is not visible while in conjunction with the Sun but within the next week or so Mercury will reappear on the east side of the Sun and start becoming visible over the western horizon at sunset.

   
   
   
   
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.