Over the next few evenings the inner planet Venus and the planet Jupiter will pass each other coming as close as about 0.07o. That is considerably smaller than the diameter of the full Moon. As this graphic shows the planet Mercury is also part of the scene and the three planets are within 5-6o of each other. With binoculars the planetary trio is easily seen, and through the eyepiece of a telescope you can easily fit Venus and Jupiter.
Thursday morning August 25th watch for the last quarter Moon to be either close to the star Aldebaran or occulting Aldebaran – depending on your location. This occultation will be visible from around Hawaii across the Pacific Ocean toward the southern United States of America and Estados Unidos de Mexico.
Aldebaran is the reddish and brightest star in the constellation of Taurus the Bull and from mythology Aldebaran represents the angry eye of the bull. Aldebaran is also part of the v-shaped group of stars forming the face of the bull, and this group of stars, the Hyades, is also an open star cluster – a group of stars clustered together by their respective gravitational forces. The Pleiades, looking like a small dipper, is another nearby open star cluster and part of the Taurus constellation.
Wednesday evening August 24th the planet Mars will be within about 4o from the planet Saturn and 2o from the reddish star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion. This is about the closest the three will be to each other this year.
According to the pseudoscience of astrology the Sun enters the constellation of Virgo the Maiden on Monday August 22nd. When in fact the actual position of the Sun today is toward the west and still within the boundaries of the constellation of Leo the Lion.
Read a little more about how astrology has the Sun incorrectly placed in a previous blog, and in another blog discussing the effects of precession.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to go to bobs-spaces.
The Moon reaches perigee, (minimum distance from Earth), this month on Monday August 22nd. At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 28.77 Earth diameters (367,050 km or 228,074 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*
On the day of the lunar perigee the 19.6-day old waning gibbous Moon rises a couple of hours before midnight and is over the southern horizon at sunrise the following morning. Interestingly the Moon is sort of surrounded by planets – both kinds.
*Click here to read my 2006 Scope on the Sky column “The Real Shape of the Moon’s Orbit”. (PDF)
Read this very informative article about the Earth-Moon system and their orbital motions, written by Joe Hanson. “Do We Orbit the Moon?”
Friday August 19th the waning gibbous Moon will be crossing the plane of the ecliptic moving south. This is known as the descending node, one of two intersections the Moon’s orbital path (dark green line) has with the ecliptic.
On the day of the node crossing the 17-day old waning gibbous Moon rises before midnight local time and is over the southern horizon at sunrise.
I was in Tucson Arizona this past week and was hoping, while there, to be able to take advantage of the darker skies for some night photography including the Perseid Meteor Shower. However this time of year is the monsoon season for Arizona so the nights for the meteor shower were a mixture of clouds, fog, and drizzle. A hydro-meteor shower! So my photography attempts were limited to pictures of a rain and lightning storm over the Catalina Mountains from my brother’s house.
The camera was set to take an exposure every second and out of more than 500 pictures I was able to get a few pictures of lightning.