Mercury at Superior Conjunction

orbital-positions   Friday September 21st the innermost planet Mercury reaches superior conjunction. At superior conjunction Mercury will be on the opposite side of the Sun. The graphic to the right shows the planet positions relative to the Earth and Sun for both inner planets and outer planets.

   While at this superior conjunction Mercury will not be directly in line with the Earth and the Sun – on the ecliptic. Mercury has an orbital inclination of 7o with respect to the ecliptic. So like our Moon, Mercury during each complete orbit, will cross the plane of the ecliptic moving north (ascending node) and also moving south (descending node). For this superior conjunction Mercury will be a few degrees north of the ecliptic and will cross the ecliptic moving south, descending node, on September 23rd.
   

   
   
   

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A Busy Moon: Apogee; Descending Node; Mars Conjunction

   Thursday September 20th the waxing 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.

   Our Moon also reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), on Thursday September 20th. At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 31.74 Earth diameters (361,354 km or 224,535 miles) from the Earth.

   On the evening of the apogee and node crossing the 11-day old waxing gibbous Moon will be over the southeast horizon at sunset in conjunction with the ‘Red Planet’, passing within 10-11o east from the planet Mars. Joining the Moon and Mars are the planets Saturn, Jupiter, and Venus – all to the west from the Moon and Mars.

   
   
   

   

   
   
   

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Moon in Conjunction with Mars

   Wednesday evening September 19th the 10-day old waxing gibbous Moon will be in conjunction with the outer planet Mars passing within about 3-4o from Mars. Should look good through binoculars.
   Look westward for the planets Saturn and Jupiter.

   
   
   

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ISS, Taurus and Orion

   This morning (17 September) was another morning with clear skies and another chance at catching the ISS as it orbited overhead. This time the ISS came out of the northwest and reached around 70o above the horizon as it headed southeastward. It passed by the open star clusters the Pleiades and the Hyades and then passed below and parallel to the belt of Orion toward Sirius where the ISS disappeared behind some trees.
   This picture is made from 22 stacked pictures.

   
   
   

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Sun Enters Virgo

view_from_earth   Monday September 17th the Sun in its apparent eastward motion along the ecliptic, moves out of the constellation of Leo the Lion and into the constellation of Virgo the Harvest Maiden. This is the true or actual position of the Sun as opposed to the pseudoscience of astrology which usually has the astrological Sun one constellation ahead or east from the Astronomical Sun’s position.
   In a couple of days the Sun, according to astrology, will cross the ecliptic moving southward crossing from Virgo into the constellation of Libra the Scales. We know this day as the September equinox, which this year is on the 23rd.

   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.

   
   
   

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Moon Passes Saturn

   Sunday September 16th the first quarter Moon will be about 8o west from the outer planet Saturn. Then the following evening, Monday the 17th, as the Moon continues orbiting eastward, the waxing gibbous Moon will be within 3-4o from Saturn, but on the east side of Saturn.

   
   
   

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Mars at Perihelion

   Sunday September 16th the outer planet Mars reaches its closest distance to the Sun, perihelion. At perihelion Mars is 1.3814 AU (128,409,152 miles – 206,654,498 km). Mars and Earth are separated by 0.5187 AU (48,216,177 miles – 77,596,415 km), and at that distance Mars has an apparent magnitude of 1.70.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.


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