Mercury Did Not Get Stung!

m35-mercury   Starting this evening and obviously depending on your local weather take a look toward the western horizon at sunset. As I posted yesterday Mercury, in addition to a few other planets and the Moon, are visible above the horizon ranging from the western horizon to the eastern horizon. In particular aim your binoculars at Mercury and as this animated graphic shows, Mercury will be moving past the open star cluster, M-35, near the feet of the Gemini Twins.otherwise known as the Beehive Cluster. My mistake, M-44 is the Beehive cluster and it is in Cancer the Crab.

   
   
   
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.

Along the Ecliptic

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   Saturday evening, 31 May, look toward the western horizon for the waxing crescent Moon to be about 6-7o from the planet Jupiter, both of which fit within the field of view of 7×50 binoculars. Nearby are the ‘twin stars’ Pollux and Castor. Using binoculars take a look at the inner planet Mercury as it passes close by the open star cluster, M-35, near the feet of the twins. also know as the Beehive Cluster.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   And don’t forget to look toward the south and eastern horizons as two other visible planets are, well, visible! Mars is still easily seen a little up and to the right (west) from the blue-white star Spica in Virgo. Further toward the east is Saturn, and down to the left (east) from Saturn is the reddish star Antares.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   As you look at the graphic or the actual sky can you see a pattern to how some the of stars and the planets are arranged? Picture a curved line that connects the stars and planets and you are picturing the ecliptic, the Earth’s orbital path and also the apparent path the Sun follows throughout the year.

   
   
   
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 Lunar Twin?

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   Friday evening, 30 May, the thin 2 day old waxing crescent Moon will be within about 6-7 degrees from the inner planet Mercury. And both will display a crescent phase shape due to their respective position to the east from the Sun, as the banner graphic at the the top of the page shows. However the Moon is in its waxing phases having just been at new Moon and now moving eastward from the Sun. While Mercury is in its waning phases as it is moving in retrograde, to the west, toward the Sun and inferior conjunction next month.

   
   
   
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.

Neptune at West Quadrature

orbital-positions   Wednesday 28 May the position of the planet Neptune with respect to the Earth and the Sun places this ringed planet at what is called western quadrature. At that orbital position Neptune, and actually any outer planet, is at a 90 degree angle from us as this graphic shows. Think third quarter Moon as that is a fair comparison of the relative positions. At this position Neptune leads the Sun across the sky from east to west as the Earth is rotating, meaning that Neptune rises before the Sun and also sets before the Sun.
   

   This is a short video clip from a much longer video that I made as part of a live musical performance called “Orbit” at the Gottleib Planetarium in Kansas City Missouri during May 2011.

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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 Eastern Elongation

orbital-positions   Mercury, the innermost planet, has reached its orbital position known as greatest eastern elongation. At that moment Mercury, the Sun, and the Earth, would be arranged in something close to approximating a right angle as this graphic shows.
   From our perspective Mercury, and Venus for that matter, appear to move out to the left (east) from the Sun for a period, then reverse and move westward between the Earth and the Sun to western elongation. From there the inner planet moves eastward going behind the Sun and eventually reappearing on the eastern side of the Sun for an eastern elongation. Repeat over and over – do not stop!
   Mercury is currently visible as an ‘evening star’ 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.

Moon At Descending Node – Near Venus

25may-descending_node   Tomorrow, 25 May, our 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 has with the ecliptic.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   At sunrise Sunday morning look toward the east to see the thin 26.5 day old waning crescent Moon to be about 2 degrees from the plant Venus.

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.

Mars Ends Retrograde Motion

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   Since the first of this past March the ‘red planet’ (love saying that!!) Mars has been moving in retrograde near the star Spica in Virgo. Retrograde, or retrograde motion, is an apparent reversal of an outer planet or dwarf planet’s regular orbital motion eastward around the Sun – as viewed from Earth. On Wednesday 21 May Mars ends its retrograde motion and resumes its regular or direct motion (eastward). Mars is also recently past opposition in April and so it is still near its maximum apparent magnitude (brightness) of -0.75. Nearby, for comparison, is the 3rd magnitude star Porrima.
Read more about the retrograde motion of Mars in a previous blog.

   
   
   
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.

Sun Not In Gemini Today

The View From Earth - 20 May

The View From Earth – 20 May.

  According to the pseudoscience of astrology the Sun enters the constellation of the Gemini Twins on Tuesday 20 May at 10 pm CDT (Wednesday 21 May 3 UT). When in fact the actual position of the Sun today is still within the boundary of the constellation of Taurus the Bull, as this graphic and the banner graphic show.

   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.
   
   
   
   
   
   
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.

Climate Change? — Yes!

mb   Recently on Facebook I got into an interesting yet sort of depressing back and forth discussion about climate change with a young man. This was started after I had posted some comments based on Senator Marco Rubio’s denial of the science about climate change during an interview he had about a week ago. In defense of not accepting the climate change science my Facebook challenger’s offer of ‘evidence’ against climate change looked more like the talking points one hears on the news or news channels. Unfortunately many of our elected officials on local and national levels, regardless of their political affiliation, do not accept the science of climate change.

   So when I came across this video I had to share it!

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   Click here to go to the Climate Name Change web site.

    Click here to go the Think Progress web page with for the following article, 99 One Liners Rebutting Denier Talking Points with links to the full Climate Science

To quote Albert Einstein:
“Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it.”

   
   
   
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.

The May Perigee Moon

may18-perigee    Our Moon orbits around the Sun with the Earth and 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*.
   The 8.8 day old waning gibbous Moon reaches perigee this month on Sunday 18 May at 12:04 UT (7:04 am CDT). At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 28.78 Earth diameters (366,714 km or 227,880 miles) from the Earth.

   *Click here to read my 2006 Scope on the Sky column “The Real Shape of the Moon’s Orbit”. (PDF)

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   Sunday morning the waning gibbous Moon is within the boundaries of the constellation Sagittarius the Archer however the reflected light from the just past full Moon drowns out most of the stars nearby.

   
   
   
   
   
   
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.