Mooning Uranus

   On Thursday August 14th the waning gibbous Moon will pass within 2o from the outer planet Uranus. This waning gibbous Moon rises around 11 pm local time on the 13th so it will be visible all night, not setting until around noon local time on the 14th. Look above the southwestern to western horizon for the Moon. Closest is at 17 UT (12 pm CDT). Not that Uranus would be visible unless one was viewing through a large telescope or using a camera, and of course before the Sun rises and the sky is too bright..
   For some viewers, somewhere on the Earth, (parts of central and northern Asia) the angle from their location to the Moon and Uranus will be such the Moon occults (an occultation), passes between Uranus the Earth.
   So why am I writing about something that more than likely will not be seen without optical assistance?
   Well even if you cannot see the planet Uranus, even as a dim star-like speck of light, it is there to at least be recognized. But mostly because this is one of a series of Moon Uranus conjunctions each month for the next several months, and I found that to be very interesting, especially with the regularity of the event (both orbit near the ecliptic so it is bound to happen), and how the date and phase of the month change from month to month. Again there is a regularity, a pattern, that this follows.

   For example watch how the Moon and Uranus gradually shift westward and are lower each month, until November when at 5:30 am CDT the two have already set. So the next picture shows them above the horizon 2 hours earlier at 3:30 am CDT. Note that the time backs up by 2 hours each month. This shift in the sky is primarily due to Earth revolution. As we orbit toward the east the sky shifts toward the west. And at a regular rate.

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moon-on-stick   Many Moons ago I was put this activity together for the teachers who brought classes to the Planetarium I directed. It was one of the more popular activities and Planetarium lab lessons I did because I used the Planetarium to model Moon phases, and then we would go outside and do this activity and also use a few 6″ Dobsonian telescopes to look at the Moon, and if enough time put on solar filters and look at the Sun. Explore Moon Phases
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.

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