Mars and Jupiter at Odds – Heliocentric That Is

31oct-view-from-mars   Friday October 31st the planets Mars and Jupiter are aligned in an arrangement known as heliocentric opposition. The two planets are on opposite sides of the Sun and are approximately 180o apart in heliocentric longitude as measured around the celestial equator. Mars has a heliocentric longitude of approximately 310o, while Jupiter is at 130o. However the two planets are not necessarily at the same level (above or below) relative to the ecliptic. Mars, at 24.53o South Declination, is only a few days (26 October) past its maximum declination of 25o south of the celestial equator in Sagittarius. Jupiter, at 15o North declination in the constellation Leo the Lion is north of Mars by nearly 40o.

   
   
   
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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.

Sun Enters Libra

310ct-view-from-earth   Friday October 31st at 6 UT (1 am CDT) the Sun in its apparent eastward motion along the ecliptic, moves out of the constellation Virgo the Harvest Maiden and into the constellation of Libra the Scales. 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.

   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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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 Passes Two Globular Clusters

25 October - The Teapot and the Milky Way

The Teapot and the Milky Way

   For the last couple of days my posts have described the Milky Way as viewed from my mid-northern latitude location, and the path Mars was taking across the Milky Way as it passed by the Lagoon Nebula. This is an area of the Milky Way above the teapot-shaped asterism for Sagittarius where numerous deep sky objects are visible to the unaided eye, or seen using binoculars. Deep sky objects are outside the solar system but are either within the Milky Way Galaxy and would include nebula, and star clusters (globular and open), or deep sky objects are the galaxies outside of ours.

mars2-ani   Over the next week Mars continues its eastward ‘march’ and will pass by two globular star clusters, coming within about 0.20o from M-28 on 2-3 November, and about 1o from M-22 on the 6th. This animated graphic is set to 1-day intervals and starts on October 27th and ends on November 9th. Globular cluster M-28 has an apparent magnitude of 8.5 and is estimated to be 19000 light years distant, in Sagittarius. Also in Sagittarius is globular cluster M-22 at a distance of 10000 light years with an apparent magnitude 6.5.

galaxy-parts   A globular star cluster is a compact group of stars numbering in the tens of thousands to a few million. Round in appearance globular star clusters are mostly located in the galaxy’s halo, a spherical area around the galaxy center where the older stars in the galaxy are located. Globular clusters contain the oldest stars in the galaxy.
   
   
   
[centup]
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 Near Comet Siding Spring (C/2013 A1)

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Monday evening October 27th the waxing crescent Moon will come within 2o of Comet Siding Spring (C2013 A1). The waxing crescent Moon with 18% of its disk illuminated by sunlight has an apparent magnitude of nearly -10. Coincidentally, sort of, the comet, now about a week after perihelion, shines with an apparent magnitude of 10.0.

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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.

Mars and the Lagoon Nebula

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   From my northern mid-latitude backyard this time of the year the Milky Way arcs nearly overhead stretching from north to south. Above my southern horizon is not only a view toward the center of the galaxy, it is also a view toward one of the most scenic parts of the Milky Way. In the sky just above the handle of the teapot-shaped asterism for Sagittarius are several ‘deep sky’ objects visible to the unaided eye and binoculars.
   Over the next several days the planet Mars will be moving through this area and passing within 1-2o from the Lagoon Nebula. The waxing Moon will also be passing through this area as well.
   In the slideshow below watch a small red dot, Mars, to be moving from west to east (right to left) as each day passes.

   
   
   
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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.

Venus is Superior During Moon and Saturn Conjunction

25oct-bino   Saturday evening, October 25th the thin 2 day old waxing crescent Moon will be about 2o from the planet Saturn as they both set over the western horizon. The two should make for interesting contrast in both pictures and through binoculars. With binoculars you have a view of the sky that at this time of the evening will show you more than your eyes would be able to see.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   As this graphic shows the reddish stars of Arcturus and Antares are on either side of the Moon and Saturn. Further to the east and just above the pour spout of teapot-shaped asterism using stars from the constellation Sagittarius is the planet Mars. Through binoculars it may be possible to find some of the nebula and star clusters along the Milky Way above and around Mars.

25sep-venus-sup_conjunc    Also on Saturday the inner planet Venus will have moved into superior conjunction – on the opposite side of the Sun from the Earth. Venus will reappear on the east side of the Sun later next month and start becoming visible in the evening skies over the western horizon.

   
   
   
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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.

Solar Eclipse Breaks Through!

IMG_5269-1920x1280   The Weather was not favorable across western Missouri today. It started with rain this morning followed by completely overcast skies – but with the storm system moving eastward there was hope that the clouds would also move eastward. The clouds did move eastward, but very slowly.
IMG_5286-1920x1280   So there I was in the parking lot behind the Science/Technology building with 7 students looking at a cloudy sky. After about 30 minutes into the eclipse event we went in to watch it online. Just before 6 pm the skies were showing areas of blue sky, so we went outside and were rewarded with seeing the eclipse from mid-eclipse to nearly sunset – about every 5 minutes as a a break in the clouds would drift across the Sun and Moon.
   The large sunspot I had been following for the past few days shows up in some of the pictures. For the record I did not use a solar filter – just very fast shutter speeds and small aperture settings!

   
   
   
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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.

Eclipse Countdown!

   Tomorrow, Thursday October 23rd, there will be a solar eclipse visible across much of North america including the continental United States. For the U.S. the eclipse starts during mid to late afternoon and is in progress at sunset. The further west the higher above the horizon will be the Sun and Moon and much if not all of the eclipse will be seen. From Kansas City Missouri the eclipse will reach a maximum of about 50% and will be setting during mid-eclipse.
   Check the time of your local sunset and then use the online eclipse-time calculator from NASA to find the timing of the eclipse for your location.
solar-eclipse-ani   Alternately use the Eclipse Calculator at the Time and Date web site. Click here to see the times for Kansas City, MO – or to enter the name of your city.
   What will add to the eclipse viewing is the extremely large sunspot that should still be visible tomorrow during the time of the eclipse. I’ve been observing this sunspot since it appeared several days ago. And the large sunspot has been really interesting. I know that the Sun rotates but watching how much this large sunspot has moved in over the last few days is pretty cool. Today the sunspot look liked it was starting to break apart.

   
   
   
[centup]
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 Gets Dusted!

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   Sunday October 19th Comet Siding Spring (C/2013 A1) will pass the planet by Mars as the comet heads inbound toward the Sun and perihelion. At the closest, 7 UT (2 am CDT), the comet comes within less than 100,000 miles (160,000 km) of Mars, and as the comet passes by Mars the comet’s dusty tail will sweep across the planet.
   Both are visible over the southwestern horizon at sunset local time and are situated near the spout of the teapot-shaped asterism in Sagittarius and embedded deep in the ‘heart’ of the Milky Way.

8" Schmidt Cassegrain: 25 mm eyepiece

8″ Schmidt Cassegrain: 25 mm eyepiece

   While the comet is not bright enough to be seen with the unaided eye it will be bright enough to be seen with telescopes as small as those with an 8″ (205 mm) mirrors. This graphic shows a simulated view of the comet (greatly exaggerated) and Mars as the two would appear looking through a 25mm eyepiece on an 8″ Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope.

   Read more about the comet and see some animations in a previous post.

   
   
   
[centup]
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.

October Apogee Moon

18oct-apogee    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*.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   This thin 24.5-day old waning crescent Moon shows about 25% of its disk and rises before sunrise local time. The Moon will be easily noticed as it is midway between Jupiter (magnitude -2.0) and the star Regulus (magnitude 1.34). With binoculars look for 3rd magnitude Omicron Leonis to be less than half a degree from the upper cusp of the Moon.
   The waning crescent Moon reaches apogee this month on Saturday October 18th at 1 am CDT (6 UT). At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 31.74 Earth diameters (404,897 km or 251,591 miles) from the Earth.

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

   
   
   
   
[centup]
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.