2014 in review

The WordPress stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for Bobs-Spaces

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Moon at Descending Node

29dec-descending-node   Monday December 29th at 09:27 UT (3:27 am CST) 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 (dark green line) has with the ecliptic.

   
   
   
   
   
   
   Monday evening the 8-day old waxing gibbous Moon will be over the western horizon at sunset local time, and will be setting a few hours later.

   
   
   
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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.

ISS, The Moon, and a Comet

   This evening, December 27th, weather permitting, the International Space Station should be visible as it travels across northern mid-latitudes of North America. From my location near Kansas City Missouri the ISS will appear over the west-northwest horizon at approximately 6:13 pm CST, and be visible above my local horizon for 6 minutes before it disappears below the south-southeast horizon. Along the way it will reach a maximum altitude angle above the southwest horizon of 42 degrees; pass between two stars of the ‘Summer Triangle’, Altair and Vega; pass above the Planet Mars and Comet Finlay, and below the nearly first quarter Moon. At its greatest brightness the ISS will be between 1st and 2nd magnitude, brighter than the stars of the Big Dipper.

   Much of my information for the ISS comes from NASA’s ISS Sightings web site. From there you may tailor the predictions very specifically for your location. I then use an Astronomy program on the PC and also one on my Kindle to see the path it will follow and what if any other celestial objects it may pass. Read a little more about viewing the ISS and Iridium Flares, as well as suggestions for taking pictures of these Earth orbiters.

   The slideshow below shows the ISS at 1-minute intervals. Since this event is after sunset I have touched up the graphics – brightened and re-colored to make the scene more visible.

   
   
   
[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 Uranus

28dec-eyepiece   Saturday evening December 28th the 7-day old first quarter Moon is within about 1o from the outer planet Uranus as viewed from my latitude and longitude. However from the right location this will be a lunar occultation of Uranus. That would include parts of Japan, northeastern Russia, Arctic Ocean, northern Canada, and Alaska.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

While Uranus is too dim to be seen with the naked-eye in most light polluted skies you can at least see the first quarter Moon.

[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.

December Perigee Moon

24dec-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 2.8 day old waxing crescent Moon reaches perigee this month on Wednesday December 24th at 16:42 UT (10 am CST). At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 28.6 Earth diameters (364,797 km or 226,674 miles) from the Earth.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   Wednesday evening the waxing crescent Moon is near Mars and Comet Finlay (16P).

   
   
   *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.

Uranus No Longer Backing Up

   Well that’s a relief!

July 22nd to December 22nd :  Uranus at 30-day intervals

July 22nd to December 22nd : Uranus at 30-day intervals


   Monday December 22nd the outer planet Uranus ends its retrograde motion and resumes its eastward, or direct motion. Uranus begun this current retrograde motion last July 22nd. Retrograde motion is an apparent motion to the west that any outer planet relative to the Earth appears to do whenever the faster moving Earth passes by. Sort of like passing a car on the highway. You know both vehicles are moving in the same direction but from your perspective it could appear that the other car is moving backward as you go by. Regardless, retrograde motion for the outer planets happens at regular intervals as the Earth pass each one. It is always more than a year and always a little further to the east when the retrograde motion begins each time. This is because the outer planet is also moving eastward.

   
   
   
[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.

A Comet, the Moon, and Mars

       And no, this is not the first line in a joke sentence ending with “walk into a bar!”
       Seriously Comet Finlay (16/P), a regular visitor to the inner solar system has been reported to have significantly brightened from 11th magnitude to between 8th and 9th magnitude. According to reports the comet is typically at around 11th magnitude as it approaches perihelion, December 27th. So at 8th or 9th magnitude this puts the comet at a brightness within the reach of large aperture binoculars – at least 10×50 or larger. 25 mm with 8" DobsonianAnd certainly within the reach of telescopes.
       On the 24th the comet will be passing very close to Mars as we view them from Earth. This is a line of sight effect not one where the comet literally and physically comes close to Mars. This should be a fine pairing of celestial objects, especially when viewed through the eyepiece of a telescope as shown in this simulated view using a 25 mm eyepiece with an 8″ Dobsonian telescope.
    finlay-ani   Prior to the 24th you can follow the comet in real time on an interactive star map at the The Sky Live web site. This is a really useful web site for tracking more than just comets. The display may be set to a Planetarium, star chart, or a Live Position mode. With the Planetarium setting you can adjust the date and time and view the comet’s motion relative to the constellation and stars in the background.
    Click on graphic to see it full size.

    Click on graphic to see it full size.

       On December 24th, shortly after sunset local time, look for the thin waxing crescent Moon to be just off to the right from Mars and the comet.

       
       
       
    [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.

Sun Not in Capricornus aka the December Solstice

  According to the pseudoscience of astrology the Sun enters the constellation of Capricornus the Sea Goat on Sunday December 21st, when in fact the actual position of the Sun is still within the boundaries of the constellation of Sagittarius the Archer.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   In reality on Sunday December 21st at 23:03 UT, 5:03 pm CST, the Sun will have reached the celestial coordinates of 23.5o degrees south; 18 hours right ascension. With regard to the Earth’s surface this places the Sun over the Tropic of Capricorn, which is also 23.5o south. We know that this signals the start of northern hemisphere winter and the southern hemisphere summer seasons. We also know that it is the Earth’s tilt on its axis that is the cause for seasons on Earth rather than the distance between the Earth and the Sun.
   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.

   
   
   
[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.

Waning Crescent Moon Near Saturn

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.


   Friday December 19th the thin waning crescent Moon is within a few degrees from the planet Saturn. The two rise around 5 a.m. local time and will make a nice contrast when viewed through binoculars.

   
   
   
[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.