May Moon at Ascending Node

may1-ascending-node   On Friday May 1st at 9:51 UT (4:51 am CDT) our Moon will be crossing the plane of the ecliptic moving north. This is known as the ascending node, one of two intersections the Moon’s orbital path has with the ecliptic. The ecliptic is the Earth’s orbit and the Moon’s orbit is inclined about 6o from the ecliptic. So there are two node intersections, the ascending and descending nodes.

   
   
   
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.

April Apogee Moon #2

29apr-apogee   The Moon will reach apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), for the second time this month on Wednesday April 29th at 4 UT (Tuesday 11 pm CDT 28 April). At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 31.75 Earth diameters (405,083 km or 251,707 miles) from the Earth.
   Does our Moon actually go around the Earth as this graphic shows? 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 here to read my 2006 Scope on the Sky column “The Real Shape of the Moon’s Orbit”. (PDF)

   The 10-day old waxing gibbous Moon rises about 1-2 hours before sunset local time and will be visible all night, setting at around the local time for sunrise.

   
   
   

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.

Leo Paws the Moon!

   Monday evening the waxing gibbous Moon will be within 3-4o from the heart of Leo the Lion, the star Regulus. Both fit comfortably within the field of view of a pair of binoculars.
   Regulus, viewed as a bright star with an apparent magnitude of 1.3, is located at a distance of 78-79 light years from the Earth. Regulus is actually a multiple star system consisting of 2 pair of stars. Regulus is paired with a smaller companion star, possibly a white dwarf star.
   Read more about the star Regulus at the EarthSky web site.

   
   
   

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 Weekend Moon

moon-bino

   This weekend the waxing Moon will pass by the open star cluster, M-44, the outer planet Jupiter, and the heart of Leo the Lion, the star Regulus. M-44, or the Beehive Cluster, is an open star cluster comprised of about 1000 stars, and located at a distance of around 600 light years from the Earth. On the evening of the 25th the three will all fit, more or less, within the field of view of 7×50 binoculars – as this graphic shows.
   The slide show below shows the sky at 10 pm CDT for the next three evenings, starting with Saturday the 25th.
   
   

   
   
   
   
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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-Mercury Close Conjunction

22apr-bino   Wednesday evening April 22nd at sunset the inner planet Mercury and the outer planet Mars will be within 1-2o from each other as they set over the western horizon. The two should make for a nice view with binoculars as this graphic shows. Actually the two will be close to each other for the next several evenings. However Mars is setting earlier each night while Mercury is moving eastward away from the Sun and Mars. Compare the the relative orbital speeds: Mercury moves around 4o each day while Mars less than 1o. For another comparison look at their relative brightness. Mars has an apparent magnitude of 1.42 compared with the -1.1 for Mercury.

   Viewing the two planets may be a challenge as they are both low above the western horizon at local time for 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.

Ear is the Moon!

21apr-bino   Tuesday evening April 21st direct your eyes toward the west and the setting Moon. The Moon, looking as if it were stuck in the ear of Taurus the Bull, is in its waxing stage and is approximately 3.5 days old. Within a few degrees from the thin Moon is the reddish star Aldebaran. This star, in mythology, represents the ‘angry eye’ of Taurus the Bull. Aldebaran looks like it belongs to the v-shaped open star cluster that makes up the face of the Bull. These are the Hyades, a group of stars that are actually much further from the Earth than is the star Aldebaran.
   Just in case you are wondering, that much brighter star-like object a few degrees from the Moon and Aldebaran is the inner planet 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.

Sun Not in Taurus

April 19th

April 20th

  According to the pseudoscience of astrology the Sun enters the constellation of Taurus the Bull on Monday April 20th at 4 am CDT (10 UT). When in fact the actual position of the Sun on the 20th is still within the boundary of the constellation of Aries the Ram, as this graphic shows. Actually the Sun had just entered Aries on April 19th.

   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.

Sun Enters Aries

April 19th

April 19th

   Sunday April 19th at 4 am CDT, (10 UT), the Sun in its apparent eastward motion along the ecliptic, moves out of the constellation Pisces the Fishes and into the constellation of Aries the Ram. 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.
   
   
   

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.

April 17 Moon at Descending Node

apr17-descending-node   Friday April 17th at 13:06 UT, (8:13 am CDT), 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.
   The Moon reaches new phase more than 24 hours after it makes the node crossing. Had this been closer to the time of the node crossing we could have had an lunar eclipse. This was the situation last month for the total lunar eclipse.

   
   
   
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.

April Perigee Moon

apr17-perigee   The Moon reaches perigee, (minimum distance from Earth), this month on Friday April 18th at 03:47 UT (10:37 pm CST Thursday April 17th). At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 28.30 Earth diameters (361,023 km or 224,330 miles) from the Earth.
Does our Moon actually go around the Earth as this graphic shows? 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 here to read my 2006 Scope on the Sky column “The Real Shape of the Moon’s Orbit”. (PDF)

The Moon reaches new Moon phase at 18:57 UT on Friday April 18th. The Moon will rise and set with the Sun but the Moon will not be visible today.

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.