Moon Escapes Scorpius

   Over the next several days, June 1st through 3rd the Moon moves from waxing gibbous phase to full Moon on the 2nd to waning gibbous phase. During this 3-day period the Moon will pass the pincers of Scorpius the Scorpion as if escaping the scorpion’s grasp. Along the way the Moon will pass a few degrees from the outer planet Saturn, and then the reddish star Antares.


   
   
   
   
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 Western Quadrature

orbital-positions   On Sunday May 31st 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.

   Neptune currently is within the boundaries of the constellation Aquarius the Water Bearer. At around 9th magnitude Neptune is too dim to see with the naked-eye but easily seen with a telescope. In binoculars it may be visible just to the right from 4th magnitude Lambda Aquarii, and just below the point of a small triangle arrangement of 6th stars.

   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 Inferior Conjunction

orbital-positions   Saturday May 30th at 17 UT (12 pm CDT) the innermost planet Mercury reaches inferior conjunction. At inferior conjunction Mercury will move between the Earth and the Sun – much like the position of the Moon at new phase. The graphic to the right shows the planet positions relative to the Earth and Sun for both inner planets and outer planets.

mercury at inferior conjunction   While at inferior conjunction Mercury is not directly in line with the Earth and the Sun – on the ecliptic. Mercury has an orbital inclination of 7o with respect to the ecliptic. So like our Moon Mercury, during each complete orbit, will cross the plane of the ecliptic moving north (ascending node) and also moving south (descending node). This past May 23rd Mercury was at its descending node, and for those thinking ahead Mercury crosses the ecliptic moving north (ascending north) next month on June 24th.

   
   
   
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-Spica Conjunction

   Friday May 29th the 12-day old waxing gibbous Moon will rise in the east with the bluish-white star Spica in the constellation Virgo the Maiden.

   
   
   
   

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.

May Moon at Ascending Node (again)

may1-ascending-node   On Thursday May 26st at 14:42 UT (9:42 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.

May Apogee Moon

may26-apogee   The Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), this month on Tuesday May 26th at 22 UT (5 pm CDT). At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 31.69 Earth diameters (404,244 km or 251,186 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)

Read this very informative article about the Earth-Moon system and their orbital motions, written by Joe Hanson. “Do We Orbit the Moon?”

   The 9-day old waxing gibbous Moon rises during the early afternoon hours and sets about 3 hours before 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 Leaps Over the Moon!

   Sunday evening May 24th the nearly first quarter Moon, will be within about 4o from the heart of Leo the Lion, the star Regulus.

   
   
   
   

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 – Jupiter – Asteroid- Star Cluster Conjunction

   Saturday evening May 23rd the waxing crescent Moon will be close to Jupiter, two open star clusters (M-44, M-67), and an asteroid. As this graphic shows, within the field of view of 7×50 binoculars, you can see the Moon, Jupiter, and the asteroid 3 Juno. A slight shift in the viewing brings either of the two open star clusters into the binocular field of view.

   M-44, also known as the Beehive Cluster, is a group of around 1000 stars at a distance of 500-600 light years and shining with a combined magnitude of approximately 4.0. To the naked eye M-44 looks more like a nebula but resolves nicely into its component stars with optical assistance. M-67 in comparison is much dimmer at a distance of 2500-3000 light years, and with only around 100 stars this open star cluster shines with a combined 6th magnitude brightness.

   Asteroid 3 Juno was the 3rd asteroid to be discovered and is one of the largest asteroids in the main belt between Mars and Jupiter. Juno has an apparent magnitude of around 7-8 so it is within the viewing capabilities of binoculars albeit as a star-like point of light.

   
   
   
   

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.

Saturn at Opposition

   Saturday May 23rd the outer planet Saturn reaches its orbital position known as opposition. This is a position which has the Earth centered between the outer planet and the Sun. Picture the arrangement with the Moon at full phase; Sun – Earth – Moon, and that is similar to the arrangement for Saturn at opposition; Sun – Earth – Saturn.

   When an outer planet, like Saturn, reaches opposition that planet rises around local time for sunset and is visible all night.

   
   
   
   

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

may-view-from-earth-astrology  According to the pseudoscience of astrology the Sun enters the constellation of the Gemini Twins on Thursday 21 May at 9 UT (4 am CDT). When in fact the actual position of the Sun on this date 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.