Moon – Pluto Conjunction

   Friday May 8th the waning gibbous Moon and Pluto rise a couple of hours before sunrise local time. Both are located within the eastern fringes of the Milky Way and just above the teapot shaped asterism of Sagittarius. The Moon will be within a few degrees from the Dwarf Planet Pluto. While both objects may fit within the field of view of binoculars the apparent magnitude of Pluto, 14.8, means it is no where near being visible to the unaided eye and in reality its ‘dimness’ puts Pluto’s visibility into the realm of telescopes with a large primary mirror or lens. However just looking at the Moon means that some of the light your eyes receive comes from Pluto. And you are looking toward where the New Horizons space craft will be in about two months.

   The New Horizons spacecraft left the Earth in January of 2006 and as of May 8th the space craft will be 66 days from its flyby of Pluto and its five known moons. The flyby date of July 14th will be a significant event in the exploration of our solar system on many levels from a cool thing to do to the knowledge we will gain as we make our first up close and personal examination of an outer solar system object.

   
   
   
   

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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