A Martian Urban Legend

   It’s back!
   A friend asked about this picture and from the text on the graphic I am assuming that this is the Internet Urban Legend that comes back around this time of the year. This is the suggestion that Mars will be so close to the Earth that it will appear as large as the full Moon. Nothing of the sort will happen. This idea probably got its start from August 2003 when Mars was at opposition very close to the time it was at perihelion, closest to the Sun, while the Earth was at aphelion, its most distant from the Sun. This combination brought the Earth and Mars to about as close as they ever could be.

   For the record the Moon on August 27th is in the waxing gibbous phase, 2 days before full Moon, and it rises about 2 hours before sunset. Mars, on the other hand, rises about 2 hours before sunrise with the much brighter Venus nearby.

    I posted a blog about this previously, as well as wrote one of my Scope on the Sky columns about this suggestion.

   
   
   
   

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.

Goat Gives the Moon a Head Butt!

   Thursday evening July 30th the full Moon rises at approximately local time for sunset. For my location that is at 8:30 pm CDT. The Moon is located at the horns of the Sea Goat Capricornus as if the Moon were getting a head butt.
   Since this is the second full Moon of the month this full Moon qualifies as a ‘Blue Moon’. The Moon does not really turn blue so the term Blue Moon is thought to perhaps mean something that rarely happens – once in a blue moon.

   
   
   
   

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 – Pluto Conjunction

click on graphic to see it full size   Wednesday July 29th the waxing gibbous Moon will be within a few degrees from the Dwarf Planet Pluto.
   Where is Pluto and is Pluto visible to the naked eye? Pluto currently is above the teapot-shaped asterism for Sagittarius the Archer. It is located near a 3rd magnitude star, Xi2 Sagittarii, however Pluto has an apparent magnitude of 14.0 making it too dim to be seen in other than a large telescope or with a sequence of pictures of the same part of sky over a period of several days or weeks. From that sequence of pictures the motion of Pluto against the stars in the background becomes noticeable.

Click here to learn more about the New Horizons mission and take part in the mission with some of the interactives created by NASA.

   
   
   
   

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 ‘Hearts’ the Scorpion

   Sunday and Monday evenings, July 26th and 27th the waxing gibbous Moon will pass the heart of Scorpius the Scorpion, the reddish star Antares. This animated graphic shows the evening sky at 10:30 pm CDT on the 26th and 27th.

   
   
   
   

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.

Planets – Big and Small

   Saturday July 25th the waxing Gibbous Moon, just past first quarter phase, will be within a few degrees from the planet Saturn. During this conjunction the two will rise at around local time, and be visible throughout the length of the night. Down to the left from the Moon and Saturn look for a reddish star. This is Antares, the heart of Scorpius the Scorpion.
   Closer to the Earth the dwarf planet Ceres moves into an orbital position known as opposition. Only Sun orbiting objects beyond the Earth’s orbital distance may be at opposition, with an arrangement of the Sun-Earth-outer orbiting object.
   Ceres rises before midnight local time and would be visible throughout the length of the night. Currently NASA’s Dawn Mission spacecraft is now in orbit around Ceres.

   
   
   
   

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 Superior Conjunction

mercury at superior conjunction   Thursday July23rd at 19 UT (2 pm CDT) the innermost planet Mercury reaches superior conjunction – on the opposite side of the Sun from the Earth.
   Mercury is not visible while in conjunction with the Sun but within the next week or so Mercury will reappear on the east side of the Sun and start becoming visible over the western horizon at 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.

Sun Not in Leo

  According to the pseudoscience of astrology the Sun enters the constellation of Leo the Lion on Thursday July 22nd at 4 UT (11 pm CDT (Wednesday July 23rd). When in fact the actual position of the Sun today is within the boundaries of the constellation of Cancer the Crab. The Sun is still close to the western boundary of Cancer having just crossed that boundary a couple of days ago.

   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.

Moon and Spica – Together Again!

   Wednesday and Thursday July 22nd and 23rd, respectively, the waxing crescent Moon will pass within a few degrees from the bluish-white star Spica in the constellation Virgo the Harvest Maiden. This is a fairly regular occurrence, the Moon passing close to Spica, because Spica is only a few degrees from the ecliptic. The Moon, likewise, is located near the ecliptic. Keep in mind that the Moon’s orbit is inclined about 6o from the ecliptic so that the Moon’s orbital path places the Moon above, on, or below the ecliptic throughout the month. The point along the Moon’s orbital path where it crosses the ecliptic is known as a node. One the descending and the other the ascending node. A significance of the node crossing is that if it occurs at or close to either a new Moon or full Moon there will be an eclipse. (watch for my postings about these node crossing events)

   
   
   
   

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 Cancer

19july-view-from-earth   Tuesday July 21st at 6 UT, (1 am CDT) the Sun in its apparent eastward motion along the ecliptic, moves out of the constellation Gemini the Twins and into the constellation of Cancer the Crab. 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.

July Apogee Moon

jul21-apogee-moon   The Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), this month on Tuesday June 23rd at 17 UT (12 pm CDT). At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 31.73 Earth diameters (367,093 km or 228,101 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 6-day old waxing crescent Moon rises during the early afternoon hours and sets after midnight local time. This evening it will be close to the 4th magnitude star Zaniah in 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.