Neptune at Opposition

neptune-opposition   Tuesday September 1st the outer planet Neptune reaches a position in its orbit around the Sun when it is on the oppisite side of the Earth from the Sun. This coincidentally is known as opposition, and it is an orbital position which only the planets further from the Sun than the Earth may reach.
   At opposition the object rises and sets in a fashion similar to our Moon when it is at full phase, in that the object at opposition rises at sunset and sets at 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.

Mooning Uranus

   Sunday August 31st the 17.5-day old waning gibbous Moon will again be near the outer planet Uranus. Throughout this year the Moon and Uranus have had close conjunctions due to Uranus orbiting near the plane of the ecliptic, and the Moon’s inclined orbit bringing it either above, on, or below the ecliptic.

uranus_t-shirt   Look for the waning gibbous Moon to be a few degrees away from Uranus. However with the Moon shining at nearly a -13th magnitude compared with the +5.80 magnitude of Uranus moonlight will definitely brighten the sky too much to allow Uranus to be visible.

   
   
   
   

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.

August Moon at Descending Node #2

july8-descending-node   Monday August 31st 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 is currently in its waning gibbous phases and the 17.5-day old Moon is visible over the eastern horizon a couple of hours after sunset local time.

   
   
   
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.

August Moon at Perigee

aug30-perigee-moon   The Moon reaches perigee, (minimum distance from Earth), this month on Sunday August 30th. At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 28.9 Earth diameters (358,288 km or 222,630 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*

   The 16.5-day old waning gibbous Moon is just past full phase and is lined up with the left side the Square of Pegasus, an asterism formed with three stars from the constellation Pegasus the Winged Horse, and one star from the constellation Andromeda the Princess.

   *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?”

   
   
   
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.

Jupiter in Solar Conjunction

jupiter-solar-conjunction-from-earth   Wednesday August 26th the planet Jupiter reaches conjunction with the sun, in effect behind the sun as we view the two from Earth. Jupiter will reappear later next month in the morning skies joining with Venus as two very bright morning ‘stars’.

   
   
   
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 Virgo

   
According to the pseudoscience of astrology the Sun enters the constellation of Virgo the Maiden on Sunday August 23rd at 11 UT (6 am CDT). When in fact the actual position of the Sun today is still within the boundaries of the constellation of Leo the Lion.

   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 Saturn

   Saturday evening, August 22nd the first quarter Moon will be a few degrees to the east (left) from the planet Saturn, and just out of reach from the Scorpion’s pincers.

   
   
   
   

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 East Quadrature-2015

   Friday August 21st the position of the planet Saturn with respect to the Earth and the Sun places this ringed planet at what is called eastern quadrature. Saturn is at a 90 degree angle from us as this graphic shows. Think first quarter Moon as that is a fair comparison of the relative positions. At this position Saturn follows the Sun across the sky from east to west as the Earth is rotating, meaning that Saturn rises after the Sun and sets after the Sun.

   Where is Saturn now? Saturn is west (to the right) from the planet Saturn and near the eastern side of the constellation Libra the Scales.

Learn a little (or a lot) more about Saturn by visiting the Cassini at Saturn mission web site.
Click here to go to the Cassini Mission web site.
Click here to go to the Cassini Mission Flyby web page to see when the next Saturn satellite flyby will be.

   This is a short 5 minute video I made as part of a live musical performance called “Orbit” that I was part of in May 2011. This is a piece from the much longer tour of the solar system performance and video and shows Saturn and some of its moons as viewed from the Cassini spacecraft that month.

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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.

Virgo Grabs the Moon!

   Wednesday evening August 19th the 4.5 day young waxing crescent Moon will be within a few degrees from the bluish-white star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden. Spica, as part of the constellation illustration represents the bundle of wheat, or whatever the harvest is, held in her left hand.
19aug   Spica and the Moon often have conjunctions such as this one on a regular basis. This is because Spica is within a couple of degrees from the ecliptic, while the Moon’s orbital path takes it above, on, or below the ecliptic during each month.

   
   
   
   

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.

August Apogee Moon

aug18-apogee-moon   The Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), this month on Tuesday August 18th. At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 31.80 Earth diameters (404,848 km or 252,182 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 4.5-day old waxing crescent Moon rises during the early afternoon hours and sets after midnight local time. This evening it will be to the right (west) from the blue-white star Spica in Virgo the Harvest 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.