Orion Takes a Swing!

orion-ani

    This evening, October 30th the 18-day old Waning gibbous Moon will be located near the club held overhead by Orion. Looking like Orion may swing at the Moon and make a good hit – as they say. This is a fitting tribute, at least I think so, to the incredible batting of the Kansas City Royal‘s baseball team – now in New York City with a 2-0 record for games 3-5 of the World Series against the New York Mets.

   
   
   
   
   
   

               Let’s Go Royals!!               

   
   
   
   

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.

October Perigee Moon

oct26-perigee-moon   The Moon reaches perigee, (minimum distance from Earth), this month on Monday October 26th. At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 28.1 Earth diameters (358,464 km or 222,739 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 13.9-day old waning gibbous Moon is 20 hours before full phase and could be considered as another “Super Moon”. This is a popular term applied to any time the full Moon phase is close or matches the time and date of when the Moon is at perigee – its closest to the Earth for that orbit, or month. This year, 2015, there are 6 Super Moons with this one being the last of the six Super Moon.

   *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.

Venus at Western Elongation

inner-planets-positions   Monday October 26th Venus reaches the point in its orbit called greatest western elongation. As this graphic shows the inner planet Venus, or Mercury, is more or less at a right angle (90o) from the Sun and Earth at western elongation. From the surface of the Earth, your backyard, for example, Venus is to the right, or western side of the Sun and is rising before the Sun.

   At western elongation Venus, or for that matter Mercury the other inner planet, is as far out from the Sun as we see them and as a result Venus or Mercury will rise at the latest time in this orbit. On the day of the western elongation Venus will be 46.4o from the Sun. From western elongation forward Venus or Mercury will be moving eastward toward the Sun and each day rising closer and closer to the time of sunrise. As the planet moves eastward it is moving further away from the Earth toward superior conjunction on the opposite side of the Sun.

    As the distance between the Earth and Venus, or Mercury, increases combined with the decreasing angle between the planet, the Earth, and the Sun, Venus or Mercury decreases in apparent size and also waxes through gibbous phase shapes but we never see it at a full phase since that is at superior conjunction.

   
   
   
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.

October Moon at Descending Node

july8-descending-node   Sunday October 25th 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.

   On the day of the node crossing the Moon will be at its waxing gibbous phases and the 13.5-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.

Three Amigos!

   Over the past few weeks and into the next couple of weeks the trio of planets in the eastern skies before sunrise continue to move in their respective orbits and at their respective orbital speeds. If any of that makes sense, or if you, like me, have been noticing the planets in the east then you know what is coming. Venus moves faster than Mars and Jupiter and so Venus will pass by Jupiter coming the closest on the 25th-26th, and then catch up with Mars on the 2nd-3rd of November. A few days past that and the thinning waning crescent Moon passes by Jupiter and Venus/Mars.
   The slide show below is set to one-day intervals at 5 am CDT (24 UT).

I have also have been following the planets, including Mercury and have posted a series of pictures on a separate page. Click here to go to that page.

   
   
   
   

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 Scorpius

  According to the pseudoscience of astrology the Sun enters the constellation of Scorpio the Scorpion on Friday October 23rd. When in fact the actual position of the Sun is within the boundaries of the constellation of Virgo the Maiden.

   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.

Mercury at Western Elongation

orbital-positions   On Friday October 16th Mercury, the innermost planet, will reach its orbital position known as greatest western elongation. At that moment Mercury, the Sun, and the Earth, would be arranged in something close to approximating a right angle as this graphic shows.
   From our perspective the orbits of Mercury and Venus appear to move from one side of the Sun to the other – out to the left (east) from the Sun to eastern elongation, then reverse and move westward (inferior conjunction) between the Earth and the Sun to western elongation. From there the inner planet moves eastward going behind the Sun (superior conjunction) and eventually reappearing on the eastern side of the Sun for an eastern elongation. Repeat over and over – do not stop!
16oct   Both Mercury and Venus are visible in the morning skies before sunrise as this graphic shows. The orbits of both inner planets are shown where they will be on the 16th. Mercury is at western elongation while Venus will be at its western elongation 10 days later on the 26th.

   
   
   
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 Bear and Lion

   Another clear morning with the planets shining brightly over my neighbor’s house. From my driveway only three of the four morning planets are high enough to be visible over the trees. It is becoming more noticeable how Venus has moved east away from Regulus and Mars is moving east as well slowly catching up with east moving Jupiter.
   This picture was taken with a wide angle in order to include the stars of the Big Dipper, on the left, with the sickle or backward question mark shape of Leo the Lion.

   
   
   
   

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.

Uranus at 2015 Opposition

12oct-uranus-opposition   Monday October 12th the outer planet Uranus 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.

4 Planets, Moon, and Some Clouds

      This morning, despite some clouds the 4 planets and the 28-day old waning crescent Moon were still very visible as they rose over the horizon. How they (planets and our Moon) ‘line up’ as they currently are is a result of the 8 planets all orbiting the Sun in the same direction and from nearly the same level. By level I mean the plane of the ecliptic, the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. This is extended from the Sun’s equator outward spanning the entire solar system. The ecliptic is the reference for all solar orbiting objects when citing an object’s inclination.
    Inclination is by how much, in degrees, the object’s orbit is tilted or inclined from the plane of the ecliptic. This graphic shows the ecliptic, the Moon, and the planets illustrating their arrangement with respect to the ecliptic.

   
   
   

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.