Moon Sees Red


   Monday morning February 29th the waning gibbous Moon will be about 4.5o to the right, west, from the ‘red planet’ Mars. Both rise around midnight local time and are over the south horizon as the Sun rises.

   
   
   
   

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 Solar Conjunction

view-from-earth_neptune-solar-conjunction    Sunday February 28th the outer planet Neptune reaches a point in its orbit where it passes behind the Sun as we view this from Earth. Neptune, and the other outer planets, dwarf planets, or small solar system bodies, all eventually reach this position on the opposite side of the Sun known as solar 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.

Mars and Uranus at Odds


   Saturday February 27th Mars and Uranus will reached their respective orbital positions that have them 180o apart. Mars is located at approximately 200o and Uranus at approximately 20o of heliocentric longitude. This called heliocentric opposition.

   
   
   
   

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.

February Moon at Apogee

feb27-apogee-moon   Our Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), on Saturday February 27th. At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 31.78 Earth diameters (405,383 km or 251,893 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 19-day old waning gibbous Moon sets after sunrise local time and is close to the blue-white star Spica 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.

February Moon at Ascending Node

feb24ascending-node    On Wednesday February 24th the 16-day old waning gibbous Moon will be crossing the plane of the ecliptic moving north relative to the ecliptic. This is known as the ascending node, one of two intersections the Moon’s orbital path has with the ecliptic. The ecliptic is actually 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.
   The waning gibbous Moon rises around 9 pm local time.
   Does our Moon actually go around the Earth as many graphics show? 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?”

   
   
   
   
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 Aphelion

mercury at aphelion   Sunday February 21st the innermost planet Mercury reaches aphelion, its furthest distance from the Sun, 0.4667 AU, (69,817,326 km; 43,382,475 miles). Interestingly, I suppose, is that the next time Mercury reaches aphelion will be May 19th, 10 days after the Mercury transit of the Sun.

   All planets orbit the Sun with an orbital shape that is not circular but rather elliptical. How much away from being a circle is called eccentricity of an orbit. With 0 representing a circle and 1 a straight line Mercury, with an eccentricity of 0.2056, has the greatest eccentricity of the other 7 planets. The dwarf planet Pluto, for comparison, has an eccentricity of 0.2488.

   
   
   
   

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 Pisces

The view from Earth - 18 February.

The view from Earth – 19 February.

  According to the pseudoscience of astrology the Sun enters the constellation of Pisces the Fishes on Friday February 19th. In fact the actual position of the Sun is still within the boundary of the constellation of Aquarius the Water Bearer, as this graphic shows. The Sun had just entered Aquarius 2 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.

2 Nights – 2 Fly Overs

screenshots-ani   Periodically the ISS, International Space Station orbits the Earth over my part of the world, south of Kansas City Missouri (38.905oN : 94.355oW). The ISS orbits the Earth from west to east so whenever a flyover happens I set up my camera in order to catch the ISS as it rises above the horizon through as much of its passage as my camera field of view is able to capture. I typically use the camera with the lens at 18mm and once in a while, like this evening, I will use a 27mm fish-eye lens.
   Last evening the ISS rose up from the northwest horizon passing to the west of the stars making the zig-zag pattern of Cassiopeia the Queen. It reached its maximum magnitude of around -3 to -4 before quickly fading out nearly directly overhead.

click on picture to see it larger   Then this evening with a bright waxing gibbous Moon and a hazy sky from nearby brush fires (winds today were 30 mph or more, temperature hit 70o and humidity was very low), the ISS came up from the northwest past the chimney on my house to a little south of Polaris reaching around -2 in apparent magnitude. This was almost a 6-minute flyover and the ISS stayed bright nearly to the southeastern horizon. I lost sight of it in the trees.

   Read a little more about taking pictures of the ISS and Iridium Satellite Flares in a previous posting.

   
   
   
   

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 Aquarius

feb-view from earth   Wednesday 17 February the Sun in its apparent eastward motion along the ecliptic, moved out of the constellation Capricornus the Sea Goat and into the constellation of Aquarius the Water Bearer. 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, which will be Friday 19 February when the sun is not in Pisces according to astrology.

   
   
   
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.

Taurus Head Butts the Moon!

   Monday evening February 15th The just past first quarter Moon will be within a few degrees from the reddish star Aldebaran in Taurus the Bull. For parts of the world this will be an occultation of Aldebaran by the Moon with the occultation or closest approach at 8 UT on the 16th. From my location this is 2 am CST and by then Taurus and the Moon will have set.

   
   
   
   

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.