Mercury at Ascending Node


Friday April 1st the innermost planet Mercury crosses the plane of the ecliptic, Earth’s orbit, moving north in what is called the ascending node. The orbit of Mercury is inclined about 7o from the the ecliptic setting up both an ascending node as well as an descending node approximately one-half orbit later.
In one-half of an orbit from now Mercury will be at descending node which will coincide with Mercury at inferior conjunction. This will set up a transit of the Sun by Mercury on May 9th.

 

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.

NSTA @ Nashville


   I’m in Nashville Tennessee for the next several days at the NSTA national conference. Planets and stars will still be in the skies but not as easy to see from downtown Nashville as it is where I live. On the morning of April 1st the waning waning crescent Moon will be within a few degrees from Dwarf Planet Pluto. Too dim to be seen without a large telescope it is, nonetheless, a neat idea that when you look toward the Moon you are also looking in the direction of Pluto. It’s out there!
   And here is a sequence of graphics showing the pre-sunrise morning sky at 5:30 am EDT for each day during the conference, and one night view on April 1st showing Jupiter. Both Pluto and the Moon are located just above and to the left from the handle of the teapot asterism for Sagittarius the Archer.

   
   
   

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, Saturn, Mars, and the Scorpion.

click on graphic to see it larger

   Tuesday morning March 29th as Scorpius the Scorpion rises it will be accompanied by the 20-day old waning gibbous which Moon will be near the planet Saturn.
   Compare the reddish-orange hue of Mars with that of Antares. Easy to see why Antares means “equal to Mars”.

   
   
   
   

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, Mars, Saturn, and the Scorpion

   Monday morning March 28th as Scorpius the Scorpion rises it will be accompanied by the 19-day old waning gibbous which Moon will be near the planet Mars.
   Compare the reddish-orange hue of Mars with that of Antares. Easy to see why Antares means “equal to Mars”.

   
   
   
   

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.

ISS This Morning

Screenshot_2016-03-25-06-42-20   This morning, despite the cold temperature there were exceptionally clear skies and so I had a great view of the International Space Station as it passed nearly directly overhead. It always amazes me how quickly the space station moves. In 10 minutes it traveled from over the North Pacific Ocean near the Aleutian Islands to my location in Missouri. Then about 40 minutes after passing over Missouri the ISS is south of Africa.
   As the ISS approached my location it rose up from the northwest horizon passing the bowl of the Big Dipper. Then as it set toward the southeast the ISS went right down one side of the Summer Triangle asterism passing the stars Vega in Lyra the Harp and Altair in Aquila the Eagle.
   The screen captures are from an App, ISS Onlive, on my cellphone. This App (Android and Apple) shows the current orbit of the ISS and also has options to show a look-down view of the Earth as the ISS orbits.
   The two pictures are a set of stacked pictures all taken with the same camera settings: 18mm; ISO 1600; F4.5; 4 sec.

   
   
   
   

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.

March Apogee Moon

25mar-apogee-moon   Our Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), on Friday March 25th. At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 31.84 Earth diameters (406,125 km or 252,354 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 17-day old waning gibbous Moon rises 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.

Follow the Arc to the Moon

   Thursday evening March 24th the 16-day old waning gibbous Moon rises about an hour after local time for sunset. About 3o from the Moon is the blue-white star Spica in the left hand of Virgo the Harvest Maiden.

   This is also the time of year when some would look at the sky and say, “Follow the arc to Arcturus and then speed to Spica.” This sort of silly sounding phrase links the curved handle, the arc, of the Big Dipper with the reddish star Arcturus in Bootes the Herdsman, and the blue-white star Spica. The Moon, at times, is part of the lineup as it is this 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.

Mercury at Superior Conjunction

mercury at superior conjunction   Wednesday March 23rd 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.

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

penumbral-eclipse-ani
   At 9:39 UT (4:39 am CDT) Wednesday March 23rd the full Moon will start passing through the Earth’s shadow setting up the condition for a lunar eclipse. Approximately 24 hours previously the Moon was at its ascending node but since the time for full Moon was about 24 hours after the node crossing the Moon will only pass through the Earth’s fainter outer shadow, the penumbra.
   A penumbral eclipse is not nearly as easily seen nor as spectacular as a partial or total lunar eclipse when the Moon passes through the darker inner shadow – the umbra. The fainter outer shadow, the penumbra, barely darkens the appearance of the full Moon.
   That’s Jupiter just to the left from the Moon.
   Learn more about this eclipse from the Hermit Eclipse web site.

   
   
   

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.

March Moon at Ascending Node

feb24ascending-node    On Tuesday March 22nd the 13-day old, and nearly full, waxing 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 waxing gibbous Moon rises around 6 pm local time, and is over the western horizon as the Sun is rising.
   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.