Venus Gets Buzzed!

   Tuesday morning August 1st the inner planet Venus will pass within 3o from the open star cluster, M-35. Also known as the ‘Beehive Cluster’ this is an open star cluster located near the feet of the Gemini Twins. M-35 consists of several hundred stars and is approximately 2800 light years from our solar system. The star cluster has an apparent magnitude of around 5.5 making it naked-eye visible and certainly a binocular-worthy object.

   Through binoculars it is easy to see M-35 as well as a 3rd and a 2nd magnitude star within a couple of degrees. However the ‘ruler’ of the binocular field of view is Venus with a -4.0 magnitude.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

Moon Passes Antares and Saturn

   Welcome to August!
   Over the next few days the Moon will wax from first quarter on Sunday July 30th into its waxing gibbous phases prior to reaching full Moon on August 7th. During this time, Tuesday August 1st to Thursday August 3rd, the Moon will first pass the reddish star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion then the next day pass the outer planet Saturn on the 2nd. The following day has the Moon about mid-way across the Milky Way as the picture shows, however given the Moon’s bright reflected light it would be nearly impossible to see the Milky Way.
                           Click on a graphic below to see it larger               

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

Mercury at Eastern Elongation

orbital-positions    On Sunday July 30th Mercury, the innermost planet, will reach its orbital position known as greatest eastern 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 – from superior conjunction, behind the Sun, out to the left (east) from the Sun to eastern elongation, then reverse and move westward through (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!
   By August 12th Mercury will have begun its retrograde motion moving westward. In about a month, on August 26th, Mercury will move into inferior conjunction, between the Earth and the Sun, and then continuing in retrograde until September 12th when it reaches its western elongation.


   Currently Mercury is very visible over the western horizon at sunset shining with an apparent magnitude of 0.50.

   
   
   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

Moon in Conjunction with Jupiter and Spica


   Friday July 28th the 6-day old waxing crescent Moon will be within 2-3o from the outer planet Jupiter, and about 8-9o from the bluish star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden. The Moon will be closest to Jupiter on the 28th and then closer to Spica on Friday the 29th.

   With a 7×50 binoculars the Moon and Jupiter will easily fit within the field of view on the 28th, however the gap between Jupiter and Spica on the 29th will be just beyond that same field of view – as this animated graphic set for 2 days, 28th-29th, shows the view with 7×50 binoculars .

   
   
   
   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

Mars, Phone Home!

mars-solar-conjunction-above   Thursday July 27th the planet Mars will be at solar conjunction, on the opposite side of the Sun from the Earth. Mars will reappear on the west side of the Sun as a morning planet next month and gradually will become more visible in the morning skies.
    So while Mars is out of sight for observers it is also out of ‘radio sight’ for all of the spacecraft at Mars – either on the surface or in orbit. Between July 22nd to August 1st mission controllers will stop sending messages to the spacecraft at Mars, however the orbiters will continue their science observations and collecting data. The rovers on Mars on the other hand will not rove until after the radio silence period, but will still be able to carry on with some investigations.

   Click here to read more about how NASA prepares for the radio silence.

   
   
   
   

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

July Moon at Ascending Node

   Tuesday July 25th the waxing crescent 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.

click on graphic to see it larger
   On July 25th the 2.5-day old waxing crescent Moon will be with the constellation Leo the Lion, and the Moon will be located about than 8o from the heart of the Lion, the star Regulus. Very close to Regulus i s the innermost planet Mercury. This should make for a great view with binoculars or through the eyepiece of a telescope.

   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?”

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

Sun Not In Leo


   According to the pseudoscience of astrology, Saturday July 22nd the sun will be entering the constellation of Leo the Lion. In fact the Sun is still within the boundaries of the constellation Cancer the Crab, having just entered that region two days ago.
   The difference between the two locations of the Sun, the correct astronomical vs. the incorrect astrological, is due to the effects of precession, or more specifically, the precession of the Earth’s axis. The Earth wobbles on its axis like a spinning top does as the top slows down. So, in approximately 26,000 years the Earth will have spun, or wobbled one time. This is a repetitive cycle and over the course of one precession cycle the poles of the Earth trace out a circle against the background stars over their respective pole. any star on or nearest to this precession circle is the pole star. Currently the north pole of the Earth points toward Polaris and within this century, due to precession, will point the closest it will be, and then over time the Earth’s north pole will shift away.
   Another effect of precession has been to cause the celestial grid system to shift moving the original signs of the zodiac by at least one constellation to the west. In other words the Sun is more to the east which in effect means that whatever your zodiacal sign may be according to astrology, you are really the constellation to the west, or before it according to Astronomy.
   Click here to read a little more about precession from a previous blog.
   The Science of Astronomy has its roots in astrology with the origins of astrology beginning several millennia ago possibly by the Babylonians. Regardless of its origins the basis for at least Sun astrology, the popularized version printed in newspapers, is the position of the Sun relative to stars in the background. However we now know that due to the effects of precession the Sun’s position is no longer as it was during the beginnings of astrology.
    The slideshow below shows the sun’s position within Cancer on July 22nd 2016 AD, and then shifts to show the sun in Leo 4,000 years ago on 22 July 2016 BC. Precession has shifted the sun’s position one constellation to the west.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to go to bobs-spaces.

July Moon at Perigee


Our Moon reaches perigee, (closest distance from Earth), for this orbit on Friday July 21rst. At that time the Moon will be at a distance of 28.32 Earth diameters (361,236 km or 224,461 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*


   On the day of the perigee Moon the 27-day old very thin waning crescent Moon is above the eastern horizon about 30 minutes to an hour before the Sun rises. The Dwarf Planet Ceres will not be visible but it is where the graphic indicates it to be.

   *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?”

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to go to bobs-spaces.

Uranus at 2017 Western Quadrature

orbital-positions   Friday July 21st the position of the planet Uranus, with respect to the Earth and the Sun, places this ringed planet at what is called western quadrature. At that orbital position Uranus, and actually any outer planet, is at a 90 degree angle from the Earth as this graphic shows, and the banner graphic at the top of the page shows. Think third quarter Moon as that is a fair comparison of the relative positions of Earth, Sun, and Uranus.

    At western quadrature Uranus leads the Sun across the sky from east to west as the Earth is rotating, meaning that Uranus rises before the Sun and also sets before the Sun.

   This is a short video clip from a much longer video that I made as part of a live musical performance called “Orbit” at the Gottleib Planetarium in Kansas City Missouri during May 2011.

Error
This video doesn’t exist

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to go to bobs-spaces.

Thin Waning Crescent Moon in Conjunction with Venus


   Thursday morning July 20th watch for the thin 26-day old waning crescent Moon to be within 2-3o from the inner planet Venus as both rise a couple of hours before sunrise. The reddish star Aldebaran in Taurus the Bull will be about 10o from the Moon.
   Venus and the Moon will fit nicely within the field of view of binoculars.

   
   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.