Moon – Venus Conjunction

   Thursday morning January 31st, at sunrise, the 26-day old waning crescent Moon will be within 2-3o from the planet Venus.

   
   
   

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Moon – Jupiter Conjunction

   Wednesday morning January 30th, at sunrise, the 25-day old waning crescent Moon will be within 2-3o from the planet Jupiter. Venus is a few more degrees further east and the Moon will be in conjunction with Venus on the 31st.

   
   
   

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Mercury at Superior Conjunction

orbital-positions   Wednesday January 30th the innermost planet Mercury reaches superior conjunction. At superior conjunction Mercury will be on the opposite side of the Sun. The graphic to the right shows the planet positions relative to the Earth and Sun for both inner planets and outer planets.

   While at this superior conjunction Mercury will not be directly in line with the Earth and the Sun – on the ecliptic. Mercury has an orbital inclination of 7o with respect to the ecliptic. So like our Moon, Mercury during each complete orbit, will cross the plane of the ecliptic moving north (ascending node) and also moving south (descending node). For this superior conjunction Mercury will be south of the ecliptic and will reach its furthest position south of the ecliptic on February 1st.
   

   
   
   

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Moon Passes Spica

   Shortly after midnight local time on January 26th-27th the 20-21 day old waning gibbous Moon will pass within 10-11o from the blue-white star Spica. This star marks a bundle of wheat in the left hand of Virgo the Harvest Maiden.

   
   
   

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Venus – Jupiter Conjunction

   Wednesday morning January 23rd the inner planet Venus and an outer planet, Jupiter, will be rising together a couple of hours before the Sun rises. The two planets will be about 2-3o from each other and will easily fit within the field of view of binoculars. The two planets have been moving toward this conjunction and as the days pass Venus will continue moving east and away from Jupiter.

   
   
   

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Moon – Regulus Conjunction

   Tuesday evening January 22rd the 17-day old waning gibbous Moon will be about 2o from the heart of the ‘Lion’, the star Regulus in the constellation Leo the Lion. Regulus marks the bottom of the backward question mark shape of the head and chest of the Lion.

    Both the Moon and Regulus will easily fit 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.


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January Moon at Perigee

click on graphic to see it larger   Our Moon reaches perigee, (closest distance to Earth), for this orbit, on Monday January 21st. At that time the Moon will be at a distance of 28.015 Earth diameters 357,345 km (222,044 miles) from the Earth.

   The 16-day old Waning gibbous Moon rises shortly after sunset local time is visible all night. Over the southwestern horizon, as the Moon is rising,is the planet Mars which sets around midnight.

   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?”

   
   
   

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.


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Sun Enters Capricornus – Not Aquarius

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 Sunday January 20th at 2 UT the Sun in its apparent eastward motion along the ecliptic enters the boundaries of the constellation Capricornus the Sea Goat. This is the actual location of the Sun.
   Interestingly, according to the pseudoscience of astrology, 7 hours later, at 9 UT Sunday January 20th, the Sun should be entering the constellation of Aquarius the Water Bearer.

   
   
   
   
   

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.

January Full Moon at Ascending Node, Almost at Perigee, and a Total Lunar Eclipse

   Sunday January 20th the full 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.

Total Lunar Eclipse   On the day of the node crossing the full Moon also be passing through the Earth’s shadow giving us a Total Lunar Eclipse that will be visible across the continental U.S.A.

   Within less than 15 hours the Moon will also be at perigee, is closest to the Earth for this orbit. This full Moon will be the second closest perigee Moon this year, with the perigee Moon of February as the closest and the ‘Super Moon’ for the year.

   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.


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Venus and Jupiter in Motion

   If the morning skies are clear and the temperature is tolerable go out before sunrise local time and look toward the east. The two brightest stellar objects are the planets Venus (brightest) and Jupiter. A few degrees from Jupiter is the reddish star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion. Dwarf Planet Ceres is also in this part of the sky but it is too dim to be seen with the unaided eye. As the graphic shows this is also near the Milky Way but seeing that would require much darker skies than many of us live under.

   Both planets are in motion as they orbit the Sun following their respective orbital path. As an inner planet and much closer to the Sun Venus moves more quickly than Jupiter so as days pass Venus will noticeable move more so than Jupiter. Venus was at its western elongation last month and now Venus is in the part of its orbit where it is moving eastward toward the Sun. As Venus moves in that direction Venus will catch up to and then pass Jupiter, coming the closest on January 23rd.
   The animated graphic is set for 1-day intervals from January 15th to January 31st.
   For comparison Venus moves 1.6o each day while Jupiter moves 0.083o each day. The Earth is also in motion and moves about 1.0o each day. So as the Earth moves the sky appears to move toward the west and as this happens Saturn comes into view toward the end of January. The waning crescent Moon shows up also at the end of the month.

   
   
   

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.


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