The Moon and the Sisters

   Sunday evening March 1st the 7.5-day old nearly first quarter Moon, but still a waxing crescent Moon, will be 7-8o from the open star cluster the Pleiades. A few degrees from the Pleiades is another open star cluster the Hyades.
   These two open star clusters are part of the constellation Taurus the Bull. The Hyades make up the face of the Bull, while the Pleiades are located on the Bull’s shoulder. The Pleiades are also known as the “Seven Sisters”.
   
   
   

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Moon – Venus Conjunction


   Thursday evening February 27th before sunset, look toward the southwestern horizon for the 4.5-day old waxing crescent Moon to be about 6-7o from the planet Venus.

   It may be possible to see 4th magnitude Nu Piscium as this graphic shows. However it may be more likely to be seen if using more magnification like with a telescope.

   
   
   

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February Moon at Apogee

   Our Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), for this orbit, on Wednesday February 26th. At that time the Moon will be at a distance of 31.85 Earth diameters 252,448 miles (406,276 km) from the Earth.

   On the day of the apogee Moon the 3.5-day old waxing crescent Moon rises around mid-morning and sets before midnight. At around sunset the Moon will over the southwestern horizon with Venus shining brightly about 7-8o east (above) the Moon.

   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)

   
   
   

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Mercury Reaches Inferior Conjunction

   Tuesday February 25th the innermost planet Mercury reaches inferior conjunction. At inferior conjunction Mercury will move between the Earth and the Sun – much like the position of the Moon at new phase. The graphic to the right shows the planet positions relative to the Earth and Sun for both inner planets and outer planets.

   At this inferior 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 inferior conjunction Mercury will be north of the ecliptic, by about 6.6o.

   
   
   

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Moon-Saturn Conjunction

   This morning not only had nice clear skies but this morning I am in Phoenix Arizona where it was warm enough to be outside for some picture taking. Had a great view from northwest of Phoenix and despite the light pollution I was able to count at least 17 stars spread across the skies!

   
   
   

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Moon – Saturn Conjunction, and ISS

   Thursday morning February 20th the 26-day old waning crescent Moon will be about 1-2o from the ringed planet Saturn. Both rise about 2 hours before sunrise local time, and both will easily fit within the field of view of binoculars.

   Adding to viewing the Moon-Saturn conjunction, and nearby Jupiter and Mars will be a fly-by of the International Space Station (ISS) between 6:22 am MST and 6:29 MST. Check viewing opportunities at the Heavens Above web site or NASA’s ISS Sightings web site.
   This star chart from the Heavens Above web site is set for the latitude and longitude of Phoenix Arizona.

   
   
   

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Sun Does Not Enter Pisces-2020


  According to the pseudoscience of astrology the Sun enters the constellation of Pisces the Fishes on Wednesday 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.

   
   
   

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February Moon at Descending Node


   Wednesday morning February 19th the waning crescent Moon crosses 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 date of the descending node the 26-day old thin waning crescent Moon will be about 1-2o to the west from the outer ringed planet Jupiter. Both rise within an hour of local time for sunrise.

   
   
   
   
   

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Sun Does Enter Aquarius-2020

feb-view from earth   Monday February 17th the Sun in its apparent eastward motion along the ecliptic, moves 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 Wednesday February 19th when the sun is not in Pisces according to astrology.

   
   
   

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Waning Crescent Moon: 1 Occultation – 2 Conjunctions

   Starting with earlier this morning (sorry, I forgot to post this yesterday) and continuing for the next several days the waning crescent Moon will be following an orbital path that more or less parallels the ecliptic. Since the 8 planets also orbit the Sun relatively close to the ecliptic there is always a chance for the Moon to pass closely by a planet or even occult, pass in front of, a planet.

   This is the situation as the Moon moves eastward this week as the graphics in the sequence below shows. Each of the conjunctions has the Moon passing very close to each of the planets with separations as close as the occultation of Mars on the 18th: Jupiter 1-2o on the 19th; Saturn about 1o on the 20th.

   However the highlight has to be the occultation of Mars. This will be visible as the two rise and will continue to be visible albeit for my time zone, CST, Mars will reappear on the west, right, side of the Moon shortly after sunrise making that part of the occultation more difficult to see. This animated graphic runs at 1-minute intervals from 5:22 am CST to 7:22 am CST.

   
   
   
   
   Follow the Moon along the ecliptic for the next 5 days. Think of the first graphic as a reminder of what it looked like earlier today! 😉

   
   
   

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