Planetary Line-Up Ecliptic Style

   Look at the arrangement of the planets in the graphics below. One of the defining aspects of our solar system is the arrangement of the planets outward from the Sun. Not by size or distance but rather how their respective orbital paths around the Sun are all vertically arranged near the Earth’s orbital path, or as it is typically referred to as the Ecliptic or the Plane of the Ecliptic. The 8 classic planets all orbit the Sun with an orbital path that is up to about 8o from the ecliptic. This is called inclination. The table shows inclination relative the Earth’s orbit and also relative to the Sun’s center, its equator.
    Click on this link to read a previous posting (Tales Along the Ecliptic) about the ecliptic and inclination.
   During this week as the Moon moves eastward it will pass by the outer ringed planet Neptune Tuesday and Wednesday evenings September 1st and 2nd as the graphics show. However given the tremendous difference in apparent magnitude between the two (full Moon: -12.64 ; Neptune: 7.81) Neptune will not be visible, at least not while the Moon in nearby.

   Keep following the Moon as it orbits eastward toward the planet Mars when on September 5th Mars and the waning gibbous Moon will be less than 1o apart.
   
   
   

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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Moon – Jupiter/Saturn Conjunctions

   Friday and Saturday evening August 28th and 29th the 9 to 10-day old waxing gibbous Moon will be passing by the outer planets Jupiter and Saturn. On Friday evening the Moon will be about 1-2o from Jupiter and by the same time Saturday evening the Moon will be about 6-7o from Saturn. On either of the evenings the Moon and a planet will 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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the Moon and the Scorpion

   Tuesday evening August 25th watch for the 7-day old first quarter Moon to be about 5o from the reddish star Antares. This star, sometimes known as ‘the rival of Mars’ because the color of the planet and Antares are strikingly similar. This is most notable during the years when Mars passes by Antares and the two are together in the sky.
    From mythology Antares is the ‘heart’ of Scorpius the Scorpion. In reality Antares is a red supergiant star that is the 15th brightest night time star. As the brightest star in the constellation of Scorpius Antares is the alpha star or α Scorpii (alpha scorpii).
   Antares is so big in size that it dwarfs many other stars, yet there stars bigger than Antares!

   
   
   

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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Moon on the Move

   Over the course of the next week or so the Moon will be moving eastward across the evening skies as it waxes from crescent toward full Phase on September 1st. This series of graphics shows the sky at 9:00 pm CDT daily until August 30th. Use the graphics as a guide to locating some of the stars near the path the Moon follows, as well as the evenings when the Moon is in conjunction with Jupiter, then Saturn.

   
   
   

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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Sun Is Not In Virgo

   According to the pseudoscience of astrology the Sun enters the constellation of Virgo the Harvest Maiden on Saturday August 22nd. When in fact the actual position of the Sun on this date is toward the west and still within the boundaries of the constellation of Leo the Lion.

   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.
   
   
   

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.

Virgo Grabs for a Croissant – or is it Crescent?

   Saturday August 22nd the 4-day old waxing crescent Moon will be about 4-5o from the bluish-white star Spica in the constellation Virgo the Harvest Maiden. Spica, from mythology, is described as the bundle of grasses (wheat, oats ?) in her hand – which is appropriate for something representing agriculture.
   Rising in the east is a pair of outer planets, Jupiter and Saturn.

   
   
   

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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August Moon at Perigee

   Our Moon reaches perigee, (closest to Earth), for this orbit, on Friday August 21st. At that time the Moon will be at a distance of 28.50 Earth diameters, 225,868 miles (363,500 km) from the Earth.

   On the day of the perigee Moon the 3-day old waxing crescent Moon will be over the western horizon setting about 3 hours after the Sun sets. Rising over the eastern horizon are two of the giant outer planets, Jupiter and Saturn.

   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)

   
   
   
   
   
   

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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Following the Arrows

   A few years ago one of my “Scope on the Skies” columns was about the Juno mission to Jupiter, but the focus was more or less about how the Juno spacecraft used solar power as far away as Jupiter, the Planetary Society and their Light Sail project, and a SciFi story by Isaac Asimov. However for me the most interesting part writing the column was learning about large concrete arrows scattered around our country. These turned out to be directional arrows used by pilots in the days of daytime flying and no radar for travel guidance. Arrows later had Beacons with lights, then radio signals were added. Eventually these were replaced with more advanced radios and radar.

   So we loaded the truck, gassed up, and drove from Lee’s Summit, MO southwest across Kansas to near the city of Haysville, KS to find the arrow near there. It was located along a dirt county road and nearly buried in grass and bushes. However the arrow was intact but whatever color it was painted had faded away.
      (37°32’04.7″N 97°25’11.9″W)

   Then we drove further south to near the Oklahoma, Kansas state line to the city of Anthony, KS. A couple of miles west from the city is the Anthony Airport and just off the road near the end of the runway is an Arrow and a Beacon.
      (37°09’06.8″N 98°04’37.0″W)

   Click here to download the ‘Scope’ column about the Arrows.

   
   
   
   
   
   

   
   
   

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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Mercury at Superior Conjunction

   Monday August 17th 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 is 6.96o North and is about as far north of the ecliptic as it can get.

   Speaking about inner planets here is the other inner planet, Venus, and the 27-day old waning crescent Moon this morning.

   
   
   

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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Moon – Venus Morning Conjunction

   This morning despite clouds and thunderstorms moving through the area there were enough breaks in the clouds that allowed for getting a few pictures of the waning crescent Moon and Venus.

   Following the conjunction with Venus this morning watch tomorrow, Sunday morning August 16th, for the 27-day old waning crescent Moon to have moved further east away from Venus. The Moon will be about 6-7o from the ‘Twin’ star Pollux and a few degrees further from the other ‘Twin’ star Castor.

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

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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