Moon Conjunction with Uranus

   Saturday evening March 9th the thin 3-day old waxing crescent Moon will be about 6-7o from the outer planet Uranus. Both will be above the western horizon at sunset local time, setting about 2 hours after the Sun sets.
   Is it possible to see Uranus? Currently the apparent magnitude of Uranus is within the range that is visible to the unaided eye in very dark skies, or at least with binoculars. However even at a thin crescent shape the nearby Moon may brighten the sky too much to allow for seeing Uranus. There is a noticeable difference in the apparent brightness of the crescent Moon and Uranus. The Moon has a -10.0 apparent magnitude compared to Uranus with a 5.87 apparent magnitude.
   Despite the moonlight Uranus is visible as a faint star through binoculars at its current apparent magnitude and using the Moon as a guide it may be possible to spot Uranus. You may just have to wait until the Moon rises well after sunset leaving the sky relatively darker.

   
   
   

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March Moon at Apogee

   Our Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), on Monday March 4th. At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 31.86 Earth diameters 252,520 miles (406,391 km) from the Earth.

   Does our Moon actually go around the Earth? 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 apogee the 27.5-day old very thin waning crescent Moon will be over the southeastern horizon 30-60 minutes before sunrise local time.

*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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March Moon at Descending Node

   Saturday March 2nd the Moon will be crossing 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 day of the node crossing the 26-day old waning crescent Moon will be over the southeast horizon rising about 1-2 hours before the Sun rises. Toward the west from the Moon will be two outer planets, Saturn and Jupiter, and a bit further west the dwarf planet Ceres. About 4-5o east from the Moon is the inner planet Venus. Both will easily fit within the field of view of 7×50 binoculars.
   
   
   
   
   

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Waning Crescent Moon in a Close Conjunction with Saturn

    Friday March 1st the 25-day old waning crescent Moon will be less than 0.5o from the ringed planet Saturn, as the two rise before the Sun rises. In other parts of the world the Moon actually passes in front of Saturn in an occultation. Regardless of the viewing location the thin waning crescent Moon and the planet Saturn should make for a great view with 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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Moon Conjunction with Dwarf Planet Ceres, then the Next Day with Jupiter

   In the hour or so before the Sun rises on the morning of February 26th look for the 21-day old last quarter Moon to be about 3-4o from the Dwarf Planet Ceres. Realize, however, that seeing Ceres is not really possible given that Ceres has an apparent magnitude of between 7th to 8th, while the last Quarter Moon has an apparent magnitude between -11th to -12th.
   In any case, on the morning of the 27th look for the 22-day old waning crescent Moon to be about 1-2o from the outer planet Jupiter.


   
   
   

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Mars – Jupiter at Heliocentric Opposition

31oct-view-from-mars   Saturday February 23rd the planets Mars and Jupiter are aligned in an arrangement known as heliocentric opposition. The two planets are on opposite sides of the Sun and are approximately 180o apart in heliocentric longitude as measured around the celestial equator. Mars has a heliocentric longitude of approximately 71.0o, while Jupiter is at 251.0o.
   
   
   

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Moon – Spica Conjunction

   Friday February 22nd the 18-day old waning gibbous Moon will be about 6-7 o from the blue-white star Spica in the constellation of Virgo the Harvest Maiden. Both easily fit within the field of view of binoculars. Both the Moon and Spica rise a few hours before midnight local time and set a couple of hours after sunrise local time.

   
   
   

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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