Venus and the Pleiades – Miss it?

   Last night, April 3rd the inner planet Venus was in the middle of a 3-day cruise across the members of the open star cluster the Pleiades. This is a not so often occurring celestial event that requires a bit of coordination between the orbit of Venus and the location of the Pleiades. Every year Venus will be near the Pleiades but it is only every 8 years around the beginning of April that Venus will pass across the Pleiades as it is doing this year.
   Has your local weather has been like mine these past few days with overcast skies. Then last night “adding insult to injury”, we had sleet and ice ensuring that any view of the Venus and Pleiades would be limited to pictures on Twitter! This was the only picture I was able to get on April 1st as clouds were moving in.
   So if you did indeed miss it there is always a next time – 8 years from now on, April 3rd, 2028 you will have another opportunity as the graphics below show.


   
   
   

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The Moon and the Lion

   Saturday April 4th the 11.5-day old waxing gibbous Moon will be high above the southern horizon at sunset local time and the Moon will be about 4-5o from the heart of Leo the Lion, the star Regulus.

   If your skies are clear look toward the west for Venus to be very close, on the east side, of the open star cluster the Pleiades. Both will easily fit within the field of view of binoculars or a telescope with a low-magnification eyepiece.

   
   
   

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 the Sisters

   This week will be one of those weeks of planet viewing that will be remembered. The early morning skies have 4 of the visible planets arranged along the ecliptic over the eastern to southern horizon. In the evening skies there is the inner planet Venus moving eastward away from the Sun and rapidly, at least in terms of orbital speed, toward the open star cluster the Pleiades. This is a group of several hundred stars bound together by their respective gravitational attraction, and is located on the shoulder of Taurus the Bull.
   Venus, as a planet closer to the Sun than the Earth, will move more each day than the apparent speed of the Sun, which is based on the Earth’s orbital speed of about 0.98o each day. Venus being closer to the Sun will move approximately 1.6o each day.
   So over the course of 2-3 days the planet Venus will move across the stars of the Pleiades as this animated graphic is showing. It is set for 1-day intervals from April 2nd to the 5th. As Venus moves across the stars it will make for a great view either through binoculars or telescope.


   
   
   

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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Planets on the Move

   Sometimes there are opportunities to observe the visible planets as they move along their respective orbital paths. Right now is one of those times when there are visible planets in both the evening and morning skies. And they are arranged such that you are able to see, not directly, but over a day at a time you are able to observe how planets closer to the Earth or Sun move relative to planets further away.
   The inner planet Venus, by itself in the evening skies, will pass across the stars of the Pleiades as this animated graphic shows. It is set at 1-day intervals and goes from April 2nd-5th.
   In the morning skies you will find three planets, Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter close together over the southeastern horizon before the Sun rises. Keep an eye on Mars as it moves past the slower moving Saturn.
   Shortly before sunrise the innermost planet, Mercury, rises and will also be visible as this graphic set for March 31st shows.


   
   
   

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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Earth Hour – Moon and Planets

   Last night, Saturday March 28th was Earth Hour and during that time period I was outside waiting patiently (sort of), and hoping, for the clouds moving in from the west to clear enough for taking pictures of the waxing crescent Moon and the inner planet Venus. Had some success with those two but clouds completely obscured the sky making getting any pictures that included the Pleiades not possible.
   Plans were made for checking the sky conditions the following morning for pictures of Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter. That worked out okay with some good seeing from my backyard as the pictures below show.


   
   
   

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/Pleiades/Asteroid Vesta Conjunction

   It is Earth Hour on Saturday evening March 28th. So while you have the lights off step outside, if possible and weather permitting, and look toward the western horizon for the 4.5-day old waxing crescent Moon to be near the inner planet Venus (about 7o) and about 2-3o from Asteroid Vesta over the western horizon at sunset local time. With binoculars you can almost fit the Moon, Pleiades, and Venus within the field of view.

   Keep an eye on this area because over the next week or so Venus will move across and then past the open star cluster, the Pleiades. This animated graphic is set to 1-day intervals from April 2nd to April 5th.
   The Moon is also in motion as it continues its eastward motion across the sky but the dates for the graphic the Moon has moved past this area.

   
   
   

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 Apogee

   Our Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), for this orbit, on Tuesday March 24th. At that time the new Moon will be at a distance of 31.88 Earth diameters 252,712 miles (406,700 km) from the Earth.

   This is the greatest apogee distance, and smallest appearing (if you could see it) for our Moon this year. In other words this new Moon is a ‘Super-Mini Moon’!

   On the day of the apogee Moon the Moon is at new Moon phase so it rises with the Sun and sets with the Sun. Start watching for the waxing crescent Moon in the evening skies at sunset in a day or so.

   However there are four of the six naked-eye visible planets over the east-southeastern horizon before the Sun and new Moon rise.

   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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