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.
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.
Thursday morning January 3rd the 27.25-day old thin waning crescent Moon will be within 3-4o from the outer planet Jupiter. The two will easily within the field of view of binoculars. Jupiter is about 5-6o from the heart of Scorpius the Scorpion, the reddish star Antares.
Tuesday morning January 1st the thin 25-day old waning crescent Moon (apparent magnitude -10.96) will be within 3-4o from the inner planet Venus (apparent magnitude -4.47) and 1-2o from the Dwarf Planet Ceres (apparent magnitude 8.0). All three will fit within the field of view of 7×50 binoculars.
Sunday morning December 30th the 23-day old waning crescent Moon (apparent magnitude -11.76) will be 5-6o from the blue-white star Spica in the constellation of Virgo the Harvest Maiden. Both the Moon and Spica (apparent magnitude 0.96) will fit within the field of view of 7×50 binoculars.
Rising about an hour after the Moon and Spica is another pair of celestial objects, the hard to miss Venus (apparent magnitude -4.48) is within 2-3o from the Dwarf Planet Ceres (apparent magnitude 8.0). Both of these will easily fit within the field of view of 7×50 binoculars.
Wait about an hour, depending on your eastern horizon, and the planet Jupiter (apparent magnitude -1.8) will be about 5-6o from the reddish star Antares (apparent magnitude 1.0) in the constellation of Scorpius the Scorpion. And they will be high enough above the horizon to be more visible. Both Jupiter and Antares will fit within the field of view of binoculars.
Wednesday morning December 5th the very thin 28-day old waning crescent Moon will be within 4-5o from the innermost planet Mercury. Venus shines very brightly above or west from the Moon. About an hour after the Moon and Mercury have risen the outer planet Jupiter will rise above the eastern horizon.
Our Moon reaches perigee, (closest distance to Earth), for this orbit on Monday November 26th. At that time the Moon will be at a distance of 28.74 Earth diameters 227,809 miles (366,623 km) from the Earth.
The 18-day old Waning gibbous rises after sunset and is visible all night between the Gemini Twin stars and the bright star Capella in Canis Minor. Off to the east is the inner planet Venus shining brightly with an apparent magnitude of -4.6, and within about 4o from the blue-white star Spica (0.9 apparent magnitude) in Virgo the Harvest Maiden. About 10o east from Venus is the closest Dwarf Planet, Ceres. With an apparent magnitude of 8.0 Ceres is not visible to the unaided eye.
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?”