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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Let the Triangle Point the Way

   In the morning skies, before sunrise local time, look toward the southeastern horizon for Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn to be arranged along the ecliptic in a grouping that starting with today will fit within the field of view of binoculars. If your skies are dark enough you may notice 3 bright stars arranged in a large triangle above the three planets. The stars, Vega, Deneb, and Altair, each from a different constellation, form the asterism known as the Summer Triangle.
   Over the next several days, into next month, Mars will steadily close in on Saturn for a nice close conjunction of about 1o on Tuesday March 31st.
   Further east, and lower, is the Dwarf Planet Ceres, and the innermost planet Mercury.

   And don’t forget – in the evening skies for the next several days the planet Venus will be closing in on the open star cluster, the Pleiades. This animated graphic is set for 1-day intervals from April 2nd-5th.
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
The morning planets

   
   
   

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 – Mercury Conjunction

   Saturday morning March 21st the thin 27-day old waning crescent Moon will be about 7o from the innermost planet Mercury as the two rise about an hour before the Sun rises. Should make for a great view in the field of view of binoculars.
   Still adding to the morning planet viewing are the outer planets Saturn, and the close conjunctions between Mars and Jupiter.

   
   
   

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

   Monday March 16th the last quarter 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 22-day old last quarter Moon will be about mid-way across the Milky Way, although with the brightness of the Moon the glow of the Milky Way will not be visible.

   This part of the Milky Way has many beautiful deep sky objects like the two diffuse nebula, M-20 and M-8, currently within a 7×50 binocular field of view including the Moon. But unfortunately not visible until the Moon with its reflected light moves further east.

   
   
   
   
   

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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Have Some ‘Pie’ – View Some Planets

   Saturday March 14th, 3/14/2020, is perhaps better known as Pi Day given that 3.14, the value for Pi, is also the month and day number. Learn more about Pi and see what NASA has planned for this special day at the NASA Pi Day Challenge web site.
   Saturday the 14th, weather depending, is another day this year when you have a choice of planet viewing – all of the six visible planets in fact. In the early morning skies look east and southeast for a line-up of planets ranging from Mercury, to Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, and the 19-day old waning gibbous Moon. In the evening after sunset Venus shines brightly over the western horizon. Venus is near the outer ringed planet Uranus, but Uranus is not considered a naked-eye visible planet in most skies.
   Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are all visible, but that’s only five visible planets. So where is the sixth visible planet?

   
   
   

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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Mars on the Move

   Over the next several days, actually the rest of the month, watch for the planet Mars to move past Jupiter, March 20th, and Saturn on the 31st, as this animated graphic is showing. It is set to 1-day intervals starting on March 12th and ending on April 1st.

   Also watch for the waning crescent Moon to move past the three planets. On the 18th the waning crescent Moon will be near all three of the planets.


   
   
   

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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