Waxing Crescent Moon Near Spica

   Wednesday evening August 15th the 4.5-day old waxing crescent Moon will be about 7o from the blue-white star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden.
   In addition to the Moon are five planets spread out from west to east – Dwarf Planet Ceres, and the planets Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars.

   
   
   

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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A Sky Full of Planets

   Friday August 3rd all of the planets, except for Mercury, and some of the Dwarf Planets will be over the horizon during the hours before sunrise and the hours before sunset. The dwarf planets Pluto (14.2), Haumea (17.2), Makemake (16.7), and Eris(18.5) with low apparent magnitudes are too distant to be visible other than with larger aperture telescopes. However Dwarf Planet Ceres, at 8th magnitude could be visible with smaller telescopes and certainly with long exposure time imaging.

   
   
   

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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Planet-A-Palooza plus the Moon

   This is one of those ‘best of times’ with regard to planet viewing. All of the visible planets are above the horizon although Mercury sets just before Mars rises. Times like this make it easy to visualize the ecliptic and its relationship with the planets. And our Moon, as it waxes toward full phase over the next several days, will pass by several planets and dwarf planets.

Click on a graphic to start a slide 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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Pluto at 2018 Opposition

orbital-positions   Thursday July 12th the Dwarf Planet Pluto will be at opposition. All outer planets and other solar system objects that orbit the Sun beyond the orbit of the Earth have opposition. At that orbital position the Earth is between the Sun and the outer solar system object, much like the Sun-Earth-Moon arrangement for a full Moon. At opposition the outer solar system object rises at the local time for sunset and sets at the local time for sunrise – again just like the full Moon.

   Where is Pluto and is Pluto visible to the naked eye? Pluto currently is a few degrees east from the handle of the teapot-shaped asterism for Sagittarius the Archer, and mid-way between Mars and Saturn. Pluto is visible, but with an apparent magnitude of 14.8 Pluto would only be visible with large aperture telescopes and with time-exposure pictures.

Click here to learn more about the New Horizons mission and take part in the mission with some of the interactives created by NASA.

   
   
   
   

Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

A Planetary Line-Up, Plus the Moon

   For the next week or so the evening skies will be filled with planets and dwarf planets. With the right timing and a relatively flat horizon you might be able to see Venus just before it sets and Mars just after it rises. A caveat to this is that as each day passes Mars will rise earlier while Venus, each day, will be setting earlier. And with the exception of Ceres the dwarf planets are too dim to be seen with the naked eye.

   As this graphic shows, the planets are closer to the ecliptic than the dwarf planets due to differences in the respective inclinations. Inclination: Every object orbiting the Sun has an orbital path that is tilted or inclined from the Earth’s orbit – the ecliptic.

   The waxing gibbous Moon is roughly mid-way between the red star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion and the planet 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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Ceres is at Perihelion

   Friday April 28th Saturday April 28th the closest Dwarf Planet to the Earth, Ceres, reaches perihelion, it’s closest to the Sun this orbit. At perihelion Ceres will be within the boundaries of the constellation Cancer the Crab, and will be approximately 2.56 AU (382,970,549 km; 237,966,866 miles) from the Sun, and 2.33 AU (348,563,038 km; 216,587,031 miles) from the Earth, and ‘shining’ with an apparent magnitude of around 7.50.

    Further east from the location of Ceres is the nearly full Moon about 7-8o from the blue-white star Spica in the constellation Virgo the Harvest Maiden. And rising a little will be the planet Jupiter, and still later Saturn and Mars.


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.

Mars in Conjunction with Pluto

   Thursday morning before sunrise local time the ‘red planet’ Mars will be about 1-2o from the dwarf planet Pluto. Given the difference in distance and magnitude (Mars -0.26; Pluto 14.29) Mars is easy to see with the unaided eye, while Pluto would require a large telescope or a long time exposure to see.

   
   
   

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.