Moon Cruises Past Planets and Stars

feb5-bino
   Over the next several evenings the Moon, as it orbits toward the east and waxes from crescent to first quarter phase will pass by several planets, dwarf planets, and star clusters. On the evening of February 5th the Moon will be close to the reddish star Aldebaran, the ‘eye’ in the face of the angry bull, Taurus. This should make for a nice view with binoculars or low power eyepiece when the Moon will sort of overlay the stars of the open star cluster the Hyades.

   These two animated graphics show the sky as viewed from Quito Ecuador at 0o latitude, and my home latitude of approximately 40o North. They show the sky at one day intervals starting with February 1st and ending with February 5th.


   
   
   

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.

Mercury Near Pluto

(posting this ahead of time – on the road back to Quito and no Internet for a couple of days)

   Sunday morning January 29th the innermost planet Mercury will be about 1o from the the former outermost planet and now a Dwarf Planet, Pluto. Mercury with an apparent magnitude of -0.18 far outshines the 14.19 apparent magnitude of Pluto.
These two graphics show the sky as viewed from Quito Ecuador at 0o latitude, and my home latitude of approximately 40o North.

   
   
   

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.

Pluto Ducks Behind the Sun

7jan
   Saturday January 7th the Dwarf Planet Pluto reaches a point in its orbit where it is on the opposite side of the Sun as viewed from Earth. This is known as solar conjunction.

   
   
   

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 and Neptune Conjunction, inlcuding the Moon and Venus


   A previous post described the daily motion of Mars as it moves toward the planet Neptune. Well Monday evening January 2nd the planets Mars and Neptune, and our Moon (a 5-day old waxing crescent Moon) will all fit within the field of view of binoculars with Mars and Neptune separated by about 1.5o.

   In that post I had also mentioned that were Neptune observed from the surface of Mars then Neptune would be starting its retrograde motion. Actually I was not entirely correct as I was basing this on how the two planets looked from Earth rather than Neptune as seen from Mars. Compare the distance between the Earth and Mars and the difference between the orbital speed of the two planets. Then consider Mars and Neptune where there is a greater difference between the orbital speeds of Mars and Neptune as well as the distance between the Mars and Neptune then there is between the Earth and Mars.

   What this means is that Neptune, as viewed from Mars, will not actually begin to retrograde until around the middle of June.

   
   
   

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.

A Planet Buffet

   Friday night December 9th offers up a planet buffet featuring eight planets above the horizon and one under your feet. As this graphic shows one of the outermost of the 8 planets, Uranus, is above the eastern horizon as are two Dwarf Planets, Ceres and Eris, and the waxing gibbous Moon. Further west over the southern horizon is the outermost of the 8 planets, Neptune, and over the southwest horizon are Mars, Venus, Pluto, and Mercury. And under your feet? Look down to see the Earth – can’t miss it!
   Ceres is the closest Dwarf Planet to us as it is within the main asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars. The other Dwarf Planet is Eris which at 96 AU is located much further than Ceres (2.2 AU) and Uranus (19.4 AU) and Neptune (30 AU).

   
   
   

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.

Ceres at Opposition

   Friday October 21st Dwarf Planet Ceres reaches opposition. This places the Earth in between Ceres and the Sun, much like the arrangement of the Sun, Earth, and Moon during full Moon phase. When at opposition an outer planet is visible for most if not all of the night hours as it rises around sunset and then sets around sunrise.


   Ceres, at 7th magnitude, is currently within the boundaries of the constellation Cetus the Sea Monster. Ceres is bright enough to see with binoculars, and is less than 5 o from the long period variable star Mira, or aka “Mira the Wonderful”.

   Learn more about Dwarf Planet Ceres by visiting the NASA Dawn mission web site where we have the Dawn spacecraft orbiting Ceres.
   
   
   
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.

Our Moon Near Dwarf Planet Pluto


   Wednesday morning May 25th the 18.5-day old waning gibbous Moon will be about 3o from Dwarf Planet Pluto. Given that the Moon has an apparent magnitude of -18.5 not much else will be visible in the surrounding area of the sky, despite what my graphic shows.

   However a 2nd magnitude star, Albaldah (in Sagittarius), is about 0.5o from Pluto. If you can see that star then you are in effect looking at Pluto also, as this simulated 25mm eyepiece view is showing.

   
   
   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.