June Qué tal in the Current Skies Now Available

   This month, June, planet viewing is best in the early morning hours before sunrise. With the exception of Mercury all of the visible planets are in the morning skies. Mercury moves out east from the Sun this month reaching its greatest eastern elongation and then rather quickly moves westward back to the Sun and inferior conjunction on July 1st.
   This month there will be a pair of eclipses staring with a Penumbral Lunar Eclipse on the 5th. As penumbral eclipses go this one will be barely visible as it occurs over parts of southern Europe, Africa, south Asia, and Australia. On the 21st the new Moon will pass across the Sun setting up an annular solar eclipse that will occur over parts of north Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
   And on the 20th the Sun crosses the ecliptic moving north starting Northern Hemisphere summer and southern Hemisphere Winter.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal web site.
   

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Moon on the Move

   Over the next several days the Moon, as it waxes toward first quarter, will be moving toward the east and as it does the Moon will pass by several of the brighter stars along the Moon’s orbital path. This will take the Moon near Pollux, one of the Gemini ‘Twins’, and then past Regulus, the ‘Heart’ of Leo the Lion. On the 27th you may be able to see the open star cluster, M-44, or also known as the Beehive Cluster.



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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Thin Waxing Crescent Moon Near Venus – Mercury

   Saturday evening May 23rd look toward the western horizon for the very thin young 1.3-day old waxing crescent Moon. The Moon will be about 3-4o from the inner planet Venus and about 5-6o from the other inner planet Mercury. All three will easily fit within the field of view of binoculars and given the range of apparent magnitudes should make for a great view and even a picture.
   Apparent MagnitudesWaxing Crescent Moon: -8.42 Venus:-4.16 Mercury: -0.42
   
   
   
   
   
   

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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The Inner Planets Meet

   Thursday evening May 21st, shortly after sunset, the two inner planets Mercury (apparent magnitude 0.41) and Venus (apparent magnitude -4.16) will be about 1o from each other. Both planets will fit within the 7o field of view of 7×50 binoculars as the graphics below show. Both planets are in motion along their respective orbital paths with Mercury moving toward the east while Venus is moving toward the west.


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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May Moon at Apogee

   Our Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), for this orbit, on Monday 18th. At that time the 26.5-day old waning crescent Moon will be at a distance of 31.88 Earth diameters 252,028 miles (405,600 km) from the Earth.

   On the day of the apogee the thin waning crescent Moon rises about 1-2 hours before sunrise local time. Looking carefully with binoculars you may be able to see nearby 4th magnitude star 20 Ceti, one of the many stars that are part of the constellation Cetus the Whale.

   

   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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Mars – Jupiter at Heliocentric Conjunction

   Saturday May 16th the outer planets Mars and Jupiter will reach a point in their respective orbit that has them at nearly the same heliocentric coordinates. This a system of tracking the planets as they make their 360o orbit around the Sun. Each Sun orbiting object’s orbital position is measured using degrees, minutes, and seconds of heliocentric longitude. Each object orbits the Sun at a daily rate determined by dividing 360o by the number of days an object takes to complete one orbit around the Sun.
   As the above graphic shows the two planets are arranged in a straight line out from the Sun. The Earth is not part of the line-up. This is a heliocentric view of their orbital positions with the Sun at the Center. A heliocntric longitude based view is not the same as a view from the surface of the Earth where there is a distinctly different view of the two 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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Say it Ain’t So!


   According to the web site Physics-Astronomy on May 16th the crescent Moon will be in a conjunction with the inner planet Venus and an outer planet, Jupiter, in a formation looking like a smiley face.

   This type of conjunction has happened in the past including one in 2 B.C. that has been suggested to be the ‘Star of Bethlehem’. More recently this triple conjunction did happen in December 2008, according to the article.
   Click here to see a list of future planetary conjunctions.

   Looking down from above the solar system on May 16th showing the orbital positions of Venus, the Earth, and Jupiter. From this graphic it shows that from the Earth you would have to look toward different directions to see either planet.

   No this will not happen.
   Here are reasons why this article about the conjunction is “fake news”.

   Venus is visible in the evening skies at sunset over the western horizon and sets around 9-10 pm local time. (Rises: 7:23 am – Sets: 10:24 pm)
   Jupiter is visible in the morning skies over the southern horizon and sets during the afternoon local time. (Rises: 12:45 am – Sets: 10:47 am)
   The article does not indicate which crescent Moon. Is this a waxing crescent Moon in the evening or a waning crescent Moon in the morning?
   The Moon is in fact a 22.8-day old waning crescent Moon in the morning skies. However the Moon is closer to Neptune and Dwarf Planet Ceres than it is to either Venus or 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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