March Moon at Northernmost Declination

click on graphic to see it larger   Our Moon does not follow a path with the Earth around the Sun that is parallel with the Earth’s orbit, the ecliptic. The Moon is tilted or inclined by approximately 5.14o from the Earth’s orbital path meaning that there are places where the Moon’s orbital path intersects or crosses the Earth’s orbital path, the ecliptic. At up to 3 times each month the Moon will cross the ecliptic moving south or north in what is called a node crossing – one ascending and the other descending.

    However with regard to the celestial equator, an extension of the Earth’s equator into space, the maximum declination for our Moon, as measured from the celestial equator, could be as much as about 28.64o either north or south based on the Earth’s axial tilt of 23.5o plus the Moon’s inclination angle 5.14o (23.5 + 5.14 = 28.64o).

    This month our Moon reaches a maximum northernmost declination of 25.3o on Monday March 22nd.

   
   
   

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.

March Equinox – 2021

   Saturday March 20th is an equinox day. While typically called the Vernal or Spring Equinox it is more globally appropriate to call this day the March Equinox as it is the start of Fall in the Southern Hemisphere. The official time for the equinox is 09:40 UT on the 20th which for my time zone is 5:40 am CDT. So for those in the northern hemisphere winter is ending and spring has ‘sprung’ (starts). From a geographical perspective we would describe the Sun as being over the Earth’s equator, and as this graphic shows there would be an equal amount of daylight and night on our planet as a result.
    At mid-day on the equator the sun is directly overhead and from that latitude you have no elongated shadow, just a ‘blob-like’ shadow at your feet as this picture of my feet taken at mid-day in Quito Ecuador shows.


   
    Regardless of your hemispheric preference get outside and cast a shadow!

   
   
  Northern hemisphere spring, Astronomically speaking, is when the Sun reaches the celestial coordinates of 0 hours and 0 degrees as it moves northward along the ecliptic crossing the celestial equator. At this location the Sun is just within the constellation of Pisces the Fishes and not entering Aries the Ram as the pseudoscience of astrology would have you believe.

    To learn more about the celestial coordinates click here to read a previous post about seasons and the equinox.

   Click here to see the online world sunlight map used to make the day/night graphic at the top of the page.


   Celebrate Solar Week March 22nd-26th. Click here to go to the Solar Week web site.

   
   
   
   During a trip to Quito Ecuador to visit one of the exchange student we had hosted, and her family, we spent the day at a Museum on the equator, Mitad del Mundo. I brought along my over-sized protractor knowing in advance that we would be at the museum. So at mid-day I had my wife stand on the equator (yellow line) and hold a string to the top of her head while Cathy, a sister of our exchange student, held the protractor. This was done during the summer so the Sun was over the northern horizon at mid-day and the Sun’s angle above the northern horizon was around 75o.

   Here is a short series of hourly pictures taken during the day on the September equinox on the equator in Quito Ecuador at Collegio Menor San Francisco de Quito, a private school that I visited and did the SunShIP project with (Sun Shadow Investigation Project).

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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 3-for-1 Moon Event!

               Apogee – Descending Node – Conjunction with the Pleiades
   
Apogee Moon
   Our Moon reaches apogee, (furthest from Earth), for this orbit, on Thursday March 18th. For this apogee the 6.6-day old waxing crescent Moon will be at a distance of 31.77 Earth diameters, 251,841 miles (405,300 km) from the Earth.

Descending Node
   The 6.6-day old waxing crescent 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.

Conjunction with the Pleiades
   The apogee Moon, at nearly first quarter phase, will be above the western horizon and will be within a few degrees from the open star cluster the Pleiades. This should make for a good view with binoculars.


   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 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 return to bobs-spaces.

Sun Enters Astronomical Constellation Pisces the Fishes

11 March 2014   Thursday March 11th the Sun in its apparent eastward motion along the ecliptic, moves out of the constellation Aquarius the Water Bearer and into the constellation of Pisces the Fishes. This is the true or actual position of the Sun as opposed to the pseudoscience of astrology which usually has the astrological Sun one constellation ahead or east from the Astronomical Sun’s position.
Read a little more about how astrology has the Sun incorrectly placed in a previous blog, and in another blog discussing the effects of precession.

   
   
   

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.

Moon Dodges the Scorpion at Descending Node

   Friday March 5th the 22-day old 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 over the southern horizon at sunrise local time, and about 3-4o from the reddish star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion.

   
   
   
   
   

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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Sun Not In Pisces-2021


  According to the pseudoscience of astrology the Sun enters the constellation of Pisces the Fishes on Thursday February 18th. In fact the actual position of the Sun is still within the boundary of the constellation of Aquarius the Water Bearer, as this graphic shows. The Sun had just entered Aquarius 2 days ago.

   Read a little more about how astrology has the Sun incorrectly placed in a previous blog, and in another blog discussing the effects of precession.

   
   
   

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.

February Moon at Descending Node

   Saturday February 6th the 25-day old waning crescent 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 25-day old thin waning crescent Moon will be over the eastern horizon at sunrise local time.

   
   
   
   
   

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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January Moon at Ascending Node

   Sunday January 24th the 12-day old waxing gibbous Moon will be crossing the plane of the ecliptic moving north. This is known as the ascending node, one of two intersections the Moon’s orbital path has with the ecliptic. The ecliptic is actually the Earth’s orbit, and the Moon’s orbit is inclined about 6o from the ecliptic. So there are two node intersections, the ascending and descending nodes.

   On the day of the node crossing the 12-day old waxing gibbous Moon will be over the southeastern horizon around sunset local time. Mars is higher over the southern horizon while Mercury is low over the western horizon. In between are three outer planets, Uranus, Neptune, and Dwarf Planet Ceres.

   Uranus has an apparent magnitude of 5.8 and could be viewed with binoculars and certainly with larger aperture instruments and camera time exposures.

   Does our Moon actually go around the Earth as many graphics show? 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 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 return to bobs-spaces.


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Sun Is in Capricornus not Aquarius


   Tuesday January 19th at 15 UT the Sun in its apparent eastward motion along the ecliptic enters the boundaries of the constellation Capricornus the Sea Goat. This is the actual location of the Sun.
   Interestingly, according to the pseudoscience of astrology, 6 hours later, at 21 UT Tuesday January 19th, the Sun should be entering the constellation of Aquarius the Water Bearer.

   
   
   

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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January Moon at Descending Node


   Sunday January 10th the nearly 27-day old waning crescent 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 26.7-day old thin waning crescent Moon will be over the eastern horizon at sunrise local time. Just appearing above the horizon is the inner planet Venus.

   
   
   
   
   

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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