Wednesday morning January 22nd the 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.
Monday January 20th at 9 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 15 UT Monday January 20th, the Sun should be entering the constellation of Aquarius the Water Bearer.
Monday morning before the Sun rises the 27-day old Moon waning crescent Moon will be about 4-5o from the ‘Red Planet’ Mars. Both will be over the southeastern horizon rising at least 2-3 hours ahead of the Sun.
According to the pseudoscience of astrology the Sun enters the constellation of Capricornus the Sea Goat this month when in fact the actual position of the Sun is still within the boundaries of the constellation of Sagittarius the Archer.
In Astronomic terms the December Solstice is official when the Sun will have reached the celestial coordinates of 23.5o degrees south declination; 18 hours right ascension. With regard to the Earth’s surface this places the Sun over the Tropic of Capricorn, which is at 23.5o south latitude. We also know that it is the Earth’s tilt on its axis that is the cause for seasons on Earth rather than the distance between the Earth and the Sun. And of course we know that this signals the start of northern hemisphere winter and the southern hemisphere summer seasons.
The official time for the change of seasons is at 4:21 UT on Sunday December 22nd, or 10:21 pm CST Saturday December 21st.
And for those ‘insanely curious’ like me, while the Sun is at 23.5o South declination and ‘in’ Sagittarius the Earth is opposite at 23.5o North declination and at the feet of the Gemini Twins.
The animated graphic below sets the stage, so to speak, to illustrate the Sun’s actual location with respect to the zodiac constellations in the background. This is as opposed to the location of the Sun according to the pseudoscience of Astrology. The scene is set for 12:15 CST, or mid-day when the Sun is at an azimuth of 180o, or south, and is mid-way between rising and setting. Starting with the Sun at mid-day the scene changes as first the daytime sky is turned off, followed by the horizon being turned off.
This leaves a sky view like during a total solar eclipse except that the Sun is not blocked out by the new Moon. And like during that solar eclipse the zodiac constellations in the background become visible. Then the following are added starting first with Sagittarius, then Capricorn, and then the ecliptic and celestial equator are added to show the relationship between the two constellations and what makes them plus another 11 constellations the astronomical zodiac of 13 constellations. The animation ends with the addition of the constellation boundary lines and labels for the rest of the constellations in this setting.
It is the ecliptic, the apparent path of the Sun which, if it crosses the boundary of a constellation, makes that constellation one of the zodiac. And during December the Sun’s apparent path takes it across the constellation of Sagittarius rather than Capricorn.
Wednesday December 18th the Sun in its apparent eastward motion along the ecliptic, moves out of the constellation Ophiuchus the Healer and into the constellation of Sagittarius the Archer. 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. Ophiuchus the Healer is the 13th Astronomical Zodiac constellation based on the location of the ecliptic and the Sun’s actual position relative to the stars and constellations in the background.
Once in a while the planets are arranged such that they are spread across the sky as they look in this graphic. However over time, several days, this arrangement changes as the planets continue moving along their orbits.
The planets are not lined up in a straight line outward from the Sun but rather are arranged along the ecliptic. The ecliptic is the Earth’s orbital path around the Sun and the respective orbit of each planet is inclined from the ecliptic. And this is one of those times when it is easy to visualize the ecliptic. Click here to read a previous posting about the ecliptic and planet inclination.
This animated graphic is showing the terrestrial planets as they move along their respective orbits for this month. They are not ‘lined up’ as they appear to be in the above horizon picture.
Yesterday Friday November 29th the Moon crossed 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. For those keeping count this is the 2nd descending node crossing for the Moon this month.