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.
Tuesday April 16th the outer ringed planet will be aphelion, its furthest distance from the Sun for this particular orbit. At aphelion Saturn will be approximately 10.0657 AU (1,505,807,287 km; 935,665,269 miles) from the Sun. Sort of splitting the difference Saturn is approximately 9.722 AU (1,454,390,499 km; 903,716,358 miles) from the Earth.
Saturn is visible over the southern horizon before sunrise local time. It is near the ‘red planet’ Mars to the east, and Saturn is east from the heart of Scorpius the Scorpion, the reddish star Antares, and even further to the west is another outer ringed planet, Jupiter.
Tuesday April 10th the thin waning crescent Moon will be crossing 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.
Our Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), on Monday April 8 th. At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 31.68 Earth diameters (404,144 km or 251,123 miles) from the Earth.
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*
Read this very informative article about the Earth-Moon system and their orbital motions, written by Joe Hanson. “Do We Orbit the Moon?”
Over the next 7 days (mornings) the Moon, as it wanes toward last quarter, will pass closely by several planets and brights stars in some close and some not so close conjunctions.
Perhaps the best morning will be on April 7th when the near last quarter Moon will be 1-2o from Saturn and about 4o from Mars.
All three will easily fit within the field of view of binoculars.
Monday morning April 2nd the planets Mars and Saturn will be separated by about 1-2o as they both rise in the east. Both planets are near the Milky Way and within the boundaries of the constellation Sagittarius the Archer.
Thursay March 29th, the position of the planet Saturn with respect to the Earth and the Sun places this ringed planet at what is called western quadrature. Saturn is at a 90 degree angle from us as this graphic shows. Think third quarter Moon as that is a fair comparison of the relative positions. At this position Saturn leads the Sun across the sky from east to west as the Earth is rotating, meaning that Saturn rises before the Sun and also sets before the Sun.
Saturn currently is within the constellation of Sagittarius the Archer as this graphic shows. From the northern hemisphere, looking toward the southern horizon, you can find Saturn to the east, left, from the reddish star Antares. Between Saturn and Antares is Mars, about 2-3o from Saturn. To the right from Antares is the planet Jupiter.
Learn a little (or a lot) about Saturn by visiting the Cassini at Saturn mission web site.
Click here to go to the Cassini Mission web site.
This is a short 5 minute video I made as part of a live musical performance called “Orbit”. This is a piece from the much longer tour of the solar system performance and video and shows Saturn and some of its moons as viewed from the Cassini spacecraft that month.