A Couple of Morning Planets

   Early chilly mornings yes, but two planets are visible before the Sun rises. Maybe seeing Mars and Mercury will make it worthwhile? They are both within the realm of the constellation Libra the Scales. As a bonus Dwarf Planet Haumea is also above the horizon but with an apparent magnitude of 17.0 it is virtually invisible without some optical assistance.

   
   
   

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A Pair of Conjunctions

   Sunday November 24th there will a photo or viewing opportunity during the twilight hour before the Sun rises and after the sun has set. Starting off the day will be a conjunction involving the very thin waning crescent Moon near the ‘Red Planet’ Mars. The two will be separated by about 3-4o. Lower or to the east is the innermost planet Mercury.
   Then, approximately 12 hours later, the Sun has or is about to set and over the western horizon is a cluster of 3 planets. Close together and separated by about 1-2o are the planets Jupiter and Venus. Higher or to the east is the planet Saturn.
    Both of these conjunctions will look great through binoculars or a wide-field eyepiece on a telescope, and obviously will make for interesting pictures.

   
   
   

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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Mars – Spica Conjunction

   Saturday morning November 9th the planet Mars will be within about 2-3o from the blue-white star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden. Both will easily fit within the field of view of binoculars.

   
   
   

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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Crescent Moon Near Venus and Mercury

   Tuesday evening October 29th a very thin 2-day young waxing crescent Moon will be about 4-5o from the two inner planets Mercury and Venus. All three will easily fit within the field of view of binoculars – however be careful as they are not that far from the setting Sun.

   Over the next several days as the Moon waxes toward first quarter phase the Moon will pass by the Dwarf Planet Ceres and the outer planet Jupiter and then Saturn.

   
   
   

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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2019 Martian Summer Solstice

A Martian Year

A Martian Year – at One Earth Month Intervals

   Tuesday October 8th marks the summer solstice on the planet Mars as Mars transitions from spring to summer during its 684 Earth day orbit around the Sun. Seasons on Mars are marked by the planet’s heliocentric longitude coordinates using the position of Mars along its orbit around the Sun. Each seasonal start/ending point is 90 degrees apart, but because of its elliptical-shaped orbit each Martian season is of varying lengths.

   I’m not exactly sure why this particular date is used but by international agreement astronomers have selected 11 April, 1955 as 0 degrees for year 1 of this Martian calendar. What this means is that on Tuesday October 8th, Earth time, it is the start of summer during year 35 using the aforementioned calendar system.

Year 35
0 degrees — Spring Equinox — March 23 2019
90 degrees — Summer solstice — October 08 2019
180 degrees — Fall Equinox — April 08 2020
270 degrees — Winter Solstice — September 02 2020

Year 36
0 degrees — Spring Equinox — February 07 2021
90 degrees — Summer solstice — August 25 2021
180 degrees — Fall Equinox — February 24 2022
270 degrees — Winter Solstice — July 21 2022

Learn a little (or a lot) more about the exploration of Mars at the NASA Journey to Mars web site.

   
   
   

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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July Perigee Moon and A Conjunction with Regulus

   Our Moon reaches perigee, (closest distance to Earth), for this orbit, on Friday July 5th. At that time the Moon will be at a distance of 28.51 Earth diameters, 226,011 miles (363,729 km) from the Earth.

   The 4.50-day old waxing crescent Moon is over the southwestern horizon at sunset local time and sets around midnight. About 1o east from the Moon is the ‘Heart of the Lion’, the star Regulus in Leo the Lion. The two will easily fit within the field of view of binoculars or a low power telescope eyepiece.
   Appearing lower above the western horizon are the planets Mars and Mercury.

   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)

   Read this very informative article about the Earth-Moon system and their orbital motions, written by Joe Hanson. “Do We Orbit the Moon?”

   
   
   

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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Waxing Crescent Moon on the Move

   Shortly after sunset local time on July 3rd look toward the western horizon for the 1.5-day old thin waxing crescent Moon to be close to the planets Mars and Mercury, and within about 4-5o from Pollux, one of the Gemini Twins stars.
   The following evening, July 4th, the 2.5-day old waxing crescent Moon will have moved about 15o further toward the east and will be about 3-4o from the open star cluster, M-44. Also known as the ‘Beehive Cluster’ it is a group of stars around 600 light years away and visible to the naked eye as a small ‘smudge’ of light with an apparent magnitude of around 3.70.
   Both the Moon and M-44 will easily fit within the field of view of binoculars.

   
   
   

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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