Waning Crescent Moon – Saturn/Jupiter/Mercury Conjunctions

Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, March 9th and 10th, the thin waning crescent Moon wil be passing by the planets Saturn. Jupiter, and the inner planet Mercury. On the 9th the 26-day old waning crescent Moon will be about 3-4o from Saturn and on the 10th the 28-day old Moon will be about 4-5o and about 6-7o from Mercury.


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.

Mercury at Western Elongation

   On Saturday March 6th Mercury, the innermost planet, will reach its orbital position known as greatest western elongation at 27.3o. At that moment Mercury, the Sun, and the Earth, would be arranged in something close to approximating a right angle as this graphic shows. Even though it sounds confusing, at western elongation for either Mercury or Venus the inner planet will be to the right of the Sun as we view them, meaning that at western elongation an inner planet rises in the east before the Sun rises. And at eastern elongation with the inner planet on the left side of the Sun the inner planet follows the Sun across the sky setting after the Sun sets.

   From our perspective the orbits of Mercury and Venus appear to move from one side of the Sun to the other – out to the left (east) from the Sun to eastern elongation, then reverse and move westward (inferior conjunction) between the Earth and the Sun to western elongation. From there the inner planet moves eastward going behind the Sun (superior conjunction) and eventually reappearing on the eastern side of the Sun for an eastern elongation. Repeat over and over – do not stop!

   Mercury is currently visible in the morning skies before the Sun rises. This inner planet is steadily moving past Jupiter after having passed by Saturn last week.

   
   
   
   
   

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.

Mercury on the Move – And A Comet!

   Over the next several mornings the innermost planet, Mercury, will be moving past the planet Jupiter, coming the closest on March 4th in the hour or so before the Sun rises.

   In the same field of view as Mercury and Jupiter is Comet Tempel (10P) a periodic comet that has a 5-year orbit around the Sun. This comet is one of the many comets that is part of the Jupiter family of comets. Tempel (10P) is currently about 2.5 from the Sun and shining at about 10th magnitude. Too faint for the unaided eye or binoculars but possibly visible with a large enough aperture telescope and certainly visible with time exposure 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.

Inner Meets Outers – In A Triple Conjunction

   Sunday morning February 28th the innermost planet, Mercury, and two of the ringed outer planets, Jupiter and Saturn, will be in a triple conjunction as Mercury moves eastward past Saturn and then Jupiter. Mercury will be about 3-4o from Saturn and about 2-3o from Jupiter.
   All three will almost fit within the field of view of binoculars and should make for an interesting contrast in apparent magnitudes however Jupiter (-1.97) far outshines Mercury (0.30) and Saturn (0.71).

   
   
   

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.

Mercury – Saturn – Jupiter Together Again!

   Saturday morning February 20th in the hour or so before the Sun rises look for the innermost planet Mercury to be about 4-5o from Saturn and Jupiter. All three should fit within the field of view of binoculars, but the three planets will be low above the horizon.

   
   
   

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.

Leo, the Moon, Mars, Mercury, and a Ram

   No, that is not the opening line to a “walked into a bar…” joke, but rather an example of trying to fit 4 different topics into one title!
Read on.

   Friday evening January 29th the 17-day old waning gibbous Moon will be about 4-5o from the star Regulus. This star is known as the ‘Heart’ of the constellation Leo the Lion.

   Mars is visible further west over the southwest horizon and is a few degrees from the planet Uranus. Both are near the 3-star pattern for the constellation Aries the Ram and its brightest star Hamal with a 2.0 apparent magnitude. The two planets have a sharp contrast in relative apparent magnitude with Hamal and with each other – Mars at 0.40 and Uranus at a 5.80 apparent magnitude. Both planets will fit within the field of view of binoculars with Mars appearing as a small reddish ‘dot’ and Uranus, if seen at all, a much fainter bluish-green and smaller ‘dot’.

   Earlier in the evening, after sunset, look toward the western horizon for the innermost planet Mercury. With an apparent magnitude of 0.45 Mercury is slightly dimmer than Mars and should be easy to spot as it will be the brightest star-like object in that direction.

   
   
   

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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Conjunction – Elongation – Conjunction

   Saturday evening watch for the 11-day old waxing gibbous Moon to be in conjunction with and about 3o from the reddish star Aldebaran in the constellation Taurus the Bull.

   Earlier in the evening the innermost planet Mercury was visible over the western horizon shortly after sunset. Mercury, on this date, will be at its Easternmost Elongation for this orbit. At elongation, eastern or western, Mercury, and also Venus, will be as far ‘out’ from the Sun to the right or left as we see the inner planets from Earth. At eastern elongation the inner planets follow the Sun across the sky during the day and appear as evening planets over the western horizon. At western elongation the inner planets ‘lead’ the Sun across the Sky during the day which means they rise ahead of the Sun and are seen as morning planets.

   But Wait – there’s still more!
   Saturn reaches solar conjunction on this date. During solar conjunction for an outer planet that outer planet will either be too close to the Sun to be seen or is on the opposite side of the Sun. When an outer planet reaches solar conjunction it moves from the evening skies to the morning skies.

   
   
   

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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Waxing Crescent Moon – Mercury Conjunction

   Did you miss the 27-day old thin waning crescent Moon conjunction with Venus this past Monday morning? I did!
   Well there is an opportunity to see the thin crescent Moon on this side of new phase this Thursday evening January 14th. The 1.7-day young waxing crescent Moon will be over the western horizon in a line-up of sorts with Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn all angled downward toward the western horizon. From Saturn to the Moon will span about 13o with Mercury, about 3-4o to the west, (down to the right) being the closest of the 3 planets.

   This animated graphic is set for 2-minute intervals starting at 5:30 pm CST.

   
   
   

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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Morning and Evening Conjunctions

   Monday morning and evening, January 11th, offer an opportunity for catching a pair of conjunctions. Low over the eastern horizon at sunrise is the 27.7-day old very thin waning crescent Moon about 3-4o from the inner planet Venus.

   This could be a chance to see the Moon when it is about 24-hours from its new phase.

   Low in the western horizon at sunset is the ongoing triple conjunction between Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn. Monday evening will be the closest Mercury and Jupiter will be as Mercury continues moving eastward away from the two giant 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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