November Moon at Apogee – And the Ecliptic

click on graphic to see it larger   Our Moon reaches apogee, (furthest from Earth), for this orbit, on Thursday November 26th. For this apogee the 12-day old waxing gibbous Moon will be at a distance of 31.82 Earth diameters, 252,211 miles (405,894 km) from the Earth.

   On the date of the apogee the 12-day old waxing gibbous Moon will be about 12o to the east from the planet Mars. The Moon will also be about 11o west from the outer planet Uranus. Currently Uranus has an apparent magnitude of around 5.7 meaning that it could be seen with the unaided in dark enough skies, or with telescopes and even binoculars – as long as the Moon is not in that part of the sky.

   Along the Ecliptic
   You may notice the arrangement of the planets spread across the horizon as shown in the graphic. Many objects in our solar system orbit the Sun in a path that is somewhat parallel with the Earth’s orbit, the ecliptic. All of the orbits are tilted or inclined away from the ecliptic however the 8 classical planets all have orbits that are inclined less than 7o from the ecliptic. Dwarf planets, asteroids, comets, for example, have orbital inclinations greater than 7o.
   The ecliptic also defines the Sun’s apparent path against the background of stars throughout the year. The planets are also in motion as they orbit the Sun as the video below illustrates.
   Take a short cruise along the ecliptic with the Sun!


   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)
   
   
   
   

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 Gibbous Moon – Mars Conjunction


   Wednesday evening November 25th the 11-day old waxing gibbous Moon will be about 3-4o from the planet Mars.

   
   
   

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Outer Planets on the Move – Heading for a Grand Conjunction

   During much of this past year I have been following Jupiter and Saturn as they move toward a very close conjunction on December 21st. I started observing and taking pictures of the two outer planets while they were in the morning skies last spring. Over the course of the ensuing months the pair of planets gradually shifted to the evening skies (due to Earth revolution) and also drew closer together.
   Jupiter is closer to the Sun than Saturn so it moves about 0.082o each day compared with the 0.0340o that Saturn moves each day. As a result Jupiter will catch up with Saturn and put the two in a planetary conjunction, actually a ‘Grand Conjunction’ happening only once every 18-19 years.
   Click here to learn more about this Grand Conjunction.

   The pictures below were taken from a variety of locations near my house, U.S. Highway 50, and a local athletics park, Legacy Park.

To be continued…
More pictures will be added as I take them.

   
   
   

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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Inner Planets on the Move

   This past month, November, the inner planets Mercury and Venus were very visible in the early morning skies before sunrise. Both of the planets were at or near their respective western elongation. Venus was there during August and Mercury reached its western elongation on November 10th.
   What I wanted to capture was the daily change in the position of Venus as it passed the star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden. Venus moves about 1.6o each day so its eastward motion should be obvious after a day or so. It was – it is!. Mercury, if you are wondering, moves about 4o each day.
   Both inner planets were somewhere around their maximum separation from the Sun – as we see it the inner planet is to the right side of the Sun, or toward the west.
   The series of pictures were taken from two locations near my house. One is from an empty lot near U.S. Highway 50 looking east. The other pictures are from somewhere along the street I live on! The first picture was taken at Legacy Park and includes the ISS orbiting over my location.


   
   
   

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 Passes Jupiter and Saturn

   Wednesday and Thursday evenings November 18th and 19th at sunset local time look westward for our Moon and two planets. The 4-day old waxing crescent Moon will be about 6o to the west, right from Jupiter and about 9o from Saturn.

   During the 24-hours between the two evenings our Moon will have aged 1 day and will have moved approximately 15o toward the east. And by Friday the Moon will be about 5o to the east, left from Saturn and about 7o from Jupiter.

   
   
   

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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November Moon at Descending Node


   Tuesday November 17th the nearly 3-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.


   On the date of the descending node the waxing crescent Moon will be over the southwestern horizon at sunset local time. Spread across the horizon from west to east are Jupiter, Saturn, Dwarf Planet Ceres, Neptune, and Mars.

   
   
   
   
   

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Venus – Spica Conjunction


   Over the next few days the inner planet Venus will be moving eastward as it passes the blue-white star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden. This animated graphic is set to 1-day intervals and shows the morning sky from November 16th to the 20th.


   On Monday morning November 16th Venus will be the closest to Spica for a conjunction that has the two separated by about 3-4o. A few degrees, 13o, further east (lower) is the other inner planet Mercury.

   
   
   

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Moon – Inner Planets & 1 Star

   The waning crescent Moon, as it moves eastward toward new Phase on the 14th, passes by the two inner planets Venus and Mercury. Yesterday the Moon was west from the planets and after 24 hours of revolution the Moon has moved to between the two planets this morning.

   
   
   

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November Moon at Perigee – But You Can’t See It!

click on graphic to see it larger   Our Moon reaches perigee, (closest to Earth), for this orbit, on Saturday November 14th. At that time the Moon will be at a distance of 28.5 Earth diameters, 222,350 miles (357,837 km) from the Earth.

   On the day of the perigee Moon will be at new phase and will not be visible. Start watching for the waxing crescent Moon to show up after sunset in a couple of days.

   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)

   
   
   
   
   
   

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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Mercury at Western Elongation – See it in the Morning Skies

   On Tuesday November 10th Mercury, the innermost planet, will reach its orbital position known as greatest western elongation at 19.1o. 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!

   There is a lot to see and a few things you cannot see on the morning of Mercury’s western elongation. Going by relative apparent magnitudes Mercury (-0.52), Venus (-3.99), Spica (0.96), are all easily visible as bright to very bright star-like objects. The 24-day old waning crescent Moon shines at a much brighter apparent magnitude of (-11.52).

   
   
   
   
   

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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