Mid-evening Monday July 15th as the nearly full Moon rises it will be in a close conjunction with the outer ringed planet Saturn. The two will be separated by about 1-2o and both will easily fit within the field of view of binoculars, or a wide field telescope eyepiece.
Saturday evening July 13th the 11-day old waxing gibbous Moon will be about 2o from the outer ringed planet Jupiter as the two rise in the east around sunset local time. Both will nicely fit within the field of view of binoculars.
Using the binocular field of view (FoV) as a ‘ruler’ shift the binoculars about 1 FoV to the west, right, putting Jupiter on the left edge of the FoV and the reddish star Antares will be at the right edge.
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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Tuesday July 9th the outer planet Saturn reaches its orbital position known as opposition. This is a position which has the faster moving Earth passing Saturn and at opposition is centered between the outer planet and the Sun. Picture the arrangement with the Moon at full phase; Sun – Earth – Moon, and that is similar to the arrangement for Saturn at opposition.
When an outer planet, like Saturn, reaches opposition that planet rises around local time for sunset and is visible all night.
The 7.5-day old waning gibbous moon will be west from Saturn and a few degrees above the bluish-white star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden – both over the southwestern horizon. Look for the planet Jupiter and the reddish star Antares, the ‘heart’ of Scorpius the Scorpion to be just to the west from Saturn.
As the Earth and Moon orbit the Sun together the Moon follows an orbital path that takes it along the plane of the ecliptic (Earth’s orbit), sometimes above, and sometimes below. At least twice each orbit or during during the calendar period for that orbit the Moon will cross the ecliptic either as an ascending node or a descending node.
As this short video shows the Moon will follow a path along the ecliptic and as it does so it will pass some of the brighter stars and planets that are arranged on or near the ecliptic.
You may also notice a steady shift of the sky toward the west. This is the effect of the Earth in motion, revolving, around the Sun. Since the Earth covers the 360o orbit in approximately 365 days the Earth moves almost 1o each day, and the sky in turn has the noticeable westward shift of the same amount.
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?”
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.
Tuesday July 2nd the new Moon will be about 12 hours away from crossing the plane of the ecliptic, its ascending node. When a node crossing is close to new Moon phase, or full Moon, there will be an eclipse. On July 2nd there will be a total solar eclipse visible throughout the day along a curving path of totality starting southwest of the Pitcairn Islands in the South Pacific Ocean then crossing the Pacific coast of Chile and on to the Atlantic coast of Argentina. The eclipse ends as the Sun is setting for the residents of Buenos Aires.
Click here to go to the Hermit Eclipse web site for information including a detailed map and eclipse stage times