Monday morning August 6th the 24-day old waning crescent Moon will be about 4o from the reddish star Aldebaran, part of the open star cluster the Hyades. This v-shaped cluster of stars marks the face of Taurus the Bull, and Aldebaran represents the red ‘angry’ eye of Taurus.
Tuesday July 10th in the hour or so before sunrise local time the very thin 26.5-day old waning crescent Moon will be within about 1o (width of 2 full Moons) from the reddish star Aldebaran in the open star cluster the Hyades. The Hyades are a v-shaped group of stars marking the face of Taurus the Bull. Reddish-colored Aldebaran represents an angry eye of the Bull.
This conjunction is close enough so that a combination of a thin waning crescent Moon and the bright Aldebaran should make for a take a look with binoculars or the ‘naked-eye’.
For those keeping track of Jupiter should be relieved to read that Jupiter’s retrograde motion has ended, and at least for the foreseeable future Jupiter has agreed to stick with the ‘program’ and resume it’s direct motion – eastward.
Late Wednesday evening July 4th the innermost planet Mercury will be within 0.5-1o from the open star cluster M-44, or more commonly known as the Beehive Cluster in Cancer the Crab. Both will be only 10-15o from the horizon and cold be a challenge to see. With binoculars the planet and star cluster should look good.
Over the next few evenings, June 19th and 20th the inner planet Venus, as it orbits toward the east, will pass within about 0.5-1o from the open star cluster known as M-44, or the Beehive Cluster. Venus shines brightly with an apparent magnitude of -4.0 compared to the combined apparent magnitude of 3.7 for M-44. Further to the east is the first quarter Moon, but it should be far enough away so that its reflected light will not interfere too much with seeing the open star cluster.
This should make for a great sight through binoculars or a wide-field view telescope eyepiece.
Saturday June 16th the waxing crescent Moon will be crossing the plane of the ecliptic moving north relative to the ecliptic. 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 Saturday evening June 16th the 3.5-day old waxing crescent Moon will be about 8o east (left) from the planet Venus and about 3o from the open star cluster, M-44 also, known as the ‘Beehive Cluster’.
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*
Read this very informative article about the Earth-Moon system and their orbital motions, written by Joe Hanson. “Do We Orbit the Moon?”
Last night after sunset I set out to try and capture a picture of Venus less then 1o from the open star cluster M-35, near the feet of the Gemini Twins. Additionally the first quarter Moon was within about 1.5o from the star Regulus, the ‘heart’ of Leo the Lion, and also easily seen as the bottom of the backward question shape this constellation is best known for. Since my western skies are illuminated by the lights from an athletic field, and the eastern suburbs of Kansas City, MO. the limiting magnitude is around 2 or 3, meaning that the dimmest stars easily seen in that direction have to be at least 3rd magnitude or brighter. So with that in mind I took over 60 pictures with various camera settings but the skies were just too bright to capture the light from the stars making up M-35.
Then I turned my attention to the Moon and Regulus. Regulus was close enough to the Moon that it’s light was nearly washed out by the Moon’s reflected Sun light. The difficulty of catching both has to do with camera settings. For example opening the shutter and increasing the exposure time washes out the Moon but allows Regulus to be seen.
I use a Cannon Rebel EOS T7i with a touch screen allowing me to change settings very easily and see the effect in the change in real time.
Camera settings: 300 mm; f/13; 1/40 sec.; ISO-400
For this picture I increased the exposure time but left the other settings as they were. The Moon is larger in this picture because I zoomed in on the original before cropping it for this blog.
Camera settings: 200 mm; f/13; 5 sec.; ISO-400
Monday evening May 21st the first quarter Moon and the inner planet Venus will each be in their own respective conjunctions. Venus is within 1o from the open star cluster, M-35, located near the foot of Castor, one of the Gemini Twins. Venus currently shines with an apparent magnitude of -3.96, and at that brightness will outshine the 5th magnitude of M-35.
Nonetheless the two should be visible with binoculars, as this graphic simulates, as well as a couple of 3rd magnitude stars nearby.
Further toward the east, and unmistakable is the first quarter Moon. During the night hours the Moon, as it orbits eastward, will pass within about 1.5o from the star Regulus in Leo the Lion. Since Regulus is very close to the ecliptic there is a good chance that the Moon and Regulus will have a regular repetitive pattern or cycle of conjunctions. As in the months that Regulus is above the horizon, which include the next two months, June 18th and July 15th.