Neptune at Solar Conjunction

view-from-earth_neptune-solar-conjunction   Thursday March 2nd the outer planet Neptune reaches a point in its orbit where it passes behind the Sun as we view this from Earth. Neptune, and the other outer planets, dwarf planets, or small solar system bodies, all eventually reach this position on the opposite side of the Sun known as solar conjunction.

   
   
   
   
   
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

A Lunar Conjunction with a Dwarf Planet


   Thursday evening March 2nd watch for the 4.5-day young waxing crescent Moon to be about 2o away from Dwarf Planet Ceres. Seeing Ceres with an apparent magnitude of around 8 may be difficult when the Moon is this close, especially using binoculars. 2march-tele
   However with a telescope Ceres should resolve into a small disc shape as this simulated view with a 25mm eyepiece on a 6″ reflector shows. There are two 6th magnitude stars on either side of Ceres that could be used as reference points for Ceres location if you are following the Dwarf Planet as it moves along its orbit.

   
   
   
   
   

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.

Moon, Mars, and Uranus


   After sunset on Wednesday evening March 1st watch for the 3.5-day young waxing crescent Moon to be within about 5o from Mars and Uranus.

   
   
   

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.

Crescent Moon, Venus, and Comet Encke


   Tuesday evening February 28th the 2.5-day young waxing crescent Moon will be about 9o from the inner planet Venus and about the same distance from Comet Encke (2P).
   Mars and Venus as well as three Dwarf Planets are also above the horizon at sunset local time as the graphic is showing.
   
   
   

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.

Uranus Sees Red!


   Sunday February 26th the ‘Red Planet’ Mars will be about 0.5o from the outer planet Uranus. Mars has an apparent magnitude of 1.28 while the much larger but considerably more distant Uranus has an apparent magnitude of 5.88. Despite the large difference in magnitudes both planets should be visible as small dot shapes in binoculars and with even more detail through a telescope eyepiece.

   
   
   

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.

Moon and Saturn Conjunction


   Tuesday morning February 21st the 23.5-day old waning crescent Moon will be 4-5o away from the planet Saturn as this graphic shows. With 7×50 binoculars the two should make for a striking pair.

   
   
   

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.

February Apogee Moon

18mar-apogee_moon Our Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), on Saturday February 18th. At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 31.70 Earth diameters (404,650 km or 251,438 miles) from the Earth.
   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 as they both rotate around a common balance point, the barycenter.*

*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?”

   On the day of the apogee Moon the 21-day old last quarter Moon rises a couple of hours before the Sun and is visible over the southern horizon before sunrise.

   
   
   

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.