Moon Near Saturn


   Sunday morning, April 16th the 19-day old waning gibbous Moon will rise near the planet Saturn. The two will be within the 7o field of view of 10×50 binoculars and will be easily seen over the eastern to southeastern horizon in the hours before the sun rises.
   
   
   

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.

Saturn Begins Retrograde Motion


   Thursday April 6th the outer planet Saturn begins its retrograde motion. This is an apparent motion that Saturn or any outer planet, dwarf planet,or asteroid has when compared to the faster moving Earth. The Earth, moving more quickly around the Sun than an outer object, will catch up and pass by the outer object sort of like a car passing a slower moving car.
   As the faster moving Earth passes by, the outer object appears to stop its eastward direct or prograde motion, and then moves westward, or retrograde, for a while until it again stops before resuming its prograde motion. Saturn will remain in retrograde until June and will travel westward out of Sagittarius the Archer into the boundaries of Ophiuchus the Healer.

   
   
   

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.

Saturn and Some Messier Objects


   In the early morning hours before the Sun rises the summer (northern hemisphere) Milky Way arches across the sky from the southern horizon toward the northern horizon. Over the southern horizon is the constellation Sagittarius the Archer and the direction toward the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. In this direction is the planet Saturn and within the field of view of binoculars are several nebula, some of which are visible to the naked eye.
    Despite the use of optical aids like binoculars or telescopes we do not see the colors of these object that you may see in photographs. Regardless, this part of the sky is filled with many objects visible to the naked eye and certainly with binoculars. And assuming the local skies are relatively dark then viewing this area of the Milky Way will provide many viewing rewards.

   
   
   

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.

Duck! Said Scorpius to Sagittarius

   Over the next several mornings, before the Sun rises, the Moon, as it wanes from gibbous to last quarter phase, glides past the stars of Scorpius the Scorpion and Sagittarius the Archer and the ringed planet Saturn.
   Apparently Archery is so loud that Sagittarius didn’t hear the warning and gets a face full of the Moon on the 21st.
   In the background is the Milky Way, but for the most part it will be difficult to see due to the bright reflected light from the Moon.
   Off to the west is Jupiter and Spica. Jupiter has been in retrograde motion since last month and is gradually moving west away from Spica.
   
   
   
   
   
   
   In the background is the Milky Way, but for the most part it will be difficult to see due to the bright reflected light from the Moon.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

   
   
   

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.

March Moon at Apogee

 Our Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), on Saturday March 18th. At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 31.72 Earth diameters (404,640 km or 251,432 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*

*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 morning of the apogee Moon the 20-day old waning gibbous Moon rises a couple of hours before the Sun and is visible over the southern horizon.

   
   
   

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.

Saturn at Western Quadrature

saturn-west-quadrature   Friday March 17th, the position of the planet Saturn with respect to the Earth and the Sun places this ringed planet at what is called western quadrature. Saturn is at a 90 degree angle from us as this graphic shows. Think third quarter Moon as that is a fair comparison of the relative positions. At this position Saturn leads the Sun across the sky from east to west as the Earth is rotating, meaning that Saturn rises before the Sun and also sets before the Sun.

   Saturn currently is within the constellation of Sagittarius the Archer as this graphic shows. From the northern hemisphere, looking toward the southern horizon, you can find Saturn to the east, left, from the reddish star Antares. Saturn shines with an apparent magnitude of around 0.5 compared with the 1st magnitude Antares.

Learn a little (or a lot) about Saturn by visiting the Cassini at Saturn mission web site.
Click here to go to the Cassini Mission web site.

   This is a short 5 minute video I made as part of a live musical performance called “Orbit”. This is a piece from the much longer tour of the solar system performance and video and shows Saturn and some of its moons as viewed from the Cassini spacecraft that month.

   
   
   


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.