Venus at Western Elongation

inner-planets-positions   Wednesday August 12th the inner planet Venus reaches the point in its orbit called greatest western elongation. As this graphic shows the inner planet Venus, or Mercury, is more or less at a right angle (90o) from the Sun and Earth at western elongation. From the surface of the Earth, your backyard, for example, Venus is to the right, or western side of the Sun and is rising before the Sun.

   On the day of the elongation Venus will be very visible over the southeastern horizon at or before sunrise local time. Venus is joined by a few other planets, Jupiter, Uranus, Mars, and Dwarf Planet Ceres. The waning crescent Moon is nearly straight overhead (at least from 40oN) and a few degrees from the open star cluster the Pleiades. In this graphic the orbital path of Venus has been added, and also an arrow to show the direction Venus will now be moving toward (eastward).

   At western elongation Venus, or for that matter Mercury the other inner planet, is as far out from the Sun as we see them and as a result Venus or Mercury will rise at the earliest time for this orbit. Locally Venus rises that morning at around 3:00 am CDT. On the day of the western elongation Venus will be 45.8o from the Sun. From western elongation forward Venus or Mercury will be moving eastward toward the Sun and each day rising closer and closer to the time of sunrise. As the planet moves eastward it is moving further away from the Earth toward superior conjunction on the opposite side of the Sun.


    As the distance between the Earth and Venus, or Mercury, increases combined with the decreasing angle between the planet, the Earth, and the Sun, Venus or Mercury decreases in apparent size and also waxes through gibbous phase shapes but we never see it at a full phase since that is at superior conjunction.

   
   
   

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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Have Some ‘Pie’ – View Some Planets

   Saturday March 14th, 3/14/2020, is perhaps better known as Pi Day given that 3.14, the value for Pi, is also the month and day number. Learn more about Pi and see what NASA has planned for this special day at the NASA Pi Day Challenge web site.
   Saturday the 14th, weather depending, is another day this year when you have a choice of planet viewing – all of the six visible planets in fact. In the early morning skies look east and southeast for a line-up of planets ranging from Mercury, to Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, and the 19-day old waning gibbous Moon. In the evening after sunset Venus shines brightly over the western horizon. Venus is near the outer ringed planet Uranus, but Uranus is not considered a naked-eye visible planet in most skies.
   Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are all visible, but that’s only five visible planets. So where is the sixth visible planet?

   
   
   

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.


Also Follow me and other great resources at Feedspot.

NSTA @ Nashville


   I’m in Nashville Tennessee for the next several days at the NSTA national conference. Planets and stars will still be in the skies but not as easy to see from downtown Nashville as it is where I live. On the morning of April 1st the waning waning crescent Moon will be within a few degrees from Dwarf Planet Pluto. Too dim to be seen without a large telescope it is, nonetheless, a neat idea that when you look toward the Moon you are also looking in the direction of Pluto. It’s out there!
   And here is a sequence of graphics showing the pre-sunrise morning sky at 5:30 am EDT for each day during the conference, and one night view on April 1st showing Jupiter. Both Pluto and the Moon are located just above and to the left from the handle of the teapot asterism for Sagittarius the Archer.

   
   
   

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.

Possible Nova in Sagittarius

   A possible nova (not yet to be confirmed) was discovered by Astronomer John Seach, Chatsworth Island, NSW, Australia, on March 15th and reported to the IAU. See link below.
   The possible Nova is easily located within the teapot shaped asterism of Sagittarius as these pictures show.
http://www.cbat.eps.harvard.edu/unconf/followups/J18365700-2855420.html


   Pictures were taken this morning at around 5 am CST from a location along 50 Highway west from where I live in Lee’s Summit Missouri. These are cropped from the original which was taken with the following settings. 18 mm lens; 6-seconds; f3.5; ISO 1600.
   The nova is currently at around 5th magnitude meaning that it could be seen with the naked eye in dark enough skies. I added apparent magnitudes for 4 stars near the Nova’s location.
   From my picture location the sky was still too bright but I was pretty sure I saw the nova using 10×50 binoculars.

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

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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.

Eclipse Countdown!

   Tomorrow, Thursday October 23rd, there will be a solar eclipse visible across much of North america including the continental United States. For the U.S. the eclipse starts during mid to late afternoon and is in progress at sunset. The further west the higher above the horizon will be the Sun and Moon and much if not all of the eclipse will be seen. From Kansas City Missouri the eclipse will reach a maximum of about 50% and will be setting during mid-eclipse.
   Check the time of your local sunset and then use the online eclipse-time calculator from NASA to find the timing of the eclipse for your location.
solar-eclipse-ani   Alternately use the Eclipse Calculator at the Time and Date web site. Click here to see the times for Kansas City, MO – or to enter the name of your city.
   What will add to the eclipse viewing is the extremely large sunspot that should still be visible tomorrow during the time of the eclipse. I’ve been observing this sunspot since it appeared several days ago. And the large sunspot has been really interesting. I know that the Sun rotates but watching how much this large sunspot has moved in over the last few days is pretty cool. Today the sunspot look liked it was starting to break apart.

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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.

Mars and A Comet

Viewing Mars and the Comet from the Sun.

Viewing Mars and the Comet from the Sun.

   On 3 January of last year Australian Astronomer Robert McNaught captured images of a new comet, Comet Siding Spring (C/2013 A1), with the use of a telescope at the Siding Springs Observatory in New South Wales, Australia. As this animated graphic shows the comet’s path is from south of the ecliptic moving north across the ecliptic and past the planet Mars during October.
The View From the Comet.

The View From the Comet.


   
   Comet Siding Spring (C/2013 A1) comes the closest to Mars, about 82,000 miles (131,966 km), on October 19th at 18:28 UT (2:28 pm CDT).
The View from Earth.

If we could see the comet and Mars from Earth it might look like this.


   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   Visit the special web site from NASA about the comet.

   
   

   
   
   
   
   
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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.

Mercury, Venus and M-35

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   Early Tuesday (15 July) morning before the Sun rises there may be an opportunity to see the two inner planets Venus and Mercury both of which are within 7o from the open star cluster M-35. You can fit the three within the field of view of 7×50 binoculars.
15july-bino   To find them look toward the eastern horizon and locate the very brilliant Venus (-4.0 magnitude) about 10-15 degrees above the horizon. This is not very high above the horizon, about a fist-width held at arm’s length, but Venus is unmistakable. Finding Mercury (0.04 magnitude) may be an issue depending on the time you are doing this and of course your local horizon.
   So, if you have binoculars hold them as this graphic shows – with Venus at the upper right at around 2 on a clock. Mercury will be at the 6 o’clock position near the bottom of the binocular field of view. Keeping the analog clock analogy going the open star cluster M-35 (5.5 magnitude) will be at the 8 o’clock position.

   
   
   
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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.

On the 4th Night

              Happy   4th of   July!!                     

jul4-aphelion   Friday 4 July is not only the day we in the United States of America celebrate our country’s Independence Day, it is also the day that the Earth reaches aphelion, its greatest distance from the Sun. For the record we are closest to the Sun, perihelion, around the beginning of January.
   So despite the summer heat, humidity, and a late sunset there will be more in the skies this 4th than just fireworks.
 At around sunset look low toward the western horizon for 3 stars arranged in a short diagonal line. No it is not Orion’s Belt. The one on the lower left side is the planet Jupiter near the Gemini Twin stars.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

 The nearly first quarter Moon is over the southwestern horizon and is just to the west (right) from the planet Mars and the bluish-white star Spica.
 Both Mars and Spica are close enough so that they fit within the field of view of 7×50 binoculars.
 Look left from this pair and higher above the southern horizon for the planet Saturn, one of 4 planets in our solar system with rings.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   If your viewing area is under dark enough skies, away from the light-polluted metropolitan area, then look toward the eastern horizon for the glow of the Milky Way as it rises. The teapot shape asterism for Sagittarius is above the southern horizon throughout this month and if the Milky Way is visible it looks like steam rising from the teapot’s spot. This graphic shows the location of Dwarf Planet Pluto. Pluto is also at opposition. Opposition for an outer planet is an arrangement of objects like a full Moon in that at opposition an outer planet is on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun.
   While it is too dim to see with the unaided eye or even binoculars it is a neat idea to think about what Pluto looks like. I say this (actually write) because around this time next year NASA’s New Horizon spacecraft will be flying past Pluto sending back our first truly good look at this very distant solar system object.

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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.

Moon Near Regulus

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   Tuesday evening, 1 July, look toward the western horizon at around sunset for the thin 4.75 day old waxing crescent Moon to be a few degrees from Regulus, the ‘heart’ of Leo the Lion. The two will be separated by 6-7o so both will easily fit within the field of view of 7×50 binoculars as the banner graphic at the top of the page shows.

   
   
   
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.

We Are Here!

   I just had to share this! Be advised that there are some ‘F-bombs’ and other lesser swear words.

“We live in the cosmic equivalent of an f***ing cul-de-sac.”

                                (from the Onion — of course)

   
   
   
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.