Moon – Jupiter Conjunction

   Tuesday morning April 23rd the 18-day old waning Gibbous Moon will be in a close conjunction with Jupiter as the two are separated by about 1o. The two should make for an interesting view as they both will very easily fit within the field of view of 7×50 binoculars.

   
   
   

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The Moon and a Dwarf Planet

   Monday morning April 22nd, before the Sun rises, look toward the south-southwest for the 17-day old waning gibbous Moon. While the Moon is obviously easy to see at a -12.60 apparent magnitude, the nearby, (2-3o), dwarf planet Ceres with an apparent magnitude of 6.90 is outshined by the Moon and is not visible.
   As this graphic shows all of the naked-eye visible planets except Mars are arranged from west to east above the horizon. While not naked eye visible Neptune, with an apparent magnitude of 7.94, is also shown. This arrangement of planets then offers an opportunity to visualize the plane of the ecliptic, the Earth’s orbit extended onto the sky. The plane of the ecliptic is one of the primary frames of reference for our solar system, and one of the things the other 7 planets have in common is that their respective orbits are all within about 7o from the plane of the ecliptic. Even our Moon stays within about 6o from the ecliptic.
   
   
   

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An Inner Planet Get Together

   Tuesday morning April 16th before the Sun rises watch for the two inner planets Mercury and Venus to be rising together and separated by about 3-4o. Both planets will easily fit within the field of view of 7×50 binoculars.
   Compare the apparent magnitude of Venus, -3.93 with the 0.22 apparent magnitude of Mercury.

   This is the closest the two will come to each other but Mercury and Venus will be visible above the horizon for the rest of the month and into May. Both planets are moving eastward along their respective orbital paths. This animated graphic is set to 1-day intervals from April 16th to April 30th.

   
   
   

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Moon – Venus, Mercury, Neptune – Triple Conjunction

   Tuesday April 2nd the 27-day old thin waning crescent Moon will join three planets, Mercury, Venus, and Neptune in a triple conjunction. All four will be grouped within an area about 8-10o across. This separation is slightly more than the field of view of 7×50 binoculars.
   The group of planets and our Moon have an interesting range of apparent magnitudes. The waning crescent Moon is -9.8, Venus -3.9, Mercury 0.82, and Neptune 7.95.

   
   
   

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Planets Line Up in the Morning Skies

   Starting Monday April 1st, and continuing for a couple of weeks there will be an arrangement of 5 planets over the eastern to southern horizon in the hour or so before the Sun rises. Of these Neptune is the only one not bright enough to be visible to the unaided eye.

The Planets at 10-day Intervals During April
   The basic organization of our solar system is to have the other 7 planets follow orbits close to the plane of the ecliptic, and given how these planets are arranged and appear from the Earth this month makes it easy to visualize the ecliptic. This ‘view from above’ animated graphic shows the planets at 1-day intervals during April.

   
   
   

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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Moon – Saturn Conjunction

   Thursday morning March 28th, and Friday morning March 29th the first quarter and waning crescent Moon, respectively, pass by the outer ringed giant planet, Saturn, coming within about 8o on Thursday and about 4o on Friday from Saturn.


   
   
   

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March Moon at Apogee

   Our Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), on Monday March 4th. At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 31.86 Earth diameters 252,520 miles (406,391 km) from the Earth.

   Does our Moon actually go around the Earth? 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*

   On the day of the apogee the 27.5-day old very thin waning crescent Moon will be over the southeastern horizon 30-60 minutes before sunrise local time.

*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?”

   
   
   

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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