Inner Planets on the Move

   This past month, November, the inner planets Mercury and Venus were very visible in the early morning skies before sunrise. Both of the planets were at or near their respective western elongation. Venus was there during August and Mercury reached its western elongation on November 10th.
   What I wanted to capture was the daily change in the position of Venus as it passed the star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden. Venus moves about 1.6o each day so its eastward motion should be obvious after a day or so. It was – it is!. Mercury, if you are wondering, moves about 4o each day.
   Both inner planets were somewhere around their maximum separation from the Sun – as we see it the inner planet is to the right side of the Sun, or toward the west.
   The series of pictures were taken from two locations near my house. One is from an empty lot near U.S. Highway 50 looking east. The other pictures are from somewhere along the street I live on! The first picture was taken at Legacy Park and includes the ISS orbiting over my location.


   
   
   

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Venus – Spica Conjunction


   Over the next few days the inner planet Venus will be moving eastward as it passes the blue-white star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden. This animated graphic is set to 1-day intervals and shows the morning sky from November 16th to the 20th.


   On Monday morning November 16th Venus will be the closest to Spica for a conjunction that has the two separated by about 3-4o. A few degrees, 13o, further east (lower) is the other inner planet Mercury.

   
   
   

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Moon – Inner Planets & 1 Star

   The waning crescent Moon, as it moves eastward toward new Phase on the 14th, passes by the two inner planets Venus and Mercury. Yesterday the Moon was west from the planets and after 24 hours of revolution the Moon has moved to between the two planets this morning.

   
   
   

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Mercury at Western Elongation – See it in the Morning Skies

   On Tuesday November 10th Mercury, the innermost planet, will reach its orbital position known as greatest western elongation at 19.1o. At that moment Mercury, the Sun, and the Earth, would be arranged in something close to approximating a right angle as this graphic shows. Even though it sounds confusing at western elongation for either Mercury or Venus the inner planet will be to the right of the Sun as we view them, meaning that at western elongation an inner planet rises in the east before the Sun rises. And at eastern elongation with the inner planet on the left side of the Sun the inner planet follows the Sun across the sky setting after the Sun sets.

   From our perspective the orbits of Mercury and Venus appear to move from one side of the Sun to the other – out to the left (east) from the Sun to eastern elongation, then reverse and move westward (inferior conjunction) between the Earth and the Sun to western elongation. From there the inner planet moves eastward going behind the Sun (superior conjunction) and eventually reappearing on the eastern side of the Sun for an eastern elongation. Repeat over and over – do not stop!

   There is a lot to see and a few things you cannot see on the morning of Mercury’s western elongation. Going by relative apparent magnitudes Mercury (-0.52), Venus (-3.99), Spica (0.96), are all easily visible as bright to very bright star-like objects. The 24-day old waning crescent Moon shines at a much brighter apparent magnitude of (-11.52).

   
   
   
   
   

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A Missouri Morning with the ISS

   This morning opened up with a colorful sunrise as the background for the ISS as it orbited toward the southeast. High overhead toward the south was the near last quarter Moon brightening the sky in that direction. However this was not a morning for taking pictures of the Moon.
   Right on time the ISS appeared over the northwest horizon and steadily moved past Polaris, the North Star, then past the Big Dipper’s Dipper heading toward the star Arcturus in Bootes the Herdsman. On its way toward the southeastern horizon the ISS went past Venus, Mercury and the star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden.
   While waiting and taking random pictures in different directions I managed to catch a Taurid Meteor!

   
   
   

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Waning Crescent Moon – Venus Conjunction

   Wednesday morning October 14th in the hour or so before sunrise look eastward for the 26.8-day old thin waning crescent Moon and the inner planet Venus. Both are shining brightly with the Moon’s apparent brightness of -10.0 contrasting with the -4.0 apparent brightness of Venus.

   Both the Moon and Venus will just barely fit within the 7o field of view of binoculars with the Moon to be about 7-8o to the east, ‘below’ the inner planet Venus.


   
   
   
   
   
   
   Here is the waning crescent Moon and Venus this morning, Tuesday October 13th.

   
   
   
   
   

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Moon May Get Stung!

   Sunday morning October 11th the 23.6-day old waning crescent Moon will be about 2o from the open star cluster M-44, also known as the Beehive Cluster. This is a group of a few hundred stars located within the constellation Cancer the Crab.
click on graphic to see it larger
   Despite the large difference in apparent magnitude (Moon: -11.4 : Beehive Cluster: 3.4) The Beehive Cluster could still be visible with an optical aid or camera.

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

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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October Moon at Ascending Node

   Thursday October 8th the 21-day old waning gibbous Moon will be crossing the plane of the ecliptic moving north. 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 the morning of the node crossing the 21-day old waning gibbous Moon will be high above the southern horizon at sunrise local time. Mars is setting over the western horizon while Venus shines brightly over the southeastern horizon.

   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*
*Click here to read my 2006 Scope on the Sky column “The Real Shape of the Moon’s Orbit”. (PDF)
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

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Moon & Venus – Different Conjunctions, Together

   Friday October 2nd if you are a morning type look toward the eastern horizon before sunrise for the inner planet Venus to be about 1o from the ‘heart’ of Leo the Lion, the star Regulus. Look westward, you can’t miss it, for the the just past full Harvest Moon, the waning gibbous Moon, to be within 9o from the planet Mars as the two prepare to set a couple of hours after sunrise local time.

   If you can wait, later that day, watch for the Moon and Mars as they rise together a couple of hours after sunset and are separated by about 1o from one another.


   Keep on eye on the outer planets Jupiter and Saturn. Jupiter being closer to the Sun than Saturn orbits more quickly and so it is steadily catching up with Saturn for a very close conjunction toward the end of December.

   
   
   

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Moon-Venus Conjunction + M44

   Monday morning September 14th look eastward in the pre-dawn skies for the 26-day old waning crescent Moon to be about 4-5o from the planet Venus and about the same distance from the open star cluster M-44, the Beehive Custer.

   The trio should make for an interesting view with binoculars.
   
   
   
   
   
   

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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