Twin Conjunctions

click on graphic to see it larger   Monday February 18th the inner planet Venus will be about 1o from the outer planet Saturn as both rise a couple of hours before the Sun rises. The two will make for an interesting view with binoculars.

   Also, on Monday February 18th the 14-day old waxing gibbous Moon will be about 7-8o to the west from the star Regulus in the constellation Leo the Lion. The following day, February 19th, the full Moon will be about the same distance from Regulus but now on the east side. Both rise in the late afternoon about 2 hours before the Sun sets.

   
   
   

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Moon – Jupiter Conjunction

   Wednesday morning January 30th, at sunrise, the 25-day old waning crescent Moon will be within 2-3o from the planet Jupiter. Venus is a few more degrees further east and the Moon will be in conjunction with Venus on the 31st.

   
   
   

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Venus – Jupiter Conjunction

   Wednesday morning January 23rd the inner planet Venus and an outer planet, Jupiter, will be rising together a couple of hours before the Sun rises. The two planets will be about 2-3o from each other and will easily fit within the field of view of binoculars. The two planets have been moving toward this conjunction and as the days pass Venus will continue moving east and away from Jupiter.

   
   
   

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Venus and Jupiter in Motion

   If the morning skies are clear and the temperature is tolerable go out before sunrise local time and look toward the east. The two brightest stellar objects are the planets Venus (brightest) and Jupiter. A few degrees from Jupiter is the reddish star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion. Dwarf Planet Ceres is also in this part of the sky but it is too dim to be seen with the unaided eye. As the graphic shows this is also near the Milky Way but seeing that would require much darker skies than many of us live under.

   Both planets are in motion as they orbit the Sun following their respective orbital path. As an inner planet and much closer to the Sun Venus moves more quickly than Jupiter so as days pass Venus will noticeable move more so than Jupiter. Venus was at its western elongation last month and now Venus is in the part of its orbit where it is moving eastward toward the Sun. As Venus moves in that direction Venus will catch up to and then pass Jupiter, coming the closest on January 23rd.
   The animated graphic is set for 1-day intervals from January 15th to January 31st.
   For comparison Venus moves 1.6o each day while Jupiter moves 0.083o each day. The Earth is also in motion and moves about 1.0o each day. So as the Earth moves the sky appears to move toward the west and as this happens Saturn comes into view toward the end of January. The waning crescent Moon shows up also at the end of the month.

   
   
   

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Venus Reaches Western Elongation

inner-planets-positions   Sunday January 6th 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 the planet Jupiter, about 13o below Venus, east from Venus. The reddish star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion is also about 13o from Venus, and is about 6o from Jupiter. If the skies are dark enough the Milky Way should be visible rising toward the southwest.

   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 latest time in this orbit. On the day of the western elongation Venus will be 46.9o 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.

   
   
   

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Crescent Moon and Jupiter Follow-Up

   This morning, January 3rd on my way to the gym I paused along Highway 50 and then near the small lake by the gym for a couple of pictures of the waning crescent Moon, Jupiter, and Venus.

   
   
   

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Moon Conjunction with Venus and Ceres

   Tuesday morning January 1st the thin 25-day old waning crescent Moon (apparent magnitude -10.96) will be within 3-4o from the inner planet Venus (apparent magnitude -4.47) and 1-2o from the Dwarf Planet Ceres (apparent magnitude 8.0). All three will fit within the field of view of 7×50 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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