August Moon at Ascending Node – and Oh Yeah, A Total Solar Eclipse!

   Monday August 21st the new Moon will be crossing the plane of the ecliptic moving north relative to the ecliptic. 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 August 21st the new Moon will be crossing the plane of the ecliptic at 10:34 UT (5:34 am CDT) within the constellation Leo the Lion. 8 hours later, at 18:30 UT (1:30 pm CDT), the Moon will reach new phase. This close timing between the new Moon phase and a node crossing means only one thing – eclipse!!

   My eclipse viewing area will be at an Elementary School in the North Kansas City School District. From that location totality will be approximately 80 seconds. This short video showing totality for 80 seconds, was clipped and edited from a video shot during the November 2012 total solar eclipse viewed from Australia.

   Read a bit more about this eclipse from a previous post.

      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)

   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.

Venus Gets Buzzed!

   Tuesday morning August 1st the inner planet Venus will pass within 3o from the open star cluster, M-35. Also known as the ‘Beehive Cluster’ this is an open star cluster located near the feet of the Gemini Twins. M-35 consists of several hundred stars and is approximately 2800 light years from our solar system. The star cluster has an apparent magnitude of around 5.5 making it naked-eye visible and certainly a binocular-worthy object.

   Through binoculars it is easy to see M-35 as well as a 3rd and a 2nd magnitude star within a couple of degrees. However the ‘ruler’ of the binocular field of view is Venus with a -4.0 magnitude.

   
   
   

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.

Thin Waning Crescent Moon in Conjunction with Venus


   Thursday morning July 20th watch for the thin 26-day old waning crescent Moon to be within 2-3o from the inner planet Venus as both rise a couple of hours before sunrise. The reddish star Aldebaran in Taurus the Bull will be about 10o from the Moon.
   Venus and the Moon will fit nicely within the field of view of 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.

Moon is in Conjunction With Uranus and Eris

   Monday morning July 17th the 23-day old waning crescent Moon will be within a few degrees from the outer planet Uranus and dwarf planet Eris.
   Another dwarf planet, Ceres, the closest dwarf planet to the Earth is above the north-eastern horizon before sunrise local time. Ceres, formerly known as an asteroid, and the largest of the main belt asteroids, had enough mass to form into a spherical shape, one of the requirements for planet classification. Thus allowing it to be included in the group of known dwarf planets – most of which reside in orbits beyond the outer planet Neptune.
   Also very visible over the eastern horizon is the inner planet Venus shining very brightly near the reddish star Aldebaran in Taurus the Bull.

   
   
   

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.

Venus – Crescent Moon Conjunction


   Tuesday morning June 20th the 25-day old waning crescent Moon will be about 6o from the inner planet Venus. At -4.6 apparent magnitude Venus contrasts well with the Moon’s -11 apparent magnitude.

   
   
   

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.

Venus at Western Elongation

inner-planets-positions   Saturday June 3rd 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.

   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 45.9o 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.

   
   
   
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.

They’re There!


   Tuesday morning, May 23rd the thin 26.7-day old waning crescent Moon will be surrounded by planets, most of which will be difficult to see given the time of day and how faint each one is. Except for Venus.

   
   
   

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.