Moon on the Move – Always


   Over the next few evenings the waxing gibbous Moon will move eastward passing by the open star cluster known as the Beehive Cluster this evening and then in a couple of days, as a full Moon, will be close to the heart of Leo the Lion the star Regulus.
   While the Moon may be close to the open star cluster the waxing gibbous Moon with its considerably greater apparent magnitude will outshine the star cluster making it not visible. Wait a few days and then aim your binoculars or low power eyepiece for a better view.

   
   
   

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 Meets the Twins


   Tuesday evening February 23rd the 12-day old waxing gibbous Moon will be about 2o from Pollux, one of the two ‘Twin’ stars of the constellation Gemini the Twins. The other brother is Castor, which is about 6o away from 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.

February Moon at Ascending Node

   Saturday February 20th the 9-day old waxing 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 day of the node crossing the 9-day old waxing gibbous Moon will be over the southwestern horizon later during the evening after sunset local time. Watch for the Moon to be about 8o from the reddish star Aldebaran in the open star cluster the Hyades in Taurus the Bull.

   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 Scope on the Sky column “The Real Shape of the Moon’s Orbit”. (PDF)
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

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.

Mercury – Saturn – Jupiter Together Again!

   Saturday morning February 20th in the hour or so before the Sun rises look for the innermost planet Mercury to be about 4-5o from Saturn and Jupiter. All three should fit within the field of view of binoculars, but the three planets will be low above the horizon.

   
   
   

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.

February Moon at Apogee

   Our Moon reaches apogee, (furthest from Earth), for this orbit, on Thursday February 18th. For this apogee the 7.25-day old waxing crescent Moon will be at a distance of 31.70 Earth diameters, 251,282 miles (404,400 km) from the Earth.

   On the date of the apogee Moon the nearly first quarter Moon will be high above the southern horizon and will be within a few degrees from the planet Mars.


   Does our Moon actually go around the Earth as this graphic shows? 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 Scope on the Sky column “The Real Shape of the Moon’s Orbit”. (PDF)

   
   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to go to bobs-spaces.


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The Moon, Mars, and NASA’s Perseverance

   Thursday evening February 18th the 7-day old almost first quarter but still waxing crescent Moon will be about 3o from the ‘Red Planet’ Mars. Despite the -11.75 apparent magnitude of the Moon Mars, with an apparent magnitude of 0.75, will still be visible.

   
   NASA Perseverance is scheduled to land on Mars on 18 February 2021, at around 20 UT or 2 pm CST.

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

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 – Uranus Conjunction

   Wednesday evening February 17th the 6-day old waxing crescent Moon will be about 3-4o from the outer and ringed Planet Uranus. While the Moon with an apparent magnitude of -11.5 will certainly be visible, Uranus with an apparent magnitude of 5.81 will not!

   
   
   

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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Crescent Moon – Neptune Conjunction

   Saturday February 13th the 2-day old thin waxing crescent Moon will be about 2-3o from the outer planet Neptune and about 6-7o to the west from Dwarf Planet Ceres. The Moon will pass by Ceres over the next 24 hours and by about this time tomorrow the Moon will be to the east from Ceres.
   I should point out that Ceres with an apparent magnitude between 8th and 9th and Neptune with an apparent magnitude between 7th and 8th neither will be visible to the unaided eye.
   However when you are looking toward the Moon you will be looking in the direction of these two distant members of our solar system. This graphic shows the position of the Earth, our Moon, Ceres, and Neptune on February 13th. From this perspective objects to the left of the Sun will be seen in the evening skies as the Earth rotates.

   
   
   

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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Springtime on Mars!

A Martian Year

A Martian Year – at One Earth Month Intervals

   Four days ago, February 2nd, we ‘celebrated'(?) Groundhog Day where in the Northern Hemisphere if the groundhog sees its shadow there will be 6 more weeks of winter. Coincidentally on Saturday February 6th it is the spring equinox on the planet Mars as the planet transitions from its winter season to spring during its 684 Earth day orbit around the Sun. However there are no groundhogs on Mars! So there may be clear skies but given daily temperatures on the Martian surface to me it looks like spring time all the time, albeit rather cool!
   Seasons on Mars are marked by the planet’s heliocentric longitude coordinates using the position of Mars along its orbit around the Sun. Each seasonal start/ending point is 90 degrees apart, but because of its elliptical-shaped orbit each Martian season is of varying lengths.

   I’m not exactly sure why this particular date is used but by international agreement astronomers have selected April 11th, 1955 as 0 degrees for year 1 of this Martian calendar. What this works out to is that on Saturday February 6th, Earth time, it is the start of spring for year 36 using the aforementioned calendar system.

Year 35
0 degrees — Spring Equinox — March 23 2019
90 degrees — Summer solstice — October 08 2019
180 degrees — Fall Equinox — April 08 2020
270 degrees — Winter Solstice — September 02 2020

Year 36
0 degrees — Spring Equinox — February 06 2021
90 degrees — Summer solstice — August 25 2021
180 degrees — Fall Equinox — February 24 2022
270 degrees — Winter Solstice — July 21 2022

Learn a little (or a lot) more about the exploration of Mars at the NASA Explore the Moon to Mars website.

   
   
   

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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February Moon at Descending Node

   Saturday February 6th the 25-day old waning crescent Moon crosses the plane of the ecliptic moving south. This is known as the descending node, one of two intersections the Moon’s orbital path (dark green line) has with the ecliptic.

   On the date of the descending node the 25-day old thin waning crescent Moon will be over the eastern horizon at sunrise local time.

   
   
   
   
   

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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