Over the next 10 days, from August 13th to the 23rd, the Moon will move eastward, as it always does, following the ecliptic and interacting with planets and stars near the ecliptic.
click on any graphic below to view each of the graphics full sized.
This is one of those ‘best of times’ with regard to planet viewing. All of the visible planets are above the horizon although Mercury sets just before Mars rises. Times like this make it easy to visualize the ecliptic and its relationship with the planets. And our Moon, as it waxes toward full phase over the next several days, will pass by several planets and dwarf planets.
Click on a graphic to start a slide show.
For the next week or so the evening skies will be filled with planets and dwarf planets. With the right timing and a relatively flat horizon you might be able to see Venus just before it sets and Mars just after it rises. A caveat to this is that as each day passes Mars will rise earlier while Venus, each day, will be setting earlier. And with the exception of Ceres the dwarf planets are too dim to be seen with the naked eye.
As this graphic shows, the planets are closer to the ecliptic than the dwarf planets due to differences in the respective inclinations. Inclination: Every object orbiting the Sun has an orbital path that is tilted or inclined from the Earth’s orbit – the ecliptic.
The waxing gibbous Moon is roughly mid-way between the red star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion and the planet Saturn.
Monday evening June 25th the planet Mercury will be about 5o from Pollux, one of the Gemini Twins stars. They will be low over the western horizon following sunset but with a clear horizon should be visible.
Also, after a couple of hours later turn toward the southeast to see the 12-day old waxing gibbous Moon rising within about 8-9o from the reddish star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion. Further east is one of the ringed planets, Saturn, and the ‘Red Planet’ Mars.
This evening, May 25th the 10.5-day old waxing gibbous Moon will be about 6-7o from the blue-white star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden. Then, over the next 2 nights the Moon will continue moving eastward and will pass by the planet Jupiter. The Moon will be about 8-9o to the
east west from Jupiter on the 26th, and less then 5o east from Jupiter on the 27th.
Wednesday morning May 2nd the waning gibbous Moon will be about 8-9o from the heart of Scorpius the Scorpion, the reddish star Antares. Joining the Moon is Jupiter to the west, and Saturn and Mars to the east.
Thursay March 29th, the position of the planet Saturn with respect to the Earth and the Sun places this ringed planet at what is called western quadrature. Saturn is at a 90 degree angle from us as this graphic shows. Think third quarter Moon as that is a fair comparison of the relative positions. At this position Saturn leads the Sun across the sky from east to west as the Earth is rotating, meaning that Saturn rises before the Sun and also sets before the Sun.
Saturn currently is within the constellation of Sagittarius the Archer as this graphic shows. From the northern hemisphere, looking toward the southern horizon, you can find Saturn to the east, left, from the reddish star Antares. Between Saturn and Antares is Mars, about 2-3o from Saturn. To the right from Antares is the planet Jupiter.
Learn a little (or a lot) about Saturn by visiting the Cassini at Saturn mission web site.
Click here to go to the Cassini Mission web site.
This is a short 5 minute video I made as part of a live musical performance called “Orbit”. This is a piece from the much longer tour of the solar system performance and video and shows Saturn and some of its moons as viewed from the Cassini spacecraft that month.