The Moon and Venus

   Yesterday morning and this morning offered me an opportunity for getting some pictures of the thin waning crescent Moon as it rose, more or less, over Highway 50. Given the amount of wasted illumination going skyward this is at best not a dark viewing site! However for bright objects rising in the east the bright lights of car dealerships, and oncoming car headlights provide for an interesting foreground. Yesterday there were low-lying clouds above the horizon making it a waiting game for when Venus and the Moon were visible. I won!
   This morning the skies were very clear and I was able to get a picture of the 28.25-day old waning crescent Moon. New Moon is tomorrow 20 October at 2:12 pm CDT.
   That ‘dash’ you might have noticed to the left from Venus in yesterday’s picture were the lights from an airplane. This picture like the one today were shot with a 2-second exposure time. So the dash represents how much the plane moved in 2 seconds. And if you look carefully at this morning’s picture you will see 3rd magnitude Zaniah near -3.93 magnitude Venus, and 3rd magnitude Porrima near 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.

Moon – Dwarf Planet Ceres Conjunction

   Friday morning September 15th the waning crescent Moon will be within about 6o from the dwarf planet Ceres. Ceres should be just visible with binoculars with an apparent magnitude of between 7th and 8th. Within the binocular field of view, about 3o above Ceres is 3rd magnitude kappa Geminorum. And about 5o from Ceres is the star Pollux, one of the ‘Twin’ stars in Gemini the Twins.

   
   
   

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.

4 Planets – No Clouds!

   Following a couple of days with off and on clouds interfering with seeing the planets and waning crescent Moon we had a cold front pass through and now on the ‘backside’ we have higher pressure and accompanying cooler, drier, and somewhat less humid. So this morning I was able to not only see what I wanted to see but as an added bonus the innermost planet, Mercury, was also visible.
   This is a 180o panorama of one of my viewing sites. It is near US Highway 50 and toward the eastern edge of Lee’s Summit Missouri where I live, thus the business lights and vehicle traffic.

   
   
   
   

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.

Leo with Planets, Orion and ISS

   The three morning planets this morning at 6 am CDT. Compare the separation between Mars and Regulus this morning with my pictures from 2 days ago and you can get an idea of how much Mars moves daily as it orbits the Sun.
   Camera settings were 18mm; ISO 1600; f5.0; 6 seconds.

   This morning was also special as the International Space Station was going to pass over my part of the world at about the same time. The path the ISS followed took it from the west-northwest to the southeast and it reached a brightness that outshone one of the brighter stars of Orion, Rigel, and also the brightest night time star, Sirius.
   Camera settings were 18mm; ISO 1600; f5.0; 4 seconds. This is a stacked picture using 3 separate pictures.

   
   
   
   

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.

Leo and the Planets

   Friday morning September 25th the planet Mars will be within 1o from the star Regulus in Leo the Lion. Both shine with nearly the same apparent magnitude, Regulus (1.34) and Mars (1.78), making them look sort of like a binary system composed of a reddish star and a blue-white star. Interestingly Regulus is a multiple star system composed of at least 4 stars, with Regulus the brightest.
mars-regulus-venus-cropped   Here is a picture from that morning.
   You may also notice that there are three planets now visible in the hours before sunrise. Things will only get better with morning planet viewing as this year comes to an end. Saturn will join the group and then by the end of January Mercury will become the fifth morning planet visible. This animated graphic is set for 7:15 am local time on the 15th of each month.
Pay attention to the graphic for December. It is possible that Comet Catalina (C/2013 US10) may still be visible – that is assuming that it has brightened as predictions have suggested.

Stay tuned!

 

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.

Venus at its Brightest

   Have you noticed that bright shining ‘star’ in the morning skies? At this time of the year you could be thinking I am referring to Sirius, the brightest night time star. While Sirius, no kidding, has an apparent magnitude of -1.4 it is out shined by the inner planet Venus now rising about 2-3 hours before sunrise local time. Venus currently has an apparent magnitude of -4.54 and coincidentally Venus is at its greatest brilliance.

Venus monthly: January-December 2015

Venus monthly: January-December 2015

   This is not the first time that Venus has been at its greatest brightness as this point in Venus’s orbit occurs as a function of the planet’s orbital position relative to the Earth and the Sun. Venus increases in its apparent size as it moves from superior conjunction, behind the Sun through eastern elongation to inferior conjunction. During this time Venus goes through phase changes starting with a waning gibbous phase following superior conjunction to a new phase at inferior conjunction. At this point Venus is at its greatest apparent size however we will not see Venus until it moves away from inferior conjunction. As Venus moves toward western elongation and then to superior conjunction its apparent size decreases while it goes from a large crescent shape to a smaller waxing gibbous phase.
   Venus was at inferior conjunction this past August 15th so it was last at its greatest brightest on July 12th when it was a large but thin waning crescent shape. Now Venus is moving past inferior conjunction and is at a orbital position similar to the one it had in July making Venus appear at its greatest brightness.

   
   
   
   

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.

Luna Passed an ‘Innie’

   Tuesday evening September 15th the thin 2.5-day young waxing crescent Moon will be near the bluish-white star Spica in the constellation Virgo the Harvest Maiden. Both of which, the Moon and Spica, are low over the western horizon at sunset local time. This graphic is set for just after sunset local time and shows the location of a couple of the Dwarf Planets and the innermost planet (the ‘Innie’), Mercury. What Luna passed was that on Monday evening the even thinner waxing crescent Moon was near Mercury, however from a mid-northern latitude perspective the two were low above the horizon and relatively close to the Sun making them a challenge to see.

    Mercury is actually best viewed from the southern hemisphere this month. Here is a graphic showing the same view at the same date and time however from 90o south of my location at the southern latitude of 40oS.

   
   
   

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.

Mars-Moon-Venus Together

   This morning, Wednesday, you may have noticed a thin crescent Moon up to the right (west) from a very bright star-like object. That is the planet Venus shining with an apparent Magnitude of -4.49. What you may not have noticed is a reddish star off to the left (east) from Venus. That is the planet Mars, ‘shining’ with an apparent magnitude of 1.78.
   On Thursday morning September 10th watch for the even thinner, and 1-day older, waning crescent Moon to have moved eastward to the east side of Venus where it is in between Venus and Mars. This should make for an interesting picture, or at the least a striking view through binoculars. And as this graphic shows, at around 6:15 pm local time the planet Jupiter appears at the horizon as it rises into the morning skies. Jupiter, for comparison, shines with an apparent magnitude of -1.7.

   
   
   
   

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.

Batter Up!

   Sunday morning, September 6th the waning crescent Moon, just past last quarter phase, will be rising near the feet of the Gemini Twins or as we should say here in the KC Royals baseball zone the Moon is about to get hit out of the park by none other than Orion the Hunter!
   Look down toward the eastern horizon and that very bright appearing star-like object is the planet Venus with an apparent magnitude of -4.5 A few degrees to the east, left, is the considerably dimmer Mars with an apparent magnitude of only 1.7.

   Within about 7o from the Moon, toward the east or left, is the open star cluster M-35. With binoculars M-35 resolves into a fuzzy patch of stars with a combined apparent magnitude of between 5-6. And with my 8″ reflector telescope and a 25mm eyepiece the entire star cluster fits nicely within the field of view with this eyepiece.

   
   
   

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.

Moon – Pluto Conjunction

click on graphic to see it full size   Wednesday July 29th the waxing gibbous Moon will be within a few degrees from the Dwarf Planet Pluto.
   Where is Pluto and is Pluto visible to the naked eye? Pluto currently is above the teapot-shaped asterism for Sagittarius the Archer. It is located near a 3rd magnitude star, Xi2 Sagittarii, however Pluto has an apparent magnitude of 14.0 making it too dim to be seen in other than a large telescope or with a sequence of pictures of the same part of sky over a period of several days or weeks. From that sequence of pictures the motion of Pluto against the stars in the background becomes noticeable.

Click here to learn more about the New Horizons mission and take part in the mission with some of the interactives created by NASA.

   
   
   
   

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.