According to the pseudoscience of astrology the Sun enters the constellation of Pisces the Fishes on Sunday February 18th. In fact the actual position of the Sun is still within the boundary of the constellation of Aquarius the Water Bearer, as this graphic shows. The Sun had just entered Aquarius 2 days ago.
Sunday December 3rd the position of the planet Neptune with respect to the Earth and the Sun places this ringed planet at what is called Eastern Quadrature. Neptune is at a 90 degree angle from the Earth – think first quarter Moon as that is a fair comparison of the relative positions. At this position Neptune follows the Sun across the sky from east to west as the Earth is rotating, meaning that Neptune rises after the Sun and sets after the Sun.
Where is Neptune now? The 8th planet from the Sun is currently within the constellation of Aquarius the Water Bearer and has recently completed its retrograde motion (November 22th).
This is a 1 minute clip from a video I made showing Neptune and some of its moons as viewed from the Voyager 2 spacecraft. This clip is from a longer video of a tour of the solar system and was part of a live musical performance called “Orbit”. The performances were done at the Gottleib Planetarium in Science City at Union Station in Kansas City MO.
Thursday January 19th at 14 UT the Sun in its apparent eastward motion along the ecliptic enters the boundaries of the constellation Capricorn the Sea Goat. This is the true or actual position of the Sun. However 7 hours later, at 21 UT, according to the pseudoscience of astrology, the Sun,will enter the constellation of Aquarius the Water Bearer.
Thursday December 22nd the planets Mars and Jupiter are aligned in an arrangement known as heliocentric opposition. The two planets are on opposite sides of the Sun and are approximately 180o apart in heliocentric longitude as measured around the celestial equator. Mars has a heliocentric longitude of approximately 10o, while Jupiter is at 190o. However the two planets are not necessarily at the same level (above or below) relative to the ecliptic. Both planets are south of the celestial equator with Mars at 12o South Declination in Aquarius the Water Bearer, and Jupiter, at 6o South Declination, is in the constellation of Virgo the Harvest Maiden.
Tuesday (October 11th), and Wednesday (12th) evenings the waxing gibbous Moon will be over the south-southeast horizon about 3 hours after local time for sunset. The Moon will move from the constellation of Capricornus the Sea Goat into the boundaries of the constellation Aquarius the Water Bearer.
Over toward the southwest will be the planet Mars about 1-2 hours from setting.
Saturday July 23rd the waning gibbous Moon will be crossing 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 day of the node crossing the 19-day old waning gibbous Moon rises around midnight local time and is over the southwest horizon at sunrise. The Moon will be close to the the outermost planet Neptune, an event that happens regularly throughout the year due to Neptune’s proximity to the ecliptic and the Moon’s orbit which keeps it near or crossing the ecliptic. Neptune at 8th magnitude will be outshone by the much brighter reflected sunlight from the Moon at nearly -13th magnitude. Between the Moon and Neptune is the 3rd magnitude star Lambda Aquarii in the constellation Aquarius the Water Bearer.
Tuesday June 14th the outermost of the 8 planets, Neptune, pauses its regular eastward direct motion around the Sun and for the next several months will appear to be moving westward, in retrograde motion, across the constellation Aquarius the Water Bearer. Neptune’s retrograde motion ends on November 20th with Neptune resuming its eastward direct motion.
Retrograde motion is an apparent motion that the outer planets, relative to the Earth, have. It is an apparent motion that looks as if the outer planet stops it normal direct motion to the east and reverses direction to the west. After a period of time the apparent westward motion ends and the planet resumes its normal orbital path to the east. Retrograde motion happens as the faster moving Earth catches up with and then passes by the outer planet. It is during this time that the backward apparent motion happens.
The two inner planets also have retrograde motion but it is a result of their orbit around the Sun and not the Earth passing them by. For approximately one-half of their orbit they move east, from western elongation through superior conjunction to eastern elongation. Then at eastern elongation the inner planet starts moving westward through inferior conjunction to western elongation.
Read a little more about retrograde motion in my February 2012 Scope on the Skies column, drawkcab planets, in Science Scope Magazine.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.