Thursday evening February 22nd the 7-day old first quarter Moon will be 8-9o from the open star cluster the Pleiades, and about 7o from the open star cluster the Hyades. With my 10×50 binoculars the two star clusters are just out of the field of view, but become visible with a slight nudge of my head!
Friday February 16th the Sun in its apparent eastward motion along the ecliptic, moves out of the constellation Capricornus the Sea Goat and into the constellation of Aquarius the Water Bearer. This is the true or actual position of the Sun as opposed to the pseudoscience of astrology which usually has the astrological Sun one constellation ahead or east from the Astronomical Sun’s position, which will be Sunday February 18th when the sun is not in Pisces according to astrology.
Monday morning February 12th the ‘Red Planet’ Mars will be within about 5o from the reddish star Antares, the heart of Scorpius the Scorpion. Both Mars and Antares currently have the same apparent magnitude of 1.03.
Antares owes its name to its near matching color of the reddish colored planet Mars. I have often described the name Antares origin as meaning ‘anti mars’, to distinguish the star from the planet. Sort of like saying at times like now when they are close that ‘that reddish object is not Mars’. However the name Antares from the Greek really means ‘equal to Mars’
This part of the sky, the summer sky for the northern hemisphere, has probably the best view of the Milky Way despite it being early morning. So it is with a great deal of excitement that as Mars approaches Antares and soon Saturn Mars is moving closer to the Milky Way.
Our Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), on Sunday February 11th. At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 31.80 Earth diameters (405,700 km or 252,090 miles) from the Earth.
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*
Since the Moon and Saturn are in the area of the Milky Way this should make for interesting viewing with Binoculars and pictures,
Read this very informative article about the Earth-Moon system and their orbital motions, written by Joe Hanson. “Do We Orbit the Moon?”
Saturday February 10th the ringed giant gas planet Jupiter reaches the point along its orbit around the Sun where Jupiter would be described as being at western quadrature. It is at a 90o angle relative to the Earth and the Sun.
Where is Jupiter currently? Jupiter rises after midnight local time and is located within the stars of Libra the Scales. Down to the left from Jupiter, or further east, are the planets Mars and Saturn. The waning crescent Moon is making its way eastward through this area as well.
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.nd as this graphic shows has the last quarter Moon nearby on the 14th.