Tuesday evening, November 10th, about an hour or so after sunset, the 14.5-day old waxing gibbous Moon will be about 2-3o from the reddish star Aldebaran. Aldebaran is at one end of the v-shaped open star cluster the Hyades in Taurus the Bull.
Early chilly mornings yes, but two planets are visible before the Sun rises. Maybe seeing Mars and Mercury will make it worthwhile? They are both within the realm of the constellation Libra the Scales. As a bonus Dwarf Planet Haumea is also above the horizon but with an apparent magnitude of 17.0 it is virtually invisible without some optical assistance.
Once in a while the planets are arranged such that they are spread across the sky as they look in this graphic. However over time, several days, this arrangement changes as the planets continue moving along their orbits.
The planets are not lined up in a straight line outward from the Sun but rather are arranged along the ecliptic. The ecliptic is the Earth’s orbital path around the Sun and the respective orbit of each planet is inclined from the ecliptic. And this is one of those times when it is easy to visualize the ecliptic. Click here to read a previous posting about the ecliptic and planet inclination.
This animated graphic is showing the terrestrial planets as they move along their respective orbits for this month. They are not ‘lined up’ as they appear to be in the above horizon picture.
Yesterday Friday November 29th the Moon crossed 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. For those keeping count this is the 2nd descending node crossing for the Moon this month.
At around sunset Thursday November 28th look toward the western horizon for the 2.5-day old thin waxing crescent Moon to be close to the inner planet Venus, and an outer planet, Jupiter. The Moon will be about 1-2o from Venus and about 6o from Jupiter.
Too dim to be seen with the naked eye at 8-9th magnitude and about 3o from the Moon is the Dwarf Planet Ceres.
The planet Saturn is about 12o to the east from the Moon – which is where the Moon will be on the evening of November 29th. The two will be about 1-2o from one another.
Both of these conjunctions between the Moon and planets are tight enough such that both groupings will easily fit within the field of view of binoculars.
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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Our Moon reaches perigee, (closest distance to Earth), for this orbit, on Saturday November 23rd. At that time the Moon will be at a distance of 28.75 Earth diameters, 227,870 miles (366,721 km) from the Earth.
On the day of the perigee Moon the 26-day old very thin waning crescent Moon will be over the eastern horizon rising within about 6-7o from the blue-white star Spica in the constellation Virgo the Harvest Maiden.
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 2006 Scope on the Sky column “The Real Shape of the Moon’s Orbit”. (PDF)
Sunday November 24th there will a photo or viewing opportunity during the twilight hour before the Sun rises and after the sun has set. Starting off the day will be a conjunction involving the very thin waning crescent Moon near the ‘Red Planet’ Mars. The two will be separated by about 3-4o. Lower or to the east is the innermost planet Mercury.
Then, approximately 12 hours later, the Sun has or is about to set and over the western horizon is a cluster of 3 planets. Close together and separated by about 1-2o are the planets Jupiter and Venus. Higher or to the east is the planet Saturn.
Both of these conjunctions will look great through binoculars or a wide-field eyepiece on a telescope, and obviously will make for interesting pictures.