Thursday evening January 10th the 16-day old waning gibbous Moon will be about 6-7o from the star Pollux. Pollux is one of the two Gemini Twin stars.
The evening skies of this year’s New Year’s Eve begins at sunset with the 6-day old waxing crescent Moon to be about 3-4o from the outer planet Neptune. However with an apparent magnitude of 8 Neptune is only visible with optical assistance. On the other hand the crescent Moon with an apparent magnitude of -13 would be hard to miss!
Later, at around midnight and centered over the southern horizon will be the ‘regular’ Northern Hemisphere winter display of stars. This is a familiar groups of bright stars in a rough circle around the constellation of Orion the Hunter, and sometimes referred to as the “Winter Hexagon” or ‘Winter Circle”.
As the winter hexagon the member stars are Rigel in Orion the Hunter, Aldebaran in Taurus the Bull, Capella in Auriga the Charioteer, Pollux and Castor in the Gemini Twins, Procyon in Canis Minor, and Sirius in Canis Major.
We’ve survived another orbit.
Happy New Year!
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Over the next few evenings, Saturday December 14th, Sunday the 15th, and Monday the 16th the waning gibbous Moon will orbit eastward starting from about 7-8o south of Pollux to passing about 6-8o from M-44, the ‘Beehive Cluster’, an open star cluster in the constellation Cancer the Crab. By Monday the 16th the waning gibbous Moon will be about 2o from the heart of Leo the Lion, the star Regulus.
During a 24-hour rotation of the Earth the Moon will have moved approximately 15o eastward. In terms of Moon position that 15o is equal to one hour — (divide 360o by 24 hours = 15o). What this has to do with the Moon’s position is that each day or night the Moon rises about 1 hour earlier. These 3 graphics show the effect of this in that it will be about 1 hour later for the Moon to be more or less in the same spot in the sky relative to the horizon.
Early Monday morning October 21st the last Quarter Moon will be high over the southeastern horizon and more or less lined up with the ‘Twin Stars’ of Gemini, Pollux and Castor. The Moon will be about 4-5o from Pollux and about 9-10o from Castor.
Over the next few evenings, June 7th to 10th, the inner planet Venus will pass the star Pollux, marking the head of one of the Gemini Twins. Pollux is on the left side as we view the ‘Twins’ face-on. This animated graphic is set for 10 pm CDT and shows the daily movement of Venus toward the east, combined with the daily motion of the stars toward the west as the Earth revolves around the Sun.
The separation between Venus and Pollux will vary from about 4.5o to about 5.5o allowing at least these two to fit within a binocular field of view.
Over the next couple of nights the 15 to 16 day old waning gibbous Moon will move past Pollux and Castor, the twin stars of Gemini, and Procyon the alpha star in Canis Minor, the Little Dog. With a little imagination or the animated graphic it’s not hard to picture Pollux kicking the Moon. Ok a lot of imagination, or the animated graphic!
Animated graphic shows the sky for December 15th and 16th a couple of hours after sunset.