Tuesday morning October 17th the Dwarf Planet Ceres will be within about 3o from M-44, the open star cluster commonly known as the Beehive Cluster. Both will easily fit within the field of view of binoculars and with some careful observation Ceres at 8th magnitude might be identified just to the left from M-44 which appears as a 4th magnitude ‘smudge’ of light.
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.
Our Moon reaches perigee, (closest distance from Earth), for this orbit on Wednesday September 13th. At that time the Moon will be at a distance of 28.99 Earth diameters (369,860 km or 229,820 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*
On the day of the perigee Moon the 23-day old 3rd or last quarter Moon is above the east to southeastern horizon about an hour or so before the Sun rises. The inner planet Venus is very visible shining brightly above the horizon at -3.94 apparent magnitude, and Dwarf Planet Ceres at 7.92 apparent magnitude will not be visible but it is where the graphic indicates it to be.
Read this very informative article about the Earth-Moon system and their orbital motions, written by Joe Hanson. “Do We Orbit the Moon?”
Ok, so how can you Moon Uranus? Yeah I know – a sad, and bad joke. Let’s put it behind us.
Sunday morning, August 13th, the 21-day old waning gibbous Moon rises within a few degrees from the planet Uranus. Both are within the eastern fish of the constellation Pisces the Fishes. Uranus ‘shines’ at just under 6th magnitude so it is possible to see the 7th main planet from the Sun with binoculars. However the reflected light from the Moon will brighten the sky more than enough to drown out the dimmer light from Uranus and most other stars in the area making them not visible.
Not that it will be visible but near the Moon on the opposite side from Uranus is one of the dwarf planets, Eris. However at nearly 19th magnitude and almost 95.729 AU, (8,898,566,474 miles ; 14,320,854,563 km) from the Earth it is all but impossible to see without some serious amateur equipment, at an observatory, or with the Hubble Telescope. Add approximately an additional 1 AU (93,000,000 miles; 1,496,68992,000 km) to get its distance from the Sun.
What did I say about enough of the ‘bad jokes’? This cartoon reminded me of the statement, “Captain, We’re orbiting Uranus searching for Klingons.”
Speaking of Uranus here is a portion of the Orbits performance video showing Uranus and some of its moons.
Thursday morning July 20th watch for the thin 26-day old waning crescent Moon to be within 2-3o from the inner planet Venus as both rise a couple of hours before sunrise. The reddish star Aldebaran in Taurus the Bull will be about 10o from the Moon.
Venus and the Moon will fit nicely within the field of view of binoculars.
Thursday evening April 6th and Friday morning April 7th the waxing gibbous Moon will rise and then set with Regulus, the brightest star in Leo the Lion. During the course of the night the Moon will pass within about 1o-2o from Regulus.
Thursday evening April 6th, after sunset, look toward the west for a reddish appearing star. That is the planet Mars and about 2o to the east, left side, from Mars is Dwarf Planet Ceres, the closest of the dwarf planets. Not sure about Mars? Look for the Pleiades, an open star cluster with the brighter stars having a small dipper shape. Below the Pleiades is Mars.
Friday night December 9th offers up a planet buffet featuring eight planets above the horizon and one under your feet. As this graphic shows one of the outermost of the 8 planets, Uranus, is above the eastern horizon as are two Dwarf Planets, Ceres and Eris, and the waxing gibbous Moon. Further west over the southern horizon is the outermost of the 8 planets, Neptune, and over the southwest horizon are Mars, Venus, Pluto, and Mercury. And under your feet? Look down to see the Earth – can’t miss it!
Ceres is the closest Dwarf Planet to us as it is within the main asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars. The other Dwarf Planet is Eris which at 96 AU is located much further than Ceres (2.2 AU) and Uranus (19.4 AU) and Neptune (30 AU).