Conjunction – Elongation – Conjunction

   Saturday evening watch for the 11-day old waxing gibbous Moon to be in conjunction with and about 3o from the reddish star Aldebaran in the constellation Taurus the Bull.

   Earlier in the evening the innermost planet Mercury was visible over the western horizon shortly after sunset. Mercury, on this date, will be at its Easternmost Elongation for this orbit. At elongation, eastern or western, Mercury, and also Venus, will be as far ‘out’ from the Sun to the right or left as we see the inner planets from Earth. At eastern elongation the inner planets follow the Sun across the sky during the day and appear as evening planets over the western horizon. At western elongation the inner planets ‘lead’ the Sun across the Sky during the day which means they rise ahead of the Sun and are seen as morning planets.

   But Wait – there’s still more!
   Saturn reaches solar conjunction on this date. During solar conjunction for an outer planet that outer planet will either be too close to the Sun to be seen or is on the opposite side of the Sun. When an outer planet reaches solar conjunction it moves from the evening skies to the morning skies.

   
   
   

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Moon-Mars-Uranus Conjunction

   Wednesday evening January 20th the 8-day old first quarter Moon will be about 4o from the outer planet Uranus and about 6o from Mars. Over the next couple of days Mars and Uranus will be separated by about 1-2o as the faster moving Mars passes by Uranus.
   Earlier in the evening outer Planet Neptune and two Dwarf Planets, Eris and Ceres are also above the horizon. However with apparent magnitudes ranging from 8.0 to 19.0 none of these three would be visible without some sort of optical assistance,

   
   
   

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Waxing Crescent Moon – Mercury Conjunction

   Did you miss the 27-day old thin waning crescent Moon conjunction with Venus this past Monday morning? I did!
   Well there is an opportunity to see the thin crescent Moon on this side of new phase this Thursday evening January 14th. The 1.7-day young waxing crescent Moon will be over the western horizon in a line-up of sorts with Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn all angled downward toward the western horizon. From Saturn to the Moon will span about 13o with Mercury, about 3-4o to the west, (down to the right) being the closest of the 3 planets.

   This animated graphic is set for 2-minute intervals starting at 5:30 pm CST.

   
   
   

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Morning and Evening Conjunctions

   Monday morning and evening, January 11th, offer an opportunity for catching a pair of conjunctions. Low over the eastern horizon at sunrise is the 27.7-day old very thin waning crescent Moon about 3-4o from the inner planet Venus.

   This could be a chance to see the Moon when it is about 24-hours from its new phase.

   Low in the western horizon at sunset is the ongoing triple conjunction between Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn. Monday evening will be the closest Mercury and Jupiter will be as Mercury continues moving eastward away from the two giant planets.

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

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Grand Conjunction Part 2: A Triple Conjunction!

   Just when you thought it was over, it is not! Yes Jupiter and Saturn are certainly low over the western horizon and both are setting closer to sunset, however…
   The innermost planet Mercury will be passing by Saturn then Jupiter over the next several evenings (January 7th to 12th) in a series of conjunctions as the graphics below are showing.
   Each of the conjunctions brings the three planets all within the field of view of binoculars and should make for an interesting contrast in apparent magnitudes. Jupiter: -1.94; Saturn: 0.60; Mercury: 0.89.

   
   
            Be careful observing because the Sun is close.

   
   
   

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Last Quarter Moon – Spica Conjunction

   Wednesday morning, January 6th in the hour or so before sunrise look for the last quarter Moon to be about 6o from the blue-white star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden. Since the Moon is in constant motion by the same time Thursday morning the Moon, now a waning crescent, will have moved from the west side of Spica to be about 9-10o east from Spica.

   
   
   

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Moon – Regulus Conjunction


   Late Saturday evening January 2nd, or early Sunday morning the 3rd, watch for the 20-day old waning gibbous Moon to be about 6-7o from the star Regulus. Regulus is the ‘heart’ of the lion, the constellation Leo the Lion.

   
   
   

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The Twins Get Mooned!

   Wednesday morning December 30th watch for the full Moon to be in the grasp of the Gemini Twins. Hard to miss the full Moon, but just in case, it is over the western horizon near the ‘Twin Stars’ stars Pollux and Castor, on the right shoulder of Pollux.

   
   
   

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December Moon at Apogee

   Our Moon reaches apogee, (furthest from Earth), for this orbit, on Thursday December 24th. For this apogee the 10-day old waxing gibbous Moon will be at a distance of 31.75 Earth diameters, 251,662 miles (405,011 km) from the Earth.

click on graphic to see it larger   On the date of the apogee, and high above the southern horizon, is the 10-day old waxing gibbous Moon. The Moon will be about 13o to the east from the planet Mars, and about 2-3o from the outer planet Uranus. Jupiter and Saturn, still close together, are low over the southwestern horizon.


   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 Scope on the Sky column “The Real Shape of the Moon’s Orbit”. (PDF)

   
   
   
   

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Venus and the Heart of the Scorpion

   Over the next several mornings the inner planet Venus will be passing by the ‘Heart’ of Scorpius the Scorpion, the reddish star Antares. The closest the two will be is on the 23rd when Venus and Antares will be 5-6o from each other. A conjunction between Venus and Antares is a regular event in that both are near the ecliptic and will, at times during Venus’s orbit, appear close and other times not as close.

   This animated graphic is set to 1-day intervals and shows the movement of Venus relative to Antares between December 20th to the 30th.

   
   
   

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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