The Moon and Uranus – They Are Not the Same Thing!

   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.

   
   
   

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.

August Moon at Apogee

   Our Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), on Wednesday August 2nd. At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 31.75 Earth diameters (405,934 km or 252,857 miles) from the Earth.
   On the day of the apogee Moon the 11-day old waxing gibbous phase, rises mid-afternoon and is about 3o from Saturn and around 14-15o degrees from the reddish star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion. The Moon and Saturn will fit easily within the field of view binoculars.
   Does our Moon actually go around the Earth as the above 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)

Read this very informative article about the Earth-Moon system and their orbital motions, written by Joe Hanson. “Do We Orbit the Moon?”

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to go to bobs-spaces.

Venus Gets Buzzed!

   Tuesday morning August 1st the inner planet Venus will pass within 3o from the open star cluster, M-35. Also known as the ‘Beehive Cluster’ this is an open star cluster located near the feet of the Gemini Twins. M-35 consists of several hundred stars and is approximately 2800 light years from our solar system. The star cluster has an apparent magnitude of around 5.5 making it naked-eye visible and certainly a binocular-worthy object.

   Through binoculars it is easy to see M-35 as well as a 3rd and a 2nd magnitude star within a couple of degrees. However the ‘ruler’ of the binocular field of view is Venus with a -4.0 magnitude.

   
   
   

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.

Moon Passes Antares and Saturn

   Welcome to August!
   Over the next few days the Moon will wax from first quarter on Sunday July 30th into its waxing gibbous phases prior to reaching full Moon on August 7th. During this time, Tuesday August 1st to Thursday August 3rd, the Moon will first pass the reddish star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion then the next day pass the outer planet Saturn on the 2nd. The following day has the Moon about mid-way across the Milky Way as the picture shows, however given the Moon’s bright reflected light it would be nearly impossible to see the Milky Way.
                           Click on a graphic below to see it larger               

   
   
   

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.

Moon in Conjunction with Jupiter and Spica


   Friday July 28th the 6-day old waxing crescent Moon will be within 2-3o from the outer planet Jupiter, and about 8-9o from the bluish star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden. The Moon will be closest to Jupiter on the 28th and then closer to Spica on Friday the 29th.

   With a 7×50 binoculars the Moon and Jupiter will easily fit within the field of view on the 28th, however the gap between Jupiter and Spica on the 29th will be just beyond that same field of view – as this animated graphic set for 2 days, 28th-29th, shows the view with 7×50 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.

Mars, Phone Home!

mars-solar-conjunction-above   Thursday July 27th the planet Mars will be at solar conjunction, on the opposite side of the Sun from the Earth. Mars will reappear on the west side of the Sun as a morning planet next month and gradually will become more visible in the morning skies.
    So while Mars is out of sight for observers it is also out of ‘radio sight’ for all of the spacecraft at Mars – either on the surface or in orbit. Between July 22nd to August 1st mission controllers will stop sending messages to the spacecraft at Mars, however the orbiters will continue their science observations and collecting data. The rovers on Mars on the other hand will not rove until after the radio silence period, but will still be able to carry on with some investigations.

   Click here to read more about how NASA prepares for the radio silence.

   
   
   
   

   
   
   

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.

Thin Waning Crescent Moon in Conjunction with Venus


   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.

   
   
   
   

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.