October Moon at Descending Node

   Tuesday October 20th the 4-day old waxing crescent Moon crosses 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.

   On the date of the descending node the waxing crescent Moon will be over the southwestern horizon at sunset local time. Spread across the horizon from west to east are Jupiter, Saturn, Dwarf Planet Ceres, Neptune, and Mars.

   
   
   
   
   

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Waning Crescent Moon – Venus Conjunction

   Wednesday morning October 14th in the hour or so before sunrise look eastward for the 26.8-day old thin waning crescent Moon and the inner planet Venus. Both are shining brightly with the Moon’s apparent brightness of -10.0 contrasting with the -4.0 apparent brightness of Venus.

   Both the Moon and Venus will just barely fit within the 7o field of view of binoculars with the Moon to be about 7-8o to the east, ‘below’ the inner planet Venus.


   
   
   
   
   
   
   Here is the waning crescent Moon and Venus this morning, Tuesday October 13th.

   
   
   
   
   

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Mars at 2020 Opposition

Mars at Opposition   Tuesday October 13th Mars will reach a point in its orbit around the Sun where it is at opposition relative to the Earth. At opposition The Earth is between the Sun and Mars, or for that matter, between any of the outer planets and the Sun. At opposition both the Earth and the planet at opposition will have near identical heliocentric longitude. The opposition of Mars sometimes happens around the time that Mars is at its respective perihelion, closest to the Sun. If opposition happens during or near when the Earth is at its respective aphelion, furthest from the Sun, (first few days of July) then Mars will appear larger relative to when these dates are further apart.

Where is Mars Now?

What is opposition?
orbital-positions   The outer planets reach opposition when the Earth has moved into a position with the Sun on one side and the outer planet on the other side. Because all planets orbit in the same direction (toward the east), and all follow orbits that are slightly more elliptical than circular, oppositions occur at regular intervals of about 12 months (except for Mars). Mars is considerably closer to Earth and is moving faster than the other outer planets, so it takes approximately 26 months for Earth to catch up with Mars for an opposition.

   
   
   

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Moon May Get Stung!

   Sunday morning October 11th the 23.6-day old waning crescent Moon will be about 2o from the open star cluster M-44, also known as the Beehive Cluster. This is a group of a few hundred stars located within the constellation Cancer the Crab.
click on graphic to see it larger
   Despite the large difference in apparent magnitude (Moon: -11.4 : Beehive Cluster: 3.4) The Beehive Cluster could still be visible with an optical aid or camera.

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

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Mercury- Spica & Moon – Antares

   Tuesday September 22nd shortly after sunset local time look toward the western horizon for the innermost planet Mercury to be about 1o from the bluish-white star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden. The two should make for an interesting comparison in apparent magnitudes with Spica at 0.96 and Mercury with a -0.01 apparent magnitude.
   The nearly first quarter but still waxing crescent Moon will be about 7-8o from the reddish star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion. Both are positioned over the southern horizon.

   
   
   

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Moon-Venus Conjunction + M44

   Monday morning September 14th look eastward in the pre-dawn skies for the 26-day old waning crescent Moon to be about 4-5o from the planet Venus and about the same distance from the open star cluster M-44, the Beehive Custer.

   The trio should make for an interesting view with binoculars.
   
   
   
   
   
   

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the Moon and the Scorpion

   Tuesday evening August 25th watch for the 7-day old first quarter Moon to be about 5o from the reddish star Antares. This star, sometimes known as ‘the rival of Mars’ because the color of the planet and Antares are strikingly similar. This is most notable during the years when Mars passes by Antares and the two are together in the sky.
    From mythology Antares is the ‘heart’ of Scorpius the Scorpion. In reality Antares is a red supergiant star that is the 15th brightest night time star. As the brightest star in the constellation of Scorpius Antares is the alpha star or α Scorpii (alpha scorpii).
   Antares is so big in size that it dwarfs many other stars, yet there stars bigger than Antares!

   
   
   

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Moon on the Move

   Over the course of the next week or so the Moon will be moving eastward across the evening skies as it waxes from crescent toward full Phase on September 1st. This series of graphics shows the sky at 9:00 pm CDT daily until August 30th. Use the graphics as a guide to locating some of the stars near the path the Moon follows, as well as the evenings when the Moon is in conjunction with Jupiter, then Saturn.


   
   
   

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Virgo Grabs for a Croissant – or is it Crescent?

   Saturday August 22nd the 4-day old waxing crescent Moon will be about 4-5o from the bluish-white star Spica in the constellation Virgo the Harvest Maiden. Spica, from mythology, is described as the bundle of grasses (wheat, oats ?) in her hand – which is appropriate for something representing agriculture.
   Rising in the east is a pair of outer planets, Jupiter and Saturn.

   
   
   

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August Moon at Perigee

   Our Moon reaches perigee, (closest to Earth), for this orbit, on Friday August 21st. At that time the Moon will be at a distance of 28.50 Earth diameters, 225,868 miles (363,500 km) from the Earth.

   On the day of the perigee Moon the 3-day old waxing crescent Moon will be over the western horizon setting about 3 hours after the Sun sets. Rising over the eastern horizon are two of the giant outer planets, Jupiter and Saturn.

   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)

   
   
   
   
   
   

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.


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