July Moon at Ascending Node

   Saturday July 18th the very thin 27-day old waning crescent Moon will be crossing the plane of the ecliptic moving north. This is known as the ascending node, one of two intersections the Moon’s orbital path has with the ecliptic. The ecliptic is actually the Earth’s orbit, and the Moon’s orbit is inclined about 6o from the ecliptic. So there are two node intersections, the ascending and descending nodes.
   click on picture to see it largerOn the day before the node crossing the thin waning crescent Moon was a few degrees from the inner planet Venus, and a few more degrees from the reddish star Aldebaran in the open star cluster the Hyades.
   Does our Moon actually go around the Earth as many graphics show? 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 return to bobs-spaces.


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Comet on the Run!

   Comet 2020 F3 (NEOWISE) has moved to the evening skies after its close approach to the Sun earlier this month. The comet is now outbound from the solar system and will pass by the Earth coming the closest on the 22nd – 23rd. Over the next month or so the comet will gradually move into the polar circumpolar region of the sky and will be above the horizon all night.

   On the evening of the comet’s closest approach to the Earth it will be somewhat lined up with the ‘Pointer Stars’ in the Big Dipper. However instead of going toward the North star, Polaris, go in the opposite direction to find the comet.

   Click here to go to the Sky Live web site for accurate finder charts for this comet and other comets.

   Watch this short video to follow the comet’s path:

   
   

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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Jupiter at Opposition

Zooming in on Jupiter at Opposition   Tuesday July 14th the outer giant ringed planet Jupiter reaches the point in its orbit around the Sun that places the Earth in between Jupiter and the Sun. This is known as opposition, and opposition is an orbital position that applies to solar system objects (outer planets, dwarf planets, asteroids, comets, etc.) orbiting the Sun beyond the Earth’s orbit. An object at opposition will have approximately the same heliocentric longitude as the Earth’s heliocentric longitude. So on Tuesday both planets will have a heliocentric longitude of around 228o.
   An opposition of Jupiter occurs approximately every 13 months because both Earth and Jupiter are moving. After one Earth Revolution, an Earth year, the planet Earth will be where it was the previous year at opposition with Jupiter. However Jupiter will not be there because it has moved during the past year as well. It will take the Earth about an extra month or so to catch up with Jupiter. Earth moves 360o each year while Jupiter moves approximately 12o each Earth year.
Sunset Local Time Sunset Local Time.
   When an object is at opposition it rises at approximately the same time as local sunset and that same object at opposition sets at approximately the time of local sunrise. In other words an object at opposition will be up all night from sunrise to sunset.
   Picture our Moon at full phase and how it is directly opposite the Sun, with the Earth in between. The full Moon in effect is at opposition but we call it the full Moon instead. And so both the full Moon and Jupiter at opposition, rise at sunset, set at sunrise, and both will be visible all night.

   Jupiter is currently a few degrees to the west from Saturn and both rise and set together, although Saturn will not reach its opposition for a few more days, on the 20th of this month.

   
   
Take a brief tour of the Jovian (Jupiter) system. Music by Dark Matter.
Live recording of music written by Richard Johnson. Video by me!

   
   
   

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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Thin Moon on the Move

   Sunday June 21st, on the other side of the Earth from the U.S.A., the new Moon will be passing between the Earth and the Sun giving that side of the world an annular solar eclipse.
   About 1/2-day later the just past new Moon, an 0.80-day young thin waxing crescent Moon may be seen just above the western horizon at sunset local time. If you see the Moon look closely for a star-like object just to the left from the Moon. This is the inner planet Mercury.
   If you miss the Moon and Mercury on Sunday evening wait until Monday evening June 22nd to see the still thin 1.85-days old waxing crescent Moon near one of the Gemini ‘Twin’ stars, Pollux.
   Not had enough? On Tuesday June 23rd the 2.80-days young waxing crescent Moon will be near M44, the Beehive Cluster.
   Any of these conjunctions will look great in binoculars.

   
   
   

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Crescent Moon – Venus Close Conjunction

   Friday morning June 19th about an hour before sunrise look toward the eastern horizon for the 27.5-day old waning crescent Moon and the inner planet Venus. The two will be separated by about 1-2o and both will easily fit within the field of view of binoculars making for a striking view.
   You will be looking at a Moon that is about 24-hours from new Moon phase, and shines with an apparent magnitude of -8.90 compared with Venus shining with a -4.29 apparent magnitude.
   Off to the west over the eastern-southern horizon are the outer planets, Uranus, Neptune, Mars, and Dwarf Planet Ceres. Further to the west are the planets Jupiter and Saturn.

   
   
   

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Thin Waxing Crescent Moon Near Venus – Mercury

   Saturday evening May 23rd look toward the western horizon for the very thin young 1.3-day old waxing crescent Moon. The Moon will be about 3-4o from the inner planet Venus and about 5-6o from the other inner planet Mercury. All three will easily fit within the field of view of binoculars and given the range of apparent magnitudes should make for a great view and even a picture.
   Apparent MagnitudesWaxing Crescent Moon: -8.42 Venus:-4.16 Mercury: -0.42
   
   
   
   
   
   

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May Moon at Apogee

   Our Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), for this orbit, on Monday 18th. At that time the 26.5-day old waning crescent Moon will be at a distance of 31.88 Earth diameters 252,028 miles (405,600 km) from the Earth.

   On the day of the apogee the thin waning crescent Moon rises about 1-2 hours before sunrise local time. Looking carefully with binoculars you may be able to see nearby 4th magnitude star 20 Ceti, one of the many stars that are part of the constellation Cetus the Whale.

   

   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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April Moon at Ascending Node

   Monday April 27th the 5-day old waxing crescent Moon will be crossing the plane of the ecliptic moving north. This is known as the ascending node, one of two intersections the Moon’s orbital path has with the ecliptic. The ecliptic is actually the Earth’s orbit, and the Moon’s orbit is inclined about 6o from the ecliptic. So there are two node intersections, the ascending and descending nodes.

   While the waxing crescent Moon is at its ascending node further to the west, lower than the Moon, is the planet Venus.
  

   Does our Moon actually go around the Earth as many graphics show? 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 return to bobs-spaces.


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Moon – Venus Conjunction

click on graphic to see it larger   Sunday evening April 26th, at sunset, look toward the western horizon for the 4-day old waxing crescent Moon to be about 7o from the inner planet Venus.

   The combination of the waxing crescent Moon with the brightly shining Venus will make for a good view through binoculars, albeit somewhat bright. And while you are using binoculars aim a bit lower for a look at the two open star clusters within Taurus the Bull: the v-shaped Hyades, and the tiny dipper-shaped Pleiades.
   
   
   

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Crescent Moon and the Hyades

   Saturday evening April 25th, at around sunset, the 3-day old waxing crescent Moon will be 1-2o from the reddish star Aldebaran in the constellation Taurus the Bull. Aldebaran is the brightest star in Taurus and also the brightest star of the v-shaped open star cluster the Hyades.

   The combination of the waxing crescent Moon with the stars of the Pleiades will make for a good view through binoculars.

   
   
   

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