Sunday October 7th Dwarf Planet Ceres reaches solar opposition – on the opposite side of the Sun as (not) seen from Earth.
Dwarf Planet Ceres, formerly classified as an asteroid, is the largest member of the inner asteroid belt. Read and learn more about the closest Dwarf Planet to Earth.
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Wednesday evening August 15th the 4.5-day old waxing crescent Moon will be about 7o from the blue-white star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden.
In addition to the Moon are five planets spread out from west to east – Dwarf Planet Ceres, and the planets Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars.
Friday August 3rd all of the planets, except for Mercury, and some of the Dwarf Planets will be over the horizon during the hours before sunrise and the hours before sunset. The dwarf planets Pluto (14.2), Haumea (17.2), Makemake (16.7), and Eris(18.5) with low apparent magnitudes are too distant to be visible other than with larger aperture telescopes. However Dwarf Planet Ceres, at 8th magnitude could be visible with smaller telescopes and certainly with long exposure time imaging.
For the next week or so the evening skies will be filled with planets and dwarf planets. With the right timing and a relatively flat horizon you might be able to see Venus just before it sets and Mars just after it rises. A caveat to this is that as each day passes Mars will rise earlier while Venus, each day, will be setting earlier. And with the exception of Ceres the dwarf planets are too dim to be seen with the naked eye.
As this graphic shows, the planets are closer to the ecliptic than the dwarf planets due to differences in the respective inclinations. Inclination: Every object orbiting the Sun has an orbital path that is tilted or inclined from the Earth’s orbit – the ecliptic.
The waxing gibbous Moon is roughly mid-way between the red star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion and the planet Saturn.
Sunday May 20th the waxing crescent Moon will be crossing the plane of the ecliptic moving north relative to the ecliptic. 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.
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*
Read this very informative article about the Earth-Moon system and their orbital motions, written by Joe Hanson. “Do We Orbit the Moon?”
Friday April 28th Saturday April 28th the closest Dwarf Planet to the Earth, Ceres, reaches perihelion, it’s closest to the Sun this orbit. At perihelion Ceres will be within the boundaries of the constellation Cancer the Crab, and will be approximately 2.56 AU (382,970,549 km; 237,966,866 miles) from the Sun, and 2.33 AU (348,563,038 km; 216,587,031 miles) from the Earth, and ‘shining’ with an apparent magnitude of around 7.50.
Further east from the location of Ceres is the nearly full Moon about 7-8o from the blue-white star Spica in the constellation Virgo the Harvest Maiden. And rising a little will be the planet Jupiter, and still later Saturn and Mars.
Thursday October 19th the outer planet Uranus reaches a position in its orbit around the Sun when it is on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun. This coincidentally is known as opposition, and it is an orbital position which only the planets further from the Sun than the Earth may reach.
On Thursday the outer planet Uranus will be several degrees from an even more outer planet, Dwarf Planet Eris. Both rise during the evening hours and are over the southwestern horizon before sunrise.