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.

Moon – Pluto Conjunction

click on graphic to see it full size   Wednesday July 29th the waxing gibbous Moon will be within a few degrees from the Dwarf Planet Pluto.
   Where is Pluto and is Pluto visible to the naked eye? Pluto currently is above the teapot-shaped asterism for Sagittarius the Archer. It is located near a 3rd magnitude star, Xi2 Sagittarii, however Pluto has an apparent magnitude of 14.0 making it too dim to be seen in other than a large telescope or with a sequence of pictures of the same part of sky over a period of several days or weeks. From that sequence of pictures the motion of Pluto against the stars in the background becomes noticeable.

Click here to learn more about the New Horizons mission and take part in the mission with some of the interactives created by NASA.

   
   
   
   

Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Neptune at Solar conjunction

view-from-earth_neptune-solar-conjunction   Thursday February 26th the outer planet Neptune reaches a point in its orbit where it passes behind the Sun as we view this from Earth. Neptune, and the other outer planets, dwarf planets, or small solar system bodies, all eventually reach this position on the opposite side of the Sun known as solar conjunction.

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Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Along the Ecliptic

   In the posting yesterday I described the shape, or eccentricity, or the Earth’s orbit as not being a factor in how we have seasons. As we all should have learned it is the tilt of the Earth’s rotational axis relative to the plane of the ecliptic. This tilt is approximately 23.5o and this combined with revolution around the Sun is as they say ‘the reasons for seasons.’
    But this is not the point of this posting, but rather it is the plane of the ecliptic and where planets, dwarf planets, and our Moon orbit relative to the plane of the ecliptic. This relationship is known as inclination and it is the angle, in degrees, above the plane of the ecliptic. What this means is that the Earth’s orbit the bright green line, which is in reality the ecliptic, is the reference plane from which the other Sun orbiting objects respective orbit is tilted from. If you follow this explanation, and perhaps have read or noticed that each month I have posted when the Moon reaches its ascending or descending node. This ascending and descending node also applies to the other planets and dwarf planets as well because the planets and dwarf planets, like our Moon, have orbital paths tilted away from the plane of the ecliptic as this graphic shows. The table below shows the inclination for the planets and one dwarf planet.

   What got me started on this was in part from what I wrote yesterday but also yesterday evening as I was attempting to get some pictures of the rising full Moon through some trees. This was despite the air temperature being near 0° F! Nonetheless as I was looking around enjoying the first really clear sky evening in a several weeks I couldn’t help but notice how Mercury, Venus and Mars were lined up from west to east along where I visualized in my mind the location of the ecliptic. Then using my ‘go to’ Astronomy simulator I set up a slideshow with the ecliptic, planets, a few dwarf planets, and our Moon displayed and set to 1-hour intervals starting with sunrise 7:30 am CST, my local time. You can see how the planets are very close to the ecliptic compared with the dwarf planets. The Moon is sometimes below, sometimes above, and sometimes right on the ecliptic – which if timed right gives us an eclipse.

Inclinations of 8 Planets and 1 Dwarf Planet
Name	Inclination
Mercury	7.01°
Venus	3.39°
Earth	0°	
Mars	1.85°	
Jupiter	1.31°
Saturn	2.49°
Uranus	0.77°
Neptune	1.77°
Pluto	17.15°

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

   
   
   
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Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

The Innie and the Outie

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   This evening, Saturday 16 November, appearing within the field of view of 7×50 binoculars, the inner planet Venus will be about 6.5 degrees away from the the former outermost planet, Pluto. Now designated as a Dwarf Planet Pluto is at home with a group of at least 4 other dwarf planets with the closest one the former asteroid Ceres. However there are likely hundreds or thousands of similar rocky/icy objects located in the region of the solar system from Neptune’s orbit outward. and beyond that could be classified as a Dwarf Planet.

   Click here to see 10 facts about Dwarf Planets from NASA.

   
   
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.