November Moon at Ascending Node

   Wednesday November 4th the 19-day old waning gibbous 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.

   On the day of the node crossing the 19-day old waning gibbous Moon will be over the eastern horizon around sunset local time. Mars is higher over the southeastern horizon while Jupiter and Saturn are low over the western horizon.

   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)
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

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It’s A Super Perigee New Moon – But Don’t Look!

   Our Moon reaches perigee, (closest to Earth), for this orbit, on Friday October 16th. At that time the new Moon, in the direction of the Sun, will be at a distance of 27.98 Earth diameters, or 221,767 miles (356,900 km) from the Earth, and about 7-10 km further than the super perigee Moon of this past April.
   At this distance the new Moon is at its second closest perigee distance allowing this new Moon to be considered a ‘Super Moon’.
   Don’t look for the Moon as it is at new phase and in the direction of the Sun. Stay safe and explore the Super Moons for 2020 graphically.

   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)

   
   
   

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Uranus is Backing Up

July 22nd to December 22nd :  Uranus at 30-day intervals   Well that’s a good to know!
   Saturday August 15nd the outer ringed planet Uranus appears to halt its regular eastward orbital motion and begins moving toward the west, in retrograde motion. Retrograde motion is an apparent motion to the west that any outer planet relative to the Earth appears to do whenever the faster moving Earth passes by. Sort of like passing a car on the highway. You know both vehicles are moving in the same direction but from your perspective it could appear that the other car is moving backward as you go by.
   Regardless, retrograde motion for the outer planets happens at regular intervals as the Earth pass each one. It is always more than a year and always a little further to the east when the retrograde motion begins each time. This is because the outer planet is also moving eastward.
   Mars, another outer planet, begins its retrograde motion next month.
   
   

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June Solstice – 2020

   Northern hemisphere spring comes to an end and its summer begins on Saturday June 20st at 21:45 UT (4:45 pm CDT) when the Sun ‘reaches’ the celestial coordinates of 23.5o north declination and 6 hours right ascension. With respect to the Earth’s surface the Sun is described as over the Tropic of Cancer, 23.5o, north latitude of the Earth’s equator. At this same time according to astrology the Sun is said to be entering the boundaries of the astrological constellation Cancer the Crab. Actually it is not. Interestingly about 7 hours later, June 21st at 9 UT (4 am CDT) the Sun will actually be entering the region of the Gemini Twins as it crosses the boundary between Gemini and Taurus.

   We know that it is the Earth’s orbital motion around the Sun that causes the sun’s apparent eastward motion among the stars in the background. This is how the Sun ‘reaches’ a celestial coordinate, how it ‘crosses’ the boundaries between constellations, or how it is ‘in’ a constellation.

   With respect to the southern hemisphere this is the end of their summer and start of their fall season. So thinking globally my preference has been to use the name of the month to designate the season change. Hence the use of the term June Solstice rather than summer solstice.

   
      
   

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Sun Not Really In Cancer

   According to the pseudoscience of astrology the Sun enters the constellation of Cancer the Crab on Sunday June 21st at 9 UT (4 am CDT). When in fact the actual position of the Sun on this date is still within the boundary of the constellation of Taurus the Bull, but by very little. The Sun is very close to the eastern boundary for Taurus and the western boundary for the Gemini Twins, as this graphic and the banner graphic at the top of the page shows.
   Interestingly the June solstice was yesterday
   Read a little more about how astrology has the Sun incorrectly placed in a previous blog, and in another blog discussing the effects of precession.
   
   
   
   

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I Should’ve Gone to Mars!

   Let’s face it. I am a ‘closet geographer’! Can you say Geomorphology? That is my passion when not looking skyward. I am fascinated by landforms and how they came to looking the way they do now. What were the weathering and erosional process that were involved and how did the patterns of those process do what it did? And that leads into this blog, sort of a repeat of a previous blog about taking a road trip on Mars, and two more recent blogs about this trip. This time a road trip, or actually an air trip to my brother’s home in Sun City Arizona, a northwest suburb of Phoenix.
   So imagine the diverse landforms you could see along the way either from the ground in a car or by plane as I did traveling across the United States from my home in Lee’s Summit, Missouri to my brother’s place near Phoenix Arizona. From the wooded and hilly and green western Missouri southwest across the Great Plains of Kansas and Oklahoma to the Texas Panhandle where the terrain takes on a more brownish and rugged look. From the Panhandle the route takes you across New Mexico through Albuquerque then into eastern Arizona to Flagstaff and then south to Phoenix.

   So imagine using the same latitudes and longitudes on Earth, but this time put them on the surface of Mars. Assuming that something like this will become a reality in the future what types of terrain would you see along the way?
(Mars Geologic Map – source: USGS)

   
   
   

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3 Days – 3 Trails

   This past week I was in the Phoenix Arizona area enjoying some unusually cooler weather and the mountain and desert scenery. My goal was to hike as many days as possible until the weather got too hot – which was by Thursday. Morning temperatures were in the upper 60sF low 70sF but by around 9:00 am the temperature was in the upper 80sF heading for 100oF or higher.
   Nonetheless I got in two warm up morning hikes on Sunrise Mountain and Calderwood Butte. Both were typical of what I call City Mountains. They are largely igneous masses with considerable rocky rubble on most of the trails. Locally the trails are described as ‘ankle busters’ as it is easy to step incorrectly and injure yourself. What is neat about these ‘city mountains’ is that they are very easy to get to – many of which are parts of city park systems. Trails are fairly well marked although I use the AllTrails App to keep me on the right path.
   The 3rd day I spent several hours wandering around the Phoenix Mountain Preserve That morning I pushed it and completed 3 different but connected trails. Trail 1Trail 2Trail 3. This was an incredible area with trails every which way with many taking you away from the city sounds but nearly all required some uphill and downhill navigating. I encountered a few trails that going up or down were very steep but well worth the effort. Lots of interesting rock formations along the way.
   The geology of the area is a fantastic combination of igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks. Much of the level ground is outwash deposits from the surrounding mountains while the mountains are a mixture of igneous and metamorphic rocks. I saw what looked like either marble or chert, schist, and outcrops of slate among the types I recognized. There was a very obvious lean to many rock exposures and according to the geology of the area the rocks have a northeast strike.

   The video below shows some of the geology I encountered on these hikes.

   
   
   

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June Qué tal in the Current Skies Now Available

   This month, June, planet viewing is best in the early morning hours before sunrise. With the exception of Mercury all of the visible planets are in the morning skies. Mercury moves out east from the Sun this month reaching its greatest eastern elongation and then rather quickly moves westward back to the Sun and inferior conjunction on July 1st.
   This month there will be a pair of eclipses staring with a Penumbral Lunar Eclipse on the 5th. As penumbral eclipses go this one will be barely visible as it occurs over parts of southern Europe, Africa, south Asia, and Australia. On the 21st the new Moon will pass across the Sun setting up an annular solar eclipse that will occur over parts of north Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
   And on the 20th the Sun crosses the ecliptic moving north starting Northern Hemisphere summer and southern Hemisphere Winter.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal web site.
   

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Have Some ‘Pie’ – View Some Planets

   Saturday March 14th, 3/14/2020, is perhaps better known as Pi Day given that 3.14, the value for Pi, is also the month and day number. Learn more about Pi and see what NASA has planned for this special day at the NASA Pi Day Challenge web site.
   Saturday the 14th, weather depending, is another day this year when you have a choice of planet viewing – all of the six visible planets in fact. In the early morning skies look east and southeast for a line-up of planets ranging from Mercury, to Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, and the 19-day old waning gibbous Moon. In the evening after sunset Venus shines brightly over the western horizon. Venus is near the outer ringed planet Uranus, but Uranus is not considered a naked-eye visible planet in most skies.
   Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are all visible, but that’s only five visible planets. So where is the sixth visible planet?

   
   
   

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Mercury at Inferior Conjunction – Transits the Sun

   Are you ready for the Solar Transit Monday morning November 11th? This celestial event will be visible across the entire continental U.S.A., and your longitude/location will determine when and how much of the transit you will be able to see. Weather cooperating of course!

   
   
   

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