The Inner and Outer Solar System

   Friday evening January 31st there is an opportunity to see or at least visualize the inner and outer areas of our solar system. About an hour or so after local sunset look toward the western horizon for the brightly shining inner planet Venus with a -4.0 apparent magnitude. Nearby, about 5o west from Venus, is the outermost of the 8 planets, Neptune. However with an apparent magnitude of 7.94 Neptune would only be visible with an optical aid – the larger the better.
   Look further east and higher for the 7-day old waxing crescent Moon to be between the outer planet Uranus and the Dwarf Planet Eris. About 9o below the Moon is the Dwarf Planet Eris with an apparent magnitude of 18.60 – definitely not naked-eye visible. Above the Moon by about 5o is the outer planet Uranus, just barely visible to the naked-eye with an apparent magnitude of 5.80.

   
   
   

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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They’re There!


   Tuesday morning, May 23rd the thin 26.7-day old waning crescent Moon will be surrounded by planets, most of which will be difficult to see given the time of day and how faint each one is. Except for Venus.

   
   
   

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.

A Planet Buffet

   Friday night December 9th offers up a planet buffet featuring eight planets above the horizon and one under your feet. As this graphic shows one of the outermost of the 8 planets, Uranus, is above the eastern horizon as are two Dwarf Planets, Ceres and Eris, and the waxing gibbous Moon. Further west over the southern horizon is the outermost of the 8 planets, Neptune, and over the southwest horizon are Mars, Venus, Pluto, and Mercury. And under your feet? Look down to see the Earth – can’t miss it!
   Ceres is the closest Dwarf Planet to us as it is within the main asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars. The other Dwarf Planet is Eris which at 96 AU is located much further than Ceres (2.2 AU) and Uranus (19.4 AU) and Neptune (30 AU).

   
   
   

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.

A Celestial 3fer!

   Saturday February 21st is one of those days (actually nights) when things come together nicely and we have an evening where there will be a trio of celestial events two of which many people will hopefully notice. The very bright Venus will be very close to the much dimmer planet Mars over the western horizon at the time of your local sunset. Up to the left is the waxing crescent Moon and less than 1o from the Moon is the outer planet Uranus.

uranus-occultation   For parts of the world this will be an occultation of Uranus by the Moon. From the U.S.A. the occultation occurs during the late afternoon and so the sky may be too bright to see the occultation. And unfortunately Uranus is at the threshold of what is bright enough to be seen with the naked eye, so Uranus is too dim to be visible without the use of binoculars or telescope.

   Both of these conjunctions should be an interesting sight through binoculars or a telescope eyepiece. In particular the conjunction between Venus and Mars is one that spans several days, with the closest happening on Sunday the 22nd. You can see the two move relative to each other over the course of a few days, as this animated graphic shows. It is set to one frame per day and starts from the 19th and ends on the 25th. This animated graphic also gives an idea of how the two planets, Venus and Mars, would look through binoculars and an 8″ reflecting telescope with a 25 mm eyepiece. With the greater telescope eyepiece magnification Uranus and some of its moons become visible, as will possibly be a gibbous phase shape for Venus, and maybe a snow covered Martian pole.

   The 3rd of the 3fer
feb21-descending-node   Saturday February 21st at 16:06 UT (12:06 pm CST) our Moon will be crossing 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.

   
   
   
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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.