Planetary Line-Up Ecliptic Style

   Look at the arrangement of the planets in the graphics below. One of the defining aspects of our solar system is the arrangement of the planets outward from the Sun. Not by size or distance but rather how their respective orbital paths around the Sun are all vertically arranged near the Earth’s orbital path, or as it is typically referred to as the Ecliptic or the Plane of the Ecliptic. The 8 classic planets all orbit the Sun with an orbital path that is up to about 8o from the ecliptic. This is called inclination. The table shows inclination relative the Earth’s orbit and also relative to the Sun’s center, its equator.
    Click on this link to read a previous posting (Tales Along the Ecliptic) about the ecliptic and inclination.
   During this week as the Moon moves eastward it will pass by the outer ringed planet Neptune Tuesday and Wednesday evenings September 1st and 2nd as the graphics show. However given the tremendous difference in apparent magnitude between the two (full Moon: -12.64 ; Neptune: 7.81) Neptune will not be visible, at least not while the Moon in nearby.


   Keep following the Moon as it orbits eastward toward the planet Mars when on September 5th Mars and the waning gibbous Moon will be less than 1o apart.
   
   
   

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Moon on the Move

   Over the course of the next week or so the Moon will be moving eastward across the evening skies as it waxes from crescent toward full Phase on September 1st. This series of graphics shows the sky at 9:00 pm CDT daily until August 30th. Use the graphics as a guide to locating some of the stars near the path the Moon follows, as well as the evenings when the Moon is in conjunction with Jupiter, then Saturn.


   
   
   

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A Lunar Eclipse and 2 Planet Conjunction

   Our Moon reaches full phase on July 5th and will be rising around sunset local time. Two of the giant outer planets, Jupiter and Saturn will be passed by the Moon over a two day period. On the 5th the full Moon will be about 6-7o to the west from Jupiter. The next day, July 6th, the waning gibbous Moon will have passed the two planets and the Moon will about 1-2o from Saturn. Both days should prove to be ‘binocular-worthy’ with the morning of the 6th having the Moon the closest to the planets.
   There will also be a partial penumbral lunar eclipse however this type of eclipse has the Moon passing through the faint outer shadow cast by the Earth. Even a total penumbral lunar eclipse is barely noticeable so as a partial do not expect to see much change in the Moon’s brightness.

   
   
   

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April Perigee Moon is Super!

   Our Moon reaches perigee, (closest to Earth), for this orbit, on Tuesday April 7th. At that time the Moon will be at a distance of 26.98 Earth diameters, 221,772 miles (356,908 km) from the Earth.
   This separation distance between the Earth and our Moon is the closest perigee for the year making this full Moon a ‘super-Moon’.

   On the day of the perigee Moon the 14.5-day old Full Moon will be over the eastern horizon around mid-evening and about 7o from the blue-white star Spica in the constellation Virgo the Harvest Maiden.

   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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Full Moon – Regulus Conjunction

   Sunday February 9th the full Moon will be about 2-3o from the star Regulus in the constellation Leo the Lion as they both rise early in the evening, and make their way across the sky.

   
   
   

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A Black Moon

   What is a “Black Moon”? According to a commonly used definition a “Black Moon” is any month during which there are 2 new Moons, or even more rare a month with no new Moons. Obviously the Moon at new phase is in the direction of the Sun and therefore is not visible at all, perhaps given rise to the name “Black Moon” because the illuminated side of the Moon is toward the Sun, and the unilluminated, dark, side of the Moon is toward the Earth.
   On Thursday August 1st the first of two new Moons this month will rise about 30 minutes after the Sun rises and will not be visible as it follows the Sun across the sky to moonset about 1 hour after sunset local time. On August 30th the second new Moon of the month will follow a similar pattern as the new Moon on August 1st in that this new Moon also will not be visible as it too follows the Sun, setting within an hour after the Sun sets. Graphics below are set for the time when the new Moon transits, or is due south, and is mid-way between rising and setting.
   What makes the term “Black Moon”, in this instance, interesting is that depending on your time zone the “Black Moon” may have been either July or August depending on your local time zone for the new Moon of July 31st or August 1st.

 
New Moon Dates and Times (using UT)
July 2          19:16 UT
August 1         3:12 UT  (July 31 10:12 pm CDT)
August 30       10:37 UT


   
   
   

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Virgo, Spica, and the Moon

   Over the next several mornings, April 17th-19th, and before the Sun rises, watch for the Moon to move past the bright bluish-white star Spica in the constellation Virgo the Harvest Maiden. The Moon will be phasing from a 12-day old waxing gibbous Moon on the 17th to a full Moon on the 19th. A few days further on the Moon will be in its waning phases and passing by Jupiter and Saturn.

   
   
   

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February Full Moon is this Year’s ‘Super Moon’

   The 15.0 day old full Moon reaches perigee this month on Tuesday February 19th. At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 27.97 Earth diameters 356,762 km (221,682 miles) from the Earth. This is the closest that the Moon will come to the Earth during 2019. What makes this Moon perigee sort of unique is that full Moon occurs 7 hours later.
click on animated graphic to see it larger   This full Moon is the Super Moon of the Year.
   But can you tell the apparent size difference between the full Moons this year?

    Our Moon orbits around the Sun with the Earth and 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)

   Tuesday evening the full Moon rises shortly after sunset local time.

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

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January Full Moon at Ascending Node, Almost at Perigee, and a Total Lunar Eclipse

   Sunday January 20th the full 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.

Total Lunar Eclipse   On the day of the node crossing the full Moon also be passing through the Earth’s shadow giving us a Total Lunar Eclipse that will be visible across the continental U.S.A.

   Within less than 15 hours the Moon will also be at perigee, is closest to the Earth for this orbit. This full Moon will be the second closest perigee Moon this year, with the perigee Moon of February as the closest and the ‘Super Moon’ for the year.

   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)

Read this very informative article about the Earth-Moon system and their orbital motions, written by Joe Hanson. “Do We Orbit the Moon?”

   
   
   

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Comet Wirtanen (46P)

   Comet Wirtanen (69P) has brightened enough to be seen with binoculars and easily captured with a camera. This picture was taken around 6:30 pm CST on December 15th while the skies were hazy with high cirrus clouds and a first quarter Moon over the southern horizon. That combined with light polluted skies of the Kansas City metropolitan area brightened the skies and made the comet not visible with the naked eye but easy to find as it was near the Pleiades open star cluster.
   The picture was taken with a Canon Rebel EOS T7i camera with the following settings: 135 mm lens; 13 second exposure time; aperture 5.6; and ISO 32000. The 13 second exposure time was long enough to show short length star trails as the Earth rotated.
   This evening, December 16th Comet Wirtanen will still be within a few degrees from the Pleiades again making it fairly easy to locate.

   With the Moon waxing from first quarter through full Moon phase and moving past the comet over the next few days means that the comet will not be too visible until the Moon passes by and rises after the comet does. The animated graphic, below, shows the motion of the Moon and the comet between December 15th through December 24th. By the 23rd the comet will be within a few degrees from the bright star Capella in Auriga the Charioteer.

   
   
   

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