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.

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

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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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?”

   
   
   

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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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.

   
   
   

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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July Full Moon at Apogee, Descending Node, A Lunar Eclipse, and Conjunction with Mars

Apogee Moon
   Our Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), on Friday July 27nd. At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 31.84 Earth diameters (406,223 km or 252,415. miles) from the Earth.
   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)
Read this very informative article about the Earth-Moon system and their orbital motions, written by Joe Hanson. “Do We Orbit the Moon?”

Descending Node
   Friday July 27th the full 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.

Total Lunar Eclipse
   When the Moon crosses the ecliptic, a node crossing, and the Moon is either at full or new phase there will be an eclipse. The length of the eclipse and whether or not it will be partial or total depends upon the timing. The closer the two events are to each other the greater the eclipse. This total lunar eclipse will be a long one at nearly 2 hours for totality. However the eclipse will not be visible from North America.
   Get eclipse information from the Hermit Eclipse web site.
   Watch the Lunar Eclipse live. Webcast hosted by the Bareket Observatory in Israel. Webcast starts at 18:30 UTC (1:30 pm CDT).

Conjunction
   On the day of the apogee and descending node the full Moon will be over the southern horizon and within about 6-7o from the planet Mars.

   
   
   

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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Saturn at 2018 Opposition

saturn-opposition-ani
   Wednesday June 27th the outer planet Saturn reaches its orbital position known as opposition. This is a position which has the faster moving Earth passing Saturn and at opposition is centered between the outer planet and the Sun. Picture the arrangement with the Moon at full phase; Sun – Earth – Moon, and that is similar to the arrangement for Saturn at opposition.

   When an outer planet, like Saturn, reaches opposition that planet rises around local time for sunset and is visible all night. Coincidentally the full Moon will rise with Saturn and be within about 1-2o from Saturn and should make for an interesting view with binoculars or picture.

   
   
   
   
   

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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Moon in Conjunction with Jupiter

   Monday evening April 30th the just past full Moon, waning gibbous, will be rising within 3-4o from the ringed planet Jupiter. Both are located within the constellation of Libra the Scales. Both the Moon and Jupiter will easily fit within a binocular field of view.

   Very close to the Moon is 4th magnitude Gamma Librae – but given the brightness of the Moon that star may be difficult to see.

   
   
   

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.