July Last Quarter Moon at Apogee

   Our Moon reaches apogee, (furthest from Earth), for this orbit, on Sunday July 12th. At that time the last quarter Moon will be at a distance of 31.68 Earth diameters, 251,158 miles (404,200 km) from the Earth.
   On the date of the apogee Moon the Moon will be about 4-5o to the east (left) from the planet Mars.

   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)

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to go to bobs-spaces.


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Jupiter at Western Quadrature

   Tuesday April 14th the ringed giant gas planet Jupiter reaches the point along its orbit around the Sun where Jupiter would be described as being at western quadrature. It is at a 90o angle relative to the Earth and the Sun.

   Where is Jupiter currently? Jupiter rises several hours before the Sun rises and is located within the eastern side of the constellation Sagittarius the Archer. Very noticeable is the 21-day old last quarter Moon which rises just ahead of Jupiter placing the Moon about 4-5o west from Jupiter.
   Off to the left from Jupiter, or further east, are the planets Mars and Saturn. Dwarf Planet Ceres, while not visible to the naked-eye, has just risen above the horizon and within the next hour Neptune and then Mercury will rise.

   
   
   

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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Mars on the Move

   Friday morning January 17th, before sunrise, the last quarter Moon will be about 5-6o from the blue-white star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden. However the celestial highlight coming up is further east or lower and closer to the eastern horizon where there are two reddish-colored objects of about the same apparent brightness or magnitude. One object is the planet Mars and the other is the star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion.

click on animated graphic to see it larger

Mars passing Antares – January 17-23 – 6 am CST

   Watch over the next several mornings and you will be able to determine which one is Mars and which is Antares as one of them moves past the other – as this animated graphic is showing. Also, relative to Mars and Antares the Moon is waning in phase as it zips past the two.

   There is an interesting connection between the star Antares and the planet Mars, based on their similar reddish color. There are times like this year when the two are close and part of the mythology surrounding the two suggests that the star was given its name so as to not confuse it with the planet Mars. The name Antares comes from the Greek word translated to ‘Rival of Mars’.

   Whenever that was historically Mars was probably known as one of the ‘wandering stars’ from the Greek word ‘planetai’. So with its reddish color, like blood, this ‘wandering star’ came to represent Mars, the ‘G-d of War’. Antares, on the other hand is a red supergiant star with a diameter estimated to be such that if it were at the center of our solar system Antares would fill the solar system out to around the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

   
   
   

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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Mornings Have Hang Ups!

   Northern Hemisphere winter in addition to chilly or cold mornings may sort of warm you, at least in your mind. If you are outside looking at the sky, over the eastern horizon is a large triangular shape of three bright stars. One star each from three different constellations. Deneb in Cygnus the Swan, Vega in Lyra the Harp, and Altair in Aquila the Eagle. This is the asterism (star pattern but not a constellation) the Summer Triangle. There, warmer now?!
   So if you are outside checking out the Summer Triangle, or perhaps Mars and nearby Antares and you have an optical aid like binoculars or a lower power wide-field eyepiece in your telescope aim them and your eyes toward the star Altair. In dark enough skies you can make out the stars making up Sagitta the Arrow a few degrees away from Altair.
   As Altair is rising and with binoculars move the field of view up to the left until the stars of Sagitta fill the field of view. This small constellation, yes a constellation, could be used as a sort of pointer stars to look a few degrees away for a small open star cluster, Brocchi’s Cluster, or more commonly known as the ‘Coathanger Cluster’.
   So if mornings with stars like this don’t warm you up then wait a few months of Earth revolution and these same stars will be showing up in the warmer evening skies of Northern Hemisphere summer and fall.

   
   
   

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 – Regulus Conjunction

   Wednesday morning November 20th watch for the 3rd quarter Moon to be about 5-6o to the east from the heart of Leo the Lion, the star Regulus. This graphic shows the skies at 1:00 am CST – my time zone, and is great for those up late or cannot sleep!
   However a more reasonable time for seeing this conjunction may be a few hours later as the Sun rises.
   
   
   
   
   

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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Heads Toward the Moon

   Early Monday morning October 21st the last Quarter Moon will be high over the southeastern horizon and more or less lined up with the ‘Twin Stars’ of Gemini, Pollux and Castor. The Moon will be about 4-5o from Pollux and about 9-10o from Castor.

   
   
   

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 at Apogee

   Our Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), for this orbit, on Sunday May 26th. At that time the Moon will be at a distance of 31.68 Earth diameters 251,117 miles (404,134 km) from the Earth.

   The 22-day old last quarter Moon rises after midnight local time and sets later that same day.

   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?”

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to go to bobs-spaces.


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Moon – Saturn Conjunction

   Thursday morning March 28th, and Friday morning March 29th the first quarter and waning crescent Moon, respectively, pass by the outer ringed giant planet, Saturn, coming within about 8o on Thursday and about 4o on Friday from Saturn.


   
   
   

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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April Apogee Moon

April Apogee Moon   Our Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), on Monday April 8 th. At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 31.68 Earth diameters (404,144 km or 251,123 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*

   On the day of the apogee the 22-day old last quarter Moon will be over the eastern horizon at around sunrise local time and within about 11o from the ringed planet Saturn, and about 8-o from Mars.

*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 go to bobs-spaces.

Dance of the Planets Continues

   In a previous post I described how the two inner planets, Mercury and Venus, and an outer planet, Mars, will be visible over the eastern horizon in the hour or so before the Sun rises. Given their respective orbital speeds the three planets will interact with one another in a series of conjunctions that at times will include the star Regulus in Leo the Lion.
   Once again facing east along 50 Highway at around 6 am CDT with early morning traffic just starting to increase. Still dealing with haze and low clouds, some of which are remnants of Hurricane Irma.

   
   
   

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.