And the Lion Leaped Over the Moon

   Monday and Tuesday mornings October 24th and 25th the Moon in its waning crescent phases is nearly pawed by Leo the Lion as the Moon passes past the heart of the Lion, the star Regulus. This animated graphic shows the sky for the pre-dawn mornings of the 24th and 25th and the position of the Moon on either side of Regulus.
   
   
   

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.

Sun Not In Virgo

   
According to the pseudoscience of astrology the Sun enters the constellation of Virgo the Maiden on Monday August 22nd. When in fact the actual position of the Sun today is toward the west and still within the boundaries of the constellation of Leo the Lion.

   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.
   
   
   

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.

4 Planets – No Clouds!

   Following a couple of days with off and on clouds interfering with seeing the planets and waning crescent Moon we had a cold front pass through and now on the ‘backside’ we have higher pressure and accompanying cooler, drier, and somewhat less humid. So this morning I was able to not only see what I wanted to see but as an added bonus the innermost planet, Mercury, was also visible.
   This is a 180o panorama of one of my viewing sites. It is near US Highway 50 and toward the eastern edge of Lee’s Summit Missouri where I live, thus the business lights and vehicle traffic.

   
   
   
   

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.

Moon-Planets In Conjunction

   Thursday and Friday the 8th and 9th take a look toward the eastern horizon around 6:30 am your local time – about an hour before the Sun rises. In addition to the four planet line-up (Mercury-Jupiter-Mars-Venus) on the 8th the thin 25.5 day old waning crescent will be close to the planet Venus. As seen from my location at about 40o North and 94o West the two will be about 2o apart while in other parts of the world, at 21 UT, the Moon will occult (pass in front) of Venus. This is visible from the South Pacific near New Zealand and Australia.
    Then on the morning of the 9th the even thinner 26.5 day old waning crescent Moon will be about 2o from Mars and about 3o from Jupiter. The two graphics below are set for 6 am CDT when the sky is bit darker than around 6:30 when Mercury becomes visible.

   
   
   
   

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.

Passing the Baton? No, Passing the Moon! (part 2)

   Over the next few evenings (March 29th to April 1st) if you watch the Moon at about the same time you will see the Moon wax, or increase in phase toward the full Moon phase on April 4th and a total lunar eclipse. Additionally think in terms of the constellations in the background and it may not be difficult to imagine the Moon as a ball being passed eastward from one constellation to the next. Sort of a from “hand to claw to paw”.
mar29-crab_moon   Hey! If you can imagine the stars looking like the mythological characters they represent how difficult is it to imagine those characters playing pass the ‘ball’?

March 27,28,29,30, April 1

March 27,28,29,30, April 1


   
   
   
   So, starting on March 27th with the Gemini Twins, Pollux passed the Moon to Cancer the Crab on the 29th, who in turn will claw it toward the paws of Leo the following day. Along the way the Moon will pass Jupiter (29th-30th) and then Regulus (31st), the heart of the Lion.

   Stay tuned – It’s on to the Lion soon!
   
   
   
   
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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.

Passing the Baton? No, Passing the Moon! (part 1)

   Over the next few evenings (March 27th to April 1st) if you watch the Moon at about the same time you will see the Moon wax, or increase in phase toward the full Moon phase on April 4th and a total lunar eclipse. Additionally think in terms of the constellations in the background and it may not be difficult to imagine the Moon as a ball being passed eastward from one constellation to the next.
   Hey! If you can imagine the stars looking like the mythological characters they represent how difficult is it to imagine those characters playing ‘pass the ball’?

   So, starting with the Gemini Twins Pollux passes the Moon to Cancer the Crab, who in turn claws it toward the paws of Leo. Along the way the Moon pass Jupiter and then Regulus, the heart of the Lion.

Stay tuned – It’s on the Crab soon!

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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.

Stretching the Sunlight

lion2lamb   The skies of March reflect the transition from winter to spring in the northern hemisphere, and is also the time when some say that “spring comes in like a lion and goes out lamb”. This has to do with the placement of the constellations Leo the Lion and Aries the Ram (not a lamb), as this graphic below is showing.
   This time change coincides with the season change and is seen in the sky with Leo rising in the east while Aries sets in the west. Between these two are the easily recognized stars belonging to Taurus the Bull, Orion the Hunter,and others that are associated with northern hemisphere winter night skies.
springforward   Time also shifts as we gradually transit seasons. The United States as well as other countries will make the shift from Local Standard Time to Daylight Saving Time on Sunday March 8th by setting clocks forward one hour. Hence we “spring forward” one hour.
   This adjustment was first proposed by an Englishman, William Willett, in his pamphlet Waste of Daylight, published in 1907. It took nearly ten years for the idea to catch on before it was passed into law by the United States Congress as the Standard Time Act in 1917. The entire country, U.S.A., was placed under Daylight Saving Time starting on March 30, 1918. This occurred during our involvement in World War I and the act was adopted in part to help the war effort by increasing the number of usable daylight hours and saving energy. At the close of the war, the act was repealed and was not reinstated on a permanent basis until the start of World War II.
   Over the years, the dates for the two time shifts has fluctuated but now due to the Energy Policy Act of 2005 Daylight Saving Time, in the U.S.A., begins on the first Sunday in March and ends with the return to Standard Time on the first Sunday in November.

   It is Saving time, not Savings Time. Savings are what you do with money in a bank.

   
   
   
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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.

February Apogee Moon

5feb-apogee-moon   The waning gibbous Moon reaches apogee this month on Thursday February 5th at midnight CST, (6 UT Friday February 6th). At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 31.83 Earth diameters (406,150 km or 252,370 miles) from the Earth.
    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*.

   The waning gibbous Moon rises before midnight local time and is near the tail star, Denebola, in Leo the Lion.

   *Click here to read my 2006 Scope on the Sky column “The Real Shape of the Moon’s Orbit”. (PDF)

   
   
   
   
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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.

Independence Day

Click on this image to see it full size.

Click on this image to see it full size.

   This evening many of us will be outside watching a fireworks display – our own backyard version, or an organized event by a local community. Our city of Lee’s Summit Missouri will start its display at approximately 9:15 pm CDT as the sky darkens.
   While enjoying the fireworks take a look around the sky and you will see a setting Venus in the west, and Saturn above the southern horizon to the upper left from the blue-white star Spica in the constellation Virgo the Harvest Maiden. In the east is the reddish star Antares, the heart of Scorpius the Scorpion.

   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.

Jupiter Rising with the Moon

March 23 - 7 p.m. CDT

March 23 – 7 p.m. CDT

   This evening, 23 March, the waxing gibbous Moon rises around 4 pm local time and by 9 pm local time the sky has darkened enough to make the bright Moon really hard to miss. (Now if I had said this to my grand daughter she would probably reply in her 6 year old voice, “Seriously…, grandpa?”).
   Seriously, the bright star that rises after the Moon and, as the Earth rotates, follows the Moon across the sky toward the west is the heart of Leo the Lion, the star Regulus. The animated graphic below shows the stars of Leo and the waxing gibbous Moon at 9 pm local time. All of the stars forming the asterism shape for Leo, the backward question mark and triangle, are labeled, and the stars are connected with lines to show the constellation pattern.
dogs   In the third image of the 3-picture sequence the triangle forming the lion’s tail is not drawn but the star Denebola, making the triangle’s point, is used as one of the four corners for the ‘Diamond of Virgo’ asterism. The opposite corner of the ‘diamond’ is the reddish star Arcturus belonging to the constellation Bootes the Herdsman. The upper star of the diamond is Cor Caroli, on of the stars belonging to the constellation Canes Venatici, the ‘Hunting Dogs’ used by Bootes to drive off a bear according to one sky story. And off to the left are the seven stars making the asterism the Big Dipper, part of Ursa Major ‘the Great Bear’.

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Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.