Mercury, Venus and M-35

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   Early Tuesday (15 July) morning before the Sun rises there may be an opportunity to see the two inner planets Venus and Mercury both of which are within 7o from the open star cluster M-35. You can fit the three within the field of view of 7×50 binoculars.
15july-bino   To find them look toward the eastern horizon and locate the very brilliant Venus (-4.0 magnitude) about 10-15 degrees above the horizon. This is not very high above the horizon, about a fist-width held at arm’s length, but Venus is unmistakable. Finding Mercury (0.04 magnitude) may be an issue depending on the time you are doing this and of course your local horizon.
   So, if you have binoculars hold them as this graphic shows – with Venus at the upper right at around 2 on a clock. Mercury will be at the 6 o’clock position near the bottom of the binocular field of view. Keeping the analog clock analogy going the open star cluster M-35 (5.5 magnitude) will be at the 8 o’clock position.

   
   
   
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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.

Moon and Star Clusters

Click on image to see full size.

Click on image to see full size.

   Before sunrise on Friday morning 30 August look toward the east for the group of stars and constellations making up a familiar part of the northern hemisphere winter skies. Part of this group, temporarily, is the waning crescent Moon as it works its way eastward. The Moon will be within the field of view of 7×50 binoculars from two open star clusters. M-35 is an open star cluster that is approximately 2800 light years distant and contains several hundred stars shining with a combined brightness of around 5th-6th magnitude.
   Just one-half degree from M-35 is the much fainter star cluster NGC-2158.
Click on image to see full size

Click on image to see full size.

This is a much smaller and fainter group of stars that are estimated to be around 11,000 light years distant and has an apparent magnitude of between 8 and 9.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.

Mars – Jupiter Conjunction

22 July - 5:30 am CDT

22 July – 5:30 am CDT

   Tomorrow morning, 22 July, the planets Mars and Jupiter will be less than 1 degree apart. Look toward the east-northeast horizon for the bright Jupiter and the dimmer Mars nearby. The banner graphic at the top of the page as well as this graphic are set for 5:30 am CDT. By that time the sky is fairly bright but it may still be dark enough to make out the stars of the open star cluster M-35, just above the two planets. All three objects will easily fit within the field of view of 7×50 binoculars.

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

Venus Transits M-35

m35-zoom   If the sky is clear this evening, Wednesday 4 June, and you have a reletively level western horizon look for the planet Venus to be merged with the open star cluster M-35. Depending on the time of observation the planet will be transiting M-35 and its position relative to star cluster will be slightly different.
   Venus is doing a repeat of what Mercury did a few days ago as it passed close by M-35. Both of these two inner planets are currently moving eastward out away from the Sun coming from superior conjunction on the opposite side of the sun, toward their respective eastern elongation.

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

Flip the Sky!

3 June 9:30 pm CDT and 3 August 5:30 am CDT

3 June 9:30 pm CDT and 3 August 5:30 am CDT

   It is one thing to write about celestial events but it is an entirely different ‘thing’ when my local sky has been overcast every evening since I started writing posts about the 3 planets in the evening sky at sunset. Now it is actually only dos amigos if you go out when it is a little darker because Jupiter has set or is very low and difficult to see. This week looks no better with rain forecast for the next 2-3 days. (Insert a long sigh)
   With that in mind I started looking for other opportunities during this summer that were more or less comparable to the viewing this evening, 3 June. And I found that by flipping the sky, sort of, there will be a 3 Amigos opportunity before sunrise during the first few days of August, and coincidently in the same area at the feet of the Gemini Twins. So on 3 August go outside facing toward the east to see Gemini rising with (from top to bottom) Jupiter, Mars, and Mercury – with an added bonus of the a thin waning crescent Moon.

   But my wife as well as my Astronomy class students know that if I start talking about a viewing opportunity it will probably be cloudy, or there will be precipitation!

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

3 Amigos – The Line Up

'3 amigos'

‘3 amigos’

   This evening, Saturday 1 June, look westward shortly after sunset to see three planets arranged in a diagonal line – from ‘top to bottom’ – Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter as this graphic shows.

Click on image to see it full size

Click on image to see it full size

   As the sky darkens and the planets are setting grab your binoculars or telescope and take a closer look at Mercury. This innermost planet is very close to the open star cluster M-35, also described as NGC-2168, located near the feet of the Gemini Twins. Just below M-35 is a fainter and more compact open star cluster NGC-2158. Click on this image to see it full size and as an animated zoom in showing more detail.

   Celestial objects with the letter ‘M’ preceding the number refers to objects observed and catalog by the French astronomer Charles Messier. Objects having the letters ‘NGC’ preceding the number refer to objects that are listed in the New General Catalog of celestial objects.

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

Moon, Venus and Jupiter

   Yesterday, Friday, was the start of another lunar cycle with the new Moon. This evening, Saturday, the very thin waxing crescent Moon will be just above Venus at sunset – both possibly too low and still close to the Sun to be seen. However, as the 3-part slide show below displays, over the next few days the waxing crescent Moon will not only increase in phase appearance and visibility, but the Moon will be close to the planet Jupiter on Sunday evening.

m-35   On Monday the 13th the Moon will be close enough to the open star cluster, M-35, and an even fainter NGC-2158, to be seen in the field of view of 7×50 binoculars, as the banner graphic at the top of the page shows.

   The open star cluster M-35 (aka NGC 2168) contains around 2500 stars spread across an area about the size of the full Moon, and M-35 is located approximately 2800 light years from the Earth. Less than 1/2 degree from M-35 is the smaller appearing and more compact NGC-2158. This is an older open star cluster containing about the same number of stars as M-35, but NGC-2158 is several times farther – around 12,000 light years distant from the Earth.

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