A Couple of Morning Planets

   Early chilly mornings yes, but two planets are visible before the Sun rises. Maybe seeing Mars and Mercury will make it worthwhile? They are both within the realm of the constellation Libra the Scales. As a bonus Dwarf Planet Haumea is also above the horizon but with an apparent magnitude of 17.0 it is virtually invisible without some optical assistance.

   
   
   

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A Pair of Conjunctions

   Sunday November 24th there will a photo or viewing opportunity during the twilight hour before the Sun rises and after the sun has set. Starting off the day will be a conjunction involving the very thin waning crescent Moon near the ‘Red Planet’ Mars. The two will be separated by about 3-4o. Lower or to the east is the innermost planet Mercury.
   Then, approximately 12 hours later, the Sun has or is about to set and over the western horizon is a cluster of 3 planets. Close together and separated by about 1-2o are the planets Jupiter and Venus. Higher or to the east is the planet Saturn.
    Both of these conjunctions will look great through binoculars or a wide-field eyepiece on a telescope, and obviously will make for interesting pictures.

   
   
   

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Visualize the Ecliptic

Above the Terrestrial Planets this Month

   Once in a while the planets are arranged such that they are spread across the sky. The planets are not lined up in a straight line outward from the Sun but rather are arranged along the ecliptic. The ecliptic is the Earth’s orbital path around the Sun and the respective orbit of each planet is inclined from the ecliptic. And this is one of those times when it is easier to visualize the ecliptic. (see graphics below) Click here to read a previous posting about the ecliptic and planet inclination.

   As the animated graphic is showing the terrestrial planets are not arranged in a straight line. This graphic shows the solar system out to Neptune and from this perspective the planets are obviously not in a straight line.


   
   
   

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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November Moon at Descending Node


   Friday November 1st the 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.

   On the day of the node crossing the 5.0-day old waxing crescent Moon will be over the southwestern horizon and will be about 3-4o to the west from the ringed planet Saturn. By Saturday evening, the 2nd, the Moon will have moved to the east of Saturn and will be about 8o from Saturn. Jupiter shines brightly further to the west. However with a more level horizon the two inner planets Mercury and Venus are visible. And with binoculars or telescope the Dwarf Planet Ceres could be seen about 3-4o from 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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Two Conjunctions this Evening

   Thursday evening October 31st look toward the western horizon but not for trick or treaters. Rather look for the two inner planets to be within about 2-3o from each other, and a bit further eastward for the Moon to be about 4-5o from Jupiter. Also the Dwarf Planet Ceres is within 3-4o from the crescent Moon. However Ceres is at 8th as compared with Jupiter at -2.0 and the crescent Moon at -11.0 apparent magnitudes. And before anyone asks Venus is at -3.9 and Mercury at 0.63 apparent magnitude.
   Each of the pairs will easily fit within the field of view of binoculars.

   
   
   

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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Crescent Moon Near Venus and Mercury

   Tuesday evening October 29th a very thin 2-day young waxing crescent Moon will be about 4-5o from the two inner planets Mercury and Venus. All three will easily fit within the field of view of binoculars – however be careful as they are not that far from the setting Sun.

   Over the next several days as the Moon waxes toward first quarter phase the Moon will pass by the Dwarf Planet Ceres and the outer planet Jupiter and then 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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Along the Ecliptic

   Every once in a while the planets arrange themselves along the horizon and when that happens visualizing the ecliptic is somewhat obvious. For the next week or so all of the naked-eye visible planets except Mars, plus Neptune and Dwarf Planet Ceres, will be above the horizon at sunset local time. If you wait about an hour the Moon and the planet Uranus will rise above the eastern horizon as Mercury and Venus have set in the west.
   The ecliptic is actually the Earth’s orbit and it is used as a reference ‘line’, properly known as the plane of the ecliptic, for all of the Sun orbiting objects. Since few if any Sun orbiting objects have orbits that are on the same plane as the Earth but rather these objects are tilted or inclined either above or below the plane of the ecliptic. This is know as inclination. (Table Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orbital_inclination)

   
   
   

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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