June Moon at Descending Node and Conjunction with Mars


   Sunday June 3rd the waning gibbous 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 morning of the node crossing the 19-day old waning gibbous Moon will be over the south-southeastern horizon about an hour before the Sun rises local time. The Moon will also be about 3o from the ‘red planet’ Mars. Off to the west is the planet Saturn nestled within the glow of the eastern side of the Milky Way.

   Depending on how dark the sky is where you are viewing from and how early you want to go outside, the area around Saturn is rich with some of the best deep-sky objects visible with binoculars. So the earlier you are out, before moonrise, the darker the sky will appear making it easier to see some of Messier Objects in the area near Saturn.

   
   
   
   
   

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.

Saturn at Western Quadrature

saturn-west-quadrature   Thursay March 29th, the position of the planet Saturn with respect to the Earth and the Sun places this ringed planet at what is called western quadrature. Saturn is at a 90 degree angle from us as this graphic shows. Think third quarter Moon as that is a fair comparison of the relative positions. At this position Saturn leads the Sun across the sky from east to west as the Earth is rotating, meaning that Saturn rises before the Sun and also sets before the Sun.

Saturn currently is within the constellation of Sagittarius the Archer as this graphic shows. From the northern hemisphere, looking toward the southern horizon, you can find Saturn to the east, left, from the reddish star Antares. Between Saturn and Antares is Mars, about 2-3o from Saturn. To the right from Antares is the planet Jupiter.

Learn a little (or a lot) about Saturn by visiting the Cassini at Saturn mission web site.
Click here to go to the Cassini Mission web site.

   This is a short 5 minute video I made as part of a live musical performance called “Orbit”. This is a piece from the much longer tour of the solar system performance and video and shows Saturn and some of its moons as viewed from the Cassini spacecraft that month.

   
   
   


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.

February Moon at Apogee

   Our Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), on Sunday February 11th. At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 31.80 Earth diameters (405,700 km or 252,090 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 25.6-day old very thin waning crescent Moon will be over the eastern horizon at around sunrise local time and within about 2o from the ringed planet Saturn.

   Since the Moon and Saturn are in the area of the Milky Way this should make for interesting viewing with Binoculars and pictures,

*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.

October Moon at Apogee

   Our Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), on Wednesday October 25th. At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 31.76 Earth diameters (404,154 km or 251,130 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 6-day old waxing crescent Moon will be over the southwestern horizon at sunset local time. Were it not so bright the glow of the Milky Way in the background might have been visible. Saturn is visible, but it is low above the horizon.

*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.

Moon Passes Antares and Saturn

   Welcome to August!
   Over the next few days the Moon will wax from first quarter on Sunday July 30th into its waxing gibbous phases prior to reaching full Moon on August 7th. During this time, Tuesday August 1st to Thursday August 3rd, the Moon will first pass the reddish star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion then the next day pass the outer planet Saturn on the 2nd. The following day has the Moon about mid-way across the Milky Way as the picture shows, however given the Moon’s bright reflected light it would be nearly impossible to see the Milky Way.
                           Click on a graphic below to see it larger               

   
   
   

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.

Saturn and Some Messier Objects


   In the early morning hours before the Sun rises the summer (northern hemisphere) Milky Way arches across the sky from the southern horizon toward the northern horizon. Over the southern horizon is the constellation Sagittarius the Archer and the direction toward the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. In this direction is the planet Saturn and within the field of view of binoculars are several nebula, some of which are visible to the naked eye.
    Despite the use of optical aids like binoculars or telescopes we do not see the colors of these object that you may see in photographs. Regardless, this part of the sky is filled with many objects visible to the naked eye and certainly with binoculars. And assuming the local skies are relatively dark then viewing this area of the Milky Way will provide many viewing rewards.

   
   
   

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.

Duck! Said Scorpius to Sagittarius

   Over the next several mornings, before the Sun rises, the Moon, as it wanes from gibbous to last quarter phase, glides past the stars of Scorpius the Scorpion and Sagittarius the Archer and the ringed planet Saturn.
   Apparently Archery is so loud that Sagittarius didn’t hear the warning and gets a face full of the Moon on the 21st.
   In the background is the Milky Way, but for the most part it will be difficult to see due to the bright reflected light from the Moon.
   Off to the west is Jupiter and Spica. Jupiter has been in retrograde motion since last month and is gradually moving west away from Spica.
   
   
   
   
   
   
   In the background is the Milky Way, but for the most part it will be difficult to see due to the bright reflected light from the Moon.

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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.