February Moon at Descending Node and a Solar Eclipse

26feb-descending-node
   Sunday February 26th the new 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. The time for new Moon phase 14:59 UT while the time for the node crossing is 8 hours earlier at 6:40 UT. Given the close times for the two events means that there will be a solar eclipse. However the Moon, because of its elliptical shaped orbit, will be at a further distance from the Earth such that it will appear smaller in diameter than the Sun appears. This means that at mid-eclipse, or totality, the Moon will not completely cover the Sun, instead there will be a ring of sunlight around the Moon. The ring of sunlight is called the annulus and so this is an annular solar eclipse. The eclipse will be visible from parts of southern Argentina and western central Africa.
annular-eclipse-ani   On my birthday in 1994 I was ‘honored’ to not only have an annular solar eclipse on that day but the eclipse path, the path of annularity, crossed right over where I live southeast of Kansas City Missouri. This animation is of the May 10th annular solar eclipse.

   
   
   

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 and Saturn Conjunction


   Tuesday morning February 21st the 23.5-day old waning crescent Moon will be 4-5o away from the planet Saturn as this graphic shows. With 7×50 binoculars the two should make for a striking pair.

   
   
   

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 Apogee Moon

18mar-apogee_moon Our Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), on Saturday February 18th. At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 31.70 Earth diameters (404,650 km or 251,438 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 as they both rotate around a common balance point, the barycenter.*

*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?”

   On the day of the apogee Moon the 21-day old last quarter Moon rises a couple of hours before the Sun and is visible over the southern horizon before sunrise.

   
   
   

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.

The Moon, Jupiter, and Spica – Together Again


   Wednesday February 15th the 18-day old waning gibbous Moon will be within a few degrees from the planet Jupiter and the blue-white star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden as they rise in the east a few hours before sunrise local time.
   All three will fit within the field of view of a pair of 7×50 binoculars as this graphic shows.

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

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 Ascending Node, a Penumbral Lunar Eclipse, and a Comet!

11feb-ascending-node   Saturday February 11th the full Moon will be crossing the plane of the ecliptic moving north relative to the ecliptic. This is known as the ascending node, one of two intersections the Moon’s orbital path has with the ecliptic. The ecliptic is actually the Earth’s orbit and the Moon’s orbit is inclined about 6o from the ecliptic, so there are two node intersections, the ascending and descending nodes.
   When a node crossing happens near the time of a full or new Moon there is a chance for an eclipse. The closer the two times are to each other the more centered the Moon will be with respect to the Sun for a total eclipse, or more centered such that the Moon passes through the inner and darker umbral shadow.
   That is the situation for this weekend with full Moon at 0:33 UT Saturday January 11th (6:30 pm CST Friday January 10th), and the node crossing at 19:50 UT (1:50 pm CST) Saturday. This time, due to the nearly 20 hour difference the Moon’s orbital path will take it across the Earth’s fainter outer, the penumbra. A penumbral lunar eclipse is not that easily noticeable because the bright reflected light from the Moon is not dimmed that much as the Moon passes through the penumbra.

   Click here to go to the Hermit Eclipse web site for more information about this eclipse.

   Adding to the viewing there is a good chance Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova, aka the “Green Comet”, will be bright enough to be seen with binoculars over the next several evenings. On the 11th the comet will be at its closest to the Earth and may be brighter than 4th magnitude. Unfortunately the Moon’s reflected light will brighten the sky making it that much more challenging to see the comet. Click here to read an article about the comet at the EarthSky web site.

   Does our Moon actually go around the Earth as many graphics show? 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 return to bobs-spaces.

February Perigee Moon

6feb-perigee_moon   The Moon reaches perigee, (minimum distance from Earth), this month on Monday February 6th. At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 28.91 Earth diameters (368,816 km or 229,172 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 perigee Moon 13-day old nearly full Moon rises just before sunset local time and is located near the feet of the Gemini Twins.
   These two animated graphics show the sky as viewed from Quito Ecuador at 0o latitude, and my home latitude of approximately 40o North. They show the sky at one day intervals starting with February 1st and ending with February 5th.


   
   
   *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 Cruises Past Planets and Stars

feb5-bino
   Over the next several evenings the Moon, as it orbits toward the east and waxes from crescent to first quarter phase will pass by several planets, dwarf planets, and star clusters. On the evening of February 5th the Moon will be close to the reddish star Aldebaran, the ‘eye’ in the face of the angry bull, Taurus. This should make for a nice view with binoculars or low power eyepiece when the Moon will sort of overlay the stars of the open star cluster the Hyades.

   These two animated graphics show the sky as viewed from Quito Ecuador at 0o latitude, and my home latitude of approximately 40o North. They show the sky at one day intervals starting with February 1st and ending with February 5th.


   
   
   

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.