May Moon at Descending Node

   Wednesday May 22nd 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 17.5-day old waning gibbous Moon will be 5-7o to the west from the ringed planet Saturn. The following day, May 23rd, the 18.5-day old waning gibbous Moon will have orbited to the east side of Saturn passing within 5-6o.


   
   
   
   
   

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Moon – Jupiter Conjunction

   Tuesday morning April 23rd the 18-day old waning Gibbous Moon will be in a close conjunction with Jupiter as the two are separated by about 1o. The two should make for an interesting view as they both will very 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 monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.


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The Moon and a Dwarf Planet

   Monday morning April 22nd, before the Sun rises, look toward the south-southwest for the 17-day old waning gibbous Moon. While the Moon is obviously easy to see at a -12.60 apparent magnitude, the nearby, (2-3o), dwarf planet Ceres with an apparent magnitude of 6.90 is outshined by the Moon and is not visible.
   As this graphic shows all of the naked-eye visible planets except Mars are arranged from west to east above the horizon. While not naked eye visible Neptune, with an apparent magnitude of 7.94, is also shown. This arrangement of planets then offers an opportunity to visualize the plane of the ecliptic, the Earth’s orbit extended onto the sky. The plane of the ecliptic is one of the primary frames of reference for our solar system, and one of the things the other 7 planets have in common is that their respective orbits are all within about 7o from the plane of the ecliptic. Even our Moon stays within about 6o from the ecliptic.
   
   
   

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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Planets Line Up in the Morning Skies

   Starting Monday April 1st, and continuing for a couple of weeks there will be an arrangement of 5 planets over the eastern to southern horizon in the hour or so before the Sun rises. Of these Neptune is the only one not bright enough to be visible to the unaided eye.

The Planets at 10-day Intervals During April
   The basic organization of our solar system is to have the other 7 planets follow orbits close to the plane of the ecliptic, and given how these planets are arranged and appear from the Earth this month makes it easy to visualize the ecliptic. This ‘view from above’ animated graphic shows the planets at 1-day intervals during April.

   
   
   

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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Neptune and Vesta at Solar Conjunction

   Thursday March 7th the outer planet Neptune, and Asteroid Vesta reach a point in their respective orbit where they move behind the Sun as we view them from Earth. Neptune, or any of the other outer planets (Mars to Neptune), dwarf planets, or small solar system bodies beyond the Earth’s orbit, will all eventually reach this position on the opposite side of the Sun known as solar conjunction.
   For the two inner planets, Mercury and Venus, when they are at a similar position on the opposite side of the Sun, they are at superior conjunction.
   
   
   

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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Moon – Uranus Conjunction

   Monday evening January 14th the 9-day old waxing gibbous Moon will be about 6-7o from the outer planet Uranus. Both are close enough to fit within a binocular field of view.
   However don’t realistically expect to see Uranus as Uranus has an apparent magnitude of 5.78 compared to the much brighter -12.0 apparent magnitude of 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.


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Mars – Neptune – Moon in Conjunction

   Friday evening December 14th the first quarter Moon, Mars, and Neptune will all be 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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