Moon – Mars Conjunction

   Over the next two evenings the 12-13 day old waxing gibbous Moon will pass by the ‘Red Planet’ Mars coming within about 7-8o on Wednesday October 28th and within about 3-4o on Thursday evening October 29th.

   
   
   

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-Jupiter/Saturn Conjunction

   Thursday October 22nd and Friday October 23rd our Moon will be in conjunction with Jupiter and Saturn. On Thursday the 6.5-day old first quarter Moon will be about 3-4o east from Jupiter. Then, on Friday the 7.5-day old waxing gibbous Moon will be about 11-12o east from Saturn.
   Joining the trio across the horizon toward the east are the planets Neptune and Mars, as well as Dwarf Planet Ceres.

   
   
   

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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Sun Not in Scorpius-2020

  According to the pseudoscience of astrology the Sun enters the constellation of Scorpio the Scorpion on Thursday October 22nd. When in fact the actual position of the Sun is still within the boundaries of the constellation of Virgo the Harvest Maiden.

   Read a little more about how astrology has the Sun incorrectly placed in a previous blog, and in another blog discussing the effects of precession.

   
   
   

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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Jupiter & Saturn: A Grand Conjunction

   Where were you early in the morning on May 31st 2000? Did you notice two bright star-like objects and a thin waning crescent Moon low over the eastern horizon? As the graphic shows the planets Jupiter and Saturn were paired in a close conjunction. This, however is a special conjunction, one that only occurs about every 20 years between these two planets. This is known as a “Grand Conjunction”.

   And the next “Grand Conjunction” is this year, December 21st, where we will see the two planets low over the western horizon at sunset local time. If the weather or other circumstances keep this conjunction out of view just be patient, really patient.

   The next “Grand Conjunction” following this year is November 5th 2040.

   
   
   

Start a “Grand Conjunction” Watch
   Observe Jupiter and Saturn over the next two months as Jupiter catches up with Saturn. During a conjunction, the objects appear to be close physically, but the objects are just in the same direction in the sky. Lunar conjunctions with planets and some stars close to the ecliptic are relatively common however a conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn, called a ‘Great Conjunction’ only happens approximately every 19.86 years. The two planets follow a repeating pattern of within which constellation the conjunction happens. This year it is within Sagittarius the Archer, in 2041 it will be within Capricornus the Sea-Goat, and then in 2061-62 the Great Conjunction will be within Aries the Ram, which is the start of the repeating pattern.

   Animated graphics are set to 10-day intervals starting with October 22nd.


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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October Moon at Descending Node

   Tuesday October 20th the 4-day old waxing crescent Moon crosses 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 date of the descending node the waxing crescent Moon will be over the southwestern horizon at sunset local time. Spread across the horizon from west to east are Jupiter, Saturn, Dwarf Planet Ceres, Neptune, and Mars.

   
   
   
   
   

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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Saturn at 2020 Eastern Quadrature

   Sunday October 18th the position of the planet Saturn with respect to the Earth and the Sun places this ringed planet at what is called eastern quadrature. Saturn is at a 90 degree angle from us as this graphic shows. Think first quarter Moon as that is a fair comparison of the relative positions. At this position Saturn follows the Sun across the sky from east to west as the Earth is rotating, meaning that Saturn rises after the Sun and sets after the Sun.

   Where is Saturn now? Saturn is over the southern horizon at sunset and is about 6o east (to the left) from the planet Jupiter. Further east is the Dwarf Planet Ceres, then Neptune, and over the eastern horizon is the still brightly shining Mars.

   
   
   Learn a little (or a lot) more 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” that I was part of in May 2011. 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.


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Waning Crescent Moon – Venus Conjunction

   Wednesday morning October 14th in the hour or so before sunrise look eastward for the 26.8-day old thin waning crescent Moon and the inner planet Venus. Both are shining brightly with the Moon’s apparent brightness of -10.0 contrasting with the -4.0 apparent brightness of Venus.

   Both the Moon and Venus will just barely fit within the 7o field of view of binoculars with the Moon to be about 7-8o to the east, ‘below’ the inner planet Venus.


   
   
   
   
   
   
   Here is the waning crescent Moon and Venus this morning, Tuesday October 13th.

   
   
   
   
   

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 at 2020 Opposition

Mars at Opposition   Tuesday October 13th Mars will reach a point in its orbit around the Sun where it is at opposition relative to the Earth. At opposition The Earth is between the Sun and Mars, or for that matter, between any of the outer planets and the Sun. At opposition both the Earth and the planet at opposition will have near identical heliocentric longitude. The opposition of Mars sometimes happens around the time that Mars is at its respective perihelion, closest to the Sun. If opposition happens during or near when the Earth is at its respective aphelion, furthest from the Sun, (first few days of July) then Mars will appear larger relative to when these dates are further apart.

Where is Mars Now?

What is opposition?
orbital-positions   The outer planets reach opposition when the Earth has moved into a position with the Sun on one side and the outer planet on the other side. Because all planets orbit in the same direction (toward the east), and all follow orbits that are slightly more elliptical than circular, oppositions occur at regular intervals of about 12 months (except for Mars). Mars is considerably closer to Earth and is moving faster than the other outer planets, so it takes approximately 26 months for Earth to catch up with Mars for an opposition.

   
   
   

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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Jupiter at Western Quadrature – 2020

   Sunday October 11th the ringed giant gas planet Jupiter reaches the point along its orbit around the Sun where Jupiter would be described as being at western quadrature. It is at a 90o angle relative to the Earth and the Sun.

   Where is Jupiter currently? Jupiter is over the southern horizon at sunset local time and is located within the eastern side of the constellation Sagittarius the Archer. Off to the left from Jupiter, or further east is Saturn. Dwarf Planet Ceres, while not visible to the naked-eye, has just risen above the horizon.

   
   
   

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 May Get Stung!

   Sunday morning October 11th the 23.6-day old waning crescent Moon will be about 2o from the open star cluster M-44, also known as the Beehive Cluster. This is a group of a few hundred stars located within the constellation Cancer the Crab.
click on graphic to see it larger
   Despite the large difference in apparent magnitude (Moon: -11.4 : Beehive Cluster: 3.4) The Beehive Cluster could still be visible with an optical aid or camera.

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

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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