January Moon at Ascending Node

   Wednesday January 9th the 14.8-day old nearly full Moon rises between the legs of the Gemini Twins. The Moon will be about 14-15o to the west from the ‘Twin’ Stars Pollux and Gemini.

   As it is rising the Moon will be crossing the plane of the ecliptic moving north. 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.

   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)

   

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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Waxing Gibbous Moon Near Aldebaran

   Tuesday evening January 7th the 13-day old waxing gibbous Moon will be about 3-4o from the reddish star Aldebaran. Aldebaran is known as the ‘angry’ red eye of the constellation pattern Taurus the Bull.

    Aldebaran is located at one end of a v-shaped cluster of stars making up the face of the Bull. This group of stars are all part of an open star cluster known as the Hyades. They are one of two naked-eye visible open star clusters within the boundaries of the constellation. The other one is the little dipper-shaped group known as the Pleiades.

   
   
   

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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Quadrantid Meteor Shower – 2020

   The annual Quadrantid Meteor Shower reaches its peak Saturday morning January 4th officially at 4 UT (Friday January 4th 10:00 pm CST). The Quadrantids are one of the best meteor showers of the year but does not get much attention possibly because it’s winter in the northern hemisphere, and this area of the sky is not easily seen from south of the equator.

Boötes the Herdsman

Boötes the Herdsman

   The radiant is the area from where the meteors seem to radiate outward from. Meteor showers owe their name to the constellation region the radiant is located within, and as this graphic shows the radiant is within the boundary of the constellation Boötes the Herdsman.

   So why the name Quadrantids?
   On some of the older star charts there is a now ‘extinct’ constellation called Quadrans Muralis, the Mural. This was a constellation located between Boötes and Draco the Dragon that was created in 1795 by French Astronomer Jérôme Lalande. It is a picture, or mural, of a Quadrant that had been used to map the stars. The Quadrantids Meteor Shower was named for the no longer used constellation.

   
   
   

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.

January Moon at Apogee

   Our Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), for this orbit, on Thursday January 2nd. At that time the Moon will be at a distance of 31.71 Earth diameters 251,394 miles (404,580 km) from the Earth.

   On the day of the apogee Moon the 8-day old first quarter Moon rises around noon local time and sets around midnight. At around sunset the Moon will over the southern horizon.

   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*

   *Click here to read my 2006 Scope on the Sky column “The Real Shape of the Moon’s Orbit”. (PDF)

   
   
   

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.


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The New Year’s Eve Skies of 2019

   The evening skies of this year’s New Year’s Eve begins at sunset with the 6-day old waxing crescent Moon to be about 3-4o from the outer planet Neptune. However with an apparent magnitude of 8 Neptune is only visible with optical assistance. On the other hand the crescent Moon with an apparent magnitude of -13 would be hard to miss!

   Later, at around midnight and centered over the southern horizon will be the ‘regular’ Northern Hemisphere winter display of stars. This is a familiar groups of bright stars in a rough circle around the constellation of Orion the Hunter, and sometimes referred to as the “Winter Hexagon” or ‘Winter Circle”.

   As the winter hexagon the member stars are Rigel in Orion the Hunter, Aldebaran in Taurus the Bull, Capella in Auriga the Charioteer, Pollux and Castor in the Gemini Twins, Procyon in Canis Minor, and Sirius in Canis Major.


   
   
   
   We’ve survived another orbit.
   
   
          Happy New Year!
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

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 – Venus Conjunction

   Friday evening December 28th over the western horizon around sunset look for the 3-day old waxing crescent Moon to be about 2o from the inner planet Venus. Both will easily fit within the field of view of binoculars.

   I should clarify that the view of the conjunction as described above is based on my latitude and longitude in the midwest U.S.A. The separation between the Moon and Venus will vary depending on your location. At other geographic locations, like southern South America and Antarctica, the crescent Moon occults Venus.

   The occultation begins at 2 UT or for my time zone at 9:00 pm CST.

   This animated graphic is set for a latitude of 56oS to show the Venus Occultation. Venus was also enlarged to make it more visible in the graphic.

   
   
   

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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December Moon at Descending Node and an Eclipse

   Thursday December 26th the Moon, at new Moon phase, 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.
   What happens when the Moon is at new phase and is also at a node crossing? You get an eclipse of the Sun, which in this instance will be an Annular Solar Eclipse. This is a solar eclipse however the Moon is far enough from the Earth that it appears to be smaller than the Sun. So, unlike with a Solar Eclipse where at mid-eclipse the Moon’s disk covers the Sun’s disk, during mid-annularity the Moon’s disk does not completely cover the disk of the Sun but instead leaves a ‘ring of fire’ known as the annulus around the Sun.

This eclipse will be visible from Saudi Arabia to south of the Philippine Islands.

Note: The picture I used for the banner is of the 2011 Annular Eclipse and it is from the NASA Hinode satellite. Also at the NASA web page the link takes you to is a video of the Annular Solar Eclipse as seen from the satellite in Earth orbit.


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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