Last Night Had It’s Hang-ups!

   Last evening was another opportunity to image the ISS as it passed over my part of the world. So I did!
   While out in the backyard I aimed my camera nearly straight up to get a picture of one of my favorite parts of the sky. This is near the star Altair in the constellation Aquila the Eagle. Near Altair is the ‘tiny’ constellation of Delphinus the Dolphin. Looking further upward from the kite or diamond-shape stars there is another smaller constellation, Sagitta the Arrow.
   If you find Sagitta use the two stars at the end as ‘pointer stars’ and they will direct your eyes to a neat little star cluster, Brocchi’s Custer, also known as the Coathanger Cluster.

   
   
   

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Moon-Venus Conjunction + M44

   Monday morning September 14th look eastward in the pre-dawn skies for the 26-day old waning crescent Moon to be about 4-5o from the planet Venus and about the same distance from the open star cluster M-44, the Beehive Custer.

   The trio should make for an interesting view with binoculars.
   
   
   
   
   
   

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Moon – Hyades Conjunction

   Spoiler Alert: This is an early morning thing! The 21-day old Waning gibbous Moon rises late tonight (September 8th) just before midnight and then will be visible above the horizon through the rest of the morning pre-dawn hours on Wednesday September 9th. During that time the Moon will be passing the open star cluster, the Hyades, and will be about 4-5o from the reddish star Aldebaran in Taurus the Bull. From mythology the v-shaped open star cluster is the face of the Bull while Aldebaran, with its reddish color, represents the ‘angry eye’ of Taurus as it prepares to attack.

   An open star cluster, like the v-shaped Hyades and the dipper-shaped Pleiades make for interesting views using binoculars, and especially when another celestial object passes by.

   
   
   

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Moon – Aldebaran Conjunction

   Thursday morning August 13th the 24-day old waning crescent Moon will be about 2-3o from the reddish star Aldebaran in Taurus the Bull. Aldebaran is one of the stars making the eyes of the Bull and both of these stars are at the open ends of a v-shaped group of stars. an open star cluster knowns as the Hyades.
   The combination of the stars of the Hyades with the thin waning crescent Moon should make a striking sight through binoculars.

   
   
   

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Venus Pass by M-35

Tuesday morning August 11th the inner planet Venus will be about 3-4o from the open star cluster M-35. Located near the feet of the Gemini Twins M-35 contains thousands of stars within an area about the size of the full Moon. M-35 is located around 5,000 light years distant.

   M-35 has an apparent magnitude of approximately 5.0 so it is possible to see M-35 with the naked eye and is certainly easily seen with binoculars. For the ‘record’ Venus has an apparent magnitude of -4.31, which by comparison is ‘way brighter’!!

   
   
   

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July Moon at Ascending Node

   Saturday July 18th the very thin 27-day old waning crescent 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.
   click on picture to see it largerOn the day before the node crossing the thin waning crescent Moon was a few degrees from the inner planet Venus, and a few more degrees from the reddish star Aldebaran in the open star cluster the Hyades.
   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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Jupiter at Opposition

Zooming in on Jupiter at Opposition   Tuesday July 14th the outer giant ringed planet Jupiter reaches the point in its orbit around the Sun that places the Earth in between Jupiter and the Sun. This is known as opposition, and opposition is an orbital position that applies to solar system objects (outer planets, dwarf planets, asteroids, comets, etc.) orbiting the Sun beyond the Earth’s orbit. An object at opposition will have approximately the same heliocentric longitude as the Earth’s heliocentric longitude. So on Tuesday both planets will have a heliocentric longitude of around 228o.
   An opposition of Jupiter occurs approximately every 13 months because both Earth and Jupiter are moving. After one Earth Revolution, an Earth year, the planet Earth will be where it was the previous year at opposition with Jupiter. However Jupiter will not be there because it has moved during the past year as well. It will take the Earth about an extra month or so to catch up with Jupiter. Earth moves 360o each year while Jupiter moves approximately 12o each Earth year.
Sunset Local Time Sunset Local Time.
   When an object is at opposition it rises at approximately the same time as local sunset and that same object at opposition sets at approximately the time of local sunrise. In other words an object at opposition will be up all night from sunrise to sunset.
   Picture our Moon at full phase and how it is directly opposite the Sun, with the Earth in between. The full Moon in effect is at opposition but we call it the full Moon instead. And so both the full Moon and Jupiter at opposition, rise at sunset, set at sunrise, and both will be visible all night.

   Jupiter is currently a few degrees to the west from Saturn and both rise and set together, although Saturn will not reach its opposition for a few more days, on the 20th of this month.

   
   
Take a brief tour of the Jovian (Jupiter) system. Music by Dark Matter.
Live recording of music written by Richard Johnson. Video by me!

   
   
   

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Comet in the Clouds

   This morning, July 13th, the sky was generally overcast with thin status type clouds in most directions, including the northeast where the comet was just starting to appear over the trees marking my local horizon. Fortunately the clouds were still transparent enough for the comet to be just barely visible to the naked-eye, but very visible with time exposure pictures.
   I was hoping to position my camera so that the Baseball player would look as if he were swinging at the comet but the clouds started to thicken in that direction as I moved off the road and into some tall grasses.
   The other planets that were very visible yesterday morning were hidden or blurred by the clouds. Jupiter shined through the clouds but not Saturn or Mars. The Moon light was reflecting off clouds brightening the sky in that direction. And Venus and Aldebaran were somewhat visible but it took a time exposure picture to catch the light from the rest of the stars making the v-shaped part of the Hyades.

   
   
   

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Comet NEOWISE or NEOWOW!!

   Could it get much better than this? Five visible planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Venus, Earth); Moon-Mars conjunction; Venus-Aldebaran conjunction; 2 outer planets and a Dwarf Planet not naked-eye visible, and Comet 2020 F3 (NEOWISE). Icing on the ‘cake’ would have been to have the ISS orbit through the sky this morning.

   
   
   

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Taurus Eyes Venus

   Saturday morning July 11th the inner planet Venus will be about 1o from the reddish star Aldebaran in Taurus the Bull. Aldebaran marks the ‘angry eye’ of the bull and is at one end of a v-shaped group of stars, the Hyades, that make up the face of Taurus.

   Venus has just spent the past several days traversing the Hyades, an open star cluster composed of hundreds of stars. The Hyades, at a estimated distance of 150 light years, is the closest open star cluster in our galaxy to the Earth.
    With binoculars the view of Venus, the Hyades, and Aldebaran is striking with Venus brightly shining at about a -4.5 apparent magnitude and Aldebaran with a 0.9 apparent magnitude.

   Also on this day the 20-day old waning gibbous Moon will be about 4-5o from the planet Mars.

   
   
   
   
   
   

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